8 Dermatologist-Backed Habits For Healthy Skin – No Fancy Products Needed

You can’t go far without hearing about “miracle” products that zap pimples, dissolve wrinkles and reduce swelling in the face.

Though there certainly are things that can help with these problems, experts say there are also key habits that can help your skin look and feel healthy.

Speaking to HuffPost, dermatologists shared some of the habits that will help your skin be its best.

Take care of your health overall

“We forget that the skin is the largest organ of the body. And just like your other organs, the skin benefits when you are healthy overall,” said Dr Elma Baron, a professor of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

“A lot of skin conditions are associated with conditions and illnesses in other organ systems,” she said. For example, eczema and psoriasis are associated with inflammatory issues in different parts of the body.

“Psoriasis patients will also have arthritis, may also have diabetes, cardiovascular disease,” she noted. “So the skin is really not separate from the rest of our biology.”

In other words, if you notice any health problems, it’s good to get those under control for both the issues they present and any associated skin troubles.

Avoid very hot showers

This is generally more of a problem in the colder months, but it’s important to remember that hot water can be damaging, said Dr Danielle Tartar, a dermatologist and associate professor of dermatology at the University of California at Davis.

“I have so many patients come into my office just dry and itchy and miserable in the winter,” said Tartar. “They’re taking hot showers or soaking in hot baths because that does feel really good on dry skin, but it’s just awful for your skin.” 

When you get out of the hot water, your body’s natural moisture evaporates, she added. “So short, warm showers can be really helpful,” Tartar noted.

After a shower, you should pat (not scrub) yourself dry with a towel and apply a high-quality moisturiser, which should be used daily, she said.

And avoid harmful habits like smoking

According to Baron, smoking is a habit that wreaks havoc on your skin (and many other parts of your body, for that matter). 

“Smoking ... is well known to cause oxidative damage in many organ systems, and that includes the skin,” she said.

It can hurt the skin’s normal physiology, she noted, and “oxidative stress contributes to aging of cells and can manifest as wrinkling.”

Additionally, a 2012 study found that wounds heal at a slower pace for people who smoke, and a 2020 study showed that smoking is correlated with skin cancer.

Get enough sleep

Sleep is important for a lot of things — it can help your brain, your heart and even your skin.

“The skin is no different from other parts of the body that benefit ... from good sleep,” Baron said. “We had a study some time ago that showed us that skin function, like how the skin is able to provide a protective barrier ... gets somewhat disturbed with lack of sleep.”

For example, bad sleep patterns can impact how your skin recovers from a sunburn, she said.

Keep products with harsh ingredients away from your skin, unless a doctor tells you otherwise.Keep products with harsh ingredients away from your skin, unless a doctor tells you otherwise.

Use a simple SPF product daily

Using a product with an SPF rating is “the single most important thing you can do,” said Tartar — even on overcast days.

“Clouds may block 20% of the UV light that gets through [to Earth from the sun], but there’s still UV radiation,” she noted.

You should use a daily moisturiser with an SPF rating or sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, Tartar advised. And you should put it on more than just your face.

“Keep it by your toothbrush in the morning. Put it on sun-exposed areas — face, chest, back of the hands,” she said. “It’s just going to save you a lot of trouble down the road.”

If you are going to be outside for a while or in an area with a high UV index, you should reapply that SPF product every two hours. 

Avoid the sun during peak times

The sun is strongest from the late morning to early afternoon, Baron said, which means it can do the most damage to your skin in that period.

“We shouldn’t forget the importance of just seeking shade whenever possible and avoiding the peak times,” she said. “When you’re out on vacation, maybe you don’t want to be out on the beach between 10am and 2pm.”

If you do have to be outdoors, both Tartar and Baron said that protective clothing, like hats and long-sleeved shirts, can help block the sun’s rays. This includes anything that just covers your skin or certain clothing with built-in UV protection, which you can find at sporting goods stores and online.

Stay away from harsh products — unless prescribed by a dermatologist

To keep your skin healthy — and even prevent wrinkles — Tartar said you should avoid soaps with sulphates and other products with harsh ingredients.

“I tend to prefer just gentle skin cleanser in the morning ... followed then by any other products you might be using,” Tartar said. This could include vitamin C serums, SPF moisturisers, makeup and sunscreen, she added.

If you do require more intense ingredients (like retinoids for acne), see a dermatologist first.

Know your skin

Everyone has different sensitivities and preferences, so it’s important that you get to know yourself to achieve your best skin health. 

“Part of forming healthy habits is understanding your skin better,” Baron said. Some people may require a cleanser with salicylic acid, while other people may suffer intense irritation from the same product. 

“The person should really ... try to get to know what aggravates the skin,” including by seeing how certain foods affect conditions like rosacea, Baron said.

Though Tartar said she personally doesn’t tell her patients to avoid certain foods, it is helpful to know that high-sugar foods can promote the growth of bacteria, which may result in acne and skin inflammation.

Try keeping a skin journal to track how you respond to different foods, environments and products, since what you should avoid and what you should use for skin care will depend on your own experience.