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Experts Say You're Damaging Your Hair & Skin If You're Making Any Of These Unexpected Mistakes

They’re here to provide you with some easy fixes.

by BDG Commerce
Updated: 
Originally Published: 
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Even if you have your skin- and hair-care routine on lock, it always helps to get further insight on best practices from the experts — and, more often than not, what they’ll say will surprise you. That’s why we tapped some of the best dermatologists, estheticians, makeup artists, hair stylists, colorists, trichologists, and other pros from around the world to share their insider knowledge. According to our experts, you’re damaging your skin and hair if you make any of these unexpected mistakes — but they’re here to provide you with some easy fixes.

From going ham on the exfoliants to using the wrong brush for your hair, the beauty mistakes our pros outlined below are actually super-common, so don’t feel bad if you find yourself making them. Instead, simply heed the experts’ advice and make some subtle changes in your routine, whether that’s adopting a safer method (like detangling knots from the ends up, not from the roots down), or picking up a product that better suits your skin and hair concerns.

Ready to create a pro-caliber beauty routine? Read on to discover some of the unexpected hair and skin mistakes that experts see constantly, and how to fix them ASAP.

1

Not Using The Proper Products (& Methods) To Exfoliate

“One of the biggest skin care mistakes I see being made is not properly exfoliating,” says Crystal Koro, esthetician and founder of Facify Beauty. “Most people are either not exfoliating enough or are over exfoliating and stripping their natural skin barrier. This can lead to overly-sensitized skin and cause further damage. I always recommend my clients alternate between physical and chemical exfoliants to be sure they are not using too many harsh scrubs or sensitizing products.”

As far as physical exfoliants go, Koro recommends using a clay or charcoal mask once a week (or twice if your skin is particularly congested). In addition to pink clay, this one from Caudalie contains caffeine and grape-derived polyphenols to visibly brighten your complexion.

2

Only Using 1 Type Of Exfoliator

In addition to using a clay or charcoal mask to physically exfoliate, Koro recommends using peel pads every other night to chemically exfoliate (but not on the same day you’re using your physical exfoliant). These Nip + Fab peel pads contain salicylic acid to deep-clean clogged pores, as well as a high 5% concentration of glycolic acid and lactic acid, which work to unglue and sweep away dead skin cells, leaving skin smooth and radiant. A word of caution: These peel pads are extra-strength, so start by using them only once or twice a week so your skin can adjust. Then you can work up to Koro’s recommended every-other-night regimen, if you feel your skin needs it.

3

Using Abrasive Body Scrubs

Even though it’s generally thicker and tougher than the skin on your face, the skin below your neck is similarly prone to being over-exfoliated. That’s something board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marisa K. Garshick, M.D., warns her clients against. She explains, “Using abrasive scrubs can cause micro-tears in the skin which leads to disruption of the skin barrier and can contribute to irritation, moisture loss, and dryness.”

To be clear, you don’t need to do away with physical scrubs altogether, just like you shouldn’t nix exfoliating your face altogether — just don’t overdo it, and consider using a gentle, exfoliating body wash rather than your typical grainy scrub and loofah. Dr. Garshick likes the Dove Gentle Exfoliating Body Wash, which uses ultra-fine sea minerals to gently buff away rough, bumpy skin, along with the brand’s Microbiome Nutrient Serum for long-lasting hydration.

4

Drying Out Your Skin With Alcohol-Based Toners

Traditional toners use alcohol to soak up excess oil and tighten pores, but according to Dr. Garshick, those alcohols “can be drying on the skin, which can be especially irritating for those with dry or sensitive skin.” That doesn’t mean dry or sensitive skin types can’t benefit from a toner, though — just choose a gentle, alcohol-free option, like Dr. Garshick’s recommended Thayers toner. A cult classic, the centuries-old product uses a combination of witch hazel, rose petal, and aloe to reduce redness, balance oil production, and minimize the appearance of pores, all while thoroughly hydrating the skin. “I have incredibly sensitive skin,” wrote one of the 90,000-plus shoppers who left a five-star rating or review, continuing, “My skin gets clean, there's no reaction, and it feels soft and moisturized afterwards.”

5

Neglecting Scalp Care, Resulting In Dull, Limp Hair

One mistake that celebrity colorist and extension expert Ashleigh Marie sees her clients make often? Neglecting scalp care, which can cause several hair-related issues, namely “inhibiting growth by clogging the follicle, or making the hair dull or discolored.” To keep hair at its shiniest and healthiest, Marie recommends using a clarifying shampoo twice a week “that cleans the scalp of excess oil, buildup and minerals.” Marie favors Olaplex’s clarifying shampoo, which not only offers the scalp a deep clean, but also employs the brand’s signature bond-building technology to restore damaged hair at a molecular level. Plus, it’s sulfate-free and pH-balanced, so it won’t excessively dry out your hair like other clarifying shampoos tend to do.

6

Not Letting Your Antiperspirant Work Overnight

Though applying an antiperspirant may seem straightforward, turns out you’re probably doing it wrong. According to Dr. Garshick, “applying an antiperspirant at night time is the best way to maximize efficacy and minimize irritation.” (As a reminder, antiperspirants work to control excessive sweating, often with aluminum to block the sweat glands, while deodorants merely neutralize body odor — here, Dr. Garshick is referring to the former.) She continues, “When applied at night, the aluminum salts are able to plug up the empty sweat glands to have a greater impact and better effect.”

If you find most antiperspirants too irritating, consider Dr. Garshick’s recommendation: the Dove Ultimate Antiperspirant Deodorant Stick. 12% aluminum helps curb sweat production, but glycerin tempers its potentially drying and irritating effects. The soft floral scent neutralizes unwanted odors, too.

7

Skipping The Moisturizer After Exfoliating Your Skin

“What a lot of people neglect to do is restore the skin's moisture levels by applying a moisturizer after exfoliating,” Koro says. “This will help to prevent any irritation, dryness, or sensitivity and give you glowing, hydrated skin.” Koro’s preferred moisturizer contains natural moisturizing factors (NMF), which are compounds that naturally occur in the skin that work to maintain proper hydration levels. This N.M.F Intensive Hydrating Cream is packed with a number of NMFs to replenish dry skin — including hyaluronic acid, minerals, and fatty acids — along with hydrolyzed collagen and vitamin E. Layer on this soothing and healing elixir after you exfoliate at night.

8

Not Switching Up Your Skin-Care Routine When The Weather Changes

When temperatures and humidity levels drop, your skin can be especially prone to dryness, irritation, and sensitivity — so when the weather changes, it makes sense to adjust your skin care routine, in the same way you’d flip your wardrobe. Just like you’d swap in sweaters and flannels, Dr. Garshick recommends adding “thick, occlusive” formulas into your skin care routine — and it doesn’t get much better than good old Vaseline. Though the stuff famously has myriad uses, from healing burns to slugging, Dr. Garshick particularly recommends applying Vaseline to your lips during the colder months. “Winter lips are often dry, chapped and irritated, but rather than reaching for a fragrant lip balm, one of the best ways to help the lips is to apply Vaseline, which not only helps to lock moisture in, but also serves as a protective barrier to prevent external irritants,” she explains.

Lest you believe Vaseline is boring, this order comes with four ultra-nourishing formulas — Original, Aloe Fresh, Cocoa Butter, and Vitamin E — all in portable pots you can easily stash in your purse, car, or nightstand.

9

Applying Moisturizer To Bone-Dry Skin

Here’s a little-known fact, courtesy of board-certified dermatologist Dr. Adam Tinklepaugh, M.D.: Since your moisturizer works to “trap water on your skin,” it should be applied to damp skin, not dry. Dr. Tinklepaugh recommends applying a “light moisturizer” a few seconds after you cleanse to allow your skin to dry slightly (your moisturizer will just slip off if it’s applied to soaking-wet skin). Specifically, he likes Cetaphil Daily Hydrating Lotion, a non-greasy, unscented, and noncomedogenic option that’s a failsafe for all skin types (and budgets).

10

Skipping Sunscreen When It’s Rainy Or Cloudy Out

“When it comes to skin care, I advise my patients to apply sunscreen year-round, regardless of their plans,” says Dr. Anna Chacon, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist. “No matter the season or forecast, the sun is still up there every day, emitting UV rays that can wreak havoc on skin health and DNA.”

The first step? Find a sunscreen you actually enjoy wearing everyday. The EltaMD UV Clear Face Sunscreen is constantly recommended by dermatologists for its non-greasy, mineral-based formula that doesn’t feel heavy or greasy, is gentle on sensitive skin, and applies sheer. Of course, it also offers ample, broad-spectrum UV protection, courtesy of SPF 46. Just be sure to apply the recommended nickel-sized amount every morning, rain or shine, to reap those protective benefits.

11

Drying Your Hair With Your Usual Bath Towel

When you step out of the shower, resist the urge to run that terry cloth towel you’re using to dry off your body through your hair, too — according to Dr. Yoram Harth, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and Medical Director of MDhair, the towel’s coarse fibers can damage your hair. Instead, Dr. Harth recommends using a microfiber towel. Not only is the soft microfiber much gentler on your hair, it’s also more absorbent and lightweight, so your hair will dry that much faster and it won’t strain your neck if you wear it on your head.

12

Washing Your Hair Too Often

Another common hair mistake Dr. Harth often sees is washing your hair too often. Though you may love that squeaky-clean feeling, Dr. Harth warns that “overwashing the hair can stimulate the scalp to produce more oil, making your hair look flat.” As a fix, he recommends washing your hair no more than two to three times per week, and using a volumizing shampoo and conditioner when you do so to achieve that coveted body and lift.

The BIOLAGE Volume Bloom Shampoo is a great choice; designed for fine hair, it uses lightweight hydrators to lift hair from the roots, while hydrolyzed soy protein strengthens hair for a plumped-up effect. Salicylic acid deep cleans the scalp, so that clean feeling will last right through your next hair-wash day.

13

Using A Makeup Wipe Or Regular Soap To Remove Your Makeup

You may have heard this one before, but it bears repeating: Makeup wipes or your regular soap aren’t enough to thoroughly remove your makeup. “When you leave residues of makeup on your skin you risk a lot of problems, like clogged pores, breakouts, and eye irritations,” warns Laura Roncagli, a professional hair stylist, makeup artist, and co-founder of MyBeautik. So, what’s the right way to remove your makeup? Double cleansing. As Roncagli advises, “you only require a balm or oil-based cleanser to break up all of the makeup, and then a soapy cleanser to remove the excess oil and the excess particles that could be on your skin.”

Whether you choose a balm or an oil (or a micellar water) is up to you, but as far as oil cleansers go, it doesn’t get much more classic than DHC Deep Cleansing Oil. The fragrance-free formula uses olive fruit oil, rosemary oil, and vitamin E to dissolve all traces of makeup, including waterproof and long-wear formulas, and leave your skin feeling so soft and nourished. With a 4.7-star rating on Amazon and over 10,000 five-star ratings, it’s the definition of a cult favorite.

14

Not Reapplying Sunscreen Throughout The Day

“We all know the importance of applying sunscreen, but when it comes to reapplying most of us fall short,” says Joie Tavernise, skin expert, medical esthetician, and founder of JTAV Clinical Skincare. “SPF is only fully effective for two hours after application, so it is important to reapply to protect your skin from harmful UV rays,” she continues. “For sunscreen reapplication, there are highly effective mists and powders that can be applied during the day, even over makeup.”

Tavernise’s favorite SPF for reapplication is ISDIN Mineral Brush On-The-Go, which has an SPF of 30. The powder form won’t mess up your makeup (in fact, you can also use it for touch-ups), and since it comes in a tube with a built-in brush, you can stash it in your purse without worrying about it exploding in your bag.

15

Shying Away From Moisturizers If You Have Oily Or Acne-Prone Skin

“With my clients who have oily skin or acne, I sometimes hear that they are avoiding moisturizers because they don’t want to ‘clog their skin’ or add more oil for fear that they will break out,” Tavernise says. “This is usually paired with using harsh products that over dry the skin and leave it dehydrated and more prone to breakouts.”

Rather than avoiding moisturizers altogether, simply choose a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer that’s just as effective as heavier formulas, but will feel more comfortable on oily skin. Tavernise often recommends Elta MD AM Therapy for her clients with oily or combination skin types. “The name implies that it is only for morning use, but I like to say that the ‘AM’ means ‘acne management. The noncomedogenic formula contains niacinamide and willow bark to keep skin clear, while hyaluronic acid deeply hydrates,” she says.

16

Aggressively Brushing Your Hair When It’s Wet

“When hair is wet, it is at its most elastic point,” says Drew Schaefering, hair stylist, creative director of Rob Peetom NYC, and creator of Cruxe. “Many of us get out of the shower and brush vigorously, not realizing the hair will stretch and snap more than if we were to brush it dry (except for higher curl formations, then it's best to comb when wet). Instead, try to brush your hair before you shower, and repeat gently in the shower with conditioner in. This will make the post-shower brushing much more manageable and less damaging.” He recommends the classic Wet Brush to get the job done, which is made with proprietary, flexible bristles that gently unravel knots without pulling or tugging.

17

Avoiding Leave-In Conditioners & Other Moisturizers On Fine Hair

If you have fine hair, you might be hesitant to apply moisturizing products in it, lest it weigh down your thinner strands — but according to Raven Hurtado, stylist at Maxine Salon, failing to hydrate your fine hair may be making matters worse. “By not using a moisturizer, the hair tends to look dry and lifeless and the ends tend to look brittle,” she says. She simply advises finding lightweight conditioners that are specifically made for fine hair, which’ll ensure your hair gets the moisture it needs without leaving behind any heavy, greasy residue.

The BioSilk Silk Therapy leave-in conditioner is a great choice for fine hair, since it’s super lightweight but works wonders to condition, detangle, smooth, and strengthen hair — it even adds some body and lift, as thousands of fine-haired reviewers confirm. The application method is important, too: Hurtado recommends avoiding the roots, as that can inhibit the lift and body you want, and instead focusing on the mid-shafts to ends.

18

Exacerbating Pimples By Picking At Them

There can be something irresistible about poking, prodding, and popping pimples, but Revay Plunkett, nurse injector at Revay Aesthetics, is here to remind you that that habit can make matters about a million times worse. “Picking at blemishes can lead to inflamed skin, a spread of bacteria, hyperpigmentation, and even broken capillaries if you pick hard enough,” she warns.

If you just can’t help yourself, opt for a pimple patch versus a traditional pimple cream — not only will the hydrocolloid bandage work to absorb the pimple’s sebum and bacteria overnight, but the airtight seal will also protect it from the oils on your fingers that can worsen the spot. Most pimple patches on the market work similarly, but the Mighty Patch Original is an OG and a total cult favorite, having earned over 75,000 perfect five-star ratings to date.

19

Sleeping With Your Hair In A Tight Bun

If you have long hair, you know how good it can feel to pull your hair up and away from your neck when you sleep — but as it turns out, that method probably isn’t doing your hair any favors. According to Schaefering, tossing and turning in our sleep will likely cause the hair — already under tension from the bun — to break or snap. If you can’t sleep with your hair down, Schaefering says, “try putting it up in a loose bun with a soft scrunchie, or try braiding it” (the latter method has the added benefit of “leaving your hair with some pretty waves”). A silk scrunchie — like this one, made from 100% mulberry silk — is a particularly gentle choice, since the smooth material resists the friction that can damage hair.

20

Using The Same Brush For Wet & Dry Hair

Though Schaefering recommends using a Wet Brush on wet hair, it’s not necessarily the best choice on dry hair — for that, he prefers a boar bristle brush. This one from MISEL uses a combination of boar bristles and flexible nylon bristles to gently unravel tangles, as well as redistribute the oils from your scalp all the way down to the ends for super-shiny and smooth hair.

21

Overusing Hair Products With Silicones

Silicones in hair products seem ubiquitous, and that’s for one, simple reason: They can make your hair look amazing in the short-term. “Silicones feel great initially when applied to the hair, and they do a brilliant job of instantly locking down the cuticle to create a shiny finish,” confirms Kerry Yates, trichologist at Colour Collective. But Yates warns that heavy silicones tend to build up on the hair shaft, creating a barrier that prevents moisture from getting in. Yates recommends using products with natural oils that offer similar smoothing benefits, without those negative, long-term effects.

This Briogeo leave-in conditioner is silicone-free and made of 98% natural ingredients, like rosehip oil, argan oil, and coconut oil, which hydrate, smooth, and detangle hair. For best results, Yates recommends applying the treatment (or any other leave-in treatment) on wet hair, since it’s more absorptive than dry hair.

22

Using Protein-Rich Hair Products To Prevent Damage From Occurring

Similarly to overusing silicones in your hair products, overusing proteins can deliver great results in the short term, but over time, it can do more harm than good — especially if your hair doesn’t actually need proteins. “Often clients will use protein conditioners as a preventive measure, but too much protein can reverse healthy hair and cause it to be very brittle,” shares celebrity hair stylist Deaundra Metzger. Protein treatments should be used only on damaged hair, and even then, you should stick to using it once per week, or even once per month.

And if you’re looking to prevent damage from occurring, Metzger says to drop the proteins and pick up moisturizing products instead, like the Moroccanoil Hydrating Conditioner. Rather than proteins, the formula uses fatty acid-rich argan oil to replenish and strengthen damaged hair, as well as vitamins and red algae for even more hydrating and conditioning benefits. And it’s infused with Moroccanoil’s signature scent, a divine combination of amber and white flowers.

23

Sleeping On Cotton Pillowcases

You may have seen the hype around using silk or satin pillowcases for hair and skin health, and Metzger confirms that those frictionless materials are better for maintaining your hair’s smoothness and shine and preventing tangles. You can’t go wrong with these Bedsure satin pillowcases: They’ve earned over 260,000 ratings, come in 23 gorgeous shades, and cost well under $10 for a set of two. “I wake up with hardly any tangles and it keeps my hair nice and soft!” one Amazon reviewer raved, and another wrote, “Never had a satin pillowcase in my life. I will never go back! Absolutely fantastic! Feels cool, keeps my hair smooth and so nice on my face!”

24

Not Shampooing Your Hair Properly

Shampooing your hair may seem straightforward, but according to celebrity hair stylist Megan Schnell, there’s a good chance you’re doing it wrong — in fact, she says that incorrect shampooing is a hair mistake she “sees daily.” Schnell’s recommended method is “washing twice, condition mids to ends, and rinse well.” That method ensures a deep, thorough clean, but she adds, “if you feel like your hair is weighed down after that, you may need to add a clarifying shampoo into your weekly regimen. Your products may not properly penetrate if you have buildup that hasn’t been removed.”

Schnell likes this clarifying shampoo from salon brand Davines, made with protein- and mineral-rich buckwheat extract. “It has a lovely, herbal scent that's not too strong and it's a lot more gentle on your hair than most clarifying shampoos on the market,” one Amazon reviewer reported.

25

Tugging At The Knots In Your Hair From The Roots Down

Here’s another lesson in Brushing 101, this time courtesy of Dr. Michael May, M.D., medical director at Wimpole Clinic in London, U.K. Dr. May echoes our other experts in his reminder that hair is “at its most vulnerable state when wet,” so resist the urge to pull and tug at knots — that’ll only damage your hair further. Instead, he says, using your Wet Brush or a fine-toothed comb, “start at the bottom and work your way up. Continue until you reach the scalp.” If your knots are extra stubborn, Dr. May suggests using “a leave-in conditioner or your fingertips to loosen the knots.” Any leave-in conditioner will do, but this one from Garnier is a classic — it’s silicone-free, infused with conditioning argan oil, and a big, 10.2-ounce bottle costs well under $5 on Amazon.

26

Not Prepping Your Hair With A Hydrating Primer

Just as you’d use a hydrating primer in your skin care routine, you should be spritzing your hair with the stuff, too, advises Lisa Abbey, hair stylist and founder and CEO of Strength x Beauty. “A hydrating primer mist with hyaluronic acid will balance moisture levels, lock in hydration and help your other products absorb more evenly,” Abbey says. The Ultra Hydrating Mist from her own line is a great choice, as it’s made with a handful of simple but powerful ingredients — like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and rose — to impart tons of hydration, strength, and elasticity to your hair without weighing it down. As hyaluronic acid “already locks in existing moisture,” spritz this onto your wet or damp hair for best results. You can use this multipurpose product on your skin, too.

27

Damaging Your Skin Barrier Through Over-Exfoliation

“When it comes to exfoliating the skin, a little goes a long way,” reminds Dr. Angela Casey, M.D., double board-certified dermatologist and founder of Bright Girl skin care. “While gentle, intentional exfoliation allows a brighter glow to the skin, strong exfoliation will lead to redness and sensitivity. Intensively exfoliating regimens strip the skin of its protective barrier and can create microscopic tears in the skin, both of which set the stage for irritation.” So, if you’ve gone ham on the exfoliating — typically characterized by red, dry, irritated, or even painful skin — don’t panic: Just winnow down your skin care routine to the essentials, and favor products that “focus on strengthening and supporting the skin barrier so that it is able to repair itself, just like skin wounds heal themselves over time,” Dr. Casey says.

To start, Dr. Casey recommends the CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser, a classic drugstore cleanser that’s long been a go-to for sensitive skin types. The fragrance-free formula is made with three essential ceramides, crucial for restoring the skin barrier, as well as hyaluronic acid for added moisture. Dr. Casey also likes that it’s pH balanced, so it won’t dry out the skin.

28

Relying Solely On Shampoo To Cleanse Your Hair & Scalp

Like Dr. Harth, licensed cosmetologist and celebrity hair stylist Cody Renegar warns against washing your hair too often, as daily shampooing “strips the hair of its natural oils, which keep it shiny and healthy.” He adds, “Unless you have very fine hair, you should really be washing your hair every three to four days. I always say the longer you can wait, the better.”

If you can’t stand the feeling of a dirty scalp, reach for a dry shampoo to soak up excess oil between wash days. Renegar loves Oribe Gold Lust Dry Shampoo, a luxurious pick that’s been beloved by pros for years. According to Renegar, it “cleanses your hair without leaving a white residue” and “[leaves hair] shiny and healthy.” Plus, the incredible scent doubles as a hair perfume. This premium pick is on the pricier side, so consider picking up this travel-sized bottle, and seeing if you fall in love with it before committing to the full size.

29

Not Maintaining Your Color Between Salon Visits

There’s no question your colorist can work wonders to make your hair color look amazing — but the work shouldn’t stop when you step out of the salon. Between visits, it’s important to use the right products to maintain or boost your color to amp up its longevity, and make the most of your colorist’s hard work. As creative director for NuBest Salon & Spa Jamie Mazzei confirms, “Hair color fade is one of the biggest concerns my clients have; they spend time and money in our salon and they want that professional color to last as long as possible, but then don’t take the steps needed at home to prolong their color.”

Mazzei recommends using a color-depositing shampoo and conditioner — specifically this No Fade Fresh line — as it will “keep your color salon fresh,” not to mention “extend the time between your hair color appointments at the salon and save you money.” Bonus points for the vegan, plant-based formula.

30

Using Your Usual Moisturizer On Damaged Skin

Continuing on from the above, if you’ve damaged your skin barrier through over-exfoliation (or anything else), you’ll want to swap out your usual moisturizer for something that’s both more intensive, and more gentle. Dr. Casey recommends a moisturizer that’s “rich but pure and simple,” and that works as an emollient. “Emollients integrate between the skin cells, like mortar between bricks, and allow restoration of the skin barrier,” she explains.

She often recommends Avene Tolerance Extreme Cream to her patients, and she uses it in-house after laser treatments “because of its gentle moisturizing properties.” She adds, “The cream has glycerin to hydrate the skin and Avene thermal spring water to soothe inflammation.” Like all Avene products, the formula is sterile and free of preservatives, so it’s among the safest choices for the most sensitive skin types.

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