What Habits Are Bad for Your Skin?

Bad skin care habits

When your skin is healthy, you look and feel better. You probably know that popping pimples and poor hygiene aren't great for your skin, but there are several other skin care, dietary, and lifestyle habits you should try to avoid if you want to maintain excellent skin health.

Some skin care habits — or lack of them — can harm your skin in the long run. Bad skin care habits to avoid include:

  • Popping pimples
  • Misuse of chemical exfoliants
  • Not cleansing your face
  • Not applying sunscreen

Popping pimples may bring short-term satisfaction — but the oil, debris, and bacteria that ooze from the pimple could clog other pores in your skin, causing even more pimples. The bacteria from your fingers could also transfer to the pimple itself, leading to inflamed or infected skin or even permanent scarring. For these reasons, it's best to let a pimple run its course and fade away on its own.

Chemical exfoliation removes dead cells from the top layer of your skin, but the habit can cause dark spots if done too aggressively, especially in people with darker skin. Chemical exfoliation might be too harsh if you have dry, sensitive, or acne-prone skin, so opt instead for mild physical exfoliation with a soft, warm washcloth. Even people with more resilient or oily skin should avoid chemical exfoliation after acne breakouts, bug bites, or sunburn.

Throughout the day, your skin absorbs dirt and impurities from the environment. Some of these impurities can't be removed with water alone, so it's important to use a cleanser that contains surface-active substances before bed. If you don't cleanse your face at the end of the day, the dirt, oil, and cosmetic products that have built up could remain on your skin and clog your pores.

Around one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime.

Multiple studies have shown that sunscreen use reduces the risk of getting both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. If you skip sunscreen, you won't be protected from the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays. It's best to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher and re-apply it every two hours when outdoors.

Bad dietary habits

Diet and nutrition can affect your skin just as much as topical skincare. Bad dietary habits to avoid include:

  • Eating a lot of refined carbohydrates
  • Eating a lot of dairy products
  • Drinking a lot of skimmed milk
  • Not getting enough vitamin C

Refined carbohydrates (like white bread, white rice, and sugar) have a high glycemic index. This means they can raise blood glucose quite a bit, which in turn elevates insulin levels. Insulin has been linked with greater sebum production and androgen synthesis, both of which can cause or worsen acne. If you struggle with acne-prone skin, consider a low-GI diet.

Studies show that there's a link between consuming dairy products and acne. Skim milk in particular has a strong correlation with acne. This could be explained by the bovine growth hormones and anabolic steroids present in the milk. Consider reducing your dairy intake or switching to non-dairy milk. 

Vitamin C is key to the production of collagen, a protein that helps repair skin and keeps it healthy. People with a vitamin C deficiency often have skin problems like slower wound healing and dry or wrinkled skin. Vitamin C is also a natural antioxidant, meaning it can help fight free radical damage and photoaging. Make sure you're getting enough vitamin C by eating foods that are rich in the nutrient. Some foods that are high in vitamin C include:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomatoes
  • Berries
  • Cabbage
  • Peppers


Bad lifestyle habits

An all-around healthy lifestyle is crucial for good skin. You should be especially mindful of the following lifestyle factors:

Smoking. One study suggests that smoking cigarettes can adversely affect the thickness and density of the skin. In particular, skin elasticity on the forehead of people who smoke may be lower than that of non-smokers. Several in vitro studies show that tobacco smoke hinders the production of collagen. If you smoke, consider quitting.

Drinking alcohol. Alcohol contains a lot of sugar, which is associated with increased acne. Consider reducing your alcohol intake.

Stress levels. Stress disturbs the top layer of your skin, which is called the epidermal barrier. The epidermal barrier helps your skin retain moisture and keep harmful bacteria out of your body. When the epidermal barrier is compromised due to stress, you're more likely to develop irritated skin or even chronic skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and wounds. If stress is an issue, try to exercise regularly and make use of relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation.

Sleep schedules. Sleep plays a key role in restoring your immune system function, which can affect collagen production. It's best to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.


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American Academy of Dermatology Association: "HOW TO SAFELY EXFOLIATE AT HOME", "SUNSCREEN FAQS."

Canadian Medical Association Journal: "The efficacy and safety of sunscreen use for the prevention of skin cancer."

Harvard Health: "Stress may be getting to your skin, but it’s not a one-way street."

Indian Dermatology Online Journal: "Vitamin C in dermatology."

Intermountain Healthcare: "Should You Pop That Pimple?"

Journal of Dermatological Science: "Tobacco smoke causes premature skin aging."

Journal of Respiratory Diseases, Thoracic Surgery, Intensive Care and Tuberculosis: "Cigarettes Smoking and Skin: A Comparison Study of the Biophysical Properties of Skin in Smokers and Non-Smokers."

Mayo Clinic: "Vitamin C."

Medical Hypotheses: "Can poor sleep affect skin integrity?"

The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology: "Diet and Dermatology."