17 Things Your Dermatologist Wishes You’d Stop Doing

Take notes.

Originally Published: 
Picking your skin is one of the things dermatologists wish their patients would stop doing.

When it comes to skin care advice, it’s not uncommon to turn to your favorite celebrities or beauty vloggers for guidance. But even those with the brightest complexions or the biggest followings would admit that they’re no licensed expert. And while there's nothing wrong with getting the occasional pimple-zapping tip or product recommendation from your favorite famous faces (it’s fun to take inspiration from people like Camila Mendes and Teyana Taylor), only dermatologists can confidently speak about what you should — and also shouldn’t —be doing to better your skin health.

For example: Can you really put glycolic acid on your underarms for deodorant? Do you actually need a pore vacuum in your life? There’s a seemingly endless amount of information floating around on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, and it can be difficult to decipher. Luckily, dermatologists are trusted sources you can count on to navigate the (often murky) waters of the skin care world.

It might be simple to follow a straightforward list of to-dos to improve and protect your face, but what about all the things you are unknowingly doing that are actually causing irritation or worse, damage, to your skin? Bustle spoke to trusted dermatologists like Dr. Mona Gohara and Dr. Sandra Lee to find out what they wish their clients would stop doing ASAP. Here are the 17 skin sins that could be sneakily sabotaging your complexion.


Using Regular Ol' Bar Soap

Dove's head dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara wants you to step away from the bar soap. "I truly wish people would stop using soap! The harsh surfactants in soaps strip the skin barrier leaving behind a tight, itchy irritated feeling. Stick with gentle cleansers that nourish and moisturize to ensure skin health," she tells Bustle.

Most facial cleansers are made with surfactants, also known as surface active agents, which help to break down the dirt and oil in your face. But if a cleanser is made with too many surfactants, like sodium lauryl sulfate (something many bar soaps are made with), then it can dry or irritate your skin. To find soap that's free from sodium lauryl sulfate, check out this website.

Gohara recommends Dove's Beauty Bar because it "won’t strip away skin’s moisture like soap can." Although it looks like a bar of soap, it’s good for your face. It’s considered a non-soap cleanser made with moisturizing cream to keep your skin soft, but clean.


Picking At Your Skin

While you've probably heard this one a million times before, Gohara feels it necessary to remind you again: Stop picking at your skin. "I am a card carrying picker — I get it, it is a compulsion and a must when that third eye has taken up residence on your forehead. But try to avoid it at all costs because all hell can break loose on your skin for months afterwards with just one tiny squeeze!" Picking at your pimples or blemishes can cause bacteria to spread to other places on your face or worse, leave a scar. Heed Gohara's advice and leave your skin be.


Not Speaking Kindly About Your Skin

This one isn't as obvious as the others on this list, but Sandra Lee, aka Dr. Pimple Popper, believes it's just as important. "I wish people would speak kindly about their face and their skin," Lee tells Bustle. "Acne for example can be emotionally tough, but I like to remind people that acne is not life threatening and it can be treated."

Lee understands that having skin issues can feel overwhelming and frustrating, but the first step in healing your skin shouldn't involve any products — just your attitude. "First, I say deal with the mental aspect of what you're doing to your skin and know that problem skin can be healed! Once the right mindset is in place, break bad habits and work on forming good ones," Lee explains.

She suggests following acne or skin positive accounts on social media, as there is a whole community of them on Instagram. "It’s always good to surround yourself with others going through the same situation you are. They provide emotional support, and remind you that you’re not alone. It also helps to normalize what you're going through," says Lee.


Skipping Sunscreen In Your Daily Routine

Dr. Mark B. Taylor has been a dermatologist for over 30 years, so he's seen just about everything. Still, the most common skin care mistake is one that could easily prevented. "I often treat people with skin damage from sun exposure because they’ve underestimated the importance of good sun protection," Taylor says. It’s so critical to establish a habit early in life of good skin protection to avoid skin damage and skin cancer.


Rushing Through Your Facial Cleansing Routines

"Thorough, comprehensive cleansing with a facial cleansing brush and the application of high-quality skin care products are critical to healthy skin," adds Taylor, who recommends using a device like PMD Clean to cleanse your skin. It's made with gentle bristles and has four customizable modes so you can pick one that works best for your skin type. "I often treat acne and premature aging that are solely caused by poor skin care routines, and cleansing is the core of any skin care regimen. This is another habit that I think is critical to start early on in life," Taylor shares.


Using Too Many Alcohol-Based Products

When we want to take our makeup off, we often reach for anything that'll leave our face feeling squeaky clean, but depending on what you're using, your skin can be left looking and feeling super dry. The culprit? Often, it's alcohol-based products, according to Dr. Yoram Harth, co-founder of MDacne.

"When these alcohol-based products evaporate, they over-dry your skin. It’s better to remove makeup with makeup removal wipes that do not dry out the skin and to wash the skin with a mild cleanser that matches your skin type, and moisturize the skin immediately after washing while skin is still damp," says Harth.


Using Pore-Clogging Hair Products

Be careful with all of the different hair products you use, warns Harth. "They can get onto your forehead and on the skin around your hairline and cause breakouts," he says. When you do use them, try your best to avoid applying any product too close to your hairline.


Letting Your Dirty Phone Touch Your Skin

According to a report published in Time, your cell phone is 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat. Pretty gross, right? Harth suggests using ear buds or the speaker option on your phone instead of holding it up to your face.


Washing Your Face Too Often

"Washing your face too often can damage the natural protective layer of your skin — this leads to more irritation, inflammation, and acne breakouts," explains Harth. Unless necessary (like needing to clean your face after a mid-day workout) you should only be washing your face twice a day.


Scrubbing Your Face Too Hard

When it comes to washing our faces, people can often overdo it, believes Ashley Magovern, M.D., Dermstore’s official board certified dermatologist. "I see it all the time. With all the new scrubs and 'active' cleansers out there, people are scrubbing too much. I see it especially in those with acne-prone skin."

Magovern wants to remind you that you can't scrub off your acne or wrinkles. "When you scrub your skin, you break down your skin barrier and cause irritation and even more breakouts. Exfoliation is important and amazing, but you need to listen to your skin, exfoliate gently, and maybe not every day, and be sure to moisturize," she shares.

If you are looking for a great exfoliator, Magovern personally prefers chemical exfoliators, like glycolic, lactic, or mandelic acids, rather than the beaded mechanical scrubs.


Giving Up On Products Or Your Routine Too Quickly

Magovern wants you to stop buying a ton of products and not using them. She calls it the "beauty graveyard" — bottles and tubes of beauty products that are half-used or barely-used. "The sentiment is always that these products don't work or they don't know how to use them, but in order for skin care to transform your skin, you need to stick to a well-formulated regimen.

If you buy something, finish the bottle. It shouldn't last too long if you use it correctly. By the time you finish it, you should see a change in your skin if you are using the right products." That said, if you're experiencing any irritation after using a product — you break out, you look red, or your face feels hot, itchy, or stingy — stop using the product immediately as you might be allergic to it.

Magovern also suggests treating your skin after cleansing and before moisturizing with known collagen and elastin boosters, like retinol, tretinoin, glycolic, or other acids and antioxidants like niacinamide. "And stick to it. Every day and every night. It's like exercise."


Laying Out In The Sun

How could you write a list of skin care no-nos without mentioning laying out in the sun? "Suntanning is a sure way to damage the skin, leading to wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancers," Dr. Lisa Chipps tells Bustle. Do yourself a favor and use a bronzer or self-tanner to fake a sun-kissed glow instead.


Using Too Many Products

Using too many cleansers, scrubs, toners, moisturizers, serums, and masks can complicate your routine and puts your skin at risk of irritation, says Dr. Jennifer Herrmann. "Stick with a simple cleanser and evidence-based anti-aging serum at night, followed by a moisturizer specific to your skin type. In the morning, gently cleanse again, apply moisturizer, and a broad-spectrum SPF of at least SPF 30," she suggests.


Using Hot Water On Your Face

Herrmann also suggests you stop using hot water in the shower and on your face. "Hot water stimulates histamine, which can lead to irritation and redness, and it overly dries out the skin. Opt for luke-warm to cool water instead," she advises.


Experimenting With TikTok Trends

While everyone loves a good TikTok beauty hack, some do more harm than good. For example, slugging (aka the trend that involves covering your face with something like Vaseline) is one you might want to think twice about. “I love a think coat of Vaseline or Aquaphor just under the eyes overnight, but for most people — except the driest skin types — coating the entire face is likely to clog pores and trap dirt and oil,” says Dr. Murphy Rose, a board-certified dermatologist at Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York. Rose suggests opting for a moisturizing mask like Drunk Elephant’s F-Balm Electrolyte Waterfacial Mask to hydrate skin overnight.


Not Washing Your Makeup Brushes

Every beauty lover is guilty of using dirty makeup brushes. But now is the time to fix that bad habit — for the sake of our skin. “Makeup brushes are notorious for harboring bacteria that can clog pores and cause acne breakouts,” says Rose. She suggests cleaning brushes weekly with a spray cleanser or a brush shampoo to thoroughly remove any debris, buildup, oils, and microorganisms. She also recommends covering brushes up when you're not using them to limit air exposure and avoid contamination.


Not Hydrating Enough

Yes, drinking water is very important and has its benefits. But it isn’t sufficient in keeping your skin smooth and soft. “Drinking water is great for your skin, but you need to make sure to moisturize [it] everyday,” says Dr. Angela J. Lamb, board-certified dermatologist and associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai. Lamb says to pick a nourishing body moisturizer, like Jergens Shea Butter Lotion, to keep skin feeling (and looking) great.


Dr. Angela J. Lamb, board-certified dermatologist and associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai

Dr. Murphy Rose, board-certified dermatologist at Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York

Dr. Jennifer Herrmann, board-certified dermatologist at Moy-Fincher-Chipps Facial Plastics & Dermatology

Dr. Lisa Chipps, board-certified dermatologist at Moy-Fincher-Chipps Facial Plastics & Dermatology

Ashley Magovern, board-certified dermatologist at Manhattan Dermatology

Dr. Yoram Harth, co-founder of MDacne

Dr. Mark B. Taylor, board-certified dermatologist at Gateway Aesthetic Institute and Laser Center

Sandra Lee, board-certified dermatologist and founder of SLMD skincare

Dr. Mona Gohara, board-certified dermatologist at Dermatology Physicians of Connecticut

This article was originally published on