Beauty Experts Say These 30 Surprising Mistakes Are Costing You Money & Making You Look Bad

And here’s what to do instead.

Written by Marissa DeSantis
We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.

If you were making a beauty mistake that was costing you money and making you look bad, you’d want to know, right? As someone who used Sun-In during the early aughts and later spent hours in the salon having their hair color corrected, I think I speak for us all when I say a little warning would have been appreciated. Hopefully, you know better than to mist a hydrogen peroxide-based formula through your dark brown hair before a day at the beach, but there are less obvious beauty blunders you’re probably guilty of. From not washing your makeup brushes on a weekly basis to using lip plumping glosses that cause irritation, the professionals are sharing all.

Ahead, we consulted with dermatologists, makeup artists, and hairstylists (as well as a few Bustle beauty team members) to get the details on the most common beauty mistakes that are wasting your money and keeping you from looking your best.


Mistake: Relying On Pimple Patches To Treat Breakouts

Solution: Switch To A Spot Treatment With Benzoyl Peroxide

Slapping pimple patches over active breakouts won’t necessarily clear up your skin faster, but it will cost you as you continue to replenish your sticker stock. “Pimple patches are not acne treatments, but wound dressings,” board-certified dermatologist Dr. Azadeh Shirazi explains. “Although they’re great to heal pimples you’ve picked at, it’s better to use a spot treatment with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide,” she explains. This tried-and-true acne treatment from La Roche-Posay uses a 5.5% concentration of benzoyl peroxide to kill breakout-causing bacteria and speed up skin cell turnover to help clear out pores. The spot treatment also includes a derivative of salicylic acid to further help with exfoliating, as well as silica to absorb excess oil, and glycerin to help counteract any dryness from the other ingredients.


Mistake: Using Makeup Remover Wipes

Solution: Opt For A Gentle Micellar Water Instead

“Every derm I know strongly advises against using makeup wipes,” Bustle beauty editor Adeline Duff shares. Schweiger Dermatology Group physician assistant Kendra Joseph confirms this, explaining, “Many of their ingredients such as fragrance can cause skin irritation, they’re often used in conjunction with excessive pressure to remove makeup that can cause micro-tears in the skin, and most are not biodegradable.” Instead of wasting your money on wipes, both Joseph and Duff recommend a micellar water. “My favorite is Bioderma Sensibio H2O, and a big, 16-ounce bottle will last you ages,” says Duff. “It’s always best to follow up with a proper cleanse, but when you’re in a pinch, this no-rinse makeup remover is much better than a wipe.”


Mistake: Pulling Your Hair Back With A Tight Elastic

Solution: Invest In A Silk Scrunchie That Won’t Damage Your Hair

“Using elastic hair ties that always inherently get lost (and therefore have to be repurchased) is a mistake that’s both costing you money and making you look bad, as they tend to contribute to hair breakage and split ends,” says Duff. “Due to their tight grip, hair ties can add friction and tension to your hair strands, which can lead to breakage,” explains Joseph. “They also require a meticulous take down to avoid tangled hairs, which can further lead to hair loss, especially in curlier hair types.” Both Duff and Joseph agree that spending a bit more on silk scrunchies can save you in the long run. “Unlike elastics, they’re much better for your hair and are less likely to get lost or accidentally given to a friend, so you won’t have to keep on repurchasing them,” adds Duff.

  • Available colors: 32


Mistake: Using A Thick Under-Eye Concealer That Cakes & Creases

Solution: Try A Glow-Boosting Skin Tint Instead

“Most under-eye concealers tend to be on the thicker side, which usually causes ‘caking’ or a creased, crepey appearance,” Duff says of why your concealer isn’t staying smooth throughout the day. “I’ve found that a super luminous skin tint, like e.l.f.’s Halo Glow Liquid Filter, is a much better alternative. It still evens out your skin and conceals unwanted circles, but also provides a light-reflecting glow with a bit of a dewy sheen (which IMO, makes me look much more well-rested and awake),” she reveals of her go-to trick. “And because the texture is so light and creamy, it doesn’t crease or cake. The best part? This big bottle costs less than $15 and can also be used all over your face, whether on its own or mixed in with your moisturizer.”

  • Available shades: 12


Mistake: Over-Exfoliating

Solution: Repair Your Skin With A Barrier Cream

“While exfoliating has plenty of benefits for your skin, over exfoliating can also do more harm than good, typically in the form of a damaged skin barrier,” explains Duff. (Remember, how often your skin can benefit from exfoliation will vary from person to person — some people can safely exfoliate every day, while others’ might only be able to do it once a week). A damaged skin barrier typically manifests in the form of red, tight, inflamed, or itchy skin — you might even experience breakouts or even a rash. If this has happened to you, your best bet to repair your skin barrier is to bring your skin care routine back to the basics: stop using any exfoliants and focus on products that hydrate, nourish, and protect only. You can use a gentle hydrating cleanser at night (you may want to forego washing your face in the morning for the time being), and follow up with a rich barrier cream, like this one from Etude House.


Mistake: Getting Costly Lash Extensions That Can Lead To Major Irritation

Solution: Apply This Best-Selling Lash Serum Instead

Lash extensions may seem like an easy way to amp up sparse lashes or save time and money in your routine by eliminating the need for mascara, but they don’t come without their risks. In addition to being expensive, board-certified dermatologist and creator of Visha Skincare, Dr. Purvisha Patel, tells Bustle, “The glue can cause allergic reactions, and not cleansing lids and lashes properly can cause infections and even styes.” According to Dr. Patel, a safer route is to work with your dermatologist to determine a lash serum that can boost the appearance of your natural lashes. “There are lash serums with prostaglandins and those without that naturally increase your lashes,” she shares. Duff adds that her serum of choice is the Grande Cosmetics GrandeLash, a nightly treatment that comes backed by 30,000 five-star Amazon ratings and plenty of beauty awards.


Mistake: Faking Fuller Hair With Damaging Extensions

Solution: Take This Vegan Hair Growth Supplement For Longer, Stronger Hair

While we’re on the subject of extensions, Dr. Patel advises against using them in your hair, too. “Hair extensions cost lots of money, [and] they can be too tight and pull on the hair follicles, causing decreased blood flow to the hair and eventual hair loss,” she says. Given that that’s the complete opposite of what you’re setting out to achieve, Dr. Patel recommends focusing on getting the proper nutrients from your diet and adding a hair growth supplement, like Nutrafol, into your routine. The results won’t be as instantaneous as extensions, but Nutrafol’s vegan supplement is physician-formulated and boasts clinical studies that showed thicker hair, longer hair, and less shedding with daily use for six months.


Mistake: Hitting The Slopes Without Sun Protection

Solution: Using An Adequate Sunscreen All Year Round

If you think a ski trip excuses you from needing sunscreen, think again. “The intensity of UVB exposure may increase as much as 8 to 10% per 1,000 feet of altitude elevation, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Carolyn Stull says. “In addition, UV rays are reflected by snow,” she continues, sharing that your best bet is to wear protective clothing and apply broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher. Nurse practitioner Jackie Spagnuolo agrees, and reminds readers that wearing sunscreen is important regardless of what the day ahead brings. “Without sunscreen, you risk developing wrinkles, fine lines, and sun spots, which may require expensive treatments in the future,” she adds. The “perfect” sunscreen (aka one you’ll enjoy putting on daily) varies from person to person, but this K-beauty sunscreen is a particular favorite among beauty editors and Amazon shoppers, thanks to its lightweight, serum-like feel.


Mistake: Using Old School Pore Strips That Damage Your Skin

Solution: Opt For A Gentle Liquid Exfoliant Instead

If you’re still turning to pore strips to clear out enlarged pores, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Lauren Penzi says it’s time to give them up. “They are terrible for your skin,” she stresses, stating that they can cause all kinds of irritation, from redness to itching and flaking. “The trauma from the pulling of the strip can cause little micro-tears in the skin that can invite in bacteria and cause infection,” she adds of a lesser-known consequence. For a gentler long-term solution that also works better, Dr. Penzi recommends a BHA exfoliant, like this one from Paula’s Choice, which uses a 2% concentration of salicylic acid to “keep dirt and oil out of the pores to prevent blackheads from forming.”


Mistake: Using Box Hair Color Kits In Between Salon Appointments

Solution: Refresh Your Color With This Pigment-Depositing Conditioner

“DIY box hair color may seem to save you a ton of money compared to professional salon color, but in the end, your hair will be compromised,” says celebrity hair colorist Michelle Cleveland. In addition to weakening the hair and even leading to breakage, applying your own box dye over salon color can also cause what Cleveland refers to as banding (basically a visible band of color that occurs when dye is layered over previously colored hair). If you can’t get to the salon as often as you’d like, Cleveland suggests speaking with your stylist to determine how you can best extend the life of your color, which may include using a color-depositing conditioner to help enhance and tone your hair color. This Keracolor formula comes in 21 shades, and it’s also infused with nourishing ingredients like hydrolyzed keratin, jojoba oil, and rosehip oil to keep your hair hydrated and healthy.

  • Available shades: 21


Mistake: Using Face Scrubs With Harsh Microbeads

Solution: Opt For An Exfoliating Cleanser With AHAs

“Please stop using harsh scrubs with microbeads and apricot shells to wash your face,” implores celebrity esthetician Kristin Gunn. “Not only are the small beads terrible for the environment, but you are also causing micro-tears in your skin,” she explains, noting that a cleanser with chemical exfoliants is a much better option. This SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser fits the bill, as it works to improve your skin’s tone and texture with a blend of AHAs (derived from botanical ingredients including bilberry extract and sugar cane extract) and the BHA salicylic acid. Gunn says that these ingredients “gently melt away the dead skin cells without harsh manual exfoliation,” and I can personally attest that this cleanser gets the job done without causing any irritation.


Mistake: Not Washing Your Makeup Brushes

Solution: Use A Clarifying Shampoo To Rid Brushes Of Bacteria

Chances are you’re not washing your makeup brushes enough, as the American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends giving your brushes a thorough cleanse every seven to 10 days. “Bacteria grows in warm, moist areas like your bathroom and thrives in the bristles of your brushes,” reminds Gunn, who adds, “This is not just causing acne flare-ups, it can literally lead to more serious (and even grosser) issues like Streptococcus, E. coli, or a staph infection.” But if you thought you needed a separate brush cleanser, Gunn assures that a clarifying shampoo with warm water works just as well. This Kristin Ess Deep Clean Clarifying Shampoo is an inexpensive favorite on Amazon that will give you a rich lather, whether you’re using it to remove product buildup and oil from your hair or germs and makeup from your brushes.


Mistake: Applying Makeup To Dry Skin

Solution: Create A Smooth Base With This Pro-Favorite Moisturizer

If you’ve invested in a pricey foundation but you’re not prepping your skin first, you’re making a major mistake, says Omayma Ramzy, a Los Angeles-based makeup artist and founder of Omayma Skin. “Doing your makeup without properly brightened and hydrated skin will make you look cakey, chalky, dull, dry — you name it,” she says. “It will also make you use too much makeup.” Gunn agrees, stressing that it’s always important to “start with well-hydrated skin before applying makeup for a fresh look.” For a smoothing and soothing option that doesn’t feel heavy on the skin, try Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré, a French pharmacy staple that many of the pros rely on when getting models runway-ready at fashion week. The noncomedogenic formula includes ingredients like shea butter, beeswax, and aloe vera, and it can even be used as a face mask or gentle cleansing milk, making it the ultimate addition to your kit.


Mistake: Using A Brush Cleaning Spray That’s Riddled With Chemicals

Solution: Try This Gentle Brush Shampoo That’s Makeup Artist-Approved

We’ve already touched on how crucial washing your makeup brushes is, and Ramzy confirms that it’s a non-negotiable step. “You are mixing old products with new products, and old bacteria that has been left to harbor and grow and putting it straight onto your beautiful face, which can lead to an array of skin concerns that have you wasting money on problem-solving skin care and beauty products,” she says of what’s going on when you don’t do a weekly wash. But if you’re thinking of using an instant dry cleansing spray to spritz over your brushes, that’s not a great idea, according to Ramzy. “They may be fast, but they use a ton of incredibly drying and harsh ingredients that are quite similar to dry cleaning solutions,” she shares. Instead, she recommends the Sigma Brushampoo, which only uses water, coconut oil, palm oil, and the disinfectant potassium hydroxide to thoroughly cleanse your makeup brushes and sponges when worked into a lather with warm water.


Mistake: Not Removing All Of The Makeup From Your Brushes

Solution: Invest In This Automatic Cleansing Device That Does The Work For You

Whether you’re playing catch up with washing brushes that have been neglected for far too long or you don’t have the patience to scrub all of your brushes by hand each week, Ramzy recommends this clever automatic cleansing device. The USB-powered device does all the work for you, allowing you to clean multiple brushes at once when paired with your cleanser of choice. Not only does it speed up the process, but Ramzy says its rotating motor is “great for really getting tough dirt removed.” Plus, the same tray that locks your brushes in place while cleansing can be used to hold them upright while they dry.


Mistake: Routinely Getting Gel Manicures Without A Break

Solution: Use A Gel-Effect Polish Instead

Hannah Lee, a licensed manicurist and Sally Hansen nail artist partner, points out that frequent in-salon gel manicures are both costly and have the potential to be damaging (because of both improper removal and the UV radiation emitted by the lamps that cure the gel polish). For a less expensive and less damaging option, Lee likes the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel formula, which lets you pair your color of choice with the brand’s Miracle Gel Top Coat for a glossy finish and gel-like polish that lasts as long as 10 days. “There is no UV lamp required, and you can easily remove the color with regular polish remover when you’re ready for your next shade,” Lee says of the polish’s perks.

  • Available shades: 32


Mistake: Getting Hard-To-Remove Nail Extensions That Damage Your Natural Nails

Solution: Try These At-Home Press-Ons That Shoppers Call “Indestructible”

“Nail extensions are beautiful, but oftentimes tough to remove yourself and can cause damage if done improperly,” Lee adds of another common mistake she sees. If you don’t want to give up on the length and shape that extensions give, Lee suggests Sally Hansen’s at-home press-on kits, which stick to your natural nails with an adhesive tab that can be removed with regular nail polish remover (though you can use a glue adhesive, too). Each Sally Hansen Salon Effects Perfect Manicure set comes with a mini nail file, a cuticle pusher, a nail cleanser prep pad, a tiny tube of glue, and 24 press-ons and adhesive tabs to match your natural nails.

  • Available designs: 6


Mistake: Using Lip Plumpers That Can Lead To Irritation

Solution: This Gloss That Naturally Plumps Lips With Hyaluronic Acid

“Lip plumpers with intentionally irritating ingredients like cinnamon, ginger, capsaicin, or menthol cause lips to be plumper but may lead to drier lips in the long run, which can lead to cracked, older-looking, less plump lips,” shares board-certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Paul Nassif. Rather than spend money on plumping products that will dry out your lips over time, Dr. Nassif recommends looking for a gloss that naturally gives lips a boost with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and peptides. His own Hydro-Screen For Lips formula, which he recommends, is frequently sold out, but you can also try this less expensive option from Maybelline, a lip gloss that’s infused with hyaluronic acid to naturally promote plumper, smoother lips.

  • Available shades: 29


Mistake: Applying Serums On Skin That Hasn’t Been Exfoliated

Solution: Preface Your Serums With These Doctor-Developed Exfoliating Pads

Multiple experts we consulted with pointed out the importance of exfoliating with the right ingredients, but Dr. Nassif points out that this is especially key if you’ve invested in serums. “Serums can be costly, and if you are not cleansing and gently exfoliating, you are not properly prepping your skin to absorb the nourishing benefits,” Dr. Nassif shares, noting that you’re less likely to see the results you want. “Prior to using any serum, use NassifMD Detox Pads, which can be easily used as a daily cleanser and gentle chemical exfoliant,” he says of the travel-friendly pads, which are infused with AHAs and BHAs like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and lactic acid.


Mistake: Overspending On Shampoo Because You Wash Your Hair Every Day

Solution: Stretch Out Wash Days With (The Right) Dry Shampoo

While not washing your hair enough can negatively impact your scalp, Los Angeles-based hairstylist Glenn Ellis says that washing your hair too much can also cause problems (and cost you money because you’ll wind up buying more shampoo). “Overwashing can strip natural oils, leading to dryness and irritation,” he explains. If greasy roots interfere with stretching out your wash days, Ellis says to try Olaplex’s award-winning Detox Dry Shampoo. “Its lightweight formula absorbs grease and oil, extending hairstyle life while maintaining natural texture,” he says of why it’s his go-to. The pH-balanced formula uses ultra-fine rice starch particles to help absorb excess oil without leaving behind a powdery residue, while rambutan seed extract works to restore some hydration to the hair.


Mistake: Turning To In-Office Procedures As Your First Plan Of Attack

Solution: Following A Comprehensive Skin Care Routine

“While office-based treatments including lasers, chemical peels, radio frequency, and other energy-based devices can be very effective, best results are seen when they are used in conjunction with a skin care routine and UV protection,” shares board-certified dermatologist Dr. Carolyn Stull. Naturally, finding the right skin care products doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach, but this four-piece Curél kit is a solid place to start for beginners and most skin types. The travel-size set gives you a chance to try all of the products without committing to more expensive full-size versions, and each of the cleansers and creams — all designed to hydrate — is formulated without fragrances and dyes to be more sensitive skin-friendly.


Mistake: Cleansing Your Face Multiple Times Per Day

Solution: Swap A Full Face Wash For This Moisturizing Toner

“A good cleanser is essential for deep cleaning the face and keeping the skin healthy and free of buildup, makeup, and impurities,” board-certified dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman confirms. “However, over-cleansing the face, especially with harsh actives, can disrupt the skin barrier by stripping the skin of its protective oils,” she cautions. But when you need to remove grease and grime between your morning and evening cleanses, Dr. Engelman says you can use a gentle toner to help you out. “One of my favorite non-stripping toners is the Humphreys Nourishing Witch Hazel that is infused with organic, alcohol-free witch hazel, along with aloe and vitamin E to help moisturize and soften skin.”


Mistake: Spending Money For Professional Color, Yet Scrimping On Shampoo

Solution: Use This Sulfate-Free Shampoo That Keeps Your Color Looking Vibrant

If you spend the money to have your hair professionally colored, you should also be prepared to spend a little more on a color-conserving shampoo, says Sierra Kener, a colorist at celebrity-loved Nine Zero One Salon. “Instead of using whatever shampoo you have lying around, swap it for a color-securing product like #Mydentity MyConfidant Shampoo and Conditioner,” she advises. The sulfate-free duo works to prolong the vibrancy of your color with its proprietary VibraRiche Technology that helps to leave color intact for up to 50 shampoos.


Mistake: Using An Astringent Toner That Can Strip Your Skin

Solution: Opt For This Soothing & Hydrating Toner That Helps Stave Off Breakouts

Anyone who experiences frequent breakouts knows that oftentimes, the active ingredients that speed up the healing process can also lead to dryness. Alicia Yoon, an esthetician and the founder of skin care brand Peach & Lily, adds that harsh toners can cause other issues, too. “Astringent toners can be expensive while also stripping skin, which can irritate or even break skin out,” Yoon says. That’s why she created the brand’s Peach Slices Snail Rescue Blemish Busting Toner, which uses two Korean beauty favorites: snail mucin and cica to both bind moisture to the skin and treat acne by exfoliating and soothing redness and inflammation.


Mistake: Doing Your Makeup In Bad Lighting

Solution: Invest In This Travel-Friendly Makeup Mirror That Lights Up

No matter how many prestige makeup products you use, if you’re applying them under poor lighting, you’ll never look your best. “If you do your makeup using bathroom lighting, you will almost always have the wrong color match or not blend properly,” says celebrity makeup artist Nydia Figueroa. “This makeup mirror from Amazon has LED lighting, is compact, and [it’s] great for travel as well,” shares Figueroa of her inexpensive trick to getting the right lighting every time. The LED bulbs in the mirror can be powered on by a USB charging cable or by batteries, and it uses a touch screen that allows you to adjust the brightness of the lights. The mirror also has three additional magnification modes to help with more precise application when it comes to things like eyeliner and lipstick.

  • Available colors: 3


Mistake: Reusing The Same Makeup Sponge

Solution: Buy A Budget-Friendly Multi Pack So You Always Have A Fresh One On Hand

Yes, you can and should clean your makeup sponges, but Figueroa points out that even with regular washes, it’s best to replace your sponge after about three months to avoid a buildup of bacteria. “A great way for a sponge-lover to keep using this tool is by buying a pack of sponges that you can use a few times and throw away,” Figueroa suggests. Rather than spend $20-plus every time you need to replace your name-brand beauty sponge, she recommends this set of six latex-free sponges from AOA Studio, which also come backed by 13,000 five-star Amazon ratings and reviews.


Mistake: Keeping Your Prestige Mascara Past Its Expiration Date

Solution: Try This Makeup Artist-Approved Mascara That Costs Less Than Your Cold Brew

Another risky product to keep past the three-month mark is mascara. “Keeping your mascara for more than three months will not only leave you with dry mascara, but can also lead to eye infections,” Figueroa says, adding that contracting an eye infection will then require you to throw away all of your eye makeup. Using travel-size mascaras is my go-to way to avoid keeping mascara past its expiration date, but Figueroa suggests saving money by opting for a drugstore mascara. “My top pick is the Essence Cosmetics Lash Princess,” she says. The waterproof mascara won’t smudge or flake as it works to build length and volume with its cone-shaped fiber brush and classic black color.


Mistake: Using Expensive Hot Styling Tools On Unprotected Hair

Solution: Prep Your Hair With This Heat-Protecting Leave-In Conditioner

Celebrity hairstylist Graham Nation tells Bustle that the most costly mistake he sees clients make is investing in color and cuts without making that same investment in the at-home products they use to maintain in-salon treatments. To help condition hair while you cleanse, Nation recommends the SexyHair Healthy Strengthening Shampoo and Conditioner duo, but he also stresses the importance of using a leave-in product that both conditions your hair and protects it. “It will help fight everything that wants to dry and damage your hair,” he says of the Tri-Wheat Leave-In Conditioner, which helps to detangle, add shine, and shield hair against humidity and damage. “Use this when you get out of the shower and before you blow dry to protect against blow dryers, UVA, and UVB rays,” he says of the spritz-on formula that’s infused with nourishing ingredients like panthenol, hydrolyzed wheat protein, and glycerin.


Mistake: Picking At Your Gel Manicure

Solution: Remove Gels Properly (& Without Damage) With This Under-$10 Kit

I know it’s tempting to start peeling at your gel manicure once the tiniest corner starts to lift (I’ve been guilty of it on more than one occasion myself), but it really does leave your nails damaged and more prone to breaking. But properly removing your gel manicure doesn’t have to mean a second trip to the salon to pay to have it taken off, either. Instead, consider an at-home kit like this one, which comes with all of the tools you need (minus the acetone nail polish remover). For less than $10, you’ll get a file for breaking down the gel, more than 100 remover pads to soak with your acetone, 10 colorful nail clips to keep the pads in place while you wait, a scraper tool to help with taking off stubborn bits of polish, and a buffer to smooth the surface of your nails after.

  • Available colors: 5


Mistake: Using A Tanning Bed

Solution: Fake Bake With This Foolproof Tanning Mousse Instead

I don’t care what Kim Kardashian says: using a tanning bed not only ages your skin faster, but it’s also just plain dangerous (and decades of scientific research back this up). Without boring you with too many statistics, the American Academy of Dermatology Association notes that tanning beds accelerate the appearance of wrinkles, age spots, and loss of skin firmness, and the Skin Cancer Foundation shares that using a tanning bed before the age of 35 increases the risk of developing melanoma by 75%. This is why I stick with a self-tanner, and in my decade-plus of relying on at-home tanning products, I’ve yet to find one that delivers better results than St. Tropez’s Self-Tan Dark Bronzing Mousse. The mousse formula and tinted guide color make it easy to apply (just don’t forget to buy a tanning mitt, too), and even on my translucent-levels-of-pale skin, it leaves the most natural golden tone when I rinse away the guide color after about eight hours.