8 Skincare Mistakes That Make You Look Older
Make sure these aren't a part of your daily routine, dermatologists and estheticians warn.
We all want to "age gracefully," minimizing wrinkles and making sure our skin stays healthy and glowing. But keeping your face youthful is somewhat of a challenge—and while your skincare routine is intended to prevent the effects of aging, you could also be making mistakes that inadvertently make you look older, experts say.
"Taking care of your skin is essential because as we age our skin gets thinner, saggier, and wrinkled largely due to the reduced production of collagen, a key protein in our skin that is essential for maintaining skin elasticity and firmness," Paul Charette, master aesthetician and founder of Charette Cosmetics, tells Best Life. "Our skin is constantly being exposed to the elements of life such as environmental pollutants, dirt, excess oil, bacteria, and other factors your facial skin encounters daily. That is a lot for your skin to handle every day, which is why as we get older the damage becomes more noticeable—especially if nothing is being done to counteract the damage."
Many of us take steps to prevent or slow these changes ahead of time, rather than searching for a treatment after we notice them in the mirror. However, if you've been taking certain approaches in your skincare routine and haven't noticed improvements, you might want to take a step back. Read on for the eight skincare mistakes that could make you appear older.
Overlooking anti-aging ingredients
As you get older, you need to look for products that have ingredients to combat aging skin, Valerie Aparovich, biochemist and certified cosmetologist-esthetician at OnSkin, tells Best Life.
"It would be a mistake not to incorporate cosmetic products with age-appropriate active ingredients that help fade wrinkles, stimulate collagen synthesis, and keep the skin rejuvenated and toned," she explains. "The top three anti-age stars are vitamin C, retinol, and peptides."
Each ingredient serves a different purpose for your skin, Aparovich adds. For example, vitamin C "stimulates collagen protein synthesis, promoting the skin's firmness and elasticity and making decreased skin turgor less visible, possesses brightening properties, helps fade pigmentation, and strengthens capillary walls."
Retinol promotes skin renewal by speeding cell turnover, also exfoliating, lightening, and supporting collagen and elastin fiber synthesis, which thickens skin texture to smooth out fine lines and wrinkles, she says. Peptides, on the other hand, increase skin firmness and elasticity by impacting collagen synthesis.
Not using sunscreen
During the summer months, most of us reach for sunscreen to protect against the sun. But SPF is a necessity all year long, even in the winter when you might not think to reach for it.
"A common skincare mistake is skipping out on using an SPF daily just because it might not be sunny out," Charette says. "Ultraviolet (UV) rays can still transmit through clouds and even window glass, making your skin susceptible to premature aging and wrinkles, which is why protecting the delicate skin on your face … is a crucial part of every skincare routine so you don't look older. Try opting for a more lightweight moisturizer with a broad-spectrum SPF 50 sunscreen that can be used together for optimal skincare benefits."
According to Rachel Lee Lozina, New York State licensed esthetician, laser technician and oncology esthetician, and founder of Blue Water Spa in Oyster Bay, New York, you should also keep an eye out for certain ingredients.
"Usually, I will recommend a micronized zinc or titanium oxide cream with added antioxidants to help with oxidative damage/aging," she says. "I love it even more if it comes in a tinted version to minimize the white cast zinc formulations usually have. Ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and squalene will help lock in moisture and hydrate skin."
Only applying products to the face
It's not just your face that needs attention—you should be applying SPF and skincare products to your neck and chest, too.
"Paying attention to your face is great, but it is very important not to forget about the neck and chest," says Soyoki Abo, aesthetician, certified beautician, and founder of Abosoyoki.
She continues, "You need to apply skincare products on these areas, too, as they are getting the same sun exposure as the face does. Please also make sure to apply sunscreen and hydrating products on the decolletage area to prevent wrinkles and dark spots. Even if your face looks youthful, if you have wrinkles and dark spots on your decolletage, it can make you look older."
Ignoring the area around the eyes
Even if you're moisturizing and using the appropriate serums, you might still be slipping up if you don't pay attention to the sensitive area around your eyes.
"The skin around the eyes is naturally thinner, more delicate, and more sensitive than on the rest of the face and loses its firmness and elasticity faster. Hence, the signs of aging are always most visible here," Aparovich notes. "Also, the skin in this area is more dryness-prone and requires regular moisturizing to prevent mimic and age-related wrinkles from forming."
As opposed to just using your general face cream around the eyes, Aparovvich suggests a "well-formulated eye cream" to make wrinkles and bags less prominent.
"Eye creams are usually formulated with a more lightweight texture than facial products, so they are better absorbed by delicate skin. Most eye creams are targeted [and] formulated with the delicacy of this specific skin area in mind," she says. "Usually, they contain higher concentrations of hydrating components, and ingredients addressing particular concerns of this skin zone, like caffeine for dark circles or mint derivatives for cooling and puffiness."
Forgetting to exfoliate
Skipping exfoliation is another skincare mistake that could make you look older. While it's a common error, according to Charette, you'll want to fix it as soon as possible.
"It is an important step in skincare routines because it's an opportunity to eliminate older, dull skin cells that can make you look older and cause your skin to not function at its best!" he says. "The outermost layer of our skin, called the stratum corneum, is composed of dead skin cells that can make the skin appear dull, rough, and can clog pores. Exfoliation helps to slough off these dead skin cells, revealing fresher, smoother skin underneath."
Not sure how often you should be exfoliating to avoid overdoing it? Jessica Iturzaeta, licensed esthetician, podcaster behind Learning to Glow, and founder of SJ Skincare, recommends exfoliating one to three times each week, depending on the product you're using. If you get regular facials, that can make a "big impact" as well, she adds.
Not cleansing properly
If you're good about washing your face regularly, you might not think you need to address this step in your skincare routine. However, if you're not cleansing for at least 30 seconds or if you use makeup remover wipes, Lindsey Zubritsky, MD, FAAD, board certified dermatologist, says, "You're doing it wrong."
"All day long, we're accumulating dirt, debris, sweat on our skin—and if we don't get that off of our skin, it's going to clog our pores and make us look older," she says in a July 2023 TikTok. It "can also lead to acne breakouts and rosacea flares."
You should also wait to cleanse until after you've brushed your teeth.
"When you brush your teeth, you're leaving behind saliva, toothpaste, [and] bacteria on the skin," Zubrisky says. When these remain on the skin, it can lead to acne breakouts as well as perioral dermatitis (a red rash that forms around the mouth).
Not moisturizing properly
After you've finished cleansing, it's vital to follow up with a hydrating moisturizer for youthful-looking skin—and this is another step you shouldn't be inconsistent with.
"Replenishing skin with hyaluronic acid plus the proper ceramides is the best way to increase hydration layer by layer," Lozina says. "By not keeping skin hydrated, skin tends to be prone to sagging and wrinkles, which will make you look older."
Aparovich notes that a good moisturizer will strengthen the protective barrier on your skin, preventing the absorption of external stressors like dirt and bacteria and protecting from weather-related disruptions like wind and frost. Well-moisturized skin just looks "thicker, denser, plumper, and brighter," she adds, thereby minimizing any creases and wrinkles.
In need of a new moisturizer? Aparovich recommends looking for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, collagen, phospholipids, and aloe vera extract.
Applying foundation on dry skin
Makeup is supposed to enhance our features and make us feel like we're putting our best face forward. But if you skip moisturizing and apply your base layer to dry skin, it's probably not having that positive effect.
"When the skin is naturally dry, it won't get much nourishment from the percentage of moisturizing components in complexion product formulations," Aparovich says. "Besides, some foundations can dry out the skin to maintain a matte appearance. Not only will dry skin lose moisture and, therefore, its plumpness and smoothness, but fine lines and wrinkles will get more defined, adding years to your look."
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