Everyone dreams about flawless and healthy skin but we also know the brutal reality. Unless you’re blessed with great skin naturally, chances are that you face skin troubles that make your skin too dry, too oily, too sensitive, inflamed, too full of zits or marred with scars and hyperpigmentation.

If you’re skin conscious, you’re probably spending some time and resources taking care of your skin with a regular skincare routine. But that’s also probably what bothers you the most – why aren’t your skin troubles going away despite all your efforts!

Here are some not-so-obvious, surprising things that could be wreaking havoc in your skin without you realizing and also how you can minimize the damage to improve your skin health.

  1. Skincare products with harmful chemicals

Many skincare products do more harm than good because of the number of harmful chemicals they contain! Most conventional products contain alcohol, SLS, parabens and artificial coloring and fragrances. 

These chemicals have the potential to trigger skin sensitivity and cause inflammation. They also deter the skin’s natural microbiome from thriving and performing its skin-beneficial functions.

The worst offender of all is alcohol in skincare – commonly found in toners and moisturizers. It not only dries up the skin but also compromises its natural defense barrier making it prone to sensitivity, infections and allergies.

Choose a product brand that uses high quality ingredients with a consciousness towards eliminating harmful chemicals. Look for natural and organic alternatives that support the skin microbiome so your skin feels healthy instead of being in a constant state of conflict.

  1. Harsh cleansers and scrubs

While cleansing your skin and keeping your pores clear is an essential aspect of any skincare routine, using harsh products doesn’t do you any good.

This is especially the case with those who have oily skin. It’s tempting to use soaps and scrubs that get rid of that oily sheen. However, harsh products only dry up the skin and trigger it to produce even more oil! They ruin the skin’s oil balance making it oilier and then the cycle continues. 

Harsh scrubs hurt the skin and trigger inflammation in the process of clearing up the pores.

Use mild cleansers, preferably those with botanical oils that regulate the skin’s oil balance. Don’t try to get rid of the oil, work on achieving a good balance instead. Use gentle, less-abrasive scrubs that are soft on the skin and are effective without inflaming it.

  1. Pore-clogging makeup

If you’re riddled with pesky acne, there’s a chance it’s coming from the makeup products you use. Makeup mixes with the excess natural oils of the skin along with dirt and dead skin cells to clog the pores. Clogged pores become blackheads, whiteheads or worse, infected with acne-causing bacteria to result in painful pimples.

If your skin tends to be on the oilier side, this could be especially troubling. You’ve to use more makeup to cover up that sweaty shine while this adds more pore-clogging material.

Look for non-comedogenic products – these are products that have a non-pore-clogging property. Also, make sure you take off your makeup before going to bed. Use an effective cleanser to wash off dirt and grime and then a toner to further clear up the pores.

  1. Long, hot showers

If you’re always complaining about dry, flaky skin, there’s a good chance your long, hot water showers are responsible, at least partly! Everyone loves long showers but they’re anything but good for the skin. Water, especially hot water, washes off the natural oils produced by the skin leaving it dry and dehydrated.

Dry skin isn’t just annoying, it’s also prone to inflammation and sensitivity. The skin needs its natural oils to protect moisture from escaping so that the skin remains supple and moist and the skin cells function optimally.

Avoid long showers, limit your bath-time to 5-7 minutes. Turn down the heat. To fight dryness, you could also add a few drops of a botanical oil like sweet almond or jojoba oil to your bathwater. This will help regulate the skin’s oil balance. 

After your shower, pat dry your skin gently instead of wiping it harshly. Follow with a moisturizing cream or lotion to keep the moisture locked within the skin.  

  1. Poor diet

You are what you eat – nothing could be more true than this! If your diet is heavy in sugar, processed food, carbs and unhealthy fats, it’s going to show on your face. Sugary foods cause an insulin spike in the bloodstream leading to hormonal imbalance and breakouts on the skin. They also cause the degradation of the proteins responsible for your skin’s elasticity to cause premature wrinkles and sagging.

Avoid soda, energy drinks, packed juices and all other sugary drinks. Instead of fried, fast food, go for fresh foods rich in nutrients like proteins, vitamins and minerals. Load up on fruits and vegetables to supply your skin with antioxidants to encourage skin healing and rejuvenation. 

Include healthy fats like omega-3 found in tuna and salmon as well as nuts and seeds in your diet. Probiotics like yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, etc. are also an excellent addition to your diet as they’re microbiome-friendly.

  1.  Sleep deprivation

Sleep is an important element of skin health but unfortunately, it gets easily compromised with other priorities. Your skin repairs and regenerates when you’re sleeping. Sleep deprivation not only affects skin healing, it also reduces collagen growth and skin hydration and affects skin texture. When you’re sleep deprived, there’s a higher chance of acne outbreaks, skin sensitivities and inflammation.

Make sure you get your beauty sleep. A minimum of 7 hours of undisturbed sleep is absolutely necessary not just for your skin health but also for your physical, mental and emotional health. 

Prioritize your sleep over social life and work towards achieving a work-life balance. Maintain a cool, dark and quiet sleep environment to encourage restful, undisturbed sleep.

  1. Poor bedding material and hygiene

You may not realize it but your bed sheets and pillow covers gather a lot of dirt over time! Your skin sheds dead skin cells which, along with dust and grime, mix with the skin’s natural oils to clog the pores. These could lead to breakouts and inflammation. 

You move a lot in your sleep even if you don’t realise it. If your bedding material is too rough, it could trigger the skin with the harsh friction that develops when you move.

Change your bedding every week, especially the pillow covers as they come in direct contact with your face. Use soft fabrics like cotton and silk. Go for sheets with high thread count as they tend to be softer and less abrasive on the skin.

  1. Stress

Believe it or not, stress can affect your skin in multiple ways! It can cause hormonal imbalances which can trigger outbreaks and inflame your skin. It can aggravate skin sensitivities leading to skin flares and allergies. It can also reduce your immune response making your skin vulnerable to infections. Worst of all, stress can make you skip your skincare routine.

Exercise is one of the best ways to fight stress and get the blood flowing to improve your physical, mental as well as skin health. Include activities like yoga and meditation in your daily routine. Do what helps bust stress for you whether it’s cooking, listening to music, talking to a friend, reading, walking, etc.