10 Bad Skincare Habits to Kick Today


In This Article:

If you're caught in an endless loop of treating a dull, rough, or sensitized complexion, chances are you’ve fallen into one of these sabotaging beauty behaviors.

Avoiding these skin sins is easier than you think. We’re sharing ten common beauty pitfalls so your skin can do an about-face, fast—and continue to improve!

Beauty Shouldn't Hurt

Regardless of what beauty magazines and well-meaning skincare professionals have said, skin shouldn't get worse before it gets better. Red, sensitized skin is always a sign of distress—if your exfoliant, retinol, or skincare product causes this reaction, it’s time to change your routine. While it may be as simple as switching to a milder-strength exfoliant, check the ingredient list to be sure skin-sensitizing ingredients (like denatured alcohol) aren’t to blame.

Note: Some can experience mild flaking after using a retinol product—think of this like your skin "getting used" to having it in your routine and expect this temporary issue to pass. However, if your skin becomes persistently reddened or sensitive to the touch, try using it less often (or opt for a milder formula).

Play it Cool While Cleansing

Avoid using hot or ice-cold water while cleansing. Both are damaging to skin, can lead to lingering redness, and prolong the staying time of acne. Lukewarm water will get the job done with any type of cleanser—and be sure to gentlly dab, not rub, skin dry with a soft towel.

Skip the Long Bath

Long baths can be relaxing for your muscles and mind, but these prolonged soaks can stress your skin! When skin shows visible "pruning," it's a sign of a compromised surface—surprise, too much water is damaging to skin. Too much time in the tub breaks down the skin's lipid content, preventing it from "holding on" to healthy substances.

Kick the Addiction to Scrubs

Scrubbing away at skin like you’re trying to remove bad wallpaper is one of most common ways to hurt skin—and it's an antiquated way to exfoliate.

While AHA or BHA exfoliants are best for skin, you don't have to give up your scrub altogether—just avoid those that are overly harsh or otherwise poorly formulated. Think of scrubs as an extra measure of cleansing, and always be gentle when using them on your face and body.

Pass (on) the Bar Soap

Bar soaps are always bad ideas for skin due to the residue they leave behind. Blame the ingredients used to keep them in a solid form: This film can initially feel good on skin, but with regular use it can worsen dry skin. If that weren’t enough, the alkaline pH level of bar soaps sensitizes skin.

Instead of bar soaps or bar cleansers, try a gentle, skin-type appropriate liquid, gel, lotion, or cream-based cleanser.

Dump Your Abusive Skincare Products

Moisturizers, serums, sunscreens, or other products that contain skin-aggravating ingredients (like alcohol or fragrances) are easy to fall for. But in the long-term, their drawbacks outweigh any benefits—and your routine becomes a cycle of treating one concern (acne) while developing another (dry skin). Kick these abusive beauty products to the curb and don’t look back!

Perfume Has Nothing to Do with Skincare

We have all said it at least once in our lives—"I love this moisturizer, it just smells so good!" Unfortunately, what pleases your nose doesn’t make your skin happy—highly fragranced products (from "essential oils" or other sources) may smell lovely, but they stink when it comes to keeping skin in top shape. Find out why fragrance is such a problem for skin.

More is Not Always a Good Thing

Even a well-formulated product has the potential to do harm when it’s overused, so heed the directions for your exfoliant, retinol, or anti-acne solutions and experiment to find the right balance for your skin.

Signs that your skin has had enough include a tight, lined or pulled appearance (especially upon waking in the morning), redness, peeling, or sensitivity.

Peel Now, Pay Later

Facial peels can be a helpful part of a routine, especially when uneven skin tone is your concern. However, if you're getting AHA, BHA, or other types of peels performed too frequently (or opting for those that are too strong), their potential benefits can backfire.

Mild peels shouldn't be performed more than once or twice a month. Deep peels should be limited to once a year at most. The goal is never to tip the scales in favor of sensitizing, so keep this type of exfoliation in moderation.

Sunscreen is the Best Anti-Wrinkle Cream

True, sunscreen isn't as flashy as the most hyped beauty products on the market, but it has anti-wrinkle benefits no other skincare product can touch. Unprotected sun exposure is the #1 cause of early skin aging, including wrinkles, sagging, and uneven skin tone. Want to look as young as you can as long as you can? Sunscreen is a daily necessity, 365 days a year—and your anti-aging products will work much better when you routinely shield skin from ongoing UV light exposure.

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth scientific research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! Learn more at Shop Paula's Choice.

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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