After 30 years of working hands-on with clients as an esthetician, I’ve had thousands of conversations about skin and let me say, I’ve heard a lot—and it hasn’t all been good. For the most part, people generally practice good skin care habits and use their common sense, but once in a while, I’ll be taken aback. Here are some of the worst skin care sins I think I’ve ever heard.
The 9 Worst Skin Sins I’ve Ever Heard
1. Nail-filing the face
Many years ago, I had a client who would take a nail file to her face to “file down” problem areas in hopes of lessening acne scars. She said that it helped smooth out the skin’s texture. The crazy thing is that the grit from a nail file, when sanded over the face, IS considered a form of smoothing physical exfoliation (similar to professional microdermabrasion), but clearly, this is not something I recommend or would consider safe! I’m all for physical exfoliators like a facial scrub even though they have lessened in popularity. Learn about the benefits of a facial scrub.
2. Smoking—and around estheticians!
We all know that smoking is not beneficial for the skin. But two experiences in particular stand out for me:
- A client asked me after giving her facial where she can buy some cigarettes. I love the term “know your audience.” LOL
- On one of my visits to France, I walked into a facial salon only to find the receptionist puffing away on a cigarette right at the front desk. Smoking right in a facial salon of all places? Wow.
In case you didn’t know, smoking is bad for the skin, but so is second-hand smoke.
3. Drinking alcohol immediately after a facial
Like smoking, drinking alcohol can undo the healthy benefits of a facial because it’s very dehydrating to the skin. So imagine my surprise when I gave a celebrity a facial in her hotel room, and she did a shot of whiskey when I finished. After a facial, you want the skin to take in all of the wonderful nourishing benefits, so not exposing it to instant dehydration is wise. Here’s how alcohol is affecting your skin.
4. Extreme picking (but sometimes, a person just can’t control it)
As a former picker myself, I know from personal experience that picking at your skin and blemishes can be very damaging. Sometimes, people can take it to the extreme and their picking can result in severe scabs all over their face. I have seen this on more than one occasion. When picking is done to this extent and a person cannot have any self-control, it can be considered an obsessive-compulsive disorder and professional help should be sought in order to prevent long-term skin damage. Picking at the skin causes serious damage and this picture of my client proves it.
5. Post-peel sun exposure
After a facial, and especially after getting a chemical peel, dead skin cells are removed, allowing fresh, new “young” cells to surface. Caring for these new cells requires wearing daily sun protection and definitely avoiding sun exposure between the hours of 10am and 2pm when the sun is at its strongest. (Did you know? Exfoliated skin can be 45% more sensitive to the sun, increasing the risk of sunburn.) I’ve had clients through the years that have ignored my warnings and suggestions concerning post-facial exposure and have gone into the sun or tanning bed and fried their newly revealed skin.
6. Layering exfoliating products
There’s no doubt that using exfoliants on a regular basis will improve many texture issues with the skin, but some people take it to the extreme. During a recent skin consultation, I had a client who looked like she had a sunburn. Her skin was reddened and I could even see a line of red demarcation all along the perimeter of the face. When I asked about her skin redness and if she had been in the sun, she said no. In fact, she hadn’t even noticed her skin was red at all. She was just so used to it looking this way. Come to find out, she was layering acid products by using both an acid toner followed by an acid serum every single night which was resulting in an ongoing acidic burn. Her efforts of trying to do good for her skin were completely backfiring and putting her skin in a major state of inflammation without her even realizing it.
The underlying cause of expedited skin aging is from inflammation, and while a lot of this comes from environmental exposure (UV rays), having the skin in an ongoing state of trauma from overusing exfoliants is not healthy for the skin at all. As evident from a red ring mark all around the face! If her skin could talk, it would say “Ouch!! Leave me alone!” (Learn how to use acids, enzymes, and scrubs safely.)
7. Using rubbing alcohol as a toner
Toners that contained alcohol were certainly popular all through the 70s, 80s and some of the 90s, but some people kicked it up a notch by just using pure rubbing alcohol on the face. This was mainly used by those who had blemishes and while it would dry up individual blemishes, it would completely strip moisture from any and all healthy cells causing extreme dehydration. Thankfully I haven’t heard this one in a long time as I think there is a lot of awareness about how harsh alcohol-based toners are for the skin. Skin cells are like fish and need water to live, and since the skin is constantly trying to repair itself and maintain a moist environment this creates major chaos. I’m not really a fan of liquid acid toners but I do believe in the importance of using regular, hydrating toners after cleansing. Here are five reasons why.
8. An esthetician “faking” that post-facial glow
This one is more like an ethical sin that I have personally experienced, and I have heard about it from other people and it did not sit right with me at all. If you have ever had a facial before, an esthetician might pull out a mirror at the end of the treatment to show you how great your skin looks. One time after a facial this happened to me and my skin looked incredible. My skin was so smooth and even-toned and my pores looked almost invisible. I was absolutely shocked that the facial could transform my skin in this way. Fast forward to that night when I went to go wash my face. Imagine my surprise when I noticed skin-colored makeup coming off on my white baby washcloth. The esthetician had put on some sort of tinted moisturizer or makeup on my skin which was why my skin looked flawless.
A client of mine also shared a similar story with me. She was invited for a free facial, and when they held up a mirror for her at the end she couldn’t believe how good her skin looked. They had set up a ring light and encouraged her to take a selfie to post on social media. Since she was so impressed with the results, my client obliged. Later that evening when she was washing her face, she, too, saw makeup coming off. Needless to say she felt like they had pulled one over on her and wasn’t very happy about it.
It just doesn’t seem cool to show someone their skin with makeup on and not inform them. I mean, why not show them their skin before they put it on at least? Here’s how to make your skin look brighter without makeup.
9. Using lemon juice and baking soda as skincare
A while back, I had a client who was dealing with acid-like burns on her face. After doing some investigating, I learned that she was using a cut lemon and baking soda on her face every morning and night as her only skin care steps. Lemon juice is extremely acidic with a pH of around 2. This not only caused severe damage to this client’s moisture barrier, but was actually giving her burns. Yikes! While lemons are high in Vitamin C, the skin doesn’t work the same way the digestive system does; therefore, it isn’t really possible to put food on the face and expect the nutrients to easily get into the skin. There’s a reason skincare products are carefully formulated in a lab! (Do DIY treatments ever work? Read my thoughts).
So there you have it, a few things I’ve heard along the way in my career. Read about my personal skincare philosophy (including the skincare trend that scares me the most).
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.”