7 Weird Things That Could Be Making Your Skin Worse, According To A Dermatologist

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You may not realize that there are a bunch of things that make your skin worse and TBH, you might not be aware you're even causing any damage. Chances are, you probably know all about the habits you should be adopting for healthier skin. Such habits include: Drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, and taking your makeup off every night before bed. On the flip side, you're likely aware of the bad habits that are detrimental to your skin, like eating greasy, fast food lacking in nutrients or drinking too many sugary drinks.

It usually takes a while to form a habit, which could mean you've been unknowingly wreaking havoc on your skin for quite some time, when in actual fact, you thought you were doing the opposite. If you've been suffering with a skin problem for a while now — while performing the same habits and routines — it might be time to try something new.

But first off, you need to be aware of where you might be going wrong with your skincare regime. Bustle spoke with Dr. Sharyn Laughlin, board certified dermatologist at Laserderm and founder of Cyberderm, The Sunscreen Company, in order to get to the bottom of the weird habits that are making our skin worse.

1. Relying Too Heavily On Manual Skincare Brushes For Exfoliation

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"Many patients swear by their manual spin-brushes for daily cleaning and exfoliation of their skin," Dr. Laughlin tells Bustle. "We face increased pollution in our daily lives that leave particulate matter complexes on our skin. These are best removed efficiently from your skin, along with make-up and skincare like sunscreen at night time."

"However," Dr. Laughlin warns, "manual skincare brushes can be too aggressive in that they blindly remove surface skin cells. Chemical exfoliation with skincare ingredients like AHAs or retinoic acids only selectively ‘unglue’ the skin cells that are dead and ready for exfoliation. If you are going to use a manual spin-brush for your skin, I advise limiting it to once per week. If your skin feels tight, sore, or looks irritated, I would suggest you stop using it."

2. Thinking That Sunscreen With The Highest SPF Is Best

"Most consumers mistakenly assume that label SPF numbers and claims of 'Broad spectrum — prevents skin cancer and photoaging' are accurate. They succumb to the market seduction that higher SPF means more or better protection. Nothing could be further from the truth," Dr. Laughlin says.

"Our label regulations are based on several fallacies," she elaborates, "Including that the methods mandated to measure Sunburn Protection Factor (SPF) and UVA efficacy (broad spectrum) are valid and accurate. Consider your prior experience or that of family and friends with fair skin on a 1-2 week tropical vacation. Every instruction for daily and repeat application is rigidly followed, yet most returned home with varying degrees of sunburn. Recent studies confirm that the SPF label value obtained in a mandated lab test bears little parity to the real life SPF measured in sunlight. Most sunscreens achieve < 20% of their labelled SPF — a SPF 50 performs as a 10 or less in sunlight."

"The 'Broad Spectrum' claim is just as misleading, since the FDA relies on an indirect measure of UVA activity. A 2016 study showed 55% of USA sunscreens have inadequate UVA protection," she continues. "Finally, high SPF sunscreens made from soluble filters are UVB biased — they expose you to unfiltered UVA radiation similar to a tanning bed that will lead to chronic UVA damage over time and accelerated photo-aging, or possibly increase your risk of skin cancer."

3. Not Using A Humidifier In Winter

But, Dr. Laughlin says if you're not using a humidifier in winter, it won't end well for your skin.

"Moisturizers, serums, and other hydration products are essential for any optimal skincare routine, but in winter when the heat is on full blast, the lack of ambient humidity is detrimental to healthy skin," she explains. "With central forced air heating, keep the in-line humidifiers set to maintain a relative humidity at 30-40%. Cold steam humidifiers in specific rooms are an effective way to keep the humidity at a reasonable level, but require regular cleaning."

4. Over-Bathing In Winter

"In the same vein — with low humidity indoors and outside compounded by cold stress — many patients complain about dry, itchy skin in the winter. A frequent, primary factor is taking too many hot baths with lots of bubble bath and/or soap. The result is dry and itchy skin referred to as winter itch,"  Dr. Laughlin explains.

"People should minimize their hot baths and use soap only as needed. Consider a warm bath with a small amount of olive oil; make sure to clean your tub to avoid slipping on a slick surface. A good moisturizer applied over damp skin is the proper way to achieve the best result and to help alleviate this," she recommends.

5. Assuming That Organic Skincare Products Will Be Great For Your Skin

"Organic ingredients can certainly make a nice addition to your skincare but they're not a sufficient criteria on their own. 'Organic' or 'natural' are not synonyms for 'safe' or 'effective.' Often the marketing suggests that natural or organic means non-chemical — completely untrue," says Dr. Laughlin.

"Whether an ingredient is from a natural or synthetic source," she elaborates, "it still has a chemical formula. Organic in the chemical sense simply means carbon based with carbon chains and often, an extract has several ingredients each with its own chemical formula. Any natural/organic agent may still be toxic or allergenic, the best example is poison ivy and essential citrus acids."

6. Having Extractions Done

"Most people have heard that they must not pick, extract, squeeze, or pop pimples," says Dr. Laughlin. "Many do not realize that dermatologists never recommend that trained facialists or estheticians perform these extractions either."  

"It may be too damaging for the pore and often complicated by pigment disturbance and rarely a pit that takes longer to heal and fill in, or a permanent hypotrophic scar or depression in the skin. Over time, these areas may remain as a white spot within sun damaged skin or the trauma leads to 'broken or dilated' blood vessels (commonly called spider veins) that are actually dilated capillaries that dermatologists call telangiectasia," she explains.

If you're in any doubt about getting an extraction, speak to your dermatologist first to learn about all of the pros and cons.

7. Using Products With Citrus Based Essential Oils During The Day

"Lemon or lime juice that touches skin and is then exposed to sunlight may result in a phytophotodermatitis — the sudden appearance of brown streaks or spots without any warning, with no preceding redness or blisters. If you have had a spritz of lime juice on your skin in sunlight, you could have this unfortunate experience and develop unsightly brown pigment in the pattern of the contact. Lemon or lime juice on the skin after sun exposure will cause fairly dark pigmentation," says Dr. Laughlin.

"A recent fad sees the inclusion of lemon or lime based ingredients in skincare products. You should avoid any product with lime or lemon based essential oils intended for daytime use. Other citrus oils can elicit a similar phytophotodermatitis after exposure to sunlight. The reactions may not be as dramatic as seen with lime, but they are best avoided as well," she advises.

So now you know about the weird things could be making your skin worse — armed with this education, consider your habits and put your best face forward.

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