You’re probably/definitely making mistake #7.
Let’s talk about lotion. It might seem like a relatively cut-and-dry activity—not just because you apply it when you’re dry—but there’s a lot more to moisturizing than mindless rubbing and furious slapping. Although your skin is a beautiful, magical thing capable of absorbing your skincare products, it needs your help if you want to attain maximum moisture levels. Moisturizing the wrong way could lead to a ton of other issues, including dryness, itchiness, irritation, and breakouts. Because hydrating is arguably the most important step in your skincare routine, we teamed up with Charles Puza, M.D., board-certified dermatologist, to review the most common moisturizing mistakes that are sabotaging your glowy skin goals.
1. You apply on dirty skin
One of the gravest moisturizer sins you can make if you’re sensitive is applying lotion on dirty skin. Let me explain: A good moisturizer helps to seal your skin barrier. The barrier keeps the moisture in and the outside world—full of bacteria, allergens, and irritants—out. Thus, if you’re applying moisturizer on dirty skin, you’re locking in all the bad stuff, making you vulnerable to irritation. Plus, your skin is most absorbent when it’s damp, so wouldn’t you want to get the most of our product? The takeaway: Always moisturize immediately after bathing so you’re working with a clean foundation.
2. You refrain from applying on acne-prone skin
As someone who used to (and still does sometimes) get breakouts, I understand the fear of slathering lotion on them. “Many patients are concerned that moisturizers will further clog their pores and exacerbate acne (and some moisturizers just might!),” says Dr. Puza. However, not hydrating at all will cause your skin to produce more oils to overcompensate, counterintuitively continuing the breakout cycle.
“Not all moisturizers are the same, and there are some great ones out there that fight acne and add moisture,” adds Dr. Puza. He recommends Clean & Clear Dual Action Moisturizer ($5; amazon.com), which is oil-free and combats breakouts with salicylic acid. The rule of thumb is always apply moisturizer, just something more lightweight for acne-prone areas.
3. You use the same moisturizer day and night
Generally speaking, a daytime and nighttime skincare routine shouldn’t be identical. Unless you apply additional serums, the morning requires a moisturizer with antioxidants and SPF, whereas the nighttime focuses on skin repairing. “Personally, I recommend using a combo moisturizer with SPF 30 in the morning and a thicker, more hydrating lotion at night,” says Dr. Puza. “The thicker lotion in the evening is to help hydrate your skin after retinoids (which are so important to use regularly!) and prevent the dreaded ‘retinol purge'”.
4. You’re not patient for results
It’s easy to get impatient when your brand-new moisturizer isn’t making a difference, but don’t give up too quickly—patience is key with new products. “I tell everyone that you need to give a product at least four to six weeks before you make an informed opinion on it,” says Dr. Puza. That being said, if a product is instantly irritating, stop using it.
5. You’re not consistent
As a beauty editor and skincare lover, I understand the temptation of using a slew of new products in a short time frame. However, consistency and patience go hand in hand in skincare. “You need to give your products time to work and develop a routine,” says Dr. Puza. “Intermittent skin is not going to give you the best results.” Once you start a routine—whether it’s two steps or 19—make sure to stick with it.
6. You skip your neck
One of the biggest telltale signs of aging is a wrinkly neck and décolletage. Your neck gets a ton of sun, so it’s crucial to treat your neck with the same amount of attention you would give your face. Yes, that includes sunscreen, retinoids, and a hydrating lotion.
7. You rub too hard
We’re all probably a little guilty of this one, but your application method can make or break your skincare routine. “I tell all my patients not to excessively rub or tug at the skin,” says Dr. Puza. “We often talk about the itch-scratch cycle in dermatology. If you rub or aggravate your skin, it will fight back. To prevent your skin from getting unnecessarily damaged and wrinkled, be gentle.” The best anti-aging approach is to apply gently in circular motions using clean fingertips, then use your ring finger to apply moisturizer in more delicate areas (like the undereyes).
8. You apply fragrances on sensitive skin
We all love a delicious-smelling formula, but that seemingly innocent mango scent could be the culprit behind your skin problems. It’s difficult enough to understand the soup of ingredients listed on most beauty products, let alone the complicated terms that brands use to describe fragrances. “In my opinion (and most derms’ opinions), fragrance is unnecessary and only adds a potential irritant to the mix,” says Dr. Puza.
And remember: Just because something is unscented doesn’t mean it is fragrance-free. Unscented generally means that the product doesn’t have an obvious fragrance, but may contain substances that neutralize or mask the odors of other active ingredients (which don’t always smell too great). Your best bet is reading over the ingredients list to confirm there are absolutely no fragrances present.
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