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6 Skin Care Mistakes You're Probably Making

From over-exfoliating to using the wrong products, these practices may be worsening your skin.

Mercey Livingston CNET Contributor
Mercey Livingston is a health and wellness writer and certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She's written about fitness and wellness for Well+Good, Women's Health, Business Insider, and Prevention.com among others. When not writing, she enjoys reading and trying out workout classes all over New York City.
Mercey Livingston
3 min read
Bottles of skin serums in front of a purple background

If you want great skin, habits make a difference.

Iryna Veklich/Getty Images

Want better skin? It's not as complicated or expensive as you may think. Many skin care trends might have you believe that clear, blemish-free skin is only achieved through plastic surgery, injections or 25-step skin care regimens that cost a fortune -- but that's actually not true. While the nature of your skin partly comes down to genetics, your skin care routine really can make a noticeable difference. 

But you may be unintentionally sabotaging your chances of achieving glowing skin if those habits are working against you. Fortunately, when you know what you're doing wrong, you can put better habits into place. Below are the top mistakes two dermatologists see people make all the time that might be wrecking your skin. 

Read also: Dry Skin? TikTok's Skin Hack 'Slugging' Might Be the Solution You Need

1. Not washing your face before bed

When you're really tired, it's tempting to skip washing your face when all you want to do is fall into bed. But it's not a good idea for your skin -- especially if you wear makeup. According to dermatologist Amie Sessa, it's one of the worst mistakes you can make for your complexion.

Equally bad? "Using makeup remover wipes as face wash every single day. You should use these in a pinch, but not as your regular washing method," Sessa said.

2. Over-exfoliating with harsh scrubs

It's easy to go crazy with exfoliating scrubs, especially when your skin is feeling off or dry. But it could be doing more harm than good. "Exfoliating can cause tiny tears in the skin and can impair the skin's normal skin barrier," said Caren Campbell, a board-certified dermatologist.

Exfoliation is still important, in moderation. But instead of a harsh scrub, you can try a chemical exfoliant made with acids like AHA and/or BHA. "I prefer chemical exfoliators to mechanical ones like AHA/BHA. But these are often overused in younger patients who do not need them," Campbell said. She recommends only using them a few times a week if you have dry, flaky skin or if you are over 40.

Smear of exfoliating scrub on a yellow background

Exfoliating scrubs might feel nice, but they can be too harsh for the skin on your face.

Shana Novak/Getty Images

3. Skipping daily sunscreen

You really need sunscreen every day -- yes, even when it's cloudy, raining or snowing. Sun exposure causes sunspots, skin damage and can lead to skin cancer -- and you don't have to be at the beach to get too much exposure. According to Sessa, using a daily moisturizer sunscreen combo is best, and make sure it's at least SPF 30.

two types of sunscreen on a black and white diagonal background

Sunscreen is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to improve skin long-term. 

Sarah Mitroff/CNET

4. Picking your skin

You may not even realize that you do it, but constantly picking at the skin can cause irritation, inflamed skin and spread bacteria. Going overboard with this can lead to scarring, and may even make you break out since your hands usually have a good amount of bacteria on them. If this is a nervous habit, try and break it by keeping your hands busy with something else. 

Open tanning bed

Using a tanning bed puts you at a much higher risk for skin cancer.

Shannon M. Lutman/Getty Images

5. Using tanning beds

You know how you're supposed to wear sunscreen? Well, using a tanning bed on the regular is even worse than forgetting your daily sunscreen. "Tanning beds will increase your melanoma risk and make your skin leathery and look prematurely aged," Sessa said. 

Instead, you can use a self-tanner or bronzer that doesn't involve UV rays.

6. Using essential oils on your face

Essential oils may be all the rage, but it turns out they may not be great directly on your skin.

"I'm not saying that none of them are safe, but essential oils are often extremely concentrated and can cause skin reactions. 'Natural' does not always equate to good for the skin -- poison ivy is natural, too!" Sessa said. Campbell agreed, saying that many essential oils are a cause of contact skin allergies. She recommends avoiding them (and other fragrances in products) if you experience rash or irritation.

More important skin care reads:

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.