3 Skin Care Habits To Start/Stop In College

Healthy skin begins here--take notes.

One of the coolest things about going off to college is that you have a chance to totally reinvent yourself. That blank slate provides a perfect chance to get a brand-new beauty routine in place. So if you’re heading back to school this semester, make sure you start with good skin care habits.

Here are three to ditch and three to pick up.

Habits To Start

Learn Your Ingredients. I have an assignment for you. (Just easing you into that academic life, cool?) Open up a new spreadsheet--I like keeping mine in Google Drive so I can access it from anywhere--and then gather up all the skin care products you use. In the first column, list the individual ingredients of each product. You don’t have to enter the same ingredient twice, but it may help to add a second column with all the products an ingredient is in. For column three, go look up the ingredient in a comedogenicity list like CosDNA and include its rating in the spreadsheet. Take this with a grain of salt, as ingredients may work better or worse for your skin than they do for the majority of people. That’s why column four in your spreadsheet will be your personal notes. If you see an ingredient or two that show up in every product that breaks you out, you can make a note here to avoid it. It may be worth searching “ingredient+acne” “ingredient+irritation” or “ingredient+allergy” to help you narrow down which ones may be common triggers. This sounds like a lot of work up front, but it will become an incredible tool for you as you build it up.

Wear Sunscreen. You’ve heard it a thousand times, but don’t wait until graduation rolls around to actually take the advice. There is much laying out on quads to be had in your future, so at least protect your skin while you're doing it. Get on that SPF 30 level every day. I’M SO SERIOUS ABOUT THIS GUYS. If not for your pretty face, at least do it for the cancer prevention. Love, mom.

Get Your Sleep. Also in your future? The weirdest sleep schedule ever. Those 8 a.m. classes sound fine until you spent the night before cranking out an essay (after your shift at the coffee shop but before Netflixing a few eps of Parks and Rec to help you wind down). But all that sleeplessness may take a toll on your skin’s ability to repair itself. Because every day of your schedule in college is likely to be different, it can be tough to get some consistent Zs. So I’m not saying you have to get a perfectly routine eight hours a night, even if that is the ideal, but DO prioritize sleep where you can. Can you sneak in a 90-minute nap between classes? Look at whether you’re overloading yourself with activities. Health comes first, and sleep is part of that.

Habits To Stop

Sleeping In Your Makeup. This tip is short because you already know better: because of your aforementioned out-of-whack sleep schedule, you may find yourself crash-landing into your pillow with a face full of makeup more than the excusable once in a while. Just buy a pack of makeup wipes and keep them by your bedside just in case, k?

Picking Your Skin. The stress you experience when you start college--hey, it’s a big change--can channel into more time in front of the mirror, picking at your skin. As a compulsive stress-picker, I know that the damage you do to your skin now can lead to years of scarring. So hands off your face already! You can try these tips if you need to stop picking your skin, but if you’re picking as a way to cope with bigger issues, seek out your campus’ counseling services. They’re often free and they can help so much with your stress, and by extension, your skin.

Believing everything you read. Dermatologist-tested, non-comedogenic, natural, anti-aging: these are all buzzwords that are completely unregulated. Now that you’re an educated woman, it’s time to cut through all the BS marketing claims and get to know what skin care ingredients really do. When you’re shopping for new skin care products, start being skeptical of the descriptions on the packaging--they may throw some fancy, science-y sounding words at you, or tell you that because the product comes from the earth, they can’t cause you any problems. Arm yourself with the knowledge to tell the truth from the hype. As a student, you’ll have access to an amazing resource: your college library. Your university likely subscribes to tons of scientific journals that you can access online. If you’re unsure of an ingredient’s claim, skim the latest dermatology journals and see what they have to say (or tweet me about it and I’ll investigate!) And if you’re already post-grad, you may still be entitled access to online journals as an alum.

To all you incoming scholars, what skin care habits are you excited to put in place? And for those of you who are out of school already, what skin care advice would you give your freshman-year self?