I’m a creature of habit—I tend to use the same beauty products the same way until something goes wrong. For years, I used a very drying face wash, thinking I needed to battle acne—even when it went away. The cleanser irritated my skin and created more problems as my skin overproduced oil to make up for the natural sebum I was washing away.
It wasn’t until I visited a makeup artist, who slathered my skin with moisturizer and made it look softer and smoother than it had in years, that I realized my skin needed a change. We all have beauty habits we cling to for better or worse. Here are six keepers for healthy glowing skin.
Tip 1: Exfoliate Gently
WHY: To remove the top layer of dead skin cells
HOW: Try exfoliants with soft, natural, and round jojoba beads or pulverized grains, not shells or seeds, which are jagged and can cause small abrasions on the skin, says Jeannette Graf, M.D., a dermatologist in Great Neck, N.Y., and author of Stop Aging, Start Living (Random House, 2008). Exfoliate twice a week, more if you have oily skin, or only once a week if your skin is sensitive.
Tip 2: Apply Sunscreen
WHY: To help prevent skin cancer and sun damage
HOW: Reapply regularly and not just on your face, but also on any exposed areas, says Doris Day, M.D., director of Day Cosmetic, Laser and Comprehensive Dermatology.
Tip 3: Cleanse Before Bed
WHY: To remove dirt and oil and unclog pores
HOW: Use a gentle, natural soap and lukewarm water. Hot water can dry out or scald skin while cold water doesn’t clean as well, explains dermatologist Day. Wipes are a good sub on busy nights.
Tip 4: Clean Your Makeup Tools
WHY: To prevent bacterial growth and infections
HOW: Wash your makeup sponges after each use and clean your makeup brushes once a week with a brush cleanser or mild shampoo. Get rid of any makeup that’s separated or smells funny and keep it out of the hot bathroom where it can break down more easily. Old makeup starts growing bacteria—you don’t want that on your face, says Graf.
Tip 5: Go Easy on Acne
WHY: To allow quick healing and prevent irritation
HOW: Don’t pick or pop a pimple. As soon as you see one, apply natural-drying witch hazel, or a product with salicylic acid (derived from willow bark) twice a day. If you have multiple breakouts, wash your skin with a gentle cleanser for oily skin, apply an oil-free moisturizer, and use nonirritating mineral makeup.
Tip 6: Keep It Simple
WHY: To prevent further damage to your skin
HOW: Stick with cleansers, sunscreens, and moisturizers for normal skin unless a dermatologist tells you otherwise. When you use products for extremely dry or oily skin, you wind up causing irritation, says Kenneth Beer, M.D., a dermatologist in Miami and author of Palm Beach Perfect Skin (mdpublish.com, 2006).