You’ve done your research on skincare ingredients like ceramides, peptides, and antioxidants. You’ve purchased the best-reviewed products and established an anti-aging routine. But frustratingly enough, after months of consistently slathering yourself with your new formulas, you’re just not seeing any results. Unfortunately, achieving gorgeous skin isn’t always as easy as closely adhering to a regimen. We consulted with three dermatologists, who revealed the most common mistakes that could sabotage skin progress.
You Don’t Nourish Your Body
Topical hydration and nutrition isn’t the only way to achieve healthier-looking skin — it’s also essential to feed your body from within. According to Dr. Lamees Hamdan, CEO of Shiffa Beauty, eating correctly should be at the top of your list to stave off signs of aging, and recommends a vitamin-rich diet packed with dark leafy greens and as little as sugar as possible. “Sugars and simple carbohydrates can really wreak havoc with your skin’s internal structure through a process called glycation,” she explains. “Glycation is permanent and makes your collagen and elastin fibers weak, stiff, less springy and discolored, resulting in sagging skin.”
But a lifetime of bad habits doesn’t mean you’ve resigned yourself to unhealthy skin. “Although [glycation] is permanent, don’t think you can’t help,” she notes. “Your skin cells renew themselves every six weeks or so, so if you start eating well for your skin, the new skin cells forming should have healthy, springy elastin and collagen fibers. It is so easy to reap the benefits of a healthy diet.” Not sure where to start? Try this tomato salad recipe from the New Potato sisters, which is loaded with nutrients and vitamins.
You’re Not Layering Your Products Correctly
There are so many different formulas and consistencies on the market that it can be challenging to figure out the proper order, but knowing how to layer them is crucial to establishing an effective routine. Dr. Lamees recommends starting with the thinnest consistency first, layering on the heaviest formula last.
Adds Dr. Heidi Waldorf of Waldorf Dermatology Aesthetics, “The key is to remember that serums do not have ‘occlusive’ or sealing ingredients, so apply any serum you are using before a lotion or cream.” She warns, “If you apply your serum over a lotion or cream, it may not absorb as well.”
She also recommends applying your antioxidant treatments, like a vitamin C serum, in the morning. “Do it in the morning before your sunscreen, not at night. That way it can act with your sunscreen to help protect your skin.”
However, if you use a retinol-based product, you’ll see the best results if you don’t layer it (this way, it can better penetrate the skin). Dr. Hamdan recommends applying it directly to a clean, dry face, then waiting two minutes for it to dry before applying moisturizer — but only if you need that boost in hydration. Note that if you are pregnant or breast feeding, please consult your doctor before using retinol based products.
[Editor's note: Retinol shouldn't be used by those who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.]
You’re Not Exfoliating Properly
As we age, the cell turnover process slows, which can cause dead skin cells to stay on the surface of our skin. That can make your complexion look dull, tired, and dry. Removing those dead cells is a key factor in the success of your anti-aging journey — not only does it help your cellular turnover, but reveals healthy, new skin that’s ready to absorb products.
As essential as this step is, it’s just as important to not do it too often. “Too much can cause skin irritation, [which] could be counterproductive in terms of maintaining skin health and appearance,” says Dr. Adebola Dele-Michael, Medical Director at Radiant Skin Dermatology and Laser in New York City.
To strike the right balance, stick with exfoliating about two times a week, preferably with an acid-based product. (Learn more about the best acids for your skin here.) Sunday Riley’s Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment ($105) uses lactic acid, a milk-derived alpha-hydroxy acid, to provide gentle, effective exfoliation without stripping your skin of all of its moisture.
You Think a Cloudy Day Is an Excuse to Skip SPF
We know that recommending religious use of sunscreen is the most common skincare advice — but it bears repeating. According to Dr. Dele-Michael, not wearing “at least 30 SPF” is the most common mistake. Though the sun is an essential source of vitamins, it can be extremely dangerous to our skin. The sun’s strong ultraviolet rays can cause collagen breakdown and elastin to form abnormally, which paves the way for forming wrinkles. If you are not defending your skin with SPF, then the sun will continue to worsen many of the problems you might be trying to treat, including fine lines, dark spots, and, yes, wrinkles.
“You can layer as many products as you want, but the effects will be mitigated if proper skin protection isn't observed when it comes to exposure to UV radiation [sun exposure] and free radicals,” says Dr. Dele-Michael.
Additionally, certain ingredients in a solid skincare regimen, like alpha-hydroxy acids and retinol, will make your skin more sensitive to sun exposure. If you fail to use SPF while using formulas with these ingredients, you could experience painful burning sensations and hyperpigmentation. In short, you should never skip SPF. We love Shiseido® Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion WetForce SPF 50+ ($40) for everyday use — it’s also waterproof.
Dr. Heidi Waldorf is a paid Allergan consultant.
Allergan may receive commission for purchases made through links in this article.