7 Deadly and Not-So-Deadly Skin Sins

From time to time, it's possible to miss the mark and slip into a bad habit. And although eating the occasional burger, skipping a week of exercise, or forgetting to wash your face one day won't hurt you, continually committing these offenses can become harmful.

Here's how not to care for your skin. Taking heed of these seven common blunders will help renew your complexion—and possibly even save your life:

1. Heading out without sunscreen (no matter the season)

Sunscreen is your number one defense against non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers and can prevent sunburns and premature aging. Don't ignore putting sunscreen on neglected parts of your body such as your hairline, ears, hands, feet, and décolleté as these areas are the most exposed to the sun. So whether you’re heading to a beach, driving to a lodge cabin in the winter, or heading to the office, be sure to keep your body protected from the rays.

2. Forgetting to wash your face

Your face collects environmental pollutants such as cigarette smoke, car exhaust, smog, and other dangerous chemicals. These harmful agents increase the levels of free radicals in your skin, which break down collagen and elastin fibers and thereby speed up aging. Cleanse your face in the morning and at night with a facial cleanser containing antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E. Antioxidants help fight off the free radicals that are produced by the air's toxins.

3. Choosing the wrong moisturizer

As you age, collagen and skin elasticity begin to diminish—robbing your face's natural moisture—which is why replenishment is so important. To determine what type of moisturizer you need, it's important to get to know your skin type. Is your skin often oily? Dry? Somewhere in between? Does it easily become irritated? Even if you have "normal" skin, that doesn't mean you don't need a moisturizer. And if your skin is mature, it's important to meet the unique challenges that come along with it. Choose day and nighttime moisturizers that address your skin needs and make it a point to the stick with the regimen.

4. Skipping a skin exam

Most skin cancers are easy to cure—if detected and treated early. Skin examinations help achieve this. Ignoring potentially cancerous moles could result in skin disfigurement and even death. Every month, check for any changes in your skin or the shapes of your body marks. It only takes about ten minutes a month to potentially save your life. Also, be sure to visit your dermatologist yearly for a full body exam. The Skin Cancer Foundation provides information on how to perform a self-examination and has a list of what kinds of body marks you should look out for.

5. Using skin care products with harmful ingredients

Don't trust that all products you buy in the market are actually safe for use. Not all skin products have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For instance, propylene glycol is included in many skin creams and lotions to make skin look smoother. However it can cause irritation, contact dermatitis, and possibly even speed up aging. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a degreaser used in foaming soaps, shampoos, body washes, facial cleansers, and shaving creams. It has carcinogenic nitrates that can cause eye and skin irritation. Artificial fragrances can cause a host of health problems including headaches, dizziness, skin irritation, and lung issues. Parabens (propyl, methyl, butyl, and ethyl) are highly toxic preservatives found in skin care and hair products that can cause allergic skin reactions. Imidazolidinyl and diazolidinyl urea can cause contact dermatitis. And beware of trithanolamine (TEA). It's used to adjust the PH levels in cosmetics and can lead to eye allergies as well as dryness of the skin and hair. To find out if a particular ingredient in your skin or hair product is harmful, check out EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database website.

6. Smoking

Lighting up not only causes deep-set wrinkles around the eyes and lips, but it restricts your blood vessels from providing your skin with the oxygen and nutrients it needs. And smoking can also increase your likelihood of getting psoriasis.

7. Spending time in a tanning bed

The verdict still stands: tanning beds, no matter how "controlled" the UV exposure, are not a safer alternative to the sun's rays. Like any form of tanning, tanning beds emit ultraviolet (UV) rays, some of which can increase your chances of developing melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers.



Skin Cancer Foundation
Sunscreen Safety: The Reality

Skin Cancer Foundation
The Dangers of Tanning

Protecting Your Skin From Climate and Pollution

How Smoking Affects Your Health

Mayo Clinic
Moisturizers: Options for Softer Skin

Organic Facts
Harmful Chemicals in Personal Care Products