Friday, May 10, 2013

Common skincare mistakes & what to avoid

Hey everyone! I've been wanting to write up a post about common mistakes people make with their skincare routines that should be avoided. A lot of the mistakes are really common, while others aren't as obvious. I've tried to make this relatively simple and easy to read/understand, so if you have any comments or if something's not clear, please don't hesitate to let me know! Sources can be found at the bottom of the post :)

So, first thing is first. There is some general background knowledge you should know about your skin before reading further. This will involve a little bit of chemistry, but it's very important to understand if you want to take care of your skin!

As I'm sure most of you know, there is a pH scale that measures how acidic or alkaline a liquid is. 1 is the most acidic, 14 is the most alkaline. Your skin has a pH level between 4.5-5.5; or, the first layer of your skin (called the acid mantle) has that pH level. This is one way your skin protects itself from harmful bacteria, pollution, and moisture loss. Messing with the pH level of your skin messes with the acid mantle's ability to protect your skin, and it takes only a moment for your skin's acid mantle to be damaged, but between 14-17 days for it to repair itself. Continued, daily use of products that damage the acid mantle will lead to issues like 'dry skin, dehydration, over oily skin, flaky skin, acne, and sensitivity'. This gets worse the older you get, as your skin loses its ability to recover from the damage.

Keep this in mind when reading over the next few common skincare mistakes~

1) Using products with inappropriate pH for your skin

The above paragraph basically covered this, but I'll elaborate a bit further. Here are some pH levels from products that are commonly used in (DIY) skincare vs healthy skin.

pH 2 = lemon juice 
pH 4.5-5.5 = healthy skin
pH 8.5 = baking soda 
pH 9.0-10.0 = Hand Soap, detergents

As a side note- not all acids are bad for your skin (though you should avoid things like, say, stomach acid). Acid peels (lactic acid, glyocolic, mandelic, etc) are normal and very useful for helping even out ones skin tone, as is using a daily AHA or BHA for chemical exfoliation. Lemon juice by itself isn't necessarily absolutely terrible. What can be bad is how people use it- they use it too often by itself (without mixing it with something to lessen the concentration) without realizing that it dries your skin out and causes photosensitivity. This can lead to hyperpigmentation, dehydrated skin, and even phytophotodermatisis. If you do choose to use lemon juice, mix it well and use it at night sparingly. On the other hand, you could just use much safer acid peels from somewhere like Makeup Artist's Choice or a daily BHA/AHA exfoliant to get better results without the risk.

On the other side of the spectrum, using alkaline products (of which the vast majority of cleansers are) leads to a decrease in your skin's ability to kill harmful bacterium, including the kind that causes acne. This ends up leading to more, not less, acne (so basically the opposite of what you want haha). A lot of cleansers simply have way too high of pH to be good for your skin. I've begun testing the pH levels of my skincare products, and can start posting them with reviews if any of y'all are interested.

2) Using too harsh physical scrubs (too often)

On to the next very common mistake- harsh physical scrubs! Essentially any scrub that uses things like crushed nut shells or anything equally non-uniform can cause little microtears in your skin due to the uneven jagged edges, damaging your skin's barrier. If you have to use a physical exfoliant, a soft wash cloth is probably your best choice. It won't clog your pores or tear at your skin. If you really, really want a scrub though,  it should have microbeads or something uniform that won't be too harsh. You should also avoid plastic beads, because they can really hurt the environment once they're washed down the drain :(

Once you've found a decent scrub, you shouldn't use it too often. For some people, exfoliating once a week is perfect, for others it's once a day. Just don't tug too much or be too harsh!

Another gentle option for exfoliation are those 'peel' gels, like Cure Natural Aqua Gel or Tonymoly's Appletox peeling cream. From what I understand, they're basically like a more gentle version of an acid peel that won't dry your skin out. If you do invest in one of these, be careful not to use it too often!

3) Using pore strips

What most people think of as blackheads are actually something called sebaceous filaments. Sebum is an oily substance that your skin naturally produces to protect itself from moisture loss. When this sebum collects around hair follicles, 'tiny tubes' of this sebum are formed. Your genetics determine how prominent they are, but they're not blackheads.

Image found here

Even if you use a pore strip on them, they will come right back. But you don't want to use pore strips on them in the first place, for a few reasons:
  • Peeling off the strips is harsh on your skin, leading to dryness and flakes.
  • All the tugging can cause broken capillaries- these are permanent, requiring laser treatments to fix. I have some on the sides of my nose from too harshly extracting pimples, and I hate them. :/ Don't beee liiikkee meee!!!
  • They can stretch out your pores, leading to even more obvious sebaceous filaments!
That's not to say there's nothing you can do, however! Regular chemical exfoliation with an AHA or a BHA and a regular (gentle) oil massaging can reduce the appearance of both your normal pores and the sebaceous filaments on your nose. If anyone's interested in information about BHAs or AHAs, see here.

4) Not using (enough) sunscreen

Everyone should be using 1/4 of a teaspoon of a broad spectrum sunscreen on your face, even on cloudy or rainy days. If you don't apply that much sunscreen, you aren't getting the full SPF protection stated on the bottle, and UVA rays are constantly present, rain or shine (UVB rays are more prevalent on sunny days, but still there!). This is even more important if you're using an AHA, BHA, or retinoid, as these increases your skin's sensitivity to sun. Using sunscreen is simply the best preventative tool you have available to ensure that you have lovely skin as you age! :)

Roughly 1/4 teaspoon of sunscreen, Image from here.



  1. Love the tips! :'D
    Thank you for the detailed advice~ c:

  2. These tips are great! I used to use really harsh skin products from the age of 14, well, I used to use up all of my mums expensive high acid content products, rough harsh scrubs and creams made for the more mature skin trying to be all grown up!! I thought this would prevent me from having any skin issues but I was definitely wrong, I'm now paying for it and now try to use more natural products to give my skin time to heal xox

  3. I think taking care of the skin is more important than trying to cover everything with makeup. I used to always use undiluted lemon juice to brighten up my skin. It's terrible, but it worked! Unfortunately, I'm paying for it now, since I used to not wear sunscreen either :/ Lovely tips! :)

    1. You and me both :/ Oh well, live and learn! The most important thing is that we take care of our skin now! :D

  4. Love this post and your blog :) I definitely fall into the category of using harsh scrubs too often.

  5. Thank you for this post ^^ Very useful!!

  6. Thank you so much for this post!
    Very informative and helpful to me.
    I really like your blog and have just followed you! If you have the time, please check out my blog as well! ^_^

  7. I still haven't quite figured out how to stop my pores from looking so clogged...I hate those filaments. :( Does oil help it from clogging it with "bad" oil? I feel like there's nothing that can be done.

    1. Gentle oil massaging helps reduce the appearance of them, because you're massaging out the bad oil yes :D It feels like little bits of sand when you do it, and some days are better than others. A daily AHA/BHA exfoliant (is that even a word lol?) also really really helps reduce the appearance of both large pores and sebaceous filaments, I've seen a noticeable improvement in both since starting :D

  8. I'm confused, 1/4 of teaspoon is not much and on that photo it seems the amount is a like a whole teaspoon. o.O)

  9. Oh yes that's mistake that every body makes. Thanks for sharing this. It's really useful.

    Alison Clarke
    obagi nu derm starter kit

  10. This is pretty good! I think you probably know how I feel about microtears (in that they are not as risky as is being reported) but I agree with your advice that people should try not to let their skin become too irritated by these.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...