Derms weigh in: 3 skin sins you’re probably committing—and how to stop ASAP

June 22, 2021

We hate to say it: Despite your best intentions, your skincare routine might be hurting your skin. Everything you’re doing (cue the aggressive exfoliation) and everything you’re not (ahem, SPF) is adding up to damage you could really do without. To help identify the biggest skincare sins and get yourself back on track, here’s our list of common skincare mistakes you need to avoid according to top dermatologists—no appointment necessary.

Skin sin #1: Over-exfoliation

“A common skincare mistake I see in my patients is over exfoliation,” says board certified dermatologist Lily Adelzadeh. Manhattan-based Dermatologist Dr. Suzanne Friedler agrees.

“People think more is more but it’s really not when it comes to skincare. If you’re using a lot of scrubs and exfoliators it can actually cause microscopic tears in your skin. If you have Mediterranean or darker skin, rough cleansing routines can lead to discoloration and uneven skin.”

While scrubs can be safe for skin, Dr. Adelzadeh prefers a chemical exfoliant. “Chemical exfoliants help remove old skin to allow fresh new skin growth (and) also help with unclogging pores. Retinoids can also help with collagen stimulation for anti-aging benefits.” Just don’t overdo it—once or twice a week for normal skin types is plenty.

Skin sin #2: Skimping on SPF

You’ve neglected the SPF because, let’s be honest, half of your face has been covered by a mask for 15 months. “A lot of people thought, ‘I’m wearing my mask, so I don’t need sunscreen because my mask is protecting me,’” says Dr. Friedler. She quickly points out this rationale aligns all-too-closely with the common skincare mistake that SPF isn’t needed during the winter, or on cloudy and rainy days.

“There’s a lot more UV out there than people realize,” says Friedler, noting her personal experience with sun damage showing up in places where her mask didn’t cover, “like the cheeks where the mask was open, or right under my ears in the winter.”

Skin sin #3: Skipping the wash off before you work out

“Our pores dilate from the heat of a workout,” says Friedler. “If you work out with a face full of makeup, it can penetrate your skin and lead to irritation and lead to breakouts.” To avoid this common skincare mistake, Dr. Friedler advises, “Start your workout with really clean skin. Wash your face with cleanser before you start to sweat so you’re starting out with a clean base.”

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Jacki Marzano is SoCal-based storyteller and head copywriter at Murad Skincare. She's shaped the voice of some of the most recognized beauty brands in the business, has a penchant for sharing homemade cookies, and believes SPF is the secret to getting carded well into your 40s.