9 Ways You May Be Unwittingly Wrecking Your Skin

9 Ways You May Be Unwittingly Wrecking Your Skin

Be honest: Just how guilty are you of these common, skin-damaging habits?


By Heather Chaet

We buy tubs of creams to stave off wrinkles. We slather on sunscreen to prevent damage from harmful UV rays. We rinse off the makeup and dirt of the day before climbing into bed.

These are all fabulous ways we try to keep our skin healthy and looking good, but we may also be doing things to harm our skin without even realizing it. Here, experts share how to sidestep those unhealthy habits.

1. Not washing your face before exercising - Sure, we all like to rinse off the sweat after that spinning class, but how many of us wash our face beforehand? “The most important time of the day to wash your face is before exercise, not after,” says New York City dermatologist Dr. Neal Schultz. “When you wipe off your sweat, you unintentionally grind any makeup, oil, dirt, and excess dead cells into pores on your face, which can cause the breakouts and clogs of exercise acne.”

A tip to make it easier: “Stock your gym bag with a bottle of toner and round makeup remover pads, or better yet, pads pre-soaked with toner and a very gentle, low-strength exfoliant that quickly evaporates after you apply it,” suggests Schultz. “First, wipe your face with a toner pad to wipe away makeup and accumulated oil and dirt. Then, either lightly apply your exfoliant or wipe your refreshed skin with an exfoliant-soaked pad to remove clogging, dehydrated, and dulling dead cells. These two easy swipes will leave your skin squeaky clean and more importantly, ready for a workout that won’t break you out.”

2. Touching your face - Maybe you do it while at your desk, reading over notes for an upcoming meeting. It could happen as you are waiting for the waiter to bring your dinner order. Resting your face in your hands may feel good, but it’s a skin no-no. “Any repetitive touching directly contributes to breakouts by pushing oil, dirt, debris, and dead cells into the pores,” says Schultz.

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3. Tweezing the “wrong” way – “Did you know that tweezing brows incorrectly can actually cause premature lines and wrinkles?” says Schultz. “Repetitive stretching of your skin can harm collagen and elastic fibers, which then causes premature lines and wrinkles. This is especially true in very delicate skin, such as the skin that is adjacent to the eyebrows.”

The fix: “While tweezing, instead of pulling the skin all the way in the opposite direction from ‘the pluck,’ hold the skin firmly with your fingers very close to both sides of the unwanted hair to minimize stretching the skin and thereby decrease the chance of damage,” advises Schultz.

4. Not getting enough sleep - Functioning while sleep-deprived is just something most of us accept. We learn to cope, but there are definite side effects to that minimal time spent in dreamland. “Lack of sleep is what I call a ‘beauty burglar,’” says Dr. David E. Bank, dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center.

How exactly does lack of sleep affect your skin? “As your systems try to shut down, muscles become fatigued, and the face begins to sag and droop,” explains Bank. “Your skin can also take a sallow appearance, as your pulse and blood pressure drop, causing less blood to pump into the face, which is an indication that you're not getting enough sleep.”

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5. Sleeping on your side. - Even if you are getting a good amount of sleep, how you sleep can also sabotage your skin’s appearance. “Sleeping on your side can actually cause ‘sleep wrinkles,’ since your face is being pushed against your pillowcase and the creasing that thus occurs, night after night,” says Schultz. “If you can't avoid sleeping on your side, then spring for some silk pillowcases that can help prevent friction between your face and your pillowcases and enable your face to slide as you sleep. If you sleep on your back, then consider yourself lucky!”

6. Being constantly stressed out - Oh, we know this one is a toughie. For many of us, dealing with stress is thoroughly unavoidable. But stress is another “beauty burglar,” says Bank. “Stress makes you release all sorts of hormones, which can trigger your body to decide that skin circulation is not a priority and to channel blood away from the skin toward muscles and other organs in the body,” explains Bank. “If you chronically stress yourself out, you not only deprive your skin of crucial oxygen and nutrients, you can also aggravate a skin condition you may already have, such as acne or eczema.” So help your skin and your sanity by finding ways to regulate that stress level, whether that’s yoga, meditation, or just building in a little extra “you” time.

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7. Taking really hot showers - “Taking showers that are too hot [is bad for your skin], as hot water opens the pores, which promotes water loss,” says Schultz. “Hot water also washes away skin’s protective emollient oils, further compounding water loss – together this causes dry and itchy skin.”

8. Running that air-conditioner all day - “Air-conditioners are dehumidifiers and remove moisture from the air,” explains Schultz. “In summer, there is usually a higher humidity outside, so there should be less drying of the skin as compared to winter seasons, but you still get dried out because there is so little moisture in the air-conditioned air that you are in all summer long!”

9. Picking at blemishes - “Don’t do it!” warns Bank. “You will make them worse, and they will leave a scar.” If you must do something, grab an ice cube, he says. “Simply press an ice cube on a pimple for one full minute to reduce swelling and inflammation,” suggests Bank. “The cold ice cube shouldn’t touch your skin directly so be sure to wrap it in a soft tissue or cloth. You will notice immediately that the pimple is smaller as the ice helps to diminish the size of the pores by constricting the blood vessels underneath the skin.”

Which of these bad habits do you need to break?


Heather Chaet documents her mini parenting successes, epic mommy fails, and everything in between for a plethora (love that word!) of publications and websites such as CafeMom, New York Family, and AdWeek. While her online persona is found at heatherchaet.com, Heather lives in New York City with her film director husband and one insanely curious, cat-obsessed daughter.

Image ©iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz


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