Try breaking one of these bad skin-care habits for a 2020 goal that you can make a big difference in your skin's life (and health).

By Mona Gohara, M.D. as told to Renee Cherry
December 19, 2019

By mid-December, if you haven't set yearly resolutions yet, you've probably at least started mulling over ideas. Skin care might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but making an effort to improve your skin's health is as valid a goal as any. After all, your skin is your largest organ.

If you're already satisfied with your skin-care routine, potential beauty goals might not be so obvious. But even skin-care enthusiasts can fall prey to common skin mistakes, so you can start by pondering whether there are any habits you'd like to break. To get you started, here are five skin mistakes I see people making all the time. (Related: 3 Skin-Care Mistakes That Make Acne Worse, According to Dr. Pimple Popper)

1. Relying On Products to Do All the Work

You should treat your skin's health as you would your heart, brain, or musculoskeletal health—approaching it from a global perspective. What you put on your skin is important, but so is your lifestyle. Eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep can all benefit your skin.

I've personally committed to going to my gym every day until the end of the year, but you might start incorporating daily meditation or finding another practice that helps you recalibrate. That might not seem like a skin-care goal on its surface, but managing stress is key. When you become stressed and your cortisol levels rise, your skin is more prone to inflammation and break-outs. (Related: The Link Between Cortisol and Exercise)

2. Setting Unrealistic Goals

Think about the classic New Year's resolutions around diets and exercise. Set too drastic of a goal and you risk quitting. I see a lot of people make the same mistake when trying to change their skin-care habits.

Instead of giving your skin-care regimen an abrupt overhaul, I suggest taking on one simple goal every few weeks. Maybe you start by applying sunscreen to your hands and face every day, then after a few weeks you use an antioxidant to protect your skin from pollutants and UV light, and then you add a retinol. You'll feel less overwhelmed and each individual goal can make a difference in your skin's health. (Related: Skin-Care Products Dermatologists Swear By)

3. Ignoring Everything Below the Chin

One of my skin commandments is "do unto your body as you would do unto your face". So many people put effort into the skin on their face while all but ignoring the rest of their skin. Especially during the winter, there's a mindset of "oh, I'll wait until spring cleaning." But just because no one will be seeing your feet in sandals doesn't mean they don't deserve your care. (Related: The 10 Best Body Lotions for Dry Skin)

If your facial skin-care routine is already on point, try investing the same level of care into your body. Exfoliate your elbows, knees, and heels, and use gentle cleansers and moisturizers the way you would for your face.

4. Opting for DIY Products

Everything is fine in moderation, but I think people need to be more cognizant of what they're putting on their skin when using DIY recipes. It's easy to assume that foods can't cause your skin any harm, but that's not the case. Some of the most common DIY beauty ingredients can leave your skin worse off after using them. For example, lemon juice has been said to help fading sunspots, but it's really acidic and can literally leave burns on your skin. Turmeric can stain your skin (think: the way it stains your pans). I think one of the biggest myths in skin care is that you can whip something up in your kitchen that will make your wrinkles or pimples disappear. Everyone is taking beauty into their own hands and not realizing that there really is a science behind it.

5. Chasing Perfection

I'm 44 years old. When I was growing up, I would open up magazines to see Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer and all these beautiful statuesque Caucasian women who I'll never look like as a short, curvy, brown girl. I feel like women are seeing that now in the form of social media. These filters can sweep away any complexion abnormality or change the dimensions of your body, and I think that's really heightened unrealistic expectations around skin appearance. (Related: We Got 6 Dermatologists to Reveal Their Winter Skin-Care Routines)

Altered images are everywhere and it's easy to forget they're fake, but you can combat this by setting an intention to focus on what you love about your appearance instead of what you don't. Make an effort to play up your signature feature–for me, that's wearing bold color on my lips. No matter how you plan on approaching skin care this year, it never hurts to practice a little self-love.

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