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6 Makeup and Beauty Bad Habits to Break

Get a fresh start with these easy tips


spinner image a woman holding hair that has been damaged by high heat from blowdryers
Boy_Anupong/Getty Images

Do you peel your nail polish? Rarely clean your makeup brushes or replace bath puffs? Skip sunscreen on cold, cloudy days or for the entire winter season? These bad beauty habits and more are common among otherwise informed and well-groomed people. Some behaviors are just icky, others are potentially dangerous, but all sabotage your looks, which is reason enough to kick them to the curb. Here are six beauty habits to drop today and what to do instead. Do you …

spinner image Versed Day Maker Microcrystal Exfoliator; Tatcha The Rice Polish Gentle Foaming Enzyme Powder; Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser
(Left to right) Versed Day Maker Microcrystal Exfoliator; Tatcha The Rice Polish Gentle Foaming Enzyme Powder; Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser
Target; Sephora; Ulta Beauty

1. … exfoliate your skin too aggressively?

Sometimes too much of a good thing is bad. Take exfoliation. Cell turnover — your skin’s natural exfoliation process — slows with age, which contributes to a dull dry texture, stubborn cakey makeup application and an inability for serums and creams to penetrate effectively. If your face is looking red and irritated or is experiencing a burning or stinging sensation, that’s an alert to drop your chunky scrub or chemical peel and make a change. Many exfoliators are too abrasive or potent and designed for thicker, oilier, acne-prone youthful complexions — not mature skin that’s thinner, drier and more sensitive. Look for gentle water-activated microfine exfoliating powders and scrubs (also known as physical exfoliators) such as the Versed Day Maker Microcrystal Exfoliator ($17, target.com) and Tatcha The Rice Polish Gentle Foaming Enzyme Powder ($68, sephora.com) that rely on your fingers and light circular movements to polish away surface debris. For another option, try a mild chemical scrub such as the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser ($15, ulta.com) with alpha hydroxy acids buffered by skin plumping hyaluronic acid for the same effect. No need to put muscle into it, this is your face, not the kitchen floor! Once a week (twice max) is enough to get smoother skin and more glow. On a cautionary note: Those with very reactive skin, rosacea or eczema should avoid exfoliation completely and see your doctor for pro care.

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spinner image L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Protein Recharge Treatment; Turbie Twist Microfiber Hair Towel Wrap; Conair InfinitiPRO Smooth Wrap Hair Dryer with Dual Ion Therapy; John Frieda Frizz Ease Daily Nourishment Leave-In Conditioner
(Left to right) L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Protein Recharge Treatment; Turbie Twist Microfiber Hair Towel Wrap; Conair InfinitiPRO Smooth Wrap Hair Dryer with Dual Ion Therapy; John Frieda Frizz Ease Daily Nourishment Leave-In Conditioner
CVS; Walmart; Amazon; Target

2. … fry your hair with hot tools?

Is your hair super-dry, dull or the texture of cotton candy? Is it suffering from breakage and split ends? That’s heat damage and a signal to change your drying and styling habits. Though air-drying hair sounds like a good idea in theory, it isn’t practical or desirable for most women — especially those with medium-to-long hair. Instead, drop the flat irons and curling irons and go back to a basic blow dryer such as the Conair InfinitiPRO Smooth Wrap Hair Dryer With Dual Ion Therapy ($42, amazon). After showering, blot freshly washed hair in the Turbie Twist Microfiber Hair Towel Wrap ($29 for four, walmart.com) to absorb excess water. Apply a leave-in conditioner and heat protectant such as the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Protein Recharge Treatment ($8, cvs.com) or John Frieda Frizz Ease Daily Nourishment Leave-In Conditioner ($9, target.com) to avoid further damage and give hair a silkier texture whether it’s straight, wavy or curly. Then “rough dry” hair until it is partially dry (60 to 70 percent). Simply bend at the waist and use your opposite hand to tousle and separate as you dry. This will add plenty of body, but be sure to keep the dryer moving and not concentrated on one spot or section. For extra shape or polish, throw in a few Velcro rollers at the end for a few minutes. Dial down the washing and heat styling to once or twice a week.

spinner image Playtex Living Drip-Catch Cuff Dishwashing Gloves in Pink; Burt’s Bees Shea + Coconut Hand & Body Lotion, Unscented; Vaseline Dry Hands Rescue
(Left to right) Playtex Living Drip-Catch Cuff Dishwashing Gloves in Pink; Burt’s Bees Shea + Coconut Hand & Body Lotion, Unscented; Vaseline Dry Hands Rescue
Amazon; Target (2)

3. … neglect daily nail and hand care?

Regular manicures can help you look groomed, but they don’t make up for picking at nail polish, biting your cuticles, dishwashing minus gloves, using nails to open your Amazon packages and skipping hand cream. First, there’s the visual turnoff. That’s followed by resulting issues such as thinned, weakened nails and dry, rough, reddened hands. Start by treating yourself to colorful chore gloves — the Playtex Living Drip-Catch Cuff Dishwashing Gloves in Pink ($17, amazon.com) — and promise to wear them every time you do dishes. Make another commitment: Apply a nongreasy but deeply hydrating hand cream such as Burt’s Bees Shea + Coconut Hand & Body Lotion, Unscented ($9, target.com) with shea butter, aloe and jojoba oil or Vaseline Dry Hands Rescue ($6, target.com) with the humectant glycerin and the signature occlusive jelly to seal in moisture every time you wash your hands or apply sanitizer. (Stash extras in your bag and at every sink.) As holidays approach, treat your hands to a long-lasting gel or dip manicure as incentive and to bring nibbling to a guilty halt and avoid germs that prompt viruses and infections.

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spinner image Johnson’s Baby Shampoo; EcoTools Makeup Brush + Sponge Shampoo; Pop-arazzi Delicate Bath Puff
(Left to right) Johnson’s Baby Shampoo; EcoTools Makeup Brush + Sponge Shampoo; Pop-arazzi Delicate Bath Puff
Amazon; Target; CVS

4. ... avoid beauty “laundry”? 

How many of you almost never clean your hairbrush or eye shadow brushes and use the same bath puff for months on end? Not washing beauty tools is messy and creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria that can lead to breakouts, rashes and infections, scalp irritation and greasy lifeless hair. Set aside a weekly time slot, and separately clean hairbrushes and combs in one group, makeup brushes, sponges and sponge-tip applicators (from eye shadow palettes to sponge tips on eyeliners) in the second, as a preventive measure. All it takes is a sudsy swish in warm water and some mild shampoo for the cleansing action, followed by a clean rinse, then blot on a paper towel and air-dry. Dry-clean hairbrushes and combs first by removing as much hair as possible using the end of a rattail comb or tweezers. Then use an old clean toothbrush to scrub between rows of bristles and teeth before the actual suds and water soak. For makeup tools, deposit a small amount of mild Johnson’s Baby Shampoo ($5, amazon.com) or a makeup brush cleanser such as the EcoTools Makeup Brush + Sponge Shampoo ($8, target.com) on the business end. Then use your fingers to work up a lather before rinsing, reshaping and lying flat to air-dry. Finally, toss any bath puff, loofah or sponge that has been hanging out in your shower or bath caddy and replace them with the Pop-arazzi Delicate Bath Puff ($7, cvs.com) every four to six weeks.

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spinner image L’Oréal Paris Age Positive Radiant Serum Foundation SPF 50; Tower 28 SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen Foundation; CC+ Color Correcting Full Coverage Cream SPF 50+
(Left to right) L’Oréal Paris Age Positive Radiant Serum Foundation SPF 50; Tower 28 SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen Foundation; CC+ Color Correcting Full Coverage Cream SPF 50+
Ulta Beauty; Sephora; Nordstrom

5. … give sunscreen a rest in winter?

It’s cold, cloudy, snowy or rainy and you figure “the sun is so weak today, I’ll just skip the SPF.” Sound familiar? Well, don’t give in! UV rays are always out to get you 365 days a year, regardless of the weather or the fact that you’re just driving around doing errands. A fading sun is no excuse to let down your defenses and neither is the idea that daily face makeup is an adequate substitute. Find a moisturizing cold weather SPF 30+ makeup with a tint will give your skin protection and a fresh radiant look while blurring discolorations. These vary from sheer formulas, including the Tower 28 SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen Foundation ($32, sephora.com), to those with more coverage such as L’Oréal Paris Age Positive Radiant Serum Foundation SPF50 ($18, ulta.com) and CC+ Color Correcting Full Coverage Cream SPF50+ ($47, nordstrom.com), so choose accordingly. All can handle a midday touch-up without a cakey buildup should you decide to take a long walk, work next to a window or meet a friend for lunch or coffee outdoors.

spinner image Dove Purely Pampering Liquid Body Wash with Pump, Shea Butter & Vanilla; Olay Regenerist Micro- Sculpting Cream; Honest Beauty Vitamin C  Radiance Serum with Hyaluronic Acid
Left to right: Dove Purely Pampering Liquid Body Wash with Pump, Shea Butter & Vanilla ($10, walmart.com); Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream ($34, cvs.com); Honest Beauty Vitamin C Radiance Serum With Hyaluronic Acid ($34, target.com)
Walmart; CVS; Target

6. … hoard and use expired beauty products forever?

Full disclosure: As a beauty/style editor and personal shopper, I always tell women to date every new beauty item with a Sharpie. Only about 50 percent of people are diligent about doing this, and they never extend the effort beyond makeup. Big mistake! Who can remember when you bought or opened that body lotion, hair mask, sunscreen or face cream? My motto is: “When in doubt, throw it out,” and it will save you from rashes, irritation and formula breakdowns that make whatever you are using ineffective or just plain yucky. Change your habits and start dating all new buys and tossing questionable oldies. Some products will tip you off by just smelling “off,” or changing color or texture. Others have a PAO (period after opening) code specifying 6M or 12M, indicating how many months of use are OK. Even then, can you be certain the start date was last January or June? The safety timeline speeds up when products are natural and preservative-free. Make cleaning out your bathroom shelves, cupboards and makeup cases a monthly ritual. Say bye to anything that separates or looks curdled — especially undated open-mouthed jars of those face creams we love that get double-dipped touches by human fingers.

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