10 Ways Your Beauty Routine May Be Irritating Your Skin

Aly Walansky
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We try to take care of our skin by cleansing, exfoliating, moisturizing, and sun-protecting. That’s all important, of course – but are we taking these steps correctly? The wrong skin routine can do more harm than good. Your skin care should be working with your skin and not against it. Find out what you could be doing to actually harm your skin, instead of help it.

Any skin products that contain added fragrance, parabens and fillers can be very irritating to sensitive skin. If you have sensitive skin and are skeptical about using certain products, look for mostly natural products, or those with a lot of natural plant extracts and no added dyes, perfumes, and parabens, says Pamela Faller, a makeup artist for  Mehron. Toners that have witch hazel win them are great for minimizing pores and keeping the skin tight, and using this after washing the face and then moisturizing will keep it clean and hydrated. Coconut oil is a great, natural moisturizer that has so many uses. A little goes a long way, but using it as a moisturizer at night has many benefits and gives you a nice, healthy glow in the morning!

MORE: What No One Ever Tells You About Face Wipes

Don’t over exfoliate! A gentle cleanser used daily with a washcloth, and light scrubbing is a great way to thoroughly cleanse skin. If you see your skin breaking out, getting red and irritated, or becoming overly dry, this is a good indicator that you’ve crossed over into excessive exfoliation. No worries though, here’s a cheat sheet from makeup artist Achelle Dunaway, creative director for e.l.f. cosmetics:  If you like using scrubbing beads opt for about three to four times a week. Always rehydrate the skin after cleansing with a moisturizer to lock in hydration for a healthy, glowing complexion.

Very hot or very cold water is irritating to your facial skin. Don’t be  too zealous in your cleansing and rinsing routine with very hot or cold water, says Kathy Heshelow, founder of Sublime Beauty.

When applying serums and creams, use light strokes that move upward and outward. So many times we see women rubbing too hard or using strokes that  pull down on the skin, says Heshelow. Think more like a feather and less like a rock when  dealing with your skin!

If your skin is red, angry, dry and patchy, you are doing something wrong. It could be that you are using the wrong products that are too aggressive, or too much of the right products, or that you are treating your skin too abrasively, says Wendy Lewis of BeautyintheBag. For example, if you are a retinol user, do not scrub your face daily in the shower. Skip a day or switch to a gentle exfoliant with tiny beads that won’t harm your skin.

If you use acids on your skin. Some examples are glycolic, lactic or beta hydroxy; use only one type of acid at the same time. Don’t pile up on your acids – like glycolic cleanser, lactic acid based moisturizer, etc. on the same face at the same time, says Lewis.

If the toner you’re using contains alcohol, you may get the “clean” and “tight” feeling associated with using alcohol-based toners on the skin, but this ingredient will strip the skin of water, which results in dead cell build up and dull looking skin, says celebrity esthetician Renee Rouleau. Trying to dry up oily skin can backfire as stripped cell buildup traps oil and leads to break outs and more oil production. Toners without alcohol, on the other hand, are very important for removing the drying chlorines and minerals found in tap water. Make sure to use an alcohol-free toner both morning and night after cleansing.

MORE: 10 Things No One Ever Tells You About: Body Wash

If you’re using a cleanser that contains sulfates, it can dry your skin out. Sulfates are detergents commonly used in foaming and gel cleansers that companies feel is effective in cleaning the skin. But Ammonium or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate are just too drying to the skin, says Rouleau. If your skin feels tight after washing, it is a sign that the skin has been stripped of all its water, therefore causing surface dead skin cell build up. Then you have to rush and put your moisturizer on to put back the moisture that you just took out—which makes absolutely no sense! Cleansers that bubble up and lather a lot like a shampoo usually contain sulfates and will leave your skin feeling tight. Look for gentle, sulfate-free cleansers.

Skimping on the sun protection. UV exposure can also turn your skin into a more irritated state, so never leave home without an SPF30 or higher to protect skin from DNA damage. If your skin is truly sensitive, which is more rare than you think, use a physical sunscreen (like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) to avoid any reactions, says Lewis.

Skin responds to what you put on it as well as to how it is handled. If you touch your face too often, you can breed infection. Over cleansing will dry out your skin and leaving it red and tight. Be gentle – skin needs some TLC!

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