8 Ways You're Wrecking Your Skin — & How To Stop

Vices, bad habits, points of weakness — call them what you will; if you're human, you have one or two or 10. We have to keep some around to stay sane, but we draw the line when they lead to skin problems. If you’ve over-exfoliated, drunk too much, or finished off an entire bag of candy corn in one sitting in the last few weeks — and your complexion is paying for it — now's the time to stop the guilt trip. Instead, reboot your regimen with these quick and easy skin-care tips from derms who have seen it all and know how to fix whatever it may be.

1 of 10
The Problem: You broke out and couldn't resist picking at your zits. Now, your skin looks worse than it did before.

The Solution: "Picking is all about frustration," says dermatologist Neal Schultz, MD, founder of DermTV.com and creator of BeautyRx by Dr. Schultz. “I see this almost exclusively in women, regardless of age, from their teens to their 40s. It’s about the inability to tolerate the issue.”

In other words, you don’t have time for zits. But here’s the rub: You’re causing yourself more problems, because picking kicks up inflammation, increasing redness and stimulating melanin production, which makes brown spots and darkening of the skin more likely. To soothe things in the moment, reach for a warm compress and an over-the-counter pimple fixer loaded with either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. And next time you feel the urge to go to town on an angry, red blemish, head straight to the derm for a cortisone injection that'll take down the swelling, stat.

The Product: Murad's Acne Spot Fast Fix is a super-fast-acting spot-treatment with micronized benzoyl peroxide, delivered in gel form so it smooths on invisibly. Plus, it has niacinamide to minimize redness and coax your skin tone back to its natural state.

Murad Acne Spot Fast Fix, $18, available at Sephora.
2 of 10
The Problem: You’ve been falling asleep (way past your bedtime, too) without washing your face. Now, your pores are clogged and you've lost all radiance.

The Solution: Avoid the issue by adopting the lazy girl’s guide to face-washing: cleansing wipes. Keep them by your bedside, and just swipe and sleep. It’s not the ideal face-cleansing scenario, says dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, founder and director of Capital Laser & Skin Care, but it’s better than nothing. She recommends using wipes with glycolic acid to dissolve all the dirt clogging your pores, so you’ll wake up just a little brighter.

The Product: These wipes are textured, so they physically exfoliate while the glycolic, lactic, and citric acids chemically dissolve dead skin cells. You get the best of both worlds — with next to no effort.

Ole Henriksen Grease Relief Cleansing Cloths, $15, available at Sephora.
3 of 10
The Problem: The cocktails just wouldn’t stop flowing this past weekend, and now your skin is telling the tale.

The Solution: Alcohol is a depressant; too much, and it makes your entire system sluggish. It slows down skin circulation, making you puffy, and dehydrates, making your skin look sallow. "The goal is to reinvigorate, flush out the bad, and bring on the radiance," explains Dr. Tanzi.

Do damage control by rehydrating from the inside out. Drink lots of water, then throw it on yourself — literally. Splash your face with cold water, and use ice cubes wrapped in cotton to soothe puffiness around the eyes. Follow that up with a cooling cucumber mask to reinstate your missing glow. Once your headache subsides, head out for some cardio.

The Product: This is a soothing paper mask — take a few minutes to lie down and relax while you apply it. Bonus points if you actually slice up some cucumbers for your eyes.

Yes To Cucumbers Facial Mask, $3.29, available at Ulta Beauty.
4 of 10
— PAID —

The Problem: Congested Skin

The Solution: The fact of the matter is, bad habits will always show up on the skin (lack of sleep, poor eating choices, exposure to smoky/polluted environments, etc.). But we're not going to tell you to stay in on a Saturday night or to avoid the outside world. We will tell you to always wash your face before passing out, and to add an extra kick to your trusty moisturizer with this detox booster. Squeeze three to five drops of this green coffee extract-infused elixir into your palm, mix it with your moisturizer, and watch as your skin improves in a matter of weeks.

Clarins Booster Detox, $39, available at Clarins.
5 of 10
The Problem: You know you need to quit smoking, but you can't stop fantasizing that you’re starring in a film noir.

The Solution: Unsurprisingly, the verdict is unanimous. Both Dr. Tanzi and Dr. Schultz agree: Smoking is the ultimate pollutant. It causes a wealth of problems, including vasoconstriction (the tightening of your blood vessels), poor circulation, damage to your internal organs, and a weakened skin-barrier system, which causes DNA damage that ages your skin so much faster. You need antioxidant protection.

Both derms recommend quitting — duh — but while you work on that, combat the extrinsic effects of being exposed to your own smoke (or your partner's or BFF's, if you're not the smoker). Dr. Tanzi recommends using a sonic cleansing brush to gently lift the particulate dirt, which is similar to soot, off your skin. To address the more intrinsic factors affecting the skin, use a serum loaded with free-radical protection like ferulic acid and vitamins C and E to protect and add in nutrients.

The Product: This treatment is like the ultimate fully-loaded cocktail — the good kind — for your face. The scent might turn you off, but the brightening effects will keep you coming back every morning.

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, $163, available at SkinCeuticals.
6 of 10
The Problem: It's unusually warm for fall, so you took advantage by chilling in the park with nothing on. SPF-wise, that is.

The Solution: Cool it! "Get out the milk compresses and aloe to soothe, moisturizers to hydrate, plus over-the-counter hydrocortisone to bring down inflammation," says Dr. Schultz. And don’t forget "tan" is just another word for "skin damage." So next time, bring on the broad-spectrum SPF 30+. Dr. Tanzi suggests throwing a powdered sunscreen in your bag.

The Product: This one has it all: broad-spectrum coverage and tons of antioxidants. It uses titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to protect skin from the sun, and the red algae fights free radicals. Plus, it absorbs excess oil as well as a blotting sheet.

Colorescience Sunforgettable Brush-On Sunscreen SPF 50, $64, available at Colorescience.
7 of 10
The Problem: You love the tingle of a good face scrub and the promise of a smooth, radiant complexion, but you’ve been overdoing it with too much of a good thing. Now, your skin is flaky and dry because you’ve stripped it of its natural oils.

The Solution: Dermatologist Jeannette Graf, MD, director of dermatology at Omni Aesthetic MD in New York City, recommends first cleansing gently with a micellar water. Micelles are tiny oil molecules suspended in soft water to increase hydration. (We love 'em.) Then, repair and protect your damaged moisture barrier with humectants and emollients, and save the exfoliant for once-a-week use.

The Product: The oil in this kit has safflower oil, which contains antioxidants and lipids, along with coconut oil, which contains lauric acid to help restore and protect skin. It's instant nourishment in a bottle.

Epionce Essential Recovery Kit, $30, available at Epionce.
8 of 10
The Problem: You missed your usual wax appointment, panicked over your overgrown brows, and DIY-waxed. Now, your skin has red welts.

The Solution: You’ve just injured your skin, and it’s screaming for help. Calm it down by spraying it with Avène Thermal Spring Water, which has been clinically proven to soothe skin, says Dr. Graf.

The Product: Then, try this concentrate to help with the lingering redness. It’s an intensive spot treatment with medical-grade ruscus extract, a known anti-inflammatory ingredient.

Avène Antirougeurs Fort Relief Concentrate, $48, available at Avène.
9 of 10
The Problem: You ate to the point that you had to unbutton your pants at the dinner table — and still felt sluggish because of it the next morning.

The Solution: "Eating too much is a bad habit that is less obvious, but causes your skin to bloat and be dehydrated," says dermatologist Ellen Marmur, MD, founder of Marmur Medical. "Plus, it amps up inflammation and congestion, resulting in more blemishes.” Why? Because when you load up your GI tract with food, you drive your circulation and energy levels down, which robs the skin of its balance and is a surefire catalyst for a bad complexion day. The fix? Stop eating when you're completely full, sleep for seven hours a night, exercise, and, most importantly, drink lots and lots of water.

Glacéau Smartwater Vapor Distilled Water, available at drugstores.
10 of 10
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!

More from Skin Care


R29 Original Series