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8 Ways You're Ruining Your Skin's Health Without Realizing It

1. Washing with the wrong cleanser

Believe it or not, one thing you should never wash your face (or body) with is soap! Washing with a true soap, as opposed to a cleanser specifically for the skin, can strip it of its natural oils and throw off its pH, leaving is dry and tight. On top of that, soap never rinses clean off the skin which can lead to "skin suffocation."

There is a seemingly endless supply of cleansers available, and many have very specific uses. Some cleansers, like ones intended for acne, are highly exfoliating and contain antibacterial agents that can be harmful if your skin is not prone to acne. On the other hand, cleansers with rich formulations can be too much for some skin types and end up clogging your pores!

The best piece of advice when it comes to figuring out which facial cleansers you should be using is to have an expert assess your skin and its specific needs. This will help choose a cleanser that has the proper ingredients for your desired effect.

2. Popping your pimples the wrong way

You know the feeling of having a giant zit staring back at you in the mirror just daring you to pop it. I urge you, please please please resist the urge to pop that pimple, or at the very least, do it the right way. Simply put, if you're not extracting the contents of a pimple properly, you can actually do much more damage to your skin than good.

Not only are you spreading bacteria to the surrounding clean and healthy pores by improperly popping that one pimple, you're also drastically increasing the risk of hyperpigmentation by damaging the surface of your skin. If you can get to a professional to extract that pimple, that's always going to be your best option, but that's obviously not always a possible (or reasonable) solution. Instead, try using a dying lotion or spot treatment for a few days to calm the breakout. Basically, anything with salicylic acid and calamine will work best.

3. Eating too much sugar

At this point, it's common knowledge that sugar does absolutely nothing good for your body. What's even scarier is that the effect sugar has on your skin is just as destructive, if not worse!

When you consume sugar - and I'm talking about the white, processed kind and not the natural sugars found in whole foods like fruit - a chain reaction occurs in your body that results in inflammation, a breakdown of healthy collagen, and even sagging skin! Many plastic surgeons agree that consuming too much sugar damages skin cells and causes premature aging. And while it's unclear as to how much sugar consumption is necessary to lead to damages skin, we know that refined and processed sugars are more harmful than any other carbohydrates since they are known to have a greater negative effect on our insulin levels.

Obviously, cutting sugar out of your diet entirely is the best and most efficient way to limit sugar-induced again, but breaking that sweet habit can be difficult. Try cutting back on the amount of sugar you consume and instead opt for a more effective anti-glycation skin-care product that's rich in antioxidants which will protect and repair your skin.

4. Hanging around smokers

Cigarette smoke is detrimental to your skin's health whether you're the one smoking or not. Not only is cigarette smoke filled with harmful chemicals like nicotine, tar, nitric oxide and carbon monoxide, it also ruins collagen levels on the inside. Second-hand smoke affects the skin greatly because collagen-destroying enzymes ramp up dramatically when exposed to it which results in increased wrinkling and other visible signs of aging.

The best way to save your skin from the effects of cigarette smoke is by avoiding it altogether. The next best thing you can do is load up on antioxidants like vitamins A, C, E, and substances like beta-carotene and lycopene. These things form a kind of barrier on your skin to reduce the amount of free-radical damage.

5. Regularly skipping sunblock

Failure to wear the proper SPF every day, yes even if it's rainy or cloudy or in the dead of winter, can destroy your skin without you even knowing it. Not wearing the right SPF can accelerate signs of aging and increase your risk of skin cancer as well.

There are two types of rays: UVA - the ones that cause aging, and UVB - the ones that lead to sunburn. You want to choose a sunblock that contains ingredients that block against both kinds of rays. Be sure to look for the words 'broad spectrum' on the bottle's label. I also recommend that your sunblock contains both chemicals and physical protection against the sun, especially for your face. Make sure you're using at least SPF 30, but definitely use a higher SPF if you spend a lot of time outside.

No matter what the weather calls for, you really need to be applying sunblock daily. As long as there is light coming from the sun, there are harmful UV rays there too. By making it a habit to use sunblock every day, two things are accomplished: a lifelong habit that slowly accumulates over the course of your life, and a significantly reduced rsk that you'll be caught unprotected in the sun.

Try and remember the 2-hour rule: If you are outside, reapply your sunblock every two hours. If you're inside, always apply sunblock 20 minutes before you go outside.

7. Not washing your face after using eye makeup remover

This secret skin destroyer is one you've probably never thought about because most people assume makeup removers leave skin fresh and clean. But the truth is this: many makeup removers contain oils that leave behind a residue which can damage skin. The oils in makeup removers are great for removing waterproof makeup and mascaras, but if left on your skin, they can irritate your eye area by clogging the pores and delicate eye structures.

Once you've taken off all your makeup, wash your face one last time with a high-end cleanser. It's extremely important to cleanse your face after using makeup remover to help get rid of all that residual product that stays on your skin.

8. Over-exfoliating

There's no denying that regularly exfoliating your skin provides a laundry list of benefits like blackhead prevention, even texture, and less-visible dark spots. However, if you're using a product that's too abrasive for your skin or you're loading up on too many exfoliating agents at one time, you can end up with skin that's red, irritated and incredibly sensitive.

A common misconception with skincare products is the idea that if it's not burning or stinging, then it's not working and more is always better. This frame of mind is simply wrong and couldn't be further from the truth. Exfoliating with abrasives is risky because you can cause microabrasions in your skin from applying too much force while applying them. Try exfoliating with a fruit acid like glycolic acid. It gently loosens dead skin cells by reducing their stickiness. The goal of exfoliation is to remove these dead skin cells, not disrupt the healthy, living ones.

If your skin has been over-exfoliated and you need to get it back to normal, stop using exfoliating agents and repair the damage with a light moisturizer for a few days.