For healthy skin, hair, and nails, sometimes less is more.
If you want to look your best—now and in the years to come—you have to put in a little time and effort.
The ideal routine includes a non-soap cleanser, at least one serum (perhaps with vitamin C or hyaluronic acid), moisturizer, and sunscreen, says Mona Gohara, M.D., an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. And that’s just for your face—before you’ve started applying makeup or doing your hair.
That said, if you’re like most women, you’ve probably collected many more beauty tools and treatments than you need to dip into on a daily basis. In some cases, it’s a matter of practicality: There’s no reason (or time) to painstakingly apply all your “night out” makeup every single morning.
But in other instances, it’s really about protecting your skin, hair, and nails. Some products aren’t meant to be used daily, and if you reach for them too often you could be doing yourself a disservice. Here are eight to use in moderation.
1. Exfoliating Scrubs and Brushes
One of the biggest problems he sees in patients is over-scrubbing or over-exfoliating, says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “It takes about two weeks for a baby skin cell to make its way up to the surface,” he explains. “It then takes several weeks for enough cells to accumulate on the skin’s surface to lead to dullness. Nobody needs to manually exfoliate daily.”
His advice: Limit your use of scrubs or brushes to twice per week. Or ditch them entirely, and use a cleanser than contains low concentrations of alpha and beta hydroxy acids. “These gently dissolve connections between skin cells so they can shed naturally,” Dr. Zeichner says.
And remember: Mature skin has unique needs, and it deserves to be treated properly. Check out our guide to 14 products dermatologists swear by to protect and preserve senior skin.
2. Face Wipes
If you’re exhausted and barely have the energy to brush your teeth before hitting the hay, sure, reach for a wipe to wash your face. But don’t use them every day, Dr. Gohara says. Some contain chemicals that are irritating to skin. Plus, she believes that washing your face does a better job of removing bacteria and pollutants that can contribute to acne as well as wrinkles.
“I also think there are benefits to actually touching your skin with your hands. Washing stimulates circulation—which makes skin more vibrant and glowy—and lymphatic drainage, especially if you massage your face in a circular motion,” Dr. Gohara adds. “It’s also important to touch your skin because that’s how you’ll know if there are any weird lumps and bumps, which could turn out to be an early skin cancer.”
While some people really need a good sudsing daily, most of us don’t. “If you have dry hair or a dry scalp, daily shampooing may cause more harm than good,” Dr. Zeichner says. “Over-washing the hair can contribute to dryness of the hair cuticle, leading to frizz and making the hair shaft fragile,” he explains. “Cleansing ingredients in shampoos can also strip the scalp of oils leading to dryness, inflammation, and itching.”
Try washing your hair every other day for a few weeks, and consider scaling down further from there. You might find that your hair looks and feels better by shampooing only once per week.
4. Dry Shampoo
We just told you to wash your hair less often, so it follows that you’d reach for dry shampoo to keep things fresh on “off” days. But can you overdo it? It’s possible, says Lauren Ploch, M.D., a member of the American Academy of Dermatology.
“Dry shampoo should be used sparingly given the anecdotal reports of hair loss,” she says. “While it’s too early to say if dry shampoos are a cause of hair loss, I recommend using them no more than two to three times per week.”
If thinning hair is a concern for you, check out our guide to six simple—and safe—ways to make hair look instantly thicker.
5. Hair Dryers, Curling Irons, and Flat Irons
If you weren’t born with the hair texture of your dreams or just don’t want to go outside with a wet head, you probably reach for hot styling tools pretty often. But using an iron—or even a regular blow dryer—every day can damage your hair, make it brittle, and lead to breakage, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
It’s best to let your locks air-dry as often as possible, or cut down on heat styling by maintaining your blowouts for a few days at a time.
6. Nail Polish
Everyone loves a fresh manicure, but the chemicals in polish really do weaken your nails, Dr. Gohara says. She adds that richer, deeper shades of polish tend to be more damaging than lighter ones, and that gel formulas can be especially hard on nails. “I think taking a periodic nail polish holiday is a good idea,” she says.
7. False Eyelashes
“I get eyelash extensions, and I love them,” Dr. Gohara says. But as with nail polish, it’s smart to take a break. “The glue can weaken your lash line, so if you use them all the time and later decide to stop permanently, your lashes will be in worse condition than before,” she explains.
Consider saving falsies for special occasions, or alternate between glam lashes (extensions usually stay on for two to three weeks) and your au naturel look.
8. Magnifying Mirrors
If your vision isn’t so great and you need a magnifying mirror to help you put on makeup or tweeze your eyebrows, go for it. But there’s no reason for anyone to be staring at a closeup of their skin every day, just searching for tiny imperfections that are invisible to the naked eye.
Ditch the pressure to look perfect, and embrace the self-acceptance that often comes with age (along with these surprising perks of growing older). Because when it comes to looking your best, no beauty product in the world beats self-confidence.
Want More Tips for Younger-Looking Skin?
The products you do and don’t put on your skin are an important piece of the puzzle, but what goes in your body matters too. Learn more about the best foods for firm, glowing skin here. And try these tips to maximize your workouts for a natural beauty and confidence boost.