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You think makeup removal and cleansing are the same things.
Many cleansers aren’t up to the job of taking off makeup completely, so you have to remove it before cleansing, says dermatologist Dr Debra Jaliman. She recommends wiping off mascara and eye makeup with an eye makeup remover, then moistening a cotton pad with toner or a tiny bit of water and a dab of cleanser and using it to remove the rest of your makeup. Pay extra attention to areas where it tends to collect—such as above and in the eyebrows and in the creases around the nose and mouth. Once makeup is off, proceed to cleansing.
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You waste money on expensive cleansers (and skimp where it really counts).
If you splurge on pricey cleansers you’re just washing money down the drain, says Jaliman. Since cleansers are on skin for such a short period of time, they’re not really therapeutic and definitely not worth paying big bucks for. In fact, many derms recommend affordable drugstore brands. Put the cash you save to better use by spending it on products that can make a real difference in your skin, like moisturisers, sunscreens and serums.
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You only wash once a day.
Even if you cleansed and removed all makeup the night before, a splash of water in the morning or standing under the shower isn’t enough, says Jaliman. “During the night, as you sleep, bacteria build up on our skin, along with a lot of unwanted oil that needs to be removed.”
If AM and PM cleansing isn’t in the cards for you, prioritise nighttime. Your skin needs a clean sweep before bed to remove any dirt, makeup, oil and pollution that accumulated during the day. Pollution, in particular, is turning out to be a major stress on skin health: Emerging research shows it contains a host of compounds—including particulate matter, VOCs, cigarette smoke and ozone—that cause loss of collagen and pigmentation problems.
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You don’t use the right cleanser.
If your skin is on the oily side or you still struggle with breakouts, try a gel cleanser. “It rinses off cleaner and removes oil better,” says dermatologist Dr Jessica Wu. Those with drier or sensitive complexions should opt for a creamy or milky cleanser to help maintain the natural oils that keep skin hydrated.
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You use hot water.
Chill out, ladies! “Hot water might feel good, but it can strip skin of essential moisture and oils, leaving it dry, red, and itchy,” says dermatologist Dr David Bank. Instead, rinse with lukewarm water, and be sure to splash several times. Skimping on the rinse cycle isn’t smart since cleanser only lifts dirt from skin; rinsing is what removes it.
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You don’t rinse skin after using cleansing wipes.
“Wipes often leave residue that can be irritating and interfere with the products you use post-cleansing,” says Wu. Ideally it’s best to wash your face with a gentle cleanser, but if you're going to use wipes at least rinse skin with water afterward.
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You use harsh scrubs.
Exfoliating a couple of times a week is a key step for glowing skin: After all, it helps slough away dead skin cells and allows anti-aging products to penetrate. Just choose your scrub carefully. “Irregularly shaped grains with jagged edges can be too rough and cause damage that leads to lines, wrinkles and broken capillaries,” says Wu. She recommends scrubs that contain jojoba beads or ivory palm seeds. Besides being kind to skin, neither will end up harming waterways, as plastic beads do—hence the reason they’re being banned from beauty products.
If you don’t like scrubs, toners and pads with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) or salicyclic acid work well too, particularly for oily or acne-prone skin. “Just be careful not to go at your face as if you were scrubbing a frying pan,” says Jaliman. “A toner or pad is meant to be wiped gently over the face once—that’s it.”
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You use a cleansing brush every day.
It’s true that a mechanical brush cleans skin better than your fingers alone ever will. But if your complexion is dry, sensitive or prone to redness, these devices aren’t something you have to use every night—especially if you’re also applying ingredients like retinoids or an AHA.
“Too much exfoliation can create inflammation that ultimately ages skin,” says Bank. Like with other forms of skin sloughing, it’s important to find the right balance for your skin. Start by using a brush twice a week (opt for the brush head designed for delicate skin and use the gentlest setting possible) and then work up from there. Finally, always use a mild cleanser with any machine.