All the Bad Skin Habits I Finally Broke

Nov 13, 2019

Growing up in a family with good genes is a blessing and a curse. The pros: I’m pretty confident I’ll age well since my mother and grandmother look pretty damn good for their age. The cons: My family being blessed with great skin means they never paid much attention to their skincare routine. Also, the acne-free thing was never passed down to me. 

Skincare is all trial and error. I still have pretty bad hormonal breakouts, but for the most part, I’m able to control them. And while finding good products has helped me develop a routine, breaking bad habits is what really changed my life – not to sound too dramatic. So for anyone who hates their skin as much as I did, my advice is the same for you all: Change your shitty routine instead of adding to it.

Here’s what worked for me. 

Stopped picking at my pimples.

The ability to just stop picking at your skin is easier said than done. Especially when that pimple looks plump enough to pop. Or that scab is perfectly dry to peel off. Seriously, there’s nothing more satisfying than getting rid of bumps and flakes. 

Picking at my skin, however, became an awful habit I’m still fighting today. The only thing that’s helped me is reminding myself that my hands are dirty, gross, and only adding bacteria to my face every time I touch it. 

When I have a pimple that’s ready to be popped, I try to leave it alone as long as possible. I’ll then take a warm wash cloth and press it against my face so that the pores can open up and the pimple will drain itself. I noticed with cystic acne, popping a pimple with my fingers caused major scarring. I now tell myself the gentler, the better. 

Thought SPF was only for pale people.

Anyone with a drop of melanin grows up thinking they don’t need sunscreen. That’s a lie. For pretty much my entire life, I only applied SPF to my body if I were out in the sun for 3+ hours. I didn’t realize how very real sun damage – and skin cancer – is for people of all shades. 

Exposure to the sun also darkens the scars you already have. That’s why I apply sunscreen to my face every morning in the summer (there’s barely any sun in the winter where I live) and reapply it to my face throughout the day if I’m outside. And if you’re worried about not getting enough Vitamin D, just take over-the-counter vitamins. 

Went to sleep with a dirty face. 

Yeah, this is pretty gross. I’ll admit I never really washed off my makeup before going to sleep until my sophomore year of college. The only thing I took off was eye makeup with a light oil cleanser. I look back now and think, wow my skin was dirty as hell. Better late than never, though.

Never used acne-fighting ingredients.

I used to think the less oil on my face, the less likely I’d get a breakout, which is why I pretty much used any oil-free cleanser I could find. The problem is these cleansers had zero ingredients that could help treat cystic acne, like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Benzoyl peroxide helps treat breakouts that have already surfaced, while salicylic acid helps get rid of dead skin buildup and prevent future breakouts. Just two ingredients changed the texture of my skin. 

Didn’t know how to layer products.

Once you know your ingredients, it’s time you learn how to layer them. I’ve seen a lot of people spend crazy money on great products, but the order in which they apply them completely negates their benefits. Certain ingredients make others less effective, which is why I don’t combine benzoyl peroxide with sunscreen. And some products, like toners, are super light, which is why they should be applied before thick moisturizers so they can actually penetrate the skin. 

I mean, who wants to spend all that money on products that don’t even work?

Used physical exfoliants.

RIP St. Ives. I used that apricot scrub like my life depended on it. Even worse, I used it every day. This really messed up the texture of my skin since the small beads created micro-tears. When I noticed how uneven and red my face was, I switched over to chemical exfoliants. 

I’ll admit I was nervous about the switch at first because my skin is extremely sensitive and applying chemicals sounded scary. But if you start off using them sparingly, they’re not so intimidating. I currently go back and forth between glycolic acid (an AHA) and salicylic acid (a BHA.) If you’re just as confused as I was, check out this chemical exfoliant breakdown by DermStore

I also noticed physical exfoliants made my skin really dry, which I oddly believed was a good thing. Less oil means less pimples, right? 

Wrong. Your skin actually produces more oil when it’s dry. So all my greasy-faced people, be sure to moisturize.

Took makeup off with makeup wipes.

I couldn’t go anywhere without a pack of Neutrogena makeup wipes. I onced considered them a holy grail until I realized they do absolutely nothing. When you rub your face with these wipes, you’re only massaging the dirt and oils back into your pores. And if you’re wearing a ton of foundation and eye makeup, you’re only tugging at your skin. Hello, premature aging. 

I now double-cleanse with an oil cleanser first to remove the makeup, and a soap-based cleanser to follow. Neutrogena’s Ultra Light Cleansing Oil is my fave at the moment, followed by a gentle wash like CeraVe’s foaming cleanser

Now, this list of skincare mishaps might seem dramatic to some people, especially those who don’t have acne-prone skin. But in reality, these mistakes will lead to sun spots, fine lines, and deep tissue scarring no matter what kind of skin you have. So before you go out and purchase a pimple cream that costs as much as your rent, take a look at what you can change in your current routine. It’s never too late to become your own skin goals. 

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