You cleanse, tone, and moisturize every night; you’ve finally realized the importance of serums; and you even managed to do multi-mask last weekend while binge-watching Game of Thrones. Good job! But wait. Even with all your newly developed good skin habits, you could still be doing damage to your skin without even realizing it, thanks to a little thing called life. Not to fear—like your Mophie case or your in-case-of-emergency chocolate stash, we’re here to save you. We spoke with Dr. Gary Goldfaden, dermatologist and founder of the eponymous all-natural skincare line, and asked him to spill all the top skin mistakes that people don’t know they’re making—and how to stop them stat. Wrinkles, bye.
Flip through the slideshow and banish these skin-ruiners for good!
“People have a hard time realizing that what you’re putting in your body reflects on your skin,” Goldfaden says. “I’m a firm believer that we are what we eat.” He recommends avoiding fatty, greasy foods, and loading up on foods that are high in antioxidants, like blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes, and leafy greens.
You might know that alcohol can be extremely drying when applied topically, but did you know that drinking it can have a negative effect on your dermis, too? “Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can definitely dry and dehydrate your skin,” Goldfaden says. (Plus, it’s not doing any favors for your hair either.)
We hate this news as much as you do, but consuming too much sugar can prematurely age your skin. The same is true with foods that have a high glycemic index. “Foods that have a high glycemic index—like potatoes, sugary cereals, and corn—spike your blood sugar and insulin levels, which can cause breakdown of protein and collagen in your skin and increase wrinkles,” Goldfaden says. “It’s very similar to what happens when free radicals from the sunlight break down your DNA and cause premature aging.”
“Most people don’t put on SPF frequently enough,” Goldfaden says. He suggests going by the 20-minute rule: “Put it on 20 minutes before you go outside, and if you’re outside for an extended period, put it on every 20 minutes after,” he says. We love Goldfaden’s Sun Visor SPF 30 ($45), which comes in an easy-to-use, gentle, non-aerosol spray form—so you have no excuse not to reapply.
You might know by now that smoking is horrible for your skin, but what about secondhand smoke? “When you breathe in smoke—whether you’re smoking or secondhand—it not only prematurely ages your lungs and heart, but does the same thing to your skin,” Goldfaden says. “It tends to alter the DNA of your cells, change the connective tissue and collagen, and cause wrinkling.” Secondhand smoke and smog are all toxins that irritate your skin physically. (Click here for our guide to taking care of your skin based on where you live.)
There’s no doubt about it—popping a whitehead (or two) can feel bizarrely satisfying—but it’s also ruining your skin. “If you take a blackhead or whitehead and try to remove it, you’re producing an acne-like reaction to your skin by introducing new bacteria,” Goldfaden says. “The number one thing you should avoid is introducing bacteria or germs into your skin. If you push the grease and oil deeper into your skin, you could start a whole new reaction.” Instead, apply a gentle spot treatment, like Medik8’s BetaGel ($68) to the annoying spot after cleansing and sleep on it—patience is key.
New flash: Your beloved iPhone is a breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria. “Oil and bacteria build up on glasses and cellphones,” Goldfaden says. “In addition to that, whenever you set them down, you’re picking up bacteria and germs and introducing them to your skin, which can lead to irritation.” He recommends using a disinfectant wipe to clean your glasses and cellphone, which will keep them from clogging your pores.
“Don’t get me wrong—I think exfoliating is great,” Goldfaden says. “I think it’s terrific to expose new skin, but you don’t want to overdo it. Once or twice a week is enough.” Overexfoliating can leave your skin raw and exposed, making it more prone to infections and sensitivity. Cleansing grains, like Farmacy's New Day Gentle Exfoliating Grains ($30), are a great natural option for those with sensitive skin.
We all want smooth limbs for the summer months, but Goldfaden warns against the dangers of waxing too often. “Every time you wax, you’re actually removing the outer layer of your skin,” he says. “Doing it too often can leave your skin exposed, making it easier for infections to happen.”
Speaking of which, here are 14 ways to make a bikini wax less painful (you're welcome).
Yes—there is a right way to shower. “Using water that’s too hot takes oils out of your skin and leaves it dry,” Goldfaden says. Opt for warm versus hot water temperatures, and keep them as short as you can. If you're feeling fancy, splurge on a shower-head filter, like the T3 Source Showerhead Shower Filter ($130), which removes up to 95 % of chlorine in water and keeps your skin from overdrying.
Or, you can do as beauty editors do and shower like this.
Fact: Squinting and raising your eyebrows excessively can actually contribute to the development of wrinkles. “Squinting outdoors without sunglasses on is especially bad,” Goldfaden says. We’re not saying you should be a lifeless mannequin, but it’s something to keep in mind if you tend to have a flair for the dramatic.
Are you guilty of any of these skin-ruining sins? Tell us below!
This story was originally published June 24, 2014.