3 Skin Care Habits To Quit & What To Do Instead For A Glowing Complexion

mbg Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor By Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor
Alexandra Engler is the Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department.
Portrait Of Brunette Young Woman Posing In Studio With Natural Light

At the end of every year, so many of us take a moment to pause, reflect, and think about what lessons we can glean from the months prior—ideally entering the new year better and more informed. Myself included, of course. I also can't help but to evaluate my skin care choices from the past 12 months. As a beauty editor, I'm constantly trying updated routines, evaluating breaking research, and taking a critical eye to emerging trends. 

That way, I can digest it all and really think about how best I can use smart skin care to my advantage—and hopefully yours, too. Well, as I looked back at this year in skin care, here are three habits I'm trying to unlearn, and what I can do in their place. Here's to a brighter 2021.

The habit: Overreacting. 

When you see a skin flare-up—be it a breakout, patch of dry skin, rash, or any number of other skin conditions—you may feel tempted to go full speed into action mode. It's what we've been trained to do by skin care marketing for so long, after all: Fight zits, attack wrinkles, deal with breakouts ASAP. For the most part, these phrases and encouragements aren't done with bad intentions: They just simply acknowledge the fact that when we are having skin issues, we typically like them to be dealt with sooner rather than later. The problem arises when in an attempt to heal ourselves, we simply do too much too quickly. More often than not, this plan backfires, and we end up starting a vicious cycle.

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The fix:

Retrain your skin care habits to think about longevity—not quick fixes. Once you've made this mindset shift, you're better able to tend to your skin instead of attacking it. "Don't exfoliate or use harsh active ingredients during a time of sensitivity, even if you want to work on your deeper-set wrinkles or treat a blemish," writes esthetician Hayley Wood, founder of Therapeutic Skin Coaching. "No active ingredient will be able to deliver on their promise if the skin is already irritated. Instead, soothe the skin and it will return to optimizing its own self-healing functions."

So how does this look in real life? Having your weekly exfoliation regimen, and sticking to it—even when you're tempted to add in an extra-potent peel during a breakout. Understanding that your skin simply cannot tolerate retinol every day—even if you want to utilize its anti-wrinkle properties—and only using your tonic every other or third day. And of course, it means wielding anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredients with as much verve and gusto as you do exfoliating products. 

The habit: Forgetting to seal the skin barrier.

This year, I've spent a lot of time researching and looking into skin barrier health—both for myself and just generally. So many of our skin woes can be traced back to skin barrier function. "It protects us from mechanical injury, low humidity, cold, heat, sun, wind, chemical exposure, bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other pathogens," explains board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., stating that, "a healthy barrier is critical to normal skin function." Unfortunately—and increasingly so—many of us have compromised barrier health

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The fix: 

There are many things to consider when you are looking at skin barrier health. The first is related to the above habit—stop overdoing it—but often, that's not enough. For many of us, we actively have to strengthen our barriers by applying nurturing hydrators, feeding the skin microbiome, and replenishing the skin's natural reserves of ceramides. 

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Topically, you should look for skin care items full of natural fatty acids, antioxidants, and emollients to help strengthen the epidermis. You should also consider biotic skin care (like pre-, pro-, and post-biotics), which can help your flora flourish.

Finally, consider ceramide supplements, which can help your body replenish your reserves naturally. Ceramides act as the sealant in your skin, keeping the water in—and blocking the irritants out. Studies show that phytoceramide supplements are particularly effective at keeping skin hydrated. In one study, participants with clinically dry skin who took a phytoceramide-rich wheat extract oil for three months saw up to a 35% improvement in skin hydration. In another, participants saw improved skin hydration after just 15 days.

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The habit: Ignoring everything below the chin. 

Your face gets all the attention in skin care (it tends to be the most visible after all). But what I like to remind people is that your skin is an organ—and it tends to work best when you treat the whole of it right. So stop forgetting about the rest of it, nixing hydrators and actives anywhere south of the neck, and remember that your skin (all of it) is a reflection of your overall health.

The fix: 

Make your body care routine as appealing as your facial routine. This means finding lavishly textured, smartly formulated products you can't help but crave to apply. Find formulas that use clean, kind, and potent ingredients. Simply put: Show some of the love you so typically lavish on your face to the rest of you.

This is particularly true for your hands. We know your hands are dealing with a lot right now—between the increased washing and sanitizers—and they likely need as much help as they can get. Find hand soaps that are buffered with oils and hydrators, and carry around a decadent hand cream—just as you likely do a lip balm or, now, mask.

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