Does this sitch sound familiar: You spot a teeny tiny little spot on your cheek. You think maybe you can get something out of it. You decide to just barely touch it and see what happens. Two minutes later you're squeezing and pinching until it’s a full-on situation that no concealer can touch. Been there, done that!
When it comes to your skin issues, a bad habit is often the root of the cause. That’s why we asked the experts to give it to us straight. Here, Miami-based dermatologist Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, M.D. FAAD, who goes by Dr. Loretta, breaks down the habits we need to kick right away for better skin – and how to stick with your new and improved regimen.
8 bad habits to quit if you want great skin
1. Picking your skin
That feeling of fixating on a pore and turning a molehill into a mountain as you tirelessly pick at it – it's intoxicating. We know.
No surprise here, but this is one habit that needs to be ditched, stat. 'In my forty-plus years as a dermatologist, I estimate that over 90% of all acne scars I see are a result of picking,' Dr. Loretta says. 'I advise my patients to use this mantra: If I leave this alone, it will be gone in days, weeks at worst. If I pick the scar, it could last a lifetime.' Look for products that can help you to clear your pore, and take a minute before giving into that impulse next time you see a potential target.
Real talk: The feeling of a freshly-exfoliated face is one of our favorite things in life, but it’s important to keep the “less is more” mantra in mind. 'Too much exfoliation can irritate your skin, making it dry and red,' says Dr. Loretta. 'It can also cause your skin to over-produce oil to make up for the moisture it lost, triggering a breakout.'
If you tend to go too hard with the scrub, limit your use to once or twice a week, and be very gentle. Alternatively, chemical, acid-based exfoliators (like AHAs and BHAs) deliver the same glowy results, but exfoliate your face more gently than if you let loose with a bottle of scratchy scrubbing beads.
3. Getting less than 8 hours of sleep
As tempting as it is to stay up until 3 AM to finish off a few more episodes, your skin will thank you if you decide to call it early. Not getting enough sleep (ideally seven to eight hours) can lower your skin’s pH, which impacts its natural glow and messes with its moisture levels. 'Beauty rest is a real thing,' says Dr. Loretta. 'If you don’t think sleep makes a difference, take selfies of how you look after a late night, and after getting eight hours of sleep. I think that alone will convince you.'
4. Going to bed without washing your face
There are few feelings more disappointing than waking up in the morning, rubbing your eye, and realising you forgot to take off your makeup the night before. Not double-cleansing your face before bed can be bad news for your pores, not to mention the sensitive, sty-prone skin on your eyelids if you went heavy on the liner and mascara. Dr. Loretta advises making it a nightly ritual to wash your face right after dinner before you get too tired, and leaving a pack of makeup wipes on your bedside table just in case.
5. Not wearing SPF
Since time spent outside is few and far between, and summer holidays are more or less on hold (unless you fancy swinging by the South Sandwich Islands, that is), that means we can scrap the SPF from our routine, right? Hard no.
If the sun is shining through your window, then those UV rays are coming in contact with your skin, and even if you’re only outside for 15 minutes to walk the dog, that’s still 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure. 'We dermatologists like to emphasise that there is a lot of "incidental sun exposure" that we get,' says Dr. Loretta.
'We may run out to get the mail and are more delayed than expected. Taking a short car ride to the store can become a sunbathing experience since a significant amount of UVA comes through the car windows.'
Nip the damaging effects of UV exposure in the bud by making SPF part of your morning skincare routine. And considering that SPF is readily available in the forms of tinted moisturiser, facial mist, foundation, and so much more, there are endless ways to ensure you’ve covered your bases.
6. Too-hot showers
As wonderful as it feels to let yourself luxuriate in a hot shower, the extreme temperature could dry out your skin, and if your complexion errs on the sensitive side, the heat could actually cause your skin to become more reactive. 'Hot water increases blood flow to skin, which makes it redder, and more sensitive,' Dr. Loretta explains. 'It can also worsen inflamed areas where you have breakouts or rosacea.' Instead, aim for a lukewarm to cool temperature, especially when washing your face.
7. Constantly touching your face
Is it just us, or does the constant flood of Zoom meetings have anyone else cradling their face in their hands for the better part of the day? That constant touching could be the culprit behind any breakouts in those frequently-touched areas. 'Because the skin on our palms is thicker, it can tolerate a lot of ingredients in hand cream or hand sanitiser that could irritate the face,' says Dr. Loretta.
While it’s easier said than done, simply keeping your hands off of your face will help any irritated areas clear up.
8. Overloading your skin with products
Sure, piling on your favorite products can feel like the ultimate luxury, but recognise when you’re doing too much. 'You’re risking an allergic reaction, and if you have one, it can be hard to determine what exactly caused the reaction,' says Dr. Loretta. 'Additionally, your products aren’t penetrating your skin as well if you’re layering on too many at a time.'
In other words, that 20-step routine could be all for nothing. Try cutting down on the lineup by zeroing in on three to five of your favorite products (we know it’s hard, they all spark joy), and sticking to that routine for a few weeks to determine if the formulas are actually making an impact.
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