Skincare is definitely being talked about more and more these days, especially with the boom in K Beauty popularity. We’re drowning in products and recommendations, and as with anything there’s a learning curve! There’s so much to learn, so it can be hard to figure out what to do and what not to do (example: coconut oil, yes or no).
While trying to wade through the sea of serums, essences, creams, treatments, masks, and who knows what else, I’ve found that for every thing I’ve tried that has worked for me, there’s ten more that haven’t. And, after doing some searching and asking, it turns out that there are some common mistakes a lot of us have made, intentionally or not. And if you’re like me, where skin is either an insecurity, priority, or both, it’s important to know what’s going wrong in order to get it right.
1. You won’t stop touching your face. This is a huge one and probably the most common error we all make, largely because we often don’t even know we’re doing it! Whether it’s resting your cheek in your hand, rubbing your face when you’re tired, or picking and popping at zits (of which I’m extremely guilty), a lot of crap gets on your face. And this affects the skin in many ways. By picking and scratching you are spreading bacteria found in acne all over your face, and by contact alone whatever germs have ended up on your hands are now on the more sensitive skin of your face. When you pop acne, there’s also the chance of popping them inside the skin and having the bacteria spread within the body. By rubbing and pulling on your face, like when you’re tired or when you’ve been crying, you’re wearing out your skin and breaking down collagen, which speeds up signs of aging.
How to fix it: Since it’s hard to always be aware of when you’re doing this, take a day and try and pay attention to how often your hands touch your face. Keep a count, even. It may not be possible to totally break the habit, but knowing it’s going on can help you do it less.
2. You’re using comedogenic products. Oh buddy, is this a biggie and not a lot of people know what this means. Comedogenic means pore clogging, which can lead to blackheads and skin congestion. Many common products, such as coconut oil, are in fact comedogenic and as such are somewhat risky to use on your face. Some people can use these products without issue, and some people use them with disastrous results. This is something particularly relevant for those with combination/oily or sensitive skin, but it is always good to keep in mind. These ingredients can be sabotaging you when you’re trying to clear up acne, as they can lead to persistent breakouts and clogged pores. If you have a bunch of little bumps that just won’t go away, this may be something to consider. Here and here are fantastic lists of potentially comedogenic ingredients.
Keep in mind that there are varying degrees of a product being comedogenic, and that there is technically no specific classification method in use.
How to fix it: Take a look the ingredients list for products you’re using. The higher up on the list, the higher the percentage it makes up of the product, which is why water is often very high up on ingredient lists. If you see a potentially pore clogging ingredient way up on the list, you may want to consider a different product.
3. You don’t know your skin type. This is incredibly important when you’re trying to assess your skincare needs, as it dictates everything from what kind of moisturizer may be best to what kind of cleanser you should look into and everything in between. If you have oily skin and you find your moisturizer (which you still should be using) is making you look greasy and not glowy, it was probably not formulated for your skin type. Many companies will categorize their products by what is best for which skin types, which is lovely!
How to fix it: Here’s the thing, skin types can be very personal, meaning that while there are general types, there’s a lot of variation within those categories. Oily skin types get very shiny, and often present with acne and blackheads and larger pores. Dry skin types often appear dull, and can show dry, irritated patches. Combination skin has a mixture of both issues, with some areas, often the T-Zone, being oily and the perimeters of the face being dry. Normal skin shows none of these extremes, and may only have minor issues. As far as products go, try and focus on gel or water based products if you’re more on the oily side, and on creamier products if you’re drier. However, observe your own skin and play with different treatments to get the right balance down for you. None of this is set in stone and there’s always some experimentation needed.
4. You haven’t looked at your diet. Food allergies can present with acne or other skin issues, with dairy being one of the most common culprits. Nut allergies, celiac disease, and dehydration are also incredibly common and are worth considering if you’re having GI or skin issues.
How to fix it: Try cutting out dairy or gluten for about a month (I know it’s a long time, but skin takes time to go through its cell cycle and show meaningful change), and see how your skin reacts. Personally, I have found that within two weeks of cutting out dairy, my skin clears up wonderfully. If you have the time and resources, it may be a good idea to have your doctor or an allergist test you for possible allergies! And, as everyone and their mother has been saying, make sure to drink enough water. A good estimate is about 64 ounces, but personal needs can vary.
5. You’re not exfoliating. As it turns out, there are a lot of ways to exfoliate! But just like it is with exfoliating before shaving, it’s incredibly important to do so every so often with your skin. If your skin looks dull or feels overly textured and plugged up, your skin may just need a nice exfoliation to get the dead cells and grime out. Leaving all of that gunk to sit in your skin leads to congestion and acne, and can keep your skin from really being cleansed.
How to fix it: First, decide if you want to chemically or physically exfoliate. I will be doing a more in depth post about this later, but essentially chemical exfoliation uses various acids to help with cell turnover and to clean out deeper layers of skin. Physical exfoliation is using a scrub or brush (think Clarisonic) to remove the top layer of dead skin cells. My recommendation would be to start mildly, with physical exfoliation, and see how your skin reacts and how you like it. For that, I would say check out a spin brush (there are many kinds, so do some research and see which you like!) or a product like it. I use the Foreo Luna Mini 2 with my cleanser and either the Yllo Turmeric Face Scrub or the Mario Badescu Strawberry Face Scrub (which is ultra gentle).
Hopefully this list helps you in your skincare journey! What sort of mistakes have you made with your skincare?