Healthy skin is kind of the dream. I mean, we have a lot of skin, so it makes sense. But even if we try our hardest to do right by it, there are still some habits that could be bad for your skin — habits you might not even realize you have. Sure, by this point, we've learned (maybe even the hard way) about some things that we shouldn't do if we want to keep our skin in tip-top shape. For instance, staying out in the sun without an SPF can cause sunburn, which is a pain-in-the-ass in the short-term, but could even lead to skin cancer in the long-term. No thanks. Or how about not getting enough sleep or hydration and waking up with those dreaded under-eye bags?
There are so many things that we may or may not do that could have a negative effect on our skin. So I talked with a couple of skincare experts for some insight on those sneaky habits that could be doing us harm. Karen Ballou, CEO of Immunocologie; and Dr. Hadley King, MD shared some of the habits that, for our skin's sake, we're better off breaking.
1. Using Physical Exfoliants
As much as we might love the feeling of soft, freshly-exfoliated skin, using physical exfoliants to get there may be doing more harm than good. Ballou explains, "However organic it may sound, things like fruit seed kernels commonly employed in exfoliating scrubs consist of rough and jagged particles that cause micro-tears in your skin and ultimately leave you susceptible to inflammation and infection." Yikes. Instead, she suggests using an exfoliator with Alpha Hydroxy Acids like lactic or glycolic acid "for a deeper, more sustainable exfoliation."
2. Not Breaking A Sweat
The health of skin isn't all about the topical lotions and potions though. Ballou also notes the importance of staying active: "Brisk walks will encourage blood circulation and, if you're going fast enough to get a slight sweat going, you will naturally detox your body while simultaneously oxygenating the skin." The post-workout glow is real.
3. Quickly Changing Skincare Regimens
And as much as we may enjoy trying out new products or think we should overhaul our skincare like our wardrobes between seasons, Ballou warns against this. "[Your skin] has its own memory, its own metabolism, and its own immune response. A seasonal shift in regimen can cause these very vital functions to be disrupted, leading to adverse side effects you may not want." She suggests that, instead of switching out your whole skincare regimen at once, add or remove one product per week so there's enough time to see not only how your skin responds but also what exactly the product is doing for you.
4. Picking At Skin
I know it's easier said than done, but whether it's picking at your lips, a pimple, or even your cuticles, just don't. Especially when it comes to zits, Dr. King explains that "[Picking] can lead to infections and can increase inflammation, which will increase your risk for scarring and discoloration and will make the pimple take much longer to heal." If you have a particularly large pimple, and your regular treatments just aren't cutting it, she suggests seeing your dermatologist for a cortisone injection.
"This is one of the single most bad things you can do for your skin." Dr. King went on to explain how tanning not only increases the risk of developing skin cancer, but it also leads to premature skin-aging. She reminded me that sunscreen isn't just for sunny days or days when you plan to spend a lot of time outside. If you don't want as much sun damage, always wear SPF if you go outside.
6. Using A Magnifying Mirror
Because it isn't a realistic picture of what your skin looks like to others, Dr. King warns against using a magnifying mirror to analyze your skin. "It only leads to obsessing over tiny imperfections that no one else can see." And all of that stress isn't good for your skin anyway.
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