Many of us go out of our way to do what’s best for our skin. We double cleanse, exfoliate, detox, hydrate, mask, and massage with the best of them. We eat right (OK, we try). We keep a humidifier on our work desks. We sleep facing up. But there are little blunders we make while doing the very thing we think is benefitting our skin — our daily multi-step skincare regimen — that may be negating some of the positives.
A cold, hard look at our everyday actions during our morning and evening beauty sessions reveals all sorts of things we do that we definitely shouldn’t be doing. Kicking these bad habits can make a lasting difference, so here is a list of some of the most common slip-ups and skincare mistakes.
Silence your notifications. Hide your phone under your blankets. Do what you gotta do to make sure you don’t check your phone while plowing through all the steps of your skincare process, because the last thing your freshly cleansed skin wants is a layer of wrinkle cream infused with germs and bacteria.
Sadly, that’s very likely what we’re feeding our skin whenever we tap, double tap, or swipe the screen, then touch our face. According to a study by Deloitte in 2017, we check our phones 47 times a day, and for us K-beauty devotees, at least a few of those times are likely to be while we’re pampering our faces.
Disturbing, considering our mobile phones are a cesspool of acne-causing bacteria. In fact, these devices we consider our lifeline are teeming with more germs than most toilet seats, as we shared here. So every time we check our phones mid-routine, we’re running the risk of tok tok-ing unwanted pollutants into skin.
To avoid such an atrocity, save your phone usage till you’ve completed the last step. Unless, of course, replying to a text or liking a post is worth a pimple or blackhead.
You’re applying toner, then suddenly remember you left the stove on and run to the kitchen. On the way back to your vanity, you get sidetracked by your clothes strewn on the floor and stop to hang them up. Then your phone goes off so you check who’s messaging and mid-conversation — omg! — you forgot you were about to apply essence, so you go back to your skincare routine, only to find your skin stretching tight with dryness. Sound familiar?
Hey, life happens. But if possible, try to let life happen post-skincare because allowing skin to go completely dry mid-routine is one thing we definitely want to avoid. From the first step of cleansing to the very last step of moisturizing, our skin should stay slightly damp because that’s when, like a damp sponge, it is the most absorbent. When skin’s dry, it’s the least absorbent and won’t soak up nutrients as effectively.
Think of your houseplant. When you water the soil when it’s desert dry, the water tends to sit on top for a bit before sinking in. But if you pour water on ever so slightly moist soil, the water seeps into the dirt faster. The same goes for your skin with skincare products.
An exception to this rule is mineral-based sunscreen. It’s not formulated to absorb into skin, but rather, to act as a reflective barrier over the skin’s surface and protect it from from the sun’s rays. So if you apply mineral SPF onto damp skin, it can end up looking uneven and runny.
But for all other skincare products designed to soak into skin, move onto the next product in your routine immediately after most of the previous goodies have been absorbed by your skin, but before your skin feels parched dry. This magical moment happens when your skin still feels damp — not wet and not to the point where product is floating atop the surface of your skin. You should not be able to move the product around with your fingers, as you would be able to immediately upon application. But if you miss this perfect moment, fret not, because you can simply spritz on a facial mist to help your skin recover back to a more absorbent state.
With that said, speeding through the steps is also a big no-no. Yes, sometimes skincare routines can be so … routine. We’ve grown so accustomed to our daily steps that we can do them eyes closed. Really fast.
But do your skin a favor and slow it down. Know why you’re using each product and apply it with purpose. Are you using a wrinkle-targeting ampoule? Thoroughly pat and press it into the line-prone areas of your face. Using a brightening moisturizer? Make sure you’re especially massaging it into the darkened parts of your skin. Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many shortcuts we take on the road to the last step without even knowing it!
Also, it’s important that in between each step, we allow the product to really soak into skin before moving on to the next one. Layering on the next product before the previous one has had time to sink in can overflood the skin, leading to less absorption of nutrients into dermal layers.
Plus, generally the treatment step with active ingredients comes before moisturizing, and skincare is typically applied in order based on density from thin to thick, you don’t want the thicker emulsions and creams to prevent more aqueous products containing active ingredients from infusing efficiently into skin. There is a method to this madness, after all.
When it comes to skincare, it’s a good rule of thumb to keep all parties involved (face, hands, and most products) on the warmer side during application. No, this does not mean you should store your serums and creams inside a heated unit of some sort, but it does mean you should warm up your skin and products right before application. There are a few ways you can naturally heat things up hassle-free.
Every skincare routine starts with a good cleanse, and this is the perfect opportunity to warm your skin so your pores are prepped to drink up all the hydrating, nourishing ingredients you’re going to feed it. Wash your face with lukewarm (not hot) water; this little bump in temperature can loosen the sebum that builds up in your pores, clearing the way for better absorption of the product, not to mention the increased blood circulation that helps cells process ingredients faster.
You can also raise the heat of your products by warming up your hands before each step. One quick way to do this is to rub your hands together. Just make sure to do this before you dispense product onto your palms or fingers (except foam cleansers). Otherwise, the rubbing action will cause your hands to readily soak up the product, leaving little for your face and neck. Finishing each step by wrapping hands around the neck and pressing palms against your face will also help keep your hands and facial skin at room temperature. Warmer products not only penetrate skin more speedily, they also spread more easily over skin. This means less tugging and aggravating skin, which ultimately helps prevent unnecessary wrinkles and fine lines caused by friction.
Portion control. Ah, we even have to portion control our toners and creams?
While there are often directions on product labels as to how much we should use, whether a “dime-size” or “1 to 2 pumps” is sufficient for you depends on your skin type and the size of your face. If your skin is extremely dry or you have a larger face, for instance, you may need more than someone whose skin is oily and tiny.
From cleanser to cream, using the right amount can improve the effectiveness of each step. Too little product can leave skin dry and wanting more, which can lead to a host of dermal woes like wrinkles. It can also cause your hands and fingers to rub too harshly against your facial skin, resulting in irritation.
On the flip side, too much product can overwhelm skin and take too long to soak in. Your precious product can evaporate before your skin has a chance to let it in, and an excess of particularly thicker moisturizers can lead to clogged pores. Just as you’d eat less of the main entree if you gorged on appetizers, your skin drinks up most effectively whatever you feed it first. So too much of a good thing can hinder the absorption of ingredients in the later steps.
The just-right amount of product would be one that’s enough to spread over all the areas you want to reach and absorbs into skin in a reasonable time without swimming around on the surface for too long.
Guilty of any of these skincare mistakes? Don’t worry — it happens to the best of us, and it’s never too late to shape up your skincare. Which of these do you catch yourself doing? Any others to add to the list?