9 Reasons Your Skin Hates You

Updated: Feb. 26, 2021

Who knew toothpaste and washcloths could be so infuriating?

closeup of a young caucasian man seen from behind on the beach applying sunscreen to his own back

You sometimes use sunscreen

Always. It should be always sunscreen, as in every time you go outside—rain, shine, cold, crappy, it doesn’t matter. If there’s daylight, there are ultraviolet rays; in fact, even when the clouds are blocking your sun, up to 80 percent of the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB can penetrate your skin. You know skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US; an estimated one in five Americans will develop it in their lifetime. You also know too much sun will age your skin faster—many wrinkles, dark spots, and skin sagginess can be blamed on UVA rays. What you may not realize, however, is that excessive sun exposure can damage special immune cells in the skin that combat infection, help prevent the reactivation of certain viral conditions (like cold sores), and target certain pre-cancerous and cancerous cells. These sunscreen myths make dermatologists cringe.

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You sunscreen after you’re outside

The bottle you’re using says: SPF 30 (or higher), broad spectrum (so it protects your skin from both UVA aging rays and UVB burning rays) and water resistant (effective for up to 40 minutes in the water; very water resistant works for 80 minutes). This is all excellent. But for your sunscreen to do its job properly, it needs to be applied 15 minutes before you head outdoors, so your skin can fully absorb it. In the time it takes you to find the perfect spot on the beach, set up your chair, move to a better spot, open your umbrella, and then grab the sunscreen, your skin is unprotected and can burn. Also, be sure to use enough sunscreen to generously cover all of your exposed skin, and don’t forget to reapply at least every two hours, or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating. These are some surprising places you never knew you could get skin cancer.

Woman cleaning washing her face with clean water in bathroom. Girl taking care of her complexion. Morning hygiene. Skincare treatment

You use a washcloth

Not only is a washcloth way too harsh for your face, but the washcloth scrubs off oils we need on our bodies, explains Chris G. Adigun, MD, a dermatologist in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. “Ditch the washcloth,” she says; your hands are fine to lather up your body, and stick to fingertips for your face. And as good as that steady stream of shower water feels, limit it to 10 minutes at a lukewarm temp; long, hot showers dry your skin.


You put soap on that washcloth

Your skin hates you twice as much now. Gentle or non-soap cleansers are the way to go. “Soap has a high pH, which strips away natural oils and basically destroys the skin,” says Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor, department of dermatology, Yale School of Medicine. The products with scrubbing beads and grit can be too abrasive as well, adds Dr. Adigun. When you over-exfoliate or overuse toners in an effort to make your skin less oily, you body compensates and creates an overproduction of oil, essentially defeating the purpose, explains Dr. Gohara. These are other beauty products dermatologists wish you’d stop using.

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Moisturizing isn’t part of your post-shower routine

When your skin is damp really is the best time to do it. Moisturizers work by trapping existing moisture in your skin. Ointments and creams (the kind you find in a jar or tub) are more effective than lotion at helping soften and smooth skin, and most importantly—keeping it intact. “The skin is our first line of defense against infections,” says Dr. Adigun; it helps block bacteria, viruses, and fungi from entering the body. Moisturizing regularly helps prevent microscopic cracks and breaks in the skin from developing, which compromises this barrier function. Some ingredients to look for: olive or jojoba oil, ceramides, lactic acid, urea, hyaluronic acid, dimethicone, glycerin, and petrolatum.


You believe toothpaste helps acne

It doesn’t. An alcohol-based toner and astringent isn’t going to make that pimple go away either. And you know what else isn’t true? That you should pour a bunch of hydrogen peroxide on a cut or scrape to clean it out. Those old wives’ tales just irritate your skin even more. And these acne myths could be making your complexion worse.

Man playing with his phone at supermarket

You never clean your cell phone

Research has shown it has more germs than a public bathroom door handle. And if that’s not gross enough, Buzzfeed asked a microbiologist to compare bacteria on a toilet seat versus a few phones. The toilet seat had about three different types of bacteria; the cell phones had an average of 10 to 12 different (and worse) strains. “Push that dirty phone up against your face to talk, and you’re swirling bacteria and oil into your pores,” says Gohara. She cleans hers with a facial wipe; alcohol wipes work too.

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You’re a chocoholic

Whether or not eating it will make you break out is still up for debate, but what experts do know is that overeating sugar can leave your skin dull and wrinkled. As you indulge in your favorite flavor of ice cream, cake, and candy bar, sugar molecules bind to proteins in your skin, causing damage to the fibers that keep skin firm and elastic, and likely leading to wrinkles and sagginess. Make sure you never, ever do these things to your skin.

Young african woman sleeping in her bed at night, she is resting with eyes closed

You think “beauty sleep” is funny

You can’t help it: Any time someone say they have to get their “beauty sleep,” you giggle. But it’s so not a punch line. Your skin is constantly making new cells below the surface, and this process speeds up during sleep. When you don’t get enough rest, skin cells have less opportunity to regenerate; plus, stress hormones increase, which can contribute to inflammation. So when you hear it’s time to get some beauty sleep, stifle and hit the sack: Research has shown people who get uninterrupted, quality sleep show half as many signs of aging as poor sleepers, including fewer fine lines, better elasticity, and more even tone. Ideal: seven to nine hours a night. Next, read about the surprising diseases your skin can reveal.