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7 things dermatologists never, ever do to their own skin

Rebecca Norris

Rebecca NorrisApril 23, 2020

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Nobody has perfect skin, but dermatologists often come pretty darn close. Not only do they have extensive and deep education in skin health, they also know what really works. That goes for their own skin care routines, too—and there are a few things that dermatologists would never even think of doing. Learn from them, then watch as your own complexion gets better and better over time.

Here, a guide to what dermatologists would never do to their own skin.

They don’t pick their skin

As tempting as it may be to “liberate” the gunk that’s clogging up your pores, picking pimples and blackheads will only make things worse. “If the pimple pops under the skin and pushes inflammatory material deep into the pore, this could lead to a monstrous eruption and an even bigger pimple or scar,” says board-certified dermatologist Anna Guanche, MD, of Calabasas, California. Still not convinced?  Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, says that picking is unlikely to give you the results you’re looking for in the first place. “The types of pimples that people feel most compelled to pop often don’t even have a lot of material in them to squeeze out, so it just leads to more inflammation and eventual scarring,” she says.

They never leave the house without sunscreen

If you thought sunscreen was necessary only at the beach, think again. “The sun’s UV rays cause skin cancer, and are also responsible for 90 percent of our skin aging: brown spots, irregular texture, wrinkling, and sagging,” says NYC-based board-certified dermatologist Arielle Kauvar, MD. Might as well protect your skin from those issues with sunscreen.

To keep your skin protected, it’s essential to wear a broad-spectrum formula with SPF 30. “For those who like to simplify their daily routine, I recommend La Roche Posay UV Toleriane Double Repair Moisturizer, which provides moisture and UV protection,” Dr. Garshick says. (She’s also a fan of the tinted Revision Intellishade and Colorescience Brush-On Powder for on-the-go application.) Whichever sunscreen you choose, remember to reapply it every two hours (or more frequently if you’re sweating, swimming, or otherwise active).

They don’t spray sunscreen directly on their skin

Sure, it might seem like sunscreen sprays are meant to be sprayed on for application, but the truth is, that can be pretty harmful. “Sprays tend to land on everything around you, but not necessarily where it should: on your skin,” Dr. Kauvar explains. (She also notes that people inhale the aerosolized droplets in the process.) “Spray sunscreens are good for covering large surface areas quickly, but they are best used by spraying the product into your hands and then using your hands to apply to your skin,” she says.

They don’t tan—ever

Sure, sun-kissed legs might look “healthy,” but they’re really not. In the long term, UV exposures changes your skin for life. McLean, Virginia-based dermatologist Lily Talakoub explains that the more you tan, the more your collagen and elastin break down. That causes thinning of the skin, increased pore size, deep wrinkles, sagging skin, and even skin cancer. If you’re fair and simply must be tawny, use a self-tanner instead. And if your skin is brown, remember: Even though higher levels of melanin provide some protection from UV rays, no skin color will render you truly immune from skin cancer.

They don’t aggressively wash their faces

Cleansing is one of the most important steps of any skin care routine, but you need to do so cautiously. “Over-washing the skin with foaming, stripping cleansers causes the skin to become inflamed and sensitized over time,” Dr. Talakoub explains. “The skin needs its natural oils and normal bacterial habitat.” Overly aggressive cleansing strips skin of its natural oils, which she says causes a level of dryness that no moisturizer will be able to adequately replenish. To avoid this uncomfortable situation, Talakoub recommends using an oil-based cleanser such as DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, then following it with a moisturizer.

They don’t sleep with makeup on

You’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating. “Makeup left on your skin seeps deep into your pores and can cause inflammation and irritation,” Dr. Guanche explains. “This could lead to breakouts, puffiness, skin irritation, and, eventually, more wrinkles—especially around the eyes.”

While removing your makeup is essential, doing so with care is just as necessary. Dr. Guanche emphasizes just how important it is to not aggressively rub your skin. “This can lead to laxity of the skin and more fine lines and wrinkles over time,” she explains.

They don’t over-exfoliate

Buffing away dead skin cells is important, but using too many scrubs and acids isn’t a good idea. “Gentle exfoliation removes the skin’s dead cell layer to reveal smoother and brighter skin, but exfoliating to the point of irritation, redness, and flaking results in inflammation,” Dr. Kauvar explains.

While you can exfoliate multiple times a week, it’s important to pick the right products when doing so. Dr. Garshick warns against using scrubs, despite their skin-smoothing claims. “Many people believe that scrubs can leave your skin feeling smooth and glowing, but they can often cause more harm than good,” she explains. “This is because exfoliating scrubs that are considered physical exfoliators can cause injury to the skin surface, leading to irritation and inflammation.” Instead, she recommends gentle polishing powders like Good Science Beauty Skin Renewing Polishing Powder or chemical exfoliants like First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads ($32).

Now that you know how to best care for your complexion, you might want to upgrade your routine altogether. Start by perusing the drugstore baby aisle for clean, affordable skin care. And, if saving money is a top priority, be sure to keep this shopping tip in mind. 

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