6 Skin Care Techniques Derms Say to Never Try at Home
We all definitely do skin care things we shouldn’t. Not in the “Whoops, I didn’t wash my face” way, either—but in the “Oh, no, I’ve made a horrible mistake” way, when you accidentally destine yourself to long-lasting disaster. Two very different experiences, but if you’ve ever started picking a zit and come away with a gushing wound, you get it. The problem is, thanks to our one true love, the Internet, and our second true love, Sephora’s skin care section, it’s harder than ever to tell what’s within our quasifacialist capabilities.
We ask you: Who among us hasn’t watched a Dr. Pimple Popper video and thought, Yeah, I could express a juicy sucker? Who hasn’t stuck their face over boiling pasta water, in the grand tradition of opening your pores to have some fun? It’s human nature to want some control. But ugh, the repercussions when things go awry—not good. So we set out to learn our limits. Here, the top skin techniques you should really, truly leave to derms.
1. Picking Your Skin
We all knew this was coming but play it again, Hadley King, M.D.. “The biggest mistake I see is people picking at their acne. It really does create more problems than anything else,” says Dr. King, a dermatologist at New York’s Skinney Medspa. Alas, the hope that you’re maybe, potentially speeding up the healing process is a ruse.
According to Dr. King, picking almost always makes your zits worse, causing more inflammation and increasing the risk that they’ll get infected. And anytime there’s more inflammation, you also up the chances of scarring and discoloration—even if you think it’s small enough to sneak by, Dr. King says. “Even tiny blackhead and whiteheads, which you can sometimes get away with picking without causing big problems, you’re still traumatizing your skin.”
2. Using a Ton of Powerhouse Products
In different words, plastic surgeon Julius Few, M.D., describes many people facing a Too Many Cooks bathroom sitch. We overload our skin with a bunch of active ingredients—like retinol, BHAs, and AHAs—all at once. While they may all be great in a dermatologist-tailored combo, going to town with more than one powerful active can leave your skin reeling, says Dr. Few, founder of The Few Institute for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
“I’m seeing more and more women come in mixing products in a way that actually aggravates your skin,” Dr. Few says. “It’s tempting to try a bunch of things, but in terms of skin health, cleansing, moisturizing, and using a single exfoliant once a week is probably all that any and everybody needs to do.” King adds that timing is key—switching your routine to only use one major player per night helps all the ingredients hit their stride.
3. The Skin-Gritting Phenomenon
As insanely satisfying as “skin gritting” looks, most of the derms we spoke with gave it a thumbs-down for effectiveness. The name refers to the viral practice of using an oil cleanser, then a clay mask, then another oil cleanser, which allegedly sucks out every blackhead before your eyes. The proof is normally in the pudding, so all the photos posted online of things in people’s hands (that had apparently been in their pores), had us raring to give it a go.
Joshua Zeichner, M.D., the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, says it probably won’t do any harm to try it if you must, but other derms were skeptical (to put it lightly). “Skin gritting, I think, is a hoax,” says Rachel Nazarian, M.D., a dermatologist at New York’s Schweiger Dermatology. “Dermatologists routinely extract blackheads, and what you see when you’re physically removing them is quite different from what the photos are showing. Those aren’t blackheads—those are little pieces of skin that have sloughed off.” Again, the theme of this article: womp, womp.
4. Leaving Masks on for an At-Home Mini Peel
We love the new genre of at-home facial products—they’re basically strong acids that you leave on for 10 minutes, then wash off to brighter skin—but Dr. King says there’s danger in treating them like any other mask (so, sitting down on the couch and washing it off when our show ends, 45 minutes later).
“It’s something that we all end up doing sometimes. We think if a little is good, then a little more is even better,” Dr. King says. “But be cautious, especially if you have sensitive skin. Some of these products are getting to be a little stronger, so you may end up with dryness, redness, or peeling.” Fly too close to the sun? Switch to a nonstripping cleanser like Dove’s Beauty Bar, moisturize, and wait the irritation out.
5. Going at It With Facial Massage
6. Kitchen Hacking Your Beauty Routine
It’s not hard to get the appeal of DIY masks and skin remedies: They’re cheap, available, and fun. All words with positive connotations, but the dark side is real, real dark. Dr. Nazarian says that the worst burns she sees often come from Pinterest-sourced recipes, for things like lemon-juice-based brighteners and baking soda zit hacks. “Kitchen clinics are not the right way to treat your skin,” she says, bottom line.
But Dr. Nazarian says if you just can’t quit the pins, look for DIYs involving oatmeal and green tea bags, both of which are soothing and anti-inflammatory. Just don’t expect something like spearmint tea to calm your cystic acne, Dr. Nazarian says. While the calming impact might positively influence your stress levels and help that way, she says the tea itself doesn’t do much.
Bram Vreeker is the internationally bestselling author of eleven novels. A pioneer in internet marketing, Vreeker started the first marketing firm for authors and is one of the founding board members of Silly Kitty. Vreeker also teaches an online marketing class to help authors get buzz for their books.