You probably don’t even realize that these common practices are ruining your face and hair—and making you look older
Wrapping Wet Hair Up in a Towel
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The strengthening shampoo and conditioner you use aren’t going to help much if you gather your wet locks in a turban on top of your head post-shower. “When wet, hair shafts are like loosened springs that stretch and break more easily,” says New York-based dermatologist Jessica Krant, M.D. So rubbing your tresses with a towel, pulling them into a too-tight wrap, or brushing or combing them too vigorously can all break the hair shafts and lead to damaged, frizzy strands, Dr. Krant says.
Break it: Treat your locks with love by moving down your mane in sections, gently squeezing and blotting out excess water with a towel, says Arleen Lamba, M.D., cosmetic anesthesiologist and medical director of Blush Med Institute in Bethesda, MD. If only a wrap will do, use a white cotton t-shirt instead of a towel, as the fabric is gentler on hair. For tangles, first apply a de-tangling or conditioning spray, and use a wide-tooth comb, which won’t rough up the cuticle as much as a brush does.
Washing Your Face in the Morning
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Using harsh cleansers and scrubs in the a.m. can do more harm than good, stripping your skin of essential oils before you even start your day, Dr. Lamba says. “A good skincare regimen means cleansing your face only at night because while you sleep, your skin regenerates, reestablishes its pH, and increases collagen production,” she adds. So why would you want to wash off all this hard work when you wake up?
Break it: Leave the house feeling clean and refreshed without turning your skin into the Sahara by simply splashing with water and applying a moisturizer with an SPF of 15 or higher. If you need to cleanse (perhaps you have makeup left over from last night), use a mild moisturizing cleanser that doesn't contain harsh detergents before applying the same SPF moisturizer, Dr. Krant says. And next time, be sure to remove all of your makeup before hitting the sheets.
Exfoliating Too Often
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Scrub-a-dubbing feels amazing, but it’s unnecessary, derms say, since your skin naturally sheds any dead cells. “Sloughing off skin cells and oils with an exfoliant will only cause a vicious cycle of irritation and dryness in the long run, leading some to want to exfoliate even more to get the new dry cells off,” Dr. Krant says.
Break it: According to the American Board of Dermatology, you should exfoliate your face and body no more than once or twice a week. “If you have skin that tends to be oily, be careful not to overdo it, as this may have the opposite effect and cause your sebaceous glands to produce even more oil,” Dr. Lamba says. She recommends using either a glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or enzyme-based peel, or going with a brush, microdermabrasion, or scrub. And easy does it: “Be gentler than you think,” Dr. Krant says. “Redness and rawness is not a good sign.”
Pumping Your Mascara Wand
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“Moving the brush in and out forces air deeper into the tube, and, if any bacteria from your eyes come with it, the air helps those germs thrive and multiply,” Dr. Krant says. Air also causes mascara to dry out faster so it doesn’t last as long as it should.
Break it: Gently pull out the wand, moving it around inside the container and scraping the edge minimally to keep everything fresh and bacteria-free as long as possible, Dr. Krant recommends. You’ll still get a sufficient amount of product on the brush and avoid possibly contaminating the rest.
Piling on Products
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You may boast a beauty arsenal that rivals the local drugstore, but your lotions and potions may not all get along. Ingredients in different products can “fight” each other, negating their powers or causing skin irritation when combined, Dr. Lamba cautions. “For instance, when you use retinoids like Retin-A at the same time as benzoyl peroxide, you can actually deactivate the effects of the retinoid,” she says. Talk about wasted money.
Break it: Stick with a gentle cleanser, moisturizer, SPF, topical retinoid, and maybe one other carefully selected antioxidant product, Dr. Krant suggests. When in doubt, seek the advice of a dermatologist or aesthetician who can advise on a simple but effective routine.
Neglecting Your Neck
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Forgetting to moisturize and use sunscreen below your jawline leaves your neck open to the elements and can cause it to show signs of aging faster, Dr. Krant says, since you’re using those products on your face daily (right?). And remember that no area of your skin—from the sometimes-forgotten tops of your ears to your face to your hands—is cancer-proof.
Break it: When you’re done moisturizing and applying sunscreen to your face every day, do the same to your neck, using an upward and then outward motion to cover from the front to the nape, Dr. Lamba recommends. “The upward motion stimulates the skin and prevents sagging, while the outward motion ensures the entire neck area is covered,” she says.
And never use harsh soaps, detergent-based cleansers, or anti-aging treatments that contain salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or retinol on your neck, Dr. Krant says. “The skin there doesn’t have the same number of sebaceous glands to produce oils as the face does, so it’s more delicate and easily irritated,” she explains.
Using a Straw Too Often
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While it’s smart to sip coffee, soda, and tea through a straw to avoid staining your pearly whites, serious slurping could—get this—cause wrinkles if you do it too frequently. Working your muscles is usually a (really) good thing, but repeatedly flexing the orbicularis oris around your mouth tightly enough to create a vacuum in a straw can lead to “smoker’s lines” around your kisser, says David E. Bank, M.D., a dermatologist in Mount Kisco, NY.
Break it: Stick to the straw, Dr. Krant says, but gently place your lips more to the side instead of the center and don’t pucker up.