Common Skincare Mistakes That Are Ruining Your Skin

It's time for a wake-up call.

August 17, 2018
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Here’s the deal: You only have one bag of skin to carry you throughout this mortal plane. And you’re probably treating it like dirt! What are you doing?!

Skincare is definitely having a moment right now (which I love), but in some circles it’s still considered high maintenance to do, well, any maintenance on it whatsoever. In the same way that we need to eat well and exercise to take care of our bodies, it’s also crucial that we take care of our skin—after all, it’s our largest organ.

But maybe you’re reading this and thinking Hey, I do wash my face! Well, that’s great! Really. But it’s still highly likely you’re making these common skincare mistakes. It’s time to up your skincare game and learn how to truly take care of your skin.

You’re soaking up the rays in all the wrong ways.

You probably remember your mom getting after you to put on sunscreen. And you probably begrudgingly dashed it on, failed to rub it in properly, and never reapplied, right? Well hopefully now you know better than that, but even the most serious SPF devotees can make some big sunscreen mistakes. And unlike a small error that might lead to just a breakout, failing to protect yourself from the sun the right way can increase your risk for skin cancer. Let’s go through some basic sunscreen rules:

You need to use a broad spectrum sunscreen.

Here’s a fun tip you may not have learned: SPF only refers to a how well a sunscreen will protect you from the sun’s UVB rays. And it’s important that you’re protected from those rays. UVB rays are what cause sunburns and most skin cancers; plus the more sunburns you get in your lifetime, the higher your risk of skin cancer. But that’s leaving out those pesky (and incredibly damaging) UVA rays. In order to get full protection from the sun, you need to use a broad spectrum sunscreen; any broad spectrum sunscreen will say that it is on the bottle.

If you’d rather not sort through sunscreens to find out which ones will really protect you, we did the leg work for you:

Neutrogena Beach Defense Water + Sun Protection SPF 70

You don’t need to go expensive to get a solid broad spectrum sunscreen. This has been rated one of the best sunscreens in the United States and it’s Amazon’s No. 1 best seller in sunscreens. Plus, since it’s oil-free you won’t need to worry about any body breakouts.

Neutrogena Beach Defense Water + Sun Protection SPF 70, $6.39 from Amazon

Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Sensitive SPF 30+

Do like the Aussies do with Blue Lizard, a physical sunscreen that happens to be water-resistant, paraben-free, and, of course, broad spectrum. It’s rated a Top Choice from the Environmental Working Group, thanks to its high-quality ingredients that won’t hurt you or the environment.

Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Sensitive SPF 30+, $14.23 from Amazon

You need to wear sunscreen every. single. day.

Yes, really. Even if it’s cloudy or rainy out. Unless you’re only leaving the house between the hours of 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. (whatcha doin?), sunscreen is a must. The sun’s UVA rays can penetrate car windows and windows in your home and office, so even if you’re just walking from your house to car to office, you still need to apply sunscreen.

If you’re used to thick, gloopy sunscreens that sit on your skin giving you the dreaded white cast, try these incredible sunscreens that’ll go on your face smoothly, leaving a perfect palette for makeup (or not!):

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40

This is an incredible sunscreen. It’s actually clear so you’ll never have to deal with a weirdly white glow on your face and it goes on matte so you won’t have the sunscreen shine. Plus, it doesn’t smell like coconuts.

Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40, $32 from Sephora

Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 42 For Face

Shiseido is a Japanese brand known for incredible skincare, makeup, and makeup tools (their eyelash curler is a cult favorite). This sunscreen is oil-free and incredibly light, making it the perfect last step of your skincare routine and ideal for a base for your makeup.

Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 42 for Face, $34 from Sephora

Tatcha Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35 PA+++

Tatcha is another brand from Japan whose skincare products have really shaken things up. This sunscreen is derm-tested with high quality ingredients that leave a weightless, silky finish. The PA+++ part of this product name comes from the Japanese sunscreen grading system, wherein each additional plus sign informs buyers about UVA ray protection. As mentioned, SPF refers to UVB protection so when you buy this Tatcha sunscreen, you know you’re getting both forms of oh-so necessary protection.

Tatcha Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35 PA+++, $65 from Sephora

You need to reapply sunscreen every two hours.

Yes, really. Even if it’s cloudy or rainy out. Wait, this is the same stuff we said above. There’s a reason for that: It’s still true! Applying sunscreen only once is what leads to sunburns and skin damage. Even if you’re using the highest SPF in the world (which, by the way, is kind of a waste), you still need to reapply—very carefully—every two hours.

Can’t fit a giant bottle of sunscreen in your work bag or purse? We got you. These sunscreen sets are full of travel sizes that easy for on-the-go use:

COOLA 4 Piece Organic Suncare Travel Set

This four-piece travel set (well, five, if you count the cute bag) comes with an SPF 30 face sunscreen, SPF 30 sunscreen spray, SPF 30 Liplux lip balm, and their Environmental Repair Plus Radical After Sun Lotion on the off chance you do get burned. Take it all with you when you leave the house and you’ll be ready for anything the sun throws at you.

COOLA 4 Piece Organic Suncare Travel Set, $37.99 from Amazon

Supergoop! At Play Tote Value Set

We love a good value set, obviously. This is another five-piece set (four SPF products + a great bag) and it contains everything you need for the sunniest of days. Supergoop! has included their SPF 50 Everyday Sunscreen, SPF 50 Antioxidant-Infused Sunscreen Mist with Vitamin C, SPF 40 Skin Soothing Mineral Sunscreen, and SPF 30 Mintfusion Lip Balm.

Supergoop! At Play Tote Value Set, $45 from Amazon

You need to use more than you think.

Your one pump of sunscreen for your entire body just isn’t cutting it. Sure, it’s better than nothing, but it’s not really doing you many favors. Dermatologists recommend you use 1 ounce for your whole body—which, conveniently, is about the size of those little glasses you had lying around at parties in college. Alternatively, head into your kitchen and look at your measuring spoons. Two tablespoons is how much you need to use from head to toe; a nickel-sized glob is how much you should use for your face.

For convenience’s sake, you may as well have a giant bottle at home to apply before you head out the door. Our favorite picks for protection in bulk:

Supergoop! Everyday Sunscreen with Cellular Response Technology SPF 50 (18 oz)

Yes, you can now have the biggest bottle of sunscreen we’ve ever seen. It comes with a full-on pump to make sure you aren’t skimping out with a squeeze. This water-resistant, broad spectrum formula is ideal from nose to toes and despite being incredibly lightweight, it’s effective and moisturizing.

Supergoop! Everyday Sunscreen with Cellular Response Technology SPF 50 (18 oz), $48 from Amazon

Banana Boat Sunscreen Sport Family Size SPF 50 (12 oz)

Grab the family size of the traditional Banana Boat sunscreen we’ve all been using since childhood. On the plus side, this is the sport performance formula, meaning it’ll resist water and sweat for 80 minutes. Additionally, it’s safe for coral reefs since it’s made without oxybenzone and octinoxate, two effective but damaging-for-reef ingredients found in many sunscreens.

Banana Boat Sunscreen Sport Family Size SPF 50 (12 oz), $9.44 from Amazon

You’re skipping a step before sleep.

If you don’t wear makeup, feel free to skip this. But if you do, you’re most likely skipping a very crucial step in your skincare routine: actually taking your makeup off.

Maybe you wash your face every single night, and that’s great. That’s more than great. But taking off your eye makeup before you start cleansing is key. Before moving onto the next step in your skincare routine, you should do the previous steps to the best of your ability—walk before you run, you know?

So please, do your skin a favor and use a dedicated makeup remover before you use a face wash. You’ll notice a difference right away. Our favorite makeup removers are so great, in fact, you’ll be happy you picked one up:

Micellar Water

There are actually a few really great micellar waters on the market now and we’re happy to recommend (almost) all of them. Micellar water is an ideal makeup remover because it really does breakdown most makeup and actually removes it but it does so without any harsh synthetic chemicals that can dry out your skin.

Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water, $14.16 from Amazon

La Roche-Posay Micellar Cleansing Water for Sensitive Skin, $7.99 from Amazon

Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water, $6.61 from Amazon

Simple Kind to Skin Cleansing Micellar Water, $5.23 from Amazon

Lancôme Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover

Historically, a favorite among many makeup-wearers of the world. Shake it up to combine the oil in the product with the water to lift away even the most waterproof of waterproof mascaras. Safe for contact lens wearers too!

Lancôme Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover, $30 from Sephora

You’re using this one common product.

You may notice in that list of favorite makeup removers that we didn’t list any makeup removing wipes. There’s a reason for that: They’re terrible.

Sure, if you stumble into bed late at night not feeling your best, it’s better to use a wipe than nothing at all. But if you’re of sound mind and decision making, don’t open that pack of wipes.

Makeup wipes don’t really clean your skin. Instead, they’ll smear the makeup all over your face. They also have some questionable ingredients, like preservatives that can irritate the skin and emulsifiers that can dry your skin out. Some of those preservatives are chemicals that release formaldehyde, a known carcinogen and allergen.

If you use a wipe and don’t immediately wash your face with an actual cleanser, you’re letting that stuff hang out on your face all night. Do better for yourself and stick with one of the dedicated makeup removers we suggested above. And then get to cleaning—properly.

You’re only cleansing once.

That’s right: washing your face just once isn’t cutting it. Granted, there are some really great cleansers and face washes out there and they do some really great things, but if you want to get serious about skin care, you need to learn the art of the double cleanse.

Double cleansing is the new M.O. if you want skin that’s actually clean. See, a lot of the dirt, environmental toxins, impurities, and other bits of junk that get on our face throughout the day aren’t so water-soluble. So when you’re using a foaming cleanser, you’re certainly cleaning off some of it—but a lot of it is left behind too. Enter an oil cleanser.

To truly, actually, really cleanse your face of the daily junk, you’ll need to use an oil cleanser first to get rid of the oil-soluble impurities. Put the oil onto a dry face and massage, then add water to transform it into a milky substance, like a runny lotion. The oil in these cleansers attracts much more of the dirt hiding in your pores, pulls it out, and as it mixes with water, emulsifies to give your skin a nice little hug of hydration. Then follow up with that water-soluble cleanser to get rid of the excess oil before moving onto your next skincare steps.

Not sure where to start? Here are our top oil cleansing picks:

Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm

This is the ideal oil cleanser, in my mind. It’s a solid that, when applied to dry skin (that is, skin without water on it—it’s actually great for all skin types), emulsifies into an oil that’ll whisk off any makeup, dirt, and impurities. Follow it up with a great water-based cleanser and you’ll feel an immediate difference.

Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm, $29.50 from Sephora

L’Occitane Shea Face Cleansing Oil

Feel very fancy with this French cleansing oil from L’Occitane. With 5 percent shea oil, this is an incredibly moisturizing oil cleanser that’s also incredibly effective. Plus, we really like the pump formulation that will ensure you don’t accidentally use too much.

L’Occitane Shea Face Cleansing Oil, $24 from Amazon

Simple Kind to Skin Hydrating Cleansing Oil

Go a little more budget with this 100 percent grapeseed oil that will dissolve the toughest-to-remove makeup and soften your skin—without an oily finish. Plus without any artificial fragrances or colors, you can rest easy knowing this is a great choice for your sensitive skin.

Simple Kind to Skin Hydrating Cleansing Oil, $7.79 from Amazon

You take scrubbing a little too seriously.

Exfoliation is the trick to clear, soft, smooth skin: the skin everyone wants to have naturally. In years past—think middle school years perusing the aisles at Walgreens—you probably reached for a scrub. In particular, the St. Ives Apricot Scrub. Who didn’t use that at some point? Unfortunately, it’s absolutely terrible for your skin. In fact, in 2016, two women brought a suit against St. Ives because the scrub includes crushed walnut shells. Guess what happens when you vigorously rub crushed walnut shells against your skin? Microtears in your skin. That can cause inflammation, redness, pain, and even infection if you’re too vigorous.

Scrubs in general aren’t the best way to exfoliate. There are some incredible microdermabrasion exfoliators out there (we’re talking about you, Dr. Brandt), but most scrubs are made with harsh ingredients that ultimately damage skin in the long run. And if you try to DIY one, you might not be much better off: Many exfoliator recipes floating around the internet advocate including ingredients like salt or baking soda. They actually want you to put baking soda on your face. Please, don’t put baking soda on your face.

Instead, skip the scrubs—unless they’re dermatologist-approved, of course. Look to chemical exfoliation. It’s not as scary as it sounds. It typically involves alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids and fruit-based enzymes to gently slough off dead skin cells. Used properly (aka, not every single day), these chemical exfoliators are much more effective.

If you haven’t jumped on the chemical exfoliator train, here are our top picks:

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial

This mask is a dream exfoliator. With 25 percent AHA and 2 percent BHA (plus a blend of glycolic, tartaric, lactic, citric, and salicylic acids), this is an incredibly effective exfoliating mask. It breaks down gross dead skin cells to give you a glow you only thought was possible after a professional facial. Use only once a week for just 20 minutes to get results you’ll love.

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial, $80 from Sephora

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Smooth & Flawless: Peel + Moisturize

Get a chemical peel at home with these amazing daily peel pads. There are 14 pads here that you use every day. After two weeks with these glycolic, salicylic, and malic acid pads, you’ll see a huge difference in the glow factor of your skin. Use the included Hyaluronic Moisture Cushion moisturizer for intense hydration.

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Smooth & Flawless: Peel + Moisturize, $37 from Amazon

Pixi Glow Tonic

This is an incredible but gentler dupe for Biologique Recherche’s P50 Lotion, the cult status fave that can run upwards of $100. The 5 percent glycolic acid makes this an ideal exfoliator: it’ll certainly give you a glow, but thanks to the aloe and ginseng that’s also included, you won’t get irritated.

Pixi Glow Tonic, $36.20 from Amazon

And if you simply require the scrubby feeling mechanical exfoliation can bring, here’s what we recommend:

Dr. Brandt Skincare Microdermabrasion Age Defying Exfoliator

Age defying sounds pretty nice, right? Dr. Brandt’s microdermabrasion exfoliators will definitely give you the scrub factor but thanks to its lactic acid, which acts as a chemical exfoliator, it doesn’t need to be a harsh scrub. Plus with soothing botanical-derived ingredients, your skin will be soothed while it’s being exfoliated.

Dr. Brandt Skincare Microdermabrasion Age Defying Exfoliator, $48 from Amazon

Tatcha The Rice Polish Foaming Enzyme Powder

This physical exfoliator is so gentle you might wonder if it’s even doing anything. Fret not—it certainly is. The Japanese rice bran that gives it its exfoliating power is non-abrasive and the rice and papaya enzymes in the product turn into a beautiful foam that will simultaneously exfoliate and soften your skin. Plus, thanks to a combo of green tea, rice, and algae, you’ll be getting that radiance you see in magazines.

Tatcha The Rice Polish Foaming Enzyme Powder, $84 from Amazon

You’re skipping hydration.

Let’s say you’ve seen the light here. You’re down to use a dedicated makeup remover. You’re ready to double cleanse. You are now a sunscreen queen. You are taking care of your skin like a pro—from the outside.

But what about the inside? That’s where hydration comes in.

There are plenty of incredible moisturizers out there—in fact, we rounded up the best ones for various skin types and budgets right here—but hydration is another story. They’re not actually the same thing. Some products do work on hydrating your skin, and it’s great to use those. But if you’re noticing that you look a little lackluster, you may have dehydrated skin. And the best way to cure that is by drinking water.

Listen, we all know that you’re supposed to drink your eight glasses a day. Some nutritionists even recommend drinking half your bodyweight in ounces of water every day is a lot to ask. But most Americans aren’t even coming close. Hydrate your body, hydrate your skin. One way to make it easier for you is to constantly have a bottle of water at your side—and no, we don’t mean a one-use water bottle from the gas station. Try these instead:

S’well Vacuum Insulated Water Bottle

We’re still not over the marble trend. Not sure why. It just looks good with everything. So when we saw S’well, rulers of the water bottle world, had a marble bottle, we had to get it. The double-walled construction of S’well bottles keeps water cold for 24 hours, so there’s really no excuse for not chugging it.

S’well Vacuum Insulated Water Bottle, $35 from Amazon

Ello Pure BPA-Free Glass Water Bottle

Skip the BPA worries by just going glass. You can feel safe leaving it in your car on accident without worries of gross chemicals leaching into your water, while the silicone sleeve protects it from bumps and drops. Even better, it’s dishwasher safe. We’re in.

Ello Pure BPA-Free Glass Water Bottle, $9.99 from Amazon

OMORC Fruit Infuser Water Bottle

Sick of plain water? We don’t blame you. It can get boring drinking the same thing all day. Grab yourself a infuser water bottle. You can add in any fruit, veggies, herbs, or spices you’re into (here are the recipes we recommend) and sip it down.

OMORC Fruit Infuser Water Bottle, $11.99 from Amazon

You’re a new product junkie.

I’m guilty of this one myself. I get new products a lot: sometimes when we partner with brands, I’m subscribed to Boxycharm and FabFitFun, and I’m VIB Rouge at Sephora. Trust me, I’m a product junkie.

But there is one rule that all product junkies must know. The top rule of skincare: Don’t try more than one new thing at once.

If you’ve gotten excited about what we’re talking about here (and I hope you are!), make sure you slowly incorporate your newfound product loves into your skincare routine. If a product ends up interacting poorly with your current routine, you won’t know which one it is if you slapped three new products on your face last night. Similarly, if you have a reaction, you won’t be able to pinpoint what caused it if you’ve tried a whole new routine in the last week.

Go ahead, be a product junkie if that’s what you’re into. In fact, I encourage it. Just be smart about it.

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