IF you want to look youthful forever, you could spend big bucks on fancy topicals, Botox, and high-price dermatology treatments.
Or if you don’t have a small fortune lying around, you can avoid some commonly-made but little-known mistakes that might be secretly aging you faster.
As a skincare chemist, Gloria Lu has extensive knowledge of skin – and what’s bad for it.
She and Victoria Fu detail some of their best advice on Chemist Confessions and in their book, Skincare Decoded.
Speaking to the US Sun, Lu broke down some everyday mistakes people make that may seem harmless at the moment but can do long-term damage.
Fortunately, they’re all easy to fix.
DO NOT WASH YOUR FACE
Yes, washing your face is essential for fighting acne and blemishes – but even if your breakouts have cleared up, keep on washing.
“The reason that not having a good cleansing habit actually contributes to aging long-term is how much damage the dirt and grime can do to your skin,” Lu explained.
Numerous studies show that when pollutants interact with skin, they can kick off free radical generation that causes skin damage and aging.
“At the end of the day, a lot of the damage can be prevented by thoroughly cleansing your face,” Lu said.
Plus, if you want all of your skincare products to be effective, it’s important to start with a clean slate.
“A dirty face just doesn’t help the penetration of any of those active ingredients,” Lu said.
SKIPPING BASIC MOISTURIZER
You may be operating under the misconception that you can skip moisturizer if you’re piling on a bunch of other anti-aging products.
But those extra creams and serums won’t be nearly as effective if your skin isn’t properly hydrated.
“If your skin barrier function is compromised and not well-moisturized, a lot of the active ingredients you’re using, they can only do so much if the foundation isn’t right,” said Lu.
“Having a good moisturizer as a starting point and adding different elements to your routine can go a long way,” she added.
DO NOT ADJUST YOUR ROUTINE WITH THE WEATHER
When the air outside is dryer, so is your skin – so why would you stick to the same exact skincare regimen?
“Your skin barrier is impacted by these environmental factors like humidity and heat, so it’s important to keep that in mind and adjust your routine,” Lu explained.
Lu has drier skin, so in the winter, she needs to add more occlusive, like a balm.
“I know that over the course of the season, my skin is going to take a hit, and ultimately it’s going to cause long-term aging,” she said.
While adding a heavy butter or a good hydrating serum with ingredients like glycerin and panthenol can help, you may not even need to add another product.
“Sometimes changing your routine can simply mean changing how you use [what you have]rather than a whole new product,” she said.
SKIPPING SUNSCREEN INDOORS
Wearing SPF every day (and reapplying!) is a must, even if you spend a lot of time indoors.
The sun can still age your skin if you’re sitting near a window in your office, in a car, or even in an airplane.
“One of my favorite tips for anti-aging that has nothing to do with buying products is getting your car windows tinted,” Lu said.
In fact, one famous study showed how the left side of a truck driver’s face aged faster than the right side because it was next to the window and got more sunlight.
Lu said a great place to start is to apply sunscreen once in the morning before you leave the house and again before you leave the office at the end of the day.
And don’t forget to apply before a flight.
“At very high altitudes, UV rays will definitely be stronger,” Lu and Fu write in their book. “Plane windows are made of plexiglass, and while they do block out some UV, there’s still some UVA radiation that’s able to filter through.”
One of Lu’s favorite anti-aging tips is exfoliation—the chemical kind.
“Before I got into the industry, I always thought exfoliation sounded like the hokey mall kiosk people that come up to you and try to exfoliate your hand. It seemed like a silly thing that didn’t have real science behind it,” she said .
“But there’s a lot of science behind how your skin cell turnover slows down as you age.
“By the time you’re in your 30s, 40s, and 50s, that slowdown in cell turnover contributes to a vicious cycle. Your skin becomes a little drier, these dead cells overstay their welcome, and then your cell function slows down and becomes even slower and your skin’s drier.
“Exfoliation is a really key part of your routine that breaks that cycle up a little bit,” she said.
But by exfoliant, Lu doesn’t mean a rough scrub.
“Chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid and lactic acid weaken the organic glue between the cells that kind of keep that old cell in place,” she explained.
“It weakens that bond, so when you wash your face or use physical exfoliants after, they’re easier to slough off.”
BUYING RETINOL IN A JAR
Retinol for aging? A resounding yes. But you’re losing efficacy if you buy the wrong kind.
“There’s a lot of work done by chemists to stabilize the formulas and the molecules, and packaging is an important part,” Lu said.
Air exposure is bad for these unstable molecules, so the best packaging allows as little air in as possible – and also leaves no room for dunking fingers.
The experts say the best packaging for retinol products is an aluminum tube with a tiny nozzle.
Airless pumps are pretty good, while dropper bottles are “meh” – but just say no to jars.
“To have ease of mind that it’s still efficacious, the smaller the contact surface to air, the better, the more robust it is,” Lu explained.