8 Things Dermatologists Never Put on Their Faces

Updated: Jul. 02, 2020

The pros don't let these things ruin their complexion, so neither should you.

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What not to do, according to dermatologists

Following the simple rules of good skincare is easy—wash, moisturize, and protect with sunscreen. But dermatologists have a public service announcement: Keep these items away from your face. Here are the skincare products dermatologists avoid using on their faces and why you should ditch them, too.

dermatologist Joel Schlessinger
Courtesy of Joel Schlessinger, Carolyn Franks/shutterstock


“I wouldn’t recommend using a buff puff or loofah. It all comes down to the transfer of bacteria. Loofah sponges are intimate with many unclean areas of the body and then sit around allowing bacteria to multiply within the nooks and crannies of the sponge. Just like kitchen sponges, this common cleansing tool should be tossed. What to use instead? Your hands and a gentle cleanser.” Joel Schlessinger, MD, board-certified dermatologist

dermatologist Nava Greenfield
Courtesy of Nava Greenfield, Bennyartist/shutterstock

Exfoliating brush

“I stay away from exfoliating brushes on my face. Skin on the face must be treated very gently. The skin naturally exfoliates, so harsh devices are not needed and can even cause damage, irritation, and in severe cases even scarring.” Nava Greenfield, MD, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City

dermatologist Dendy Engelman
Courtesy Elizabeth Arden, Hekla/shutterstock

Synthetic fragrance

“Synthetic fragrances are made up of potentially harmful chemicals, like petroleum, benzene derivatives, aldehydes, and toluene, which are linked to allergic reactions and can cause irritation and redness on the applied area. Look for terms like parfum, perfume, linalool, limonene, eugenol, citronellol, geraniol, and cinnamal to clue you in that a product contains fragrance.” Dendy Engelman, MD, dermatologic surgeon at Manhattan Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery. (Don’t miss these other signs your skin-care products are actually bad for you.)

dermatologist Debra Jaliman
Courtesy David Vaughan, FabrikaSimf/shutterstock

Silicone primers

“Steer clear of primers containing silicone, which clogs your pores and blocks the flow of oxygen. If you have acne-prone skin, it also traps blemish-causing bacteria. Ingredients to avoid include cyclopentasiloxane, cyclohexasiloxane, dimethicone, phenyl, and trimethicone.” Debra Jaliman, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City. (These are other beauty products dermatologists wish you’d stop using.)

dermatologist Patricia Wexler
Courtesy of Patricia Wexler, imagehub/shutterstock

Abrasive face scrubs

“I would never use an abrasive exfoliant, such as a crushed nut preparation or a rough scrub. This could cause inflammation, abrasions, post-inflammatory pigmentation, or dilated blood vessels—especially with sensitive skin like I have.” Patricia Wexler, MD, a dermatologist in New York

dermatologist Jennifer MacGregor
Courtesy Sara Weiss, COLOA Studio/shutterstock

Hot wax

“When it comes to hair removal, I would choose laser, tweezing, or threading instead of waxing. The hot wax adheres to your skin and pulls off a layer along with the hair. If you use retinoids or exfoliants regularly it could even cause you to blister, burn, scab or scar. Ouch!” —Jennifer MacGregor, MD, a dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology

dermatologist Francesca Fusco
Courtesy of Francesca Fusco, Stockforlife/shutterstock

Alcohol-based astringent

“I have such dry skin, so any alcohol-based formula dries me out further. If I feel I need a toner I go for witch hazel, which contains tannins, a type of polyphenol, that make it a natural astringent to reduce oil and inflammation and soothe irritation.” Francesca Fusco, MD, a dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology

dermatologist Joshua Zeichner
Courtesy of Francesca Fusco, SV Production/shutterstock


“While you may have heard the skin-care myth that toothpaste will clear up your breakouts, it’s more likely to cause irritation more than anything else. If you find yourself with a red, angry pimple, apply over the counter 2.5 percent benzoyl peroxide formula, like Neutrogena On-The-Spot Acne Treatment, to kill blemish-causing bacteria and reduce inflammation.” Joshua Zeichner, MD, board-certified dermatologist

Next up: Find out the 37 worst pieces of skin-care advice dermatologists have heard.