The 8 Worst Things You Can Do to Your Skin

Stop. Picking.

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Scary truth: You can wreak a lot of havoc on your own face. Scarier truth? You can even do it in the process of trying to improve the quality of your skin.

For some tough-love insight, we looked to two of our most trusted experts, celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau and dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, M.D., at Schweiger Dermatology Group, to spell out the most common bad habits that keep women from achieving the complexion of their dreams. The main takeaway? It's not our skin—it's us.

1. Picking Reminder: You're not a dermatologist and should not be picking at your pimples, ingrown hairs, or anywhere else on your face. It's one of the biggest assaults against your skin and can have permanent effects.

"The more people press and manipulate blemishes, the more inflammation they create underneath," explains Dr. Nazarian. "The result is scars or discolorations left on the skin, which can last months, if not forever."

2. Over-Exfoliating Your skin can't take too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to exfoliating. Dr. Rouleau's advice? Use a good facial scrub or exfoliating acid—sparingly. "It can be used seven days on and seven days off," she says. "During the days when it is not being used, nourish the new healthy cells with a great moisturizer appropriate for your skin type."

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3. Over-Washing Washing is another skin habit that will suffer from surplus. Don't forget, your skin is a super delicate organ—be very particular about what you put on it and how often you do so.

"Most tend to use harsh soaps that strip natural oils from their body and disrupt the ideal pH of their skin," says Dr. Nazarian. "Chronic over-washing will cause skin to dry and crack, leaving it prone to infections and flares of inflammatory conditions like eczema, and can even highlight signs of aging, like small wrinkles and lines."

To ensure you're not over-drying your skin, look to super-hydrating cleansers that gently clean without destroying the balance of natural oils.

4. Using the Same Products Year-Round Your skins needs different things from season to season. Each change should be a reminder to re-evaluate your regimen. Here are Rouleau's recommendations:

5. Tugging at the Skin Around Your Eye This is where skin is thinnest, which makes it the most delicate. And since it's the first to show signs of aging, be gentle with it!

" Pulling on the skin while putting in contacts, applying eyeliner, or rubbing aggressively to remove stubborn eye makeup can create wear and tear on the collagen and elasticity fibers, causing visible lines and wrinkles prematurely," explains Rouleau. "Always apply eye cream with the ring finger (it's the weakest) and use a gentle patting motion to avoid rubbing and tugging."

6. Tanning and/or Not Wearing Sunscreen It's no secret that sunning yourself is just about the worst thing you can do to your skin. "Every tan, even a slight darkening, is a sign of skin damage," explains Dr. Nazarian. "With repeated exposure to UV-radiation, skin cells can mutate, causing deadly skin cancers like melanoma. If that wasn't bad enough, chronic radiation and tanning also causes signs of skin aging, like wrinkles, sagging and drooping, brown spots, and uneven tone."

As far as protection goes, you should be taking precaution daily if you want to prevent wrinkles and skin cancer. "Every day of the year, rain or shine, harmful UV rays come through windows in your office, home, or car," says Rouleau. "Make sure your moisturizer contains a sunscreen, so you only need to apply one product. Don't forget, the best anti-aging product in the world is sunscreen."

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7. Smoking As if you needed another incentive to quit, just know: Your skin will be so grateful. In addition to causing premature aging and wrinkling, it's endangering your health. "Smoking cigarettes increases your risk of squamous cell skin cancer, a dangerous skin cancer that can metastasize and spread if not caught early," warns Dr. Nazarian.

8. Neglect Failing to look after your skin, like you would your teeth or hair, is its own form of abuse. But just cleansing ain't gonna cut it: "Washing your face in the morning isn't quite enough to satisfy your skin-care quota," explains Dr. Nazarian. "Skin requires daily moisturizing, daily sun-protection, and annual monitoring to screen for skin cancer. Skin cancers can usually be treated, and cured, if caught early. There's no excuse for neglecting your health by skipping your exam."

You should also check out:

Forget a Facialist: All You Need for Flawless Skin Are These 8 Foods

10 Ways to Wake Up Prettier Than You Went to Sleep

Lauren Valenti
Beauty Editor

Lauren is the former beauty editor at Marie Claire. She love to while away the hours at coffee shops, hunt for vintage clothes, and bask in the rough-and-tumble beauty of NYC. She firmly believes that solitude can be a luxury if you’ve got the right soundtrack—that being the Rolling Stones, of course.