These Surprising “Good” Things are Wrecking Your Skin

Everyone wants beautiful skin. We are bombarded with marketing messages telling us what we need to do to have that youthful glow: scrub, wash, peel and pluck – and don’t forget the $300 moisturizer! But what if some of the “good” things you do daily are actually causing the exact opposite result, and may even be damaging or aging your skin without you knowing it? Here are some of the surprising things that could be wrecking your skin.

Getting 8 hours’ sleep

Getting enough sleep each night is critical for health and wellbeing (not to mention beauty), but when you sleep on the wrong type of pillowcase (such as cotton or polyester), you can be left with dry, irritated, and wrinkled skin. Try using a silk pillowcase instead. Silk can be beneficial for your skin and hair, helping your skin stay healthy and smooth reducing the appearance of facial wrinkles. 

Sleeping on a dirty pillowcase can also damage your skin. At night, your skin gets a chance to rest and shed its dead cells. Those dead cells can build up over time on your pillowcase, leaving behind bacteria and toxins. To keep your skin healthy, make sure you change your pillowcase at least once every two weeks. Silk pillowcases are helpful here as well since the fiber’s natural hypoallergenic properties include resistance to allergens such as dust mites, fungus, and mold.

That luxurious foaming facewash

While taking care of your skin is important, using the wrong products could cause less favorable results. If your face wash is super-foamy and lathery, there’s a fairly good chance it’s alkaline because the ingredients that give it those qualities are high pH. The acid mantle is the protective film of natural oils, amino acids, and sweat that covers your skin. Damage it with too much scrubbing or neutralize it with alkaline washes, and you’re on your way to barrier problems such as inflammation, allergies, breakouts.

Using skin products can also lead to a damaged skin barrier, with symptoms such as inflammation and patchy, flaky skin. This can eventually lead to other problems since it means the skin’s defenses are compromised. Besides sensitive skin, barrier dysfunction is also partly responsible for rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, and acne.

Be cautious about the products you put on your face; a 2018 German study found that only a little over a third of commonly available moisturizers had a pH level that is “appropriate for barrier protective basic therapy.” To save your skin, choose natural products, or use DIY methods such as oil cleansing.

Taking a shower

Maybe you think you need hot water to kill germs, or maybe you just like how the warmth relaxes your muscles – but hot showers are no friend to your skin. Hot showers strip your skin of its natural oils, drying it out, while also potentially causing a breeding ground for unfriendly skin bugs to proliferate. Try taking a warm shower – not too hot – to preserve skin’s moisture barrier and overall health. 

The heat from prolonged showers can lead to dry skin, but so can your shower head. With all the purifying agents used to filter public water, chemicals can build up on the skin over time. Invest in a shower head filter to fight off dry skin caused by chlorine and other elements.

That workout at the pool

You deserve a high-five for making it to the pool for that lane-swim workout – but what is it doing to your skin? The chlorine used to treat swimming pool water is known as an “oxidizing” agent, meaning that it can oxidize other substances. That means it can encourage the formation of free radicals—those nasty molecules that damage cells, proteins, lipids, and DNA. Too much oxidation can lead to inflammation, disease, and aging. Knowing this, you can guess what chlorine does to your hair and skin. It not only robs both of natural moisturizers and oils, but it’s powerful oxidation processes—often called “corrosive”—can result in lasting damage that accentuates the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also destroys vitamin E and essential fatty acids that the skin needs to appear its best.

Your pre-and-post-pool regimen is vital when it comes to your skin. Even after a shower, chlorine can cling to the skin and react with topical medications, cleansers, and even lotions. Try applying a natural oil, such as sweet almond oil or coconut oil to your skin as protection before entering the pool. To effectively remove chlorine, wash with gentle, sulfate-free soap after you take a dip.

Wearing sunglasses

Wearing sunglasses outdoors can be good for your eyes, but it could be causing issues for your skin. 

Like your regular lenses, don’t forget to wipe your sunglasses clean. Bacteria that builds up on your glasses can get into the pores around the bridge of your nose, causing breakouts and irritation.

Exfoliating your skin

Over-exfoliating your skin can strip it of the necessary oils it needs to maintain your natural glow. Exfoliate your skin just once a week to keep it healthy.

That fat-free milk

Fat-free products, which you might think may help you lose weight, can actually harm your skin. A study found an association between consumption of fat-free milk – but not full-fat milk – and greater instances of acne. This may be because the milk proteins, whey, and casein, can impact insulin levels and unleash major systemic inflammation. Importantly, whey and casein are often added in even greater quantities to skim milk to help thicken these fat-free products. Go for unsweetened non-dairy milk products like almond, hemp, flax, or coconut instead.

Your diet soda indulgence

While you may think you’re doing yourself a favor by choosing the diet soda, keep in mind that artificial sweeteners are linked to skin conditions such as acne, diabetes, and rosacea. Studies are emerging that suggest sweeteners may affect insulin levels, increase inflammation, and change the composition of good bacteria in your gut—and all this can show up on your face. High insulin levels are a primary cause of hormonal imbalances and skin disorders, especially acne. Since artificial sweeteners throw your blood sugar balance off, they too are capable of triggering skin issues. Try skipping the soda altogether and opt for kombucha or sparkling water with lemon. 

Taking antibiotics

While antibiotics can be an extremely important medical intervention when necessary, a recent study estimated that at least 30 percent of antibiotics prescribed in the U.S. are unnecessary. Overuse of these drugs can create antibiotic-resistant superbugs, and kill the “good” bacteria in our intestines and skin along with the bad. These good bugs have the power to fight the infectious bugs and rampant inflammation underlying skin disorders and systemic illnesses. The widespread obsession with antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers is thought to be exacerbating this issue. Avoid antibacterial products and antibiotics whenever possible, so that you can benefit from their effectiveness when you really need them. 

Eating lots of protein

While protein is excellent for supporting healthy blood sugar, energy levels, and muscle health, too much could cause more harm than good. If your plate is loaded up with protein, this means you could be skimping on antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, and your skin is missing out. Numerous studies have demonstrated that antioxidants can slow down or even reverse signs of aging, including fine lines, wrinkles, and brown spots, by protecting the skin from the ravages of sunburn, inflammation, and DNA damage. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals to stop them from damaging your skin and calm inflammatory responses that fuel skin conditions like acne, eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. Which antioxidant fruits and vegetables should you be eating? Opt for anything brightly colored, like tomatoes, berries, carrots, and sweet potatoes. 

Giving up coffee

One habit that actually might be good for you is your daily cup of joe. Along with other health benefits, in moderate amounts, certain properties in coffee may help keep your skin healthy. Although we typically think about antioxidants in terms of colorful fruits and veggies, the flavonoids found in coffee pack a powerful punch of antioxidants as well. These antioxidants fight premature aging arising from damaging free radicals, light, and pollution. On the other hand, too much caffeine can age skin, so stick to one or two cups a day –  then switch to green tea or rooibos tea for more antioxidant power.

If you’ve ever felt like taking care of your skin is a losing battle, take a look at some of your everyday habits. A few small changes could help your skin stay firmer, brighter, and healthier in the long term.

-Liivi Hess

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