Common Mistakes That Are Wrecking Your Skin (And How to Fix Them)

Here, how to avoid becoming that wrinkly old lady at the beach.

It’s time to get serious, my friends. Serious about taking care of the largest organ of our body — our skin.

We chatted with Naomi Fenlin, owner of About Face Skin Care, and asked her to lay it all out — what are we all doing wrong in the warmer months (and hopefully it will get warmer soon) when it comes to taking care of our skin. And boy, oh boy, did she come through.  Below, seven common summertime skincare mistakes she has observed — both in her life and in her work — aside from people skipping sunscreen, Because, well, we all already know should be doing that, right? Read on to avoid becoming a raisin (or whatever your preferred dried fruit comparison is).

You don’t drink water, like, ever …
As Fenlin points out, skin cells are made up of a lot of water — about 80 percent, to be precise. “When your skin cells don’t have enough water content they look ugly, function poorly, can’t adequately protect underlying tissue, age more quickly and can lead to many skin disorders, including eczema and acne,” Fenlin say. Ack! Naomi encourages everyone to significantly increase their water intake from the suggested eight eight-ounce cups a day when spending time in the sun and the heat to keep your skin happy, healthy and hydrated.

You mistake oily skin for moisturized skin.
Summer can be a very dry time for our skin, despite whatever oil may be lingering on your face, Fenlin says. “Heat, air-conditioning, water sports, more frequent bathing and even wiping off perspiration can all result in some seriously dry skin during the summer,” Fenlin warns. It might seem counterintuitive, she says, because we tend to be more oily in the summer, but Fenlin assures that “oil production increases to compensate for dehydrated — there’s that water thing again —  skin cells.” Who knew? To help keep overly oily skin at bay while remaining fully hydrated, Fenlin suggests using an oil-free, lightweight moisturizer like this one. By preemptively moisturizing, “You will actually be managing your oil production and keeping it to a minimum,” Fenlin says.

You don’t have any topical antioxidants in your medicine cabinet.
You know consuming antioxidants is great for your health, but did you know you should be throwing ’em on your skin, too? Fenlin points out, antioxidants increase your body’s ability to protect itself from harmful infrared and UV rays, pollution, and when applied topically, they “can play a huge role in amplifying the efficacy of your skin’s natural protection abilities,” and also play into how well your sunscreen works. She suggests applying a topical antioxidant, like this one — a hit in the industry, once a day to get your fix.

You think baking in the sun is helping your skin.
WRONG. If you think the sun transforms your acne-ridden skin, don’t get it twisted — baking in the sun will actually make things worse in the long run, Fenlin says. “The inflammatory reaction of the skin [to the sun] results in pores that are unable to empty their contents which, in turn, creates pimples,” she says. NOOOOOOO. “Maybe not right away, but the damage is done, and the pimple is coming.”

You’re neglecting these parts of your body.
The backs of ears, lips, tops of feet and back of the neck are most commonly missed by sunscreen, according to Fenlin. And guess what? They’re also some of the most common places for skin cancer to pop up. As Fenlin suggests, “It is essential to protect ALL of yourself because every part is susceptible to the damaging effects of the sun.” Noted.

You apply sunscreen too late (or not often enough).
If you wait until your skin is already turning a lovely hue of millenial pink to apply your SPF, it’s too late — you’ve already been burned, Fenlin says. She suggests applying sunscreen 30 minutes before venturing into the sun, giving it ample time to dry and settle into your skin for the most protection. She also reminds us that you need to reapply SPF throughout the day, “at an absolute minimum, if you are outdoors, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours.” However, Fenlin continues, “If you’re swimming, sweating, or feel like your skin is getting too much sun, you may need to reapply more frequently than that.” A good rule of thumb: If you feel like you’re getting burned, you probably are — reapply.

You’re bypassing the SPF-rated clothing aisle.
Naturally, you can find these sun-safe clothes online and in sporting goods stores, but if you’re in a pinch, Fenlin spills hospital gift shops can come in clutch. “Hospitals have been way ahead of the rest of the world in regard to sun awareness for years!” And trust us, there are cute options out there. To wit: Athleta has a whole page dedicated to sun protective clothing. Another suggestion from Fenlin? Think about rocking a parasol — this one would be a great accessory for a day spent in the sun.

In the end, Fenlin says, “The sun is wonderful. It gives us light, warmth, and vitamins D and K. It provides the energy for plants of the world to photosynthesize giving life to our whole planet. It is powerful, magnificent, and dangerous. Respect these attributes when engaging with it. Cover up. Use SPF, and proper clothing. Keep yourself hydrated, sunscreened, and loaded (both inside and out) with antioxidants. Enjoy it, but not too much. Absorb it, but not too much. Play in it, but not too much. Too much of anything is too much.”

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