10 Habits That are Wrecking Your Skin

Beauty School

Whether you’re getting skincare advice from pinned coconut oil memes, infomercials promising to clear breakouts, or your best friend who swears by her pricey anti-aging cream, it’s time to get serious about your skin and consult a professional. Three Fort Worth experts gave us their take on the biggest mistakes we make when caring for our skin and what to do about them.   

1. Not drinking enough water Chronic dehydration shows in your skin, says Sarah Rowlett, licensed esthetician and owner of Arbor Skincare Retreat (2966-B Park Hill Drive, 817.882.8866). Hydration gives skin a healthy glow, helps smooth fine lines and reduces breakouts.
“Every single cell in the body needs water,” she explains. “The skin is the largest organ, and it looks better in just one week when you consume the right amount of water.”

Cure: Rowlett warns that you should be consuming about half your body weight in ounces of water daily. If you drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, you need additional water to offset their dehydrating effects.

2. Not washing your face before bedtime “The biggest mistake you can make is not washing off your makeup before going to sleep,” says Aston Vaughn-Wallace, hair and makeup artist at The Bee’s Knees (3851 Camp Bowie, 817.377.0142). Forgetting to wash your face clogs pores and inflames and ages the skin.

Cure: Vaughn-Wallace recommends keeping facial cleansing wipes next to the bed. “No matter how lazy you are, you can always use a wipe to clean off your makeup, particularly your mascara,” she explains.

3. Skipping sunscreen One of the most common bad habits is not using sunscreen, according to board-certified dermatologist William Cothern, D.O., of Dermatology and Laser Center of Fort Worth (4201 Camp Bowie Blvd., Ste. A, 817.377.1243). He says people are most vulnerable when the weather first starts warming up.

Cure: Dr. Cothern recommends using a broad spectrum sunscreen that covers both UVA and UVB, has an SPF of at least 30 and is noncomedogenic if you are prone to breakouts.
“If you’re active outdoors, and are swimming or sweating, reapply every two hours,” he suggests. “Some people—guys in particular—prefer sunscreen sprays. I suggest picking whatever you will actually use because if you don’t like it, you won’t use it.”

4. Overaggressive acne treatment Most of us know better than to pop a zit, but our experts agree that it’s easy to go overboard when treating breakouts. Dr. Cothern warns against exfoliating with heavy scrubs that are rough on the skin and just inflame acne further.
Another danger, Rowlett adds, is a “more is better” philosophy when treating acne, such as using multiple products that reduce oil production. This approach can strip the skin of moisture, and lead to an overreaction of the sebaceous glands, which causes more acne.

Cure: “The key word is gentle,” Dr. Cothern says. “Pick a gentle, unscented cleanser.” And don’t skip your moisturizer—acne is wrongly associated with oily skin, when sometimes, blemished skin is actually dehydrated.
“It requires a healthy balance between oil production and skin hydration,” Rowlett explains.

5. Using expired makeup or dirty application brushes Holding onto foundations, moisturizers and cream blushes for too long can cause skin problems, warns Vaughn-Wallace. “Anything with a liquid or cream base can harbor bacteria which can cause irritation in sensitive or breakout prone skin,” she says.
Using contaminated sponges or brushes—or worse, using your fingers to apply makeup—is a big no-no. “Your fingers touch everything and will quickly contaminate your makeup, speeding up how quickly it goes bad,” she explains.

Cure: Use sponges and brushes to apply makeup, and wash them weekly in baby shampoo. Vaughn-Wallace also suggests getting that tanned summer look with a bronzing powder instead of a darker liquid foundation.
“If your makeup is separating or you can’t remember when you bought it, it’s time to throw it out!” she says.

6. Becoming a product junkie It’s tempting to purchase an entire skincare line, Rowlett says, but it’s not always the best idea. “Skincare is an investment. I don’t like to recommend an entire skin regimen to start—that’s a lot of products,” she explains.

Cure: Rowlett suggests buying no more than three products when switching to a new brand: a cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen. You can always add more later.
“That way I know where to adjust in 30 days,” she says. “If you use the whole line all at once, it’s harder to pinpoint any issues.”
Vaughn-Wallace recommends staying in the same brand if possible because skincare products are pH balanced to work together.

7. Getting stuck in a rut It’s easy to get attached to a favorite serum or brand, especially if you’ve used it for a while or invested a lot of money. However, your skincare needs may change with the seasons, pregnancy or as skin matures.
“Some skincare lines—even expensive ones—aren’t really for mature skin,” Rowlett explains. “I emphasize the science behind products I recommend.”

Cure: Consult with a trusted skincare expert before switching. “Feel free to update the type of moisturizer you use depending on season,” says Vaughn-Wallace. “You can switch to an oil control or hydrating moisturizer in those hot summer months.” And if you’re pregnant, review ingredient labels carefully with your doctor.

8. An inconsistent skincare routine “You can’t eat right once a week or exercise once a week and expect results,” Rowlett says. “It’s the same with your skin. You have to take care every day.”

Cure: Meet with your doctor or esthetician to develop a plan based on your specific needs. You have to do your part at home and understand how it all works together if you’re going to see results.

9. Not seeking expert advice early “It’s a mistake to delay getting treatment as soon as a problem develops,” says Dr. Cothern. “Teenagers sometimes get deeper, cystic acne, which can lead to permanent scarring. You must treat that early.”

Cure: Depending on the type of problem, some creams work better than others, says Dr. Cothern. Your doctor also might recommend an oral medication or other course of treatment, but the most important thing is to see a professional as soon as there’s a problem.

10. Ignoring precancerous growths Self-diagnosing skin issues can also be dangerous, explains Dr. Cothern. “People sometimes try to freeze things off their skin themselves that they think are warts,” he says. “They potentially may freeze off a cancerous growth that just makes it go deeper in the skin.”

Cure: Dr. Cothern recommends annual skin cancer screenings. A person with a history of skin cancer or who’s had precancerous growths before should be checked every three months. Overlooked areas include behind the ears, exposed areas of the crown in balding men, the back of the neck, and even the bottom of the feet.