There are obvious ways to damage your skin, such as getting sunburn or soaking your body for hours in a chlorinated pool. Then, there are the less obvious ways by which people damage their skin, apparently due to ignorance.
The following objects and habits are responsible for damaging of skin, according to a study by Joshua Zeichner, the Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, United States, published in MensHealth magazine.
According to Zeichner, the skin-damaging objects and habits are around us all the time and we’re probably exposed to at least one of them 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 enough motivation for you to use your headphones when taking a call, then consider stocking up on screen-cleaning wipes.
For men, slapping aftershave that is very full of alcohol could dry out your skin. According to Zeichner, “If you are very oily, drying toners or astringents can help; but, with age, if you aren’t as dry, you could be doing more harm than good.”
Zeichner recommended swapping an 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. This will keep your skin looking alive.
The 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.
Have you ever woken 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 washers becoming more common, many people are confused about what detergent to use or how much is needed.
According to Zeichner, “If you’re using more than you should, then the detergent is not fully rinsed from the fabric and you can develop skin irritation as a result. If you’re using a high-efficiency washer, less is more.”
Better yet, get a high-efficiency detergent meant for use in your washing machine, read the directions and, if your skin is irritated, consider cutting back.
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 with your hair product. Then you put them on and anything on the bridge of your nose rubs into the pores on the 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.
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,” said Zeichner. “And over-scrubbing 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. According to Zeichner, it takes several weeks for enough skin cells to accumulate to make you look dull, so scrubbing once a week is usually enough to prevent the buildup.
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, that is, ones with a certain goo factor — can cause acne by clogging pores, said Zeichner. No one wants scalp pimples, so apply carefully, and consider a water-based product that rinses out easily.
Are you a power bike rider or do you play a sport that requires a helmet? The same piece of gear protecting your head could also be damaging your skin.
“If you’re using a football helmet, the chronic rubbing of the chin strap can cause acne,” said 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 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 sun protection factor of zero.
“If the sunscreen looks or smells any different than you remember from when you bought it, toss it,” said Zeichner. “It can typically last up to three years from when it was produced, but when in doubt, buy a new bottle.”
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,” said 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, added Zeichner, and the ideal temperature is about as warm as a heated pool, around 84 degrees.
Using your phone/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 the use of your phone or your tablet outside increases light reflection toward your face,” said Zeichner, “and this 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.
Commenting on the above, a Lagos-based dermatologist, Mrs. Helen Odiri, said people should always look after their skin as if it’s a baby, noting that the skin usually looks the way it is treated.
She said, “There is no magic about it. Our skin looks the way it is treated. In addition to the above tips, you can’t expect to have a smooth skin when you don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Then, you have to know what you do that makes your skin rough and avoid it.
“For instance, if you’re a person who gets pimples after eating groundnuts, then you should stop taking groundnuts or you eat it only once in a while. God gave us all things beautiful, but it’s the way we treat what we have that would tell whether it would last.”