Taking Hot Showers
Pleasurable though they may be, long and steamy showers are terrible for your skin. The hot water washes away skin’s protective oils, leaving it dry, tight, and itchy. Using a harsh, soap-based cleanser in a hot shower is double trouble: the two conspire to liquefy and wash away the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of skin cells and sebum. To take it easier on your body’s largest organ, switch to a lukewarm shower. The lower temperature helps keep the stratum corneum from rinsing away, as well as ensuring that you won’t linger in the shower long enough to do any other damage.
Skimping on Sunscreen
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has been chiding us for years to wear a 30 SPF sunscreen every single day. Of course, we all know to wear it on our faces, and definitely on our bodies while at the beach (right?), but sunscreen should really be worn everywhere, every day. That means you can’t skip it on cloudy days or overlook places like the tops of the ears, the scalp, the hands, the neck and chest, the lips, and the tops of the feet. According to the AAD, most melanomas and malignant skin lesions develop on areas of the body that are more exposed to the sun, including the head and neck, so don’t forget to cover every single inch. Also, if you’re using only a couple of squirts of sunscreen to cover your whole body, you’re not using nearly enough.
Not Handling with Care
Many of us rub too vigorously when drying off with a towel. The constant friction and abrasion on our body can strip away essential oils, leading to irritation and dryness; on the face, the constant tugging and pulling can lead to sagging. When drying skin, use a towel to blot or pat dry instead of rubbing. On the face, be sure not to tug on the skin, especially on the delicate areas underneath the eyes. Gently pat wet skin dry, and use the same delicate motion for applying eye cream. Pulling too hard for too many years could cause damage to the connective tissue underneath the skin’s surface.
Using Dirty Implements
Makeup brushes and sponges, tweezers, razors, and other personal-care gadgets spend most of their time in a humid bathroom—a bacterial bonanza where they become magnets for dust, dirt, and oil. At best, they don’t perform well when they’re dirty; at worst, they can spread germs and distribute dirt that could clog pores and cause breakouts. Make sure to wash cosmetic brushes regularly with soap and water, replace razor blades, loofahs, and pumice stones regularly, and clean everything else with rubbing alcohol to kill germs.
Too Much Touching
After you’ve been at the grocery store or the gas station or on public transportation, you’d never be willing to stick your fingers in your mouth, right? Yet few people give the same consideration to touching their face when their hands are dirty. Transferring dirt to the face is a surefire way to cause breakouts and clog pores, so try to avoid touching your face more than necessary, especially when your hands are less than clean.
When you’re washing your hands, don’t forget your phone—cell phones can accumulate grime and bacteria that can easily transfer to the face. A recent study in the Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials reported that 95 percent of mobile phones were contaminated with at least one type of bacteria. Some even carried MRSA, a type of staph germ that can be hard to treat. Keep your phone clean by gently wiping it down with rubbing alcohol once a week to remove traces of makeup, sweat, and other contaminants.
Scratching and Picking
Taking a pass at a momentary itch is one thing, but scratching repeatedly at one spot can literally scrape away the top layers of skin, leaving it dry, irritated, and exposed to infection. Picking at ingrown hairs, pimples, scabs, moles, or other spots can cause bleeding, create an open wound that’s susceptible to bacteria, and leave you with scars. If you experience constant itching, a dermatologist can help diagnose any skin allergies or eczema, but most chronically itchy skin is caused by other bad habits (like hot showers or product overload) and should decrease with improved care.
Having healthy skin doesn’t call for spending thousands of dollars on products and making frequent visits to the dermatologist—it simply requires the right care. Be good to your skin, and it’ll return the favor.