Let’s face it: We all put so much importance on our evening skincare routines that we tend to forget that a solid morning regimen is just as crucial. While the evening wind down lends itself to indulging in luxe face masks and the careful layering of serums and creams, the morning rush gets the best of us, and our skin pays the price. We don’t even think about it, but some of our morning habits are ruining all the hard work done the evening before keep skin in tip-top shape. From splashing water on our face and calling it a “cleanse” to rushing out the door and forgetting the most important rule of skincare (yes, that would be sunscreen), we checked in with top dermatologists to learn about these bad morning habits and of course, how to remedy them stat.
Keep scrolling to read about the morning habits that are ruining your skin.
A splash of water isn’t going to cut it in the mornings because believe it or not, skin oils accumulate overnight, and those must be removed with a cleanser to reap the benefits of your morning skincare regimen, which should always start with a proper cleanse. “Sometimes people forget the importance of using a cleanser in the morning if they washed their face the night before,” says Jennifer Levine, MD.
If you happen to skip the night time face cleansing, then this step is imperative. “Dirt and oil can collect on your face overnight, especially if you did not wash your makeup off before going to bed. It is essential to start the day with a clean face so that your products are maximally effective,” adds Mara Weinstein, MD, FAAD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group.
Just because you should cleanse your face in the morning doesn’t mean you should go overboard with the exfoliators and harsh cleansers. “Gritty scrubs often contain rough natural exfoliators like kernels or seeds, and harsh peels can cause irritation and inflammation which leads to clogged pores and even brown spots and wrinkles,” says Karen Hammerman, MD, at Schweiger Dermatology Group.
So while you do want to get rid of the buildup skin accumulates overnight, there’s no need to grab an aggressive peel to get the job done, especially if your skin is on the sensitive side. Michele J Farber, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group, says, “Toss the fragrance-filled soaps and opt for gentler, non-soap cleansers. True soaps clean with detergents that eliminate moisture, while lipid-free cleansers are more gentle and hydrating. CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser ($8) is excellent for sensitive skin as it contains ceramides and glycerin to replace the skin barrier.”
We’re all guilty at staring into the mirror and analyzing every red bump or soon-to-be-zit. After all the morning sunshine gives our bathroom the best lighting to do a little DIY extraction, no? While this is true, it’s a huge no, and dermatologists agree that stepping away from the mirror in the mornings is a good idea. “Picking a pimple is most likely going to end up badly,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD. “Too much pressure can cause inflammation and traumatize the skin, leaving it open and raw. Plus, painful underground pimples are often cysts with no direct connection to the skin. So there is essentially no way to pick it out, and any attempt will leave you with a mess.”
Farber adds that in the end, it will only delay the process of achieving clear skin. “While it is tempting to pop your pimples, this can often delay healing. If repeatedly done or if the top layer of the skin is scraped, it can lead to acne scarring which is much worse than having acne. The best at-home remedy is using a benzoyl peroxide wash or a leave-on benzoyl peroxide cream as a spot treatment.”
Clean makeup brushes not only allow your makeup to go on seamlessly they can wreak havoc on your skin if you aren’t diligent about cleaning them. “Your makeup tools—brushes, sponges, and other applicators—are loaded with bacteria and dead skin cells making them absolute breakout perpetrators,” Hammerman says. And what’s the point of using a dirty brush after you’ve just washed your face? This is just one big reason why ensuring your makeup applicators are clean and germ-free is a total must.
Even the most devoted lipstick-wearers are guilty of neglecting their lips. We don’t necessarily associate lips with skincare, but they are indeed a precious part of our skin and need just as much love as the rest of our face. “Lips are susceptible to sun damage just as much as the rest of your face,” Weinstein says. “When exposed to sunlight without protection, people who are prone to it can experience a herpes breakout. Many forget that harsh sunlight can trigger the virus and end up with cold sores.” To avoid sun damage, get into the habit of using a lip balm with SPF before going out the door.
With so much emphasis on nighttime skincare regimens, sometimes we tend to slack with the morning routine. Mona Gohara, MD, chief resident in dermatology at Yale University, suggests implementing the use of serums to target your skin’s needs. “Serums are made up of smaller molecules that can penetrate deeply into the skin and deliver a very high concentration of active ingredients. This makes them a great tool for targeting specific skincare concerns, like wrinkles, dullness or unevenness,” she says.
Weinstein notes that using an antioxidant in the morning is a great rule of thumb. “Antioxidants are a must for your skin. They protect from environmental damage caused by free radicals that contribute to aging. They also help to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in addition to brightening the skin. What’s not to love?”
With a targeted skincare regimen comes a guideline for application. Yes, the order in which you apply your precious serums and moisturizers matters. Besides, you spent your hard earned cash on your regimen, why wouldn’t you want to maximize its efficacy? “One of the keys to maximizing the benefits of any product in your daily skincare regimen is to apply products with a thinner consistency before the thicker more creamy ones, no matter what their active ingredients are,” says NYC-based Dermatologist Dennis Gross. “Products with heavy consistencies can block lighter-weight ones from penetrating the skin and doing their job. Always apply products thinnest to thickest. The actives will work harder for you and your skin.”
We saved the best for last because although it seems like a no-brainer, rushing out the door in the mornings could mean we forgot that daily dose of SPF—and we all know that’s a big No-No. “Sunscreen is an essential part of your skincare regimen, regardless of skin tone, skin color, or season,” Gross reminds us. “Since sun damage can occur even in short periods of sun exposure, it’s a very good idea to make applying it every morning second nature, like brushing your teeth or combing your hair.”
Zeichner adds that while it’s one of the most important steps to take for preventing aging and skin cancers, applying SPF daily can also help reverse the preexisting damage. “A recent year-long study showed that daily use of sunscreen not only prevented sun damage but also improved the visible signs of previous damage.”