12 Things You Should Never, Ever Do to Your Skin, According to Dermatologists

Updated: Aug. 13, 2020

You probably know not to scour your face like a bathtub, but some of these skin care no-nos are more subtle. Here's what to avoid at all costs.

woman washing her face at the sink
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Skin care don’ts

Keeping a clean and healthy complexion is a combination of what you should do and what you shouldn’t do to your skin. Dermatologists share what you need to avoid and why these common bad habits do more harm than good.

woman looking in mirror and popping a pimple

Never pop a pimple

When a pimple is big and red and you want it gone ASAP, popping it can seem like a good idea. “It is so tempting to do,” says Jeffrey Fromowitz, MD, a dermatologist in Boca Raton, Florida. “But whenever you create a disruption in the skin, it increases the chance of infection, inflammation, and even scarring.” Instead, if you have a really prominent pimple you want to disappear, go see your dermatologist—or if you insist, try this dermatologist-approved way to pop a pimple.

Never leave home without applying sunscreen

You might be diligent about slathering on sunscreen while lying on the beach, but it’s just as important to apply it even if you’re just running errands. “Make sunscreen a part of your daily routine,” says Dr. Fromowitz. “Exposing your skin to the sun without sunscreen increases your risk of skin cancer and damages the collagen in the skin leading to lines and wrinkles as well as sun spots.” And if you plan to be out in the sun extensively, take extra protective measures. “Wear sun-protective clothing and avoid the middle of the day,” suggests Jeremy Brauer, MD, clinical assistant professor at NYU Langone Medical Center. “And schedule outdoor activities in the early morning or late afternoon, when the sun isn’t as strong.”

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Never get lemon or lime on your skin while in the sun

Some people use lime juice as a home remedy for acne, believing that it has antioxidants and antiseptic properties while improving skin elasticity. But it could cause problems. “You will get a ‘phototoxic’ reaction, which can be a blister or just pigmentation that can last for months,” says dermatologist Alejandra Vivas, MD, of Minars Dermatology in Miami. “A common scenario is for someone drinking a beer with lime at the beach to get some lime juice on their hand.”

woman getting a tattoo

Never get a tattoo with white ink

We all know tattoos are mostly permanent—unless you get laser treatments to remove them. But can’t erase mistakes that involve white ink! “White ink is often impossible to laser off,” says Todd Minars, MD, of Minars Dermatology. “Sometimes the white ink will even turn black when lasered.” Other difficult color inks to remove with lasers are yellow and green. “Stick with black or dark blue if you must tattoo,” he says.

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Never use miracle products that tout secret ingredients

Your skin is delicate and easily irritated, and there are no such things as miracle creams or skin lotions. “Never use products that do not list out their ingredients,” says Dr. Fromowitz. “You must know what you are putting on your skin. When in doubt,” she adds, “discuss the product or your skin need with your dermatologist who can guide you toward safe and effective product choices, specifically tailored for your skin type and problem.”

woman getting a chemical peel on her face

Never DIY high-level treatments

The internet has created access to nearly every imaginable product, including many that should be available only by prescription or only to physicians. While it is tempting to buy a professional-strength chemical peel to do at home to save money, resist the temptation. “These are powerful products with significant risk if not done properly,” says Dr. Fromowitz. “Trust your skin to an expert. Get your treatments with a board-certified dermatologist.”

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Never pick at your skin

We’ve all done it at some point—spending an hour in front of a magnification mirror going over every inch of our skin. But that’s a big no-no. “Repetitively picking/scratching at acne, blackheads, bug bites, or other skin lesions could lead to not only infection but scarring and possibly permanent change in pigment,” says Dr. Brauer. “That could all be avoided if left alone and treated properly in the first place.”

woman pointing to mole on her face

Never ignore a new or changing mole

If you have what you believe to be a pimple, sore, or other skin blemish that won’t heal, it may not be a pimple after all. “That’s the common tale that often leads to a skin cancer diagnosis,” says Dr. Brauer. Familiarize yourself with your ABCDEs [asymmetry, uneven border, color variation, large diameter, and evolving] of melanoma, don’t wait, and get regular total body skin exams with a board-certified dermatologist.” (Here’s how to check your moles for signs of skin cancer.)

woman with cyst on her face

Never squeeze deep cysts

You may be looking for instant relief when you have painful cystic acne, but avoid popping it at all costs. “Frequently, patients try to squeeze the contents of epidermal cysts through their characteristically small opening,” says Dr. Vivas. “This pressure can actually rupture the cyst inside, creating a severe inflammatory reaction and possible infection that will likely require drainage and taking oral antibiotics.” Instead, see a doctor who might be able to help with a cortisone injection.

woman washing her face

Never use too much soap

When it comes to getting clean and washing your face, more soap is not better. “Your skin is your body’s protection from the outside world, and healthy, intact skin forms an impressive barrier,” says Dr. Brauer. “When we strip down the natural components of this barrier, which we can do using too much soap and of course aggressively scrubbing, you increase the risk of infections and skin disease and flares in general.”

assortment of beauty products
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Never use expired products

There’s a reason for those expiration dates on your skin care potions. When you use expired products, even if they seem fine, there’s a chance that the active ingredients have begun to degrade. Or the ingredient may no longer be active at all and could lead to irritation, according to Dr. Brauer. When you first buy a product, look at the date to make sure it hasn’t been sitting on the shelf too long already. Then keep an eye or set a calendar reminder once you start using the product. If you’re looking for a fail-safe way to ensure you have up-to-date products, consider signing up for an automatic renewal program. (Here’s a guide for when to toss your go-to beauty products and tools.)

tools for removing pimples and acne
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Never stick sharp objects into your skin

It seems like this wouldn’t need mentioning, but people can go to extremes when it comes to getting rid of a pimple. Just remember: There are certain tools that should be left to the experts. “Never stick needles into a blemish,” says Dr. Berson. “It will only increase inflammation and the potential for pigmentation, infection, and scarring. So, rather than getting rid of it, it will only last longer and leave a scar.”

Next, check out the 12 questions you should ask your dermatologist at your next checkup.