There are obvious ways to damage your skin, like getting a sunburn or soaking for hours in a chlorinated pool. Then there are the less obvious ways, like these 13 common objects and habits you might not think about until you break out, dry out, or get a rash. They're around us all the time, and you're probably exposed to at least one on a daily basis.
Your phone is the one object that you regularly press to your face. It's also about the only thing you never wash. By some estimates, your phone is covered in more bacteria than certain surfaces in your bathroom. If that's not motivation to use your headphones when taking a call, then consider stocking up on screen-cleaning wipes.
You shave, then slap on the same aftershave your old man used. It smells good, stings a little, it's what men do. It's also very likely full of alcohol that is drying out your skin.
"If you're very oily, drying toners or astringents can help," says Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC, "but, with age, if you aren't as dry you could be doing more harm than good."
You’re a modern man. Swap out the aftershave for a post-shave lotion that hydrates.
Here's an excuse to eat a proper lunch - skipping meals can leave your skin looking dull and lifeless. The problem here is you’re cutting out the essential nutrients that you need to look vital, like proteins, vitamins, and the healthy fats that make vitamins more soluble in your body.
Include some healthy proteins with every meal and snack. The same rules that apply to eating for better hair will keep your skin looking alive.
Night is a chance to rest and recharge. It's also when your skin refreshes by sloughing off dead cells. Which stay on your pillowcase. Along with the oils and environmental toxins you were carrying around all day.
Ever wake up with a mysterious breakout? This could be the reason. Prevent the damage by washing your face before bed, and launder your pillowcase once a week - or more.
USING TOO MUCH DETERGENT
Speaking of laundry, how much detergent are you using? With high-efficiency (HE) washers becoming more common, many people are confused about what detergent to use, or how much is needed.
"If you're using more than you should, then the detergent is not fully rinsed from the fabric," says Zeichner, "and people can develop skin irritation as a result. If you're using an HE washer, less is more."
Better yet, get an HE detergent meant for use in your machine, read the directions and, if your skin is irritated, consider cutting back.
YOUR FILTHY SUNGLASSES
Another culprit in the category of dirty things we put on our faces: sunglasses.
These spend a lot of time riding around in your backpack, or sitting on the top of your head getting mixed up in your hair product. Then you put them on, and anything on bridge rubs into the pores on your nose. It's a perfect recipe for pimples.
So next time you're washing your hands during the seventh inning stretch, consider giving those shades a rinse too. With soap.
THAT EXFOLIATING SCRUB
Even when you try to help your skin you can end up doing damage. If you've been keeping yourself on a regimen of facial exfoliation, you could be overdoing it.
"Facial scrubs are not always necessary," says Zeichner. "And overscrubbing can lead to microscopic tears or cracks in the outer skin layer."
That kind of damage makes your skin lose hydration, or can even cause inflammation. It takes several weeks for enough skin cells to accumulate to make you look dull, says Zeichner, so scrubbing once a week is usually enough to prevent the buildup.
YOUR STICKY POMADE
Not all the grooming products you use are made to touch your skin. So it's important to keep hair stuff on hair, not on your scalp.
Occlusive hair products - i.e. ones with a certain "goo" factor - can cause acne by clogging pores, says Zeichner. No one wants scalp pimples, so apply carefully, and consider a water-based product that rinses out easily.
If you play a sport that requires a helmet, the same piece of gear protecting your head could be damaging your skin.
"If you're using a football helmet, the chronic rubbing of the chin strap can cause acne," says Zeichner.
In fact, it's a one-two punch of the friction causing irritation and the dubious cleanliness of the equipment spreading oil or sweat from last practice onto your face. So make sure your helmet fits, and clean it off when you’re done.
PULLING AN ALL-NIGHTER
You don't look your best after partying all night, and it's not just the effects of the, er, refreshments you consumed. What you're seeing on your skin is fatigue.
Missing one night of sleep has obvious effects. Missing sleep chronically can start to make your skin dull, and comes with other symptoms such as puffiness and under-eye circles.
Make time for sleep, and do what you can to improve the quality of your rest. Your skin has it bad enough during the day.
If you're regularly using sunscreen, that's great. But chances are that when you reach for a bottle for the first time each summer, you could be using a holdover from many summers ago. How long has it been on that shelf?
As sunscreen gets older, it gets less potent, so your careful application of lotion could have an effective SPF of 0.
"If the sunscreen looks or smells any different than you remember from when you bought it, toss it," says Zeichner. "It can typically last up to three years from when it was produced, but when in doubt buy a new bottle."
YOUR LONG, HOT SHOWER
By now you're probably convinced it's important to be clean. But that doesn't mean stripping your skin of all the natural oils your body produces.
"We all love long, hot showers, but our skin does not," says Zeichner. "Extended exposure to hot water can strip the skin of essential oils, ultimately causing irritation and dryness."
Keep it to ten minutes or less, he says, and the ideal temperature is about as warm as a heated pool, around 29 degrees.
USING YOUR TABLET OUTSIDE
Finally, you might think you're all good with your tablet. After all, when was the last time you pressed an iPad to your face?
But here the issue isn't the surface of the device, it's what happens when you use it outside.
"Data shows that use of your phone or your tablet outside increases light reflection toward your face," says Zeichner, "and can increase your risk of skin cancers."
You'll have an easier time reading off that thing in the shade anyway, so find a leafy tree and scroll all you want. Your skin will thank you.