If the experts won't do these things to their complexions, neither should you.

By Elizabeth Swanson
November 22, 2019

We recently asked dermatologists what they always—without fail—do to or put on their faces: After all, if a medical expert religiously adheres to a certain a specific cream or step in their beauty routine, you should, too. The inverse is also true—if dermatologists don't use or believe in it, neither should we. Ahead, products, ingredients, gadgets, and treatments to avoid, per those with some of the best complexions (and degrees) in the business.

woman applying face mask in mirror
Credit: Getty / Jacob Ammentorp Lund

Don't apply chemical acids liberally.

Piling on chemical exfoliants can wreak havoc on your complexion. "I don't overuse acids or use too many at the same time," says New York City dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman, who also adds that they can redden and inflame the skin—and ultimately break down the skin's outer protective barrier.

Don't pile on silicone primers.

The majority of foundation primers on the market are packed with silicone, an ingredient that creates a barrier between your skin and any product you apply after. In theory, that sounds great, but in practice, it's a recipe for clogged pores. Dr. Jaliman avoids them at all costs, and also says she stays away from any products (primers or otherwise) that contain it.

Don't use wax as a form of hair removal.

"When it comes to hair removal, I would choose laser, tweezing, or threading instead of waxing," says Dr. Jennifer MacGregor of Union Square Laser Dermatology. "The hot wax adheres to your skin and pulls off a layer along with the hair. If you use retinoids or exfoliants regularly it could even cause you to blister, burn, scab, or scar."

Don't use home microneedling rolling devices.

If you own one of these gadgets and use it regularly, you're probably skipping one crucial step: sterilization. "I'm not sure if people adequately sterilize these. Unless you are soaking it in alcohol and allowing it to dry, it's not sterile," explains Dr. MacGregor. Another issue with these devices? "Most topicals are not tested on needled skin and could cause a reaction," she adds.

Don't wash with loofahs.

Skipping the loofah is—hopefully—common knowledge by now. If you're still using one? Toss it. "Scrubbing with a loofah is rough and uneven (compared to a nice gentle glycolic wash that gently exfoliates and makes the skin glow). Also, the moisture inside a sponge harbors bacteria and other microbes that you will then rub on your skin the next time you use it," Dr. MacGregor says.

Don't make homemade scrubs or masks with fruits and vegetables.

"There are so many reasons not to do this!" cautions Dr. MacGregor, citing that you could unknowingly be applying allergens and irritants right onto your face. The worst-case scenario however, has nothing to do with an allergic reaction: "They can make you photosensitive and cause burns with sunlight exposure," Dr. MacGregor says.

Don't strive for a base tan.

Getting a "base tan" won't protect you from further sun damage, says Dr. Dendy Engelman, adding that this unfortunate practice is pure myth. "There is no such thing as a safe UV tan. Tans are caused by harmful UV radiation from the sun or tanning lamps, and if you have one, you've sustained skin cell damage. Any change in the color of your skin equals sun damage," she says.

Don't wash with hot water.

"Hot water can strip the natural oils from your skin, leaving it dry and vulnerable to cracking, especially in the winter. Losing these oils compromise the skin's barrier and make skin irritated. It is best to shower in warm to lukewarm water instead, which will reduce the amount of oils that are stripped," Dr. Engelman says.

Don't pick at a scab.

Dr. Doris Day cautions against picking any type of scab, from a healed-over pimple to a previously-skinned knee: "I never pick off a scab after trauma. Nor do I pick at my skin if I have the occasional breakout. As it ages, skin does not heal as well as when it's young, so the redness and discoloration can last a lot longer."

Don't overdo it on sugar and alcohol.

An inflammatory diet won't do your complexion any favors, notes Dr. Day, who says that moderating your sugar and alcohol intake makes for a more youthful complexion over time. Too much of either can lead to premature aging and dull skin, she warns.

Don't go a day without sunscreen.

This maxim is one that goes beyond the cosmetic—unsafe sun exposure can lead to devastating skin conditions down the road. "I never leave the house without sunscreen. It's important for the prevention of skin cancers, fine lines, and wrinkles," says Dr. Priyanka Gumaste of Schweiger Dermatology Group.


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