bad beauty habits to ditch asap

forgetting to wash your face is so last year

photo by annie powers

The start of a new year is the ultimate clean slate—a time to take a good look at your life and decide what stays and what goes. And, since revamping your beauty routine is probably the least high-stakes (and most fun) of all the decisions you’ll be making, we figured it might be the best place to start. 

That’s why we’ve rounded up ten bad beauty habits to ditch and given you tips as to what you should be doing instead. Consider this a quick-start guide to your best beauty year ever—because the number one way to say goodbye to bad habits is to make new (and improved!) ones.

1. Using a slightly-off shade of foundation.

We get it: Finding the right foundation can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. But, since perhaps no other bad beauty habit is as obvious as wearing the wrong shade of face makeup, trust us when we say the end result is totally worth the trouble. To find your match once and for all, head to your nearest Sephora and ask to be matched using their Color IQ service (they’ll scan your skin with a handheld device that then cross references all the foundations available in-store). Or, use the old fashioned method of taking a look at your veins to determine your undertones—blue-green veins mean you’re warm-toned, while those with veins on the purple side of blue are cool-toned. Opt for foundation with a golden, peach-y glow if you’re the former, or makeup with a yellow tint if your skin skews cool.

2. Skipping SPF in the winter months.

The good beauty habit practiced by every wrinkle-free, practically glowing woman we know? That would be the daily application of SPF—no matter the season. Yep, SPF should be integrated into your routine 365 days a year because, despite appearances, the sun’s UV rays are just as potent in the winter as the summer. Daily wear of SPF 25 or higher is just about the best possible investment you can make in your skin—study after study has proven lack of sun protection is the primary cause of aging.

3. Forgetting to take off your makeup after a night out.

We don’t have to tell you why forgetting to remove your makeup before bed is a beauty no-no—chances are it’s been engrained in you since your first swipe of lip gloss as a preteen. But, here’s a refresher: Wearing makeup at night clogs your pores, which in turn can cause serious breakouts and aggravate acne. That said, when you’re crazy-tired after a long day (or, more likely, a long night) even the threat of acne isn’t so alarming that taking off your makeup is priority number one. That’s why we’re big fans of face wipes—stash a pack in your nightstand for a quick alternative to cleansing. 

4. Over (or under) exfoliating.

Whether you use a chemical exfoliant (like glycolic acid) or a physical one (like a scrub or tool like a brush), it’s easy to get addicted to how super-smooth your skin feels post-application. But, we’re begging you—resist the urge to exfoliate daily. No matter your method of choice, even those with the least sensitive of skin types should only exfoliate two to three times each week. Otherwise, your face could begin to look raw and flaky–after all, by exfoliating, you’re literally sloughing off cells from your skin. But, lucky for soft-skin addicts everywhere, there is an alternative: A konjac sponge is so gentle, it can be used daily (alone or in conjunction with cleanser) to detoxify and exfoliate. Plus, if you’re on the other side of the spectrum and don’t exfoliate at all, a konjac sponge is a great place to start.

5. Using mascara that’s past its prime.

The jury’s still out on the shelf-life of most beauty products (though one to two years seems to be the general consensus), but when it comes to mascara, experts all agree: After three months, it’s time to toss it. Mascara tubes make for a prime breeding ground for bacteria (they thrive in the moist, dark environment) and in turn, infection. We won’t go into details, but since the product is applied so closely to the eye, things can get pretty gruesome. So, when you buy new mascara, set a phone reminder to replace it three months down the line—you can thank us later.

6. Avoiding trims in between cuts.

It’s a beauty myth that getting your hair trimmed actually makes it grow faster—what happens to your ends has no effect on your follicles. But, it is true that regular trims keep your hair looking healthy, especially if your strands are color-treated or prone to breakage. So, put a stop to dropping big dollars on fancy cuts and color only to ignore regular maintenance like snipping your split ends. Experts suggest a trim every two to four months to keep hair smooth (breakage caused by split ends can actually travel up the hair shaft) and healthy.

7. Skipping a base coat when using dark polish.

If you’ve ever removed your polish only to find a yellow tint on your bare nails, chances are it’s because you skipped your base coat. No, it’s not just sales mumbo jumbo—a base coat serves as a barrier that protects your nail from the sometimes-damaging effects of polish (think staining and peeling). A base coat also helps your mani look smoother (many are specially formulated to fill in ridges) and stay on longer, thanks to its ability to bond polish to the nail. If you’re using dark lacquer like black or purple, however, it’s the stain-factor you should be especially aware of: To be safe, use two coats of the base coat of your choice before applying polish.

8. Plucking your eyebrows into submission.

If it’s bold, well-groomed brows you’re after, put down the tweezers—stat. Unless you’re a pro, plucking can do irreparable damage to your eyebrows. Make a misstep, and it can take hair months to grow back—especially those pesky little guys that make up the ends of your brows. If you already get ‘em waxed or threaded, take pains to avoid plucking in between appointments so that your expert can do their thing to the fullest. But, if you really can’t resist, at least be sure to steer clear of using magnifying mirrors—you’re likely to over pluck to the point of creating bald spots within the brow.

9. Passing up protectant before using hot tools.

You probably already own a suitable heat protectant—the problem is remembering to use it. But, we can’t overstate the importance of applying a thermal protectant product (be it a spray, serum, or lotion) before curling, straightening, or even just blow-drying your hair. These products are specifically formulated to smooth, hydrate, and most importantly, protect strands against direct exposure to the high temps of hot tools. If you’ve never used one before, pick up a drugstore version (we like Tresemme Thermal Protections Heat Tamer Spray) and prepare to be amazed at just how much better your hair looks—and feels—after heat styling.

10. Applying your makeup with dirty brushes.

Nothing puts a damper on our beauty game quite like dirty brushes. We know we shouldn’t be using them, but the time just doesn’t exist for us to bathe our brushes daily. That being said, the facts are enough to scare anyone out of this bad beauty habit for good: Over time, dirty brushes accumulate bacteria and dust, all of which are transferred to your face when you apply makeup. These germs then cause breakouts, acne, and irritation—in severe cases, you can even contract infections like pinkeye from using icky makeup brushes. Though nothing can replace giving your brushes a thorough wash every one to two weeks, a cleansing spray like Sephora Collection Daily Brush Cleaner is your best bet for day-to-day cleaning.