As an esthetician, my job is to advise my clients about the best way to care for their individual skin type. Through an initial in-depth conversation, I uncover how they are currently caring for their skin. They share what they are doing, but more importantly for me, they share what they are not doing. These are the five most common skin care mistakes I hear people making, in no particular order.
Mistake #1: Getting lazy about exfoliation.
Most every person has a facial scrub or mask in his or her bathroom, but they only use it “when I remember.” Sound familiar?
Exfoliation is one of the best things you can do for your skin, so you’re missing out on some major skin improvement when you only use it once in a while. I love facial scrubs and using them three times a week is really beneficial. However, I encourage my less-disciplined clients to instead use an exfoliating acid serum underneath their moisturizer. Applying a serum to the skin takes less time than massaging a facial scrub over the face. Exfoliants with ingredients like glycolic and lactic acids work deeply to dissolve the glue that holds dead cells together. This dramatically reveals a brighter, smoother and clearer appearance in the morning. Please make the time for a fast extra step in your routine. You’ll see a big difference in your skin.
Mistake #2: Not wearing foundation makeup daily.
Some of my clients hide their wrinkles, blemishes, scarring, and brown spots under makeup, and they come to me with the goal of perfecting their skin so they can go makeup-free. Other clients don’t have much they want to cover up, so they think that wearing foundation makeup is not needed and that not wearing it is helping their skin by letting it “breathe.”
For starters, the skin doesn’t have a respiratory system, so thinking that the skin breathes is a total myth. I like to educate my clients to think of makeup as a skincare product because during daylight hours it protects your skin from UV light and environmental damage. Most forms of liquid or powder foundations contain ingredients like titanium dioxide that act as a natural sun protectant. Even if your makeup doesn’t indicate it has SPF, it is definitely still guarding your skin against the sun’s damaging rays. Keep in mind that the #1 cause of premature wrinkles is not from age, genetics or even smoking, it’s from incidental UV exposure that you get at home, at work or riding in the car.
Lots of people ask me for my opinion on the best type of makeup to use. There isn’t one that works for every type of skin, so you just have to experiment to see what you’ll enjoy wearing daily. Most days I wear an SPF-infused mineral powder, but sometimes I use a liquid when I want more coverage. (Of course, if you’re using a makeup that is clogging your pores and giving you bumps like some can certainly do, then that type simply isn’t the right fit for your skin so you should seek other options.)
Mistake #3: Not wearing enough sunscreen on your neck.
If you’re reading this post, more than likely you’re someone who makes a conscious effort to take care of your skin. But when it comes to wearing sunscreen on the neck, most people follow a similar routine. You apply a moisturizer with SPF to your face, and then whatever is left over on your fingertips you carry down on to your neck, right? I’m happy that you’re giving your neck some attention, but I’m here to say it’s definitely not enough.
This always comes as a surprise when I explain it to my clients, but the protection you get from sunscreen is less about the SPF number and more about how generously you apply it. If you apply an SPF 50 sparingly, it could very well be giving you the protection factor of an SPF 4. For anyone over 40 like me, you know firsthand how the neck loses tone and gets discoloration and wrinkles. (Read this post where I talk about my neck and chest.) Your neck is an extension of your face, so treat it with the same respect. Apply a generous layer of sunscreen to the front and sides of the neck, including your chest if you’re wearing a shirt or dress that exposes this area. At night, indulge the skin on your neck with a well-formulated neck cream.
Mistake #4: Treating your blemishes the wrong way.
This is one mistake that literally everyone I come in contact with is making. I don’t blame them because no one has ever taught them the right way to respond to a blemish the moment it appears. Immediately dry it out with a spot treatment? No, definitely don’t do that. When a blemish appears, your body has incredible repair responses (unless you have an immune deficiency disorder) that immediately recognize when an infection is present and then kick into high gear to heal it. The problem comes when you, thinking you’re helping, interfere with these natural processes and end up making it worse.
When you get a red, painful blemish, ONE of two things will happen: The infection inside the blemish will work its way up to the surface of the skin resulting in a white head. If your skin could talk, it would say, “There is an infection and I want it out. The way I’ll take care of this is to excrete the infection through the skin’s surface.” This type of blemish is called a pustule.
The infection will NOT come up to the surface. It will stay deep within the skin until the body eventually re-absorbs it. If your skin could talk, it would say, “I’m just going to hang out down here for a bit. Don’t worry, I’ll go away on my own.” This type of blemish is called a cyst.
FOR PUSTULAR BLEMISHES:
It’s best to not act the minute you feel it coming on, instead, wait a day or two for the infection to appear on the surface. Waiting will allow you to effectively control the blemish without damaging the skin. Once the whitehead is truly visible, gently squeeze out the infection with your fingers wrapped in tissue, and then apply a spot-drying treatment which will work its way into the skin and eradicate any lingering infection. If you apply a drying treatment before the whitehead is on the surface, it will simply dry out the surface of the skin. This keeps the infection trapped underneath for longer which causes the infection to stretch the surrounding skin tissue and sets off a response that creates discoloration and leaves behind a dark acne scar that will linger for weeks or even months.
FOR CYSTIC BLEMISHES:
Mostly occurring in the chin and jaw areas, it is important to remember that cysts are like submarines; they are meant to stay under the skin. No matter what method you employ, cysts will never rise to the surface of the skin. This means no picking! (Read my posts about how to stop picking at your face.)
Mistake #5: Not using the right skin routine to manage the needs of both wrinkles and adult breakouts.
This one is common for those ages 25-35 who still get clogged pores and breakouts, yet they are noticing fine lines and wrinkles. Their home routine is either only addressing the breakouts with drying acne products, or they don’t have anything to prevent blemishes and they are using heavier anti-defying products. I realize that this type of skin is probably the most challenging because what your skin really needs is the best of both worlds.
(I believe there are nine different skin types and skin type #2 is an example of one that specifically addresses the needs of both breakouts and aging. Find out your true skin type by taking this quiz.)
Any acne product that leaves your skin feeling tight, dry and irritated is most definitely a no-no, as this creates dry skin cell buildup on the surface that traps oil and bacteria within the pores and can lead to more breakouts. Any product formulated for healthy aging that feels remotely greasy on the skin is not good either because acne-prone skin needs less oil since oil breeds bacteria and bacteria will lead to breakouts. I would say the best strategy for managing all your skin’s needs is to first understand how to prevent adult hormonal breakouts. In addition, you’ll want to use a gentle salicylic acid exfoliant under moisturizer three nights a week. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that penetrates into the pore lining to clear out bacteria, preventing the formation of blemishes. It is also good for smoothing and encouraging cell turnover needed to keep skin looking and acting young. Using a performance product like this along with a sulfate-free cleanser, alcohol-free toner, a lightweight moisturizer and oil-free serums loaded with soothing antioxidants can make for a great routine that gives your skin the balance it so desperately needs to be healthy and clear.
Trust me when I say that I know you’re trying your best to do the right thing with the knowledge you have, but hopefully this post will help you to truly know the correct way to care for your individual skin type.
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Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”