7 Skin Mistakes You Don't Even Know You're Making

by Toria Sheffield
beauty, face
Maryna Terletska/Moment/Getty Images

Feeling confident about our skin feels good. It's why — for better or worse — skincare products make for a multi-billion dollar industry. But with all the time we spend trying to perfect our skin, the irony is there are probably skin mistakes we don't even know we're making.

And this of course isn't the biggest deal — at the end of the day, it's just skin and we all have bigger fish to fry in terms of life priorities. But my philosophy has always been that if we're going to take the time to invest our energy and money into something (in this case, a skin care routine), then at the very least we should make sure that what we're investing in is actually working — or at the very least, not actively harming our skin. Otherwise we might as well just splash some cold water on our faces every night and call it a day.

If you've been feeling like your skin care routine just isn't doing it for you, or you just want to be sure that you're not doing anything that could be backfiring in the long-run, here are seven common mistakes many people make when it comes to their skin that you should definitely keep in mind.

1. Overexfoliating

In a piece for Byrdie, Elizabeth Tanzi, M.D., co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington DC said, "Overly-aggressive exfoliation leads to stripping the skin of its natural oils and inflammation. All that inflammation can increase acne, worsen rosacea and accelerate the aging process." She recommended being very gentle with skin as a general rule, and limiting exfoliation to once every week or two.

2. Using The Wrong Moisturizer For Your Skin Type

Cetaphil, $10.39,

OK — most of us know moisturizing is important, even when we have oily skin. But according to Dr. Ted Lain in a piece for The Huffington Post, a lot of us aren't using the right kind for our skin. For oily skin, Lang recommended using lotions instead of creams and finding formulas that have exfoliating ingredients "such as lactic glycolic and salicylic acids." For dry skin he said to use a cream — especially in the winter. And for combination skin, he said to look for "lotions with no acids, something bland such as Cetaphil, Cerave, Aveeno, Neutrogena, or Lubriderm.”

3. Not Using Enough Sunscreen

So hopefully you're using products with SPF, especially since The Daily Mails says that 80 percent of wrinkles are caused by sun exposure. But even if you are, there's a good chance you're not using enough.

In that same Byrdie piece, Dr. Meghan O'Brien, M.D., consulting dermatologist for Physicians Formula said, “Most people apply about a quarter of the amount of sunscreen that they are supposed to use in order to get the SPF indicated on the product. If you are not applying enough of the sunscreen, then you will not get the level of protection you think you are getting. A study showed that with the ‘typical application’ (i.e. not enough) of SPF 30, the actual SPF achieved was SPF 8. You need to apply a teaspoon to cover the face, and a shot-glass worth of product to the body.”

4. Blindly Following DIY Trends

According to professional aesthetician and beauty vlogger Veronica Gorgeois (and one of my personal favorite sources for well-researched advice), a ton of people make the mistake of seeing a DIY treatment online and blindly putting it on their skin without doing any research as to whether the ingredients are actually good for us. For example, she said to never put anything on your skin involving baking soda, lemon juice, toothpaste, or salt and sugar-based scrubs.

5. Constantly Switching Up Your Routine

In an email interview with Bustle, Tony Silla, skin care expert and owner of The Face Place in LA, said one of the top mistakes he sees with many of his clients is not sticking to a consistent skin care regimen and frequently switching up their products. Similarly, in a vlog on black head reduction, Gorgeois echoed this sentiment, saying that skin care is like the gym — you can't go once and expect big results, but instead need to focus on consistency in order to see change over time.

6. Not Reading Ingredient Lists

This particular piece of advice seriously revolutionized they way I think about and purchase skin care products. According to DermaTruth, the phenomenon of "fairy dusting" or "window dressing" — which is when beneficial ingredients are used in a product, but not in amounts that are sufficient to provide much benefit — is incredibly common in the skin care industry.

It's why you should always read the ingredient list before purchasing a new product to see where the "magic ingredient" falls on the list — if it's not one of the first ingredients, you're probably not getting what you're paying for (ingredients are listed from most to least present). Additionally, you should always make sure that there are no ingredients in the product that could actually be harming your skin, like certain types of harsh alcohols.

7. You Don't Clean Your Brushes

OK, this is a super simple one of which I'm willing to bet we're all pretty guilty. According to Jennifer Fifer, owner of Tru Skin Clinical Spa in Manhattan in a piece for Good Housekeeping, bacteria builds up extremely quickly on applicators and brushes, and you should aim to clean them as often as once a week to prevent breakouts.

Skin care advice can often be confusing and contradictory, but it's important to keep a few basics in mind before hopping on any bandwagons, as well as to always do your research. Your skin will thank you!

Images: Maryna Terletska/Moment/Getty Images, Giphy