20 Skincare Mistakes That Are Aging Your Skin, According to Experts
You might think you're helping your complexion, but washcloths and some face wash ingredients age your skin.
You might think all that scrubbing, rinsing, and moisturizing you do every day is keeping your skin healthy, but chances are high some of the face-cleaning habits you've picked up along the way are actually aging your skin instead. To make sure your complexion stays youthful and wrinkle-free down the road, there are a handful of classic skincare mistakes to watch out for. Whether you're not rinsing off post-workout, using face wipes, or washing with super-hot water, it's time to change your ways. We talked to dermatologists, estheticians, facialists, and other skincare experts to find out the habits you need to banish to avoid aging your skin.
Not washing your face in the morning
Celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau says skipping a morning face wash can seriously age your face. "The reason it's important to wash your skin in the morning is that while you sleep at night, your skin is in repair mode. This causes your skin to secrete toxins and sebum (oil)," she writes on her website. All of that build-up isn't doing your skin any good. To make sure you have a clean slate for the day—and to avoid future wrinkles—wash with a gentle cleanser right when you wake up.
It's bad practice to scrub your face too aggressively, and that definitely applies to exfoliation, too. Rouleau says exfoliating too harshly or too often can lead to wrinkle-causing inflammation. "A major cause of aging is chronic and prolonged inflammation," she writes.
While gently exfoliating a few nights a week is great for your skin, it's a fine line, because going overboard is only going to make you look older. "Exfoliating more than you need to can cause damage to the skin and a decrease in the health of the protective skin barrier, as well as early signs of aging, like fine lines and dehydration," says Gretchen Frieling, MD, a triple board-certified dermatopathologist in Boston.
Not applying cleanser correctly
Instead of aggressively rubbing cleanser into your skin to get your face squeaky clean, which can lead to wrinkles, Rouleau explains in an article for Refinery29 that it's important to be as gentle as possible and use the right technique. "Massage it into [your] skin in a circular motion, rinse well when finished, and then give your skin a final swipe with a facial sponge to ensure makeup, dirt, and oil are thoroughly removed," she writes.
Using a washcloth
Whether you're in the shower or at the sink, don't ever scrub your face with a washcloth. They have a rough texture, and all that extra exfoliation isn't good for your skin. "It's recommended that you don't exfoliate more than thrice a week, and using a washcloth counts," says Frieling.
Instead, just use your hands to get the job done. It'll save your complexion and help minimize your laundry pile.
Scrubbing with a loofah
If you thought washcloths were a bad face-washing choice, loofahs are definitely worse. Like washcloths, Frieling says loofahs act as an exfoliant due to their rough mesh material, and using one too often can cause damage to your skin barrier, leading to premature skin aging.
On top of that, you really shouldn't be using loofahs on your face anyway. "Loofahs are hosts to tons of bacteria that can make their way into your pores when you're exfoliating the surface of the skin," she says.
Or using alkaline bar soaps
You might like the feeling of washing your face with bar soap, but it's not very gentle on the skin, and that can speed up the aging process. "Using bar soap can damage the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin. This can lead to premature wrinkling, larger pores, and cause acne and inflammation," Frieling says. "Also, bar soap is held in place by binders. These binders naturally have a higher pH than your skin, causing your skin to enter an alkaline state, which results in dryness. Dryness, in turn, can lead to aging."
Instead, stick to gentler cleansing options that are made for your sensitive facial skin, not just a quick hand-wash.
Using a face wash that contains fragrance
Your skincare products might smell good, but any added fragrance could do more harm than good in terms of your complexion. "Research has shown fragrances in skincare products are among the most common culprits of irritation. This can be true for all skin types, not just sensitive skin," says Frieling. "Although the damage from fragrance might not be visible or physically irritating in the moment of application, it can manifest over time."
Or using a face wash that contains alcohol
One of the worst things you can do for your skin is wash your face with something that contains alcohol, which is "intensely drying when it's used continuously and consistently over time," Frieling says. Unfortunately, that dryness is a major cause of accelerated aging. Before your next wash, check the ingredients on your go-to cleanser and make sure it doesn't contain the extra-harsh additive.
Washing with water that's too hot or cold
If you love washing your face with steamy-hot or extra-cold water, stop now: According to plastic surgeon Terry Maffi, MD, a plastic surgeon in Arizona, it's best to stick with a happy medium when it comes to temperature. "For facial washing, the best water temperature is warm," he writes on his website. "Cold water doesn't effectively remove the daily grime, and hot water may irritate and dry out your skin. Warm water helps loosen the dirt, but preserves your skin's natural hydrating oils."
Over-washing your face
The cleaner your face, the better, right? While washing your face is a good thing—clearing out irritants, pollutants, dirt, and excess oil—Frieling says you should never overdo it. How much is too much? More than twice a day. "Over-washing your face can damage the skin's protective system, which then can affect how easily the environment irritates your skin, how efficiently you retain moisture, and—over time—cause you to show early signs of aging," she says.
Not washing up after sweating
While dermatologists say washing your face twice a day is a good rule of thumb, there's one exception: washing your face after you workout. If you don't, all that built-up sweat can irritate your skin, which could eventually lead to wrinkles, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). So make sure you cleanse your face as soon as you can after hitting the gym.
Using the wrong cleanser for your skin type
You're not going to have youthful skin if you're using the wrong cleansing product. According to Short Hills Dermatology Consultants, it's best to choose specific options for your exact skin type, whether that's dry, normal, combination, or oily. Always go for something that will get rid of the gunk without drying you out.
Overusing skin cleansing brushes
Those fancy skincare brushes like the Clarisonic may be all the rage, but just make sure you don't do use yours every night. "It can cause skin damage and may lead to premature aging if used too frequently," Rouleau writes on her website. Unfortunately those bristles aren't as gentle as people think.
Scrubbing too rough
When you're washing your face, you have to be careful: Your skin is very delicate, after all. If you're always harshly scrubbing away, you can easily irritate your skin and cause wrinkles to form, according to the AAD. All it takes is a gentle wash to remove pollution, makeup, and other things that collect on your skin throughout the day.
Or roughly drying your face
While your face-washing technique is important, how you dry your skin off afterward matters, too. The AAD recommends patting your face dry with a soft towel. Or, better yet, ditch the towel altogether. "Air drying is a somewhat better way to dry your skin," Rachel Nazarian, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology in New York City, told Well+Good. It's a simple way to prevent any irritation, inflammation, and signs of aging.
Pulling at your skin
It's not just harshly drying your face that can lead to wrinkles down the line—it's tugging and pulling at your face when you're cleansing, applying makeup, or removing makeup. "The area of the face most likely to exhibit signs of aging from pulling or tugging are the eyes because this is where the skin is thinnest," Frieling says. "When you apply eyeliner or try to remove makeup, be gentle so you don't cause damage to the collagen and elastin fibers around the eye, which will speed up aging. Always be gentle on the rest of your face as well."
Using face wipes
Face wipes might help you remove makeup, dirt, and oil in seconds, but they're not all good. That repetitive tugging can cause some major problems. "Rubbing can cause low-grade inflammation that, over time, can promote skin pigmentation or even early wrinkling," dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, told Glamour.
Not removing your makeup
Sure, that tugging and pulling can be a problem, but going to sleep without removing all your makeup is arguably even worse. That negligence might save you time now, but it's only going to cost you in the end. Skincare expert and facialist Sonya Dakar told Forbes no one should ever go to bed without removing their foundation, concealer, bronzer, and other products, which can cause collagen breakdown and premature aging.
Or not washing your face at night
Washing your face in the morning is important to get rid of any oil that builds up while you're sleeping, but washing your face at night is crucial, too. "If you don't cleanse properly before you go to sleep, all of the build-up from the day—like pollution, oil, and sweat—can lead to issues with poor skin texture. You also don't give your skin time to rejuvenate," Frieling says. If you're not giving your skin a chance to fully repair itself, it's not going to be able to effectively fight off those wrinkles.
Not using lotion and sunscreen after washing your face
While washing and drying your face correctly are key to reducing future wrinkles, so is what you do right after you're finished. After drying your face, don't wait to apply your moisturizer and sunscreen. Using it right away will allow it to soak into your skin more effectively, keeping your complexion hydrated and youthful. "Sunscreen and moisturizer are the two most effective anti-aging products," Kejal Shah, MD, dermatologist at Cooper Clinic Dermatology in Dallas, told NBC News. "Exposure to UV light speeds up the natural aging process of your skin, causing wrinkles and rough, blotchy uneven pigmentation."