Which Of These 8 Bad Skin Habits Are You Guilty Of?

Pressing a questionably clean iPhone screen against our cheek. Guilty!

As you may have noticed, xoVain is "celebrating" Acne Awareness Month pretty hard. We're all spilling our blemish concealing makeup secrets, dishing on our skin care regimens, sharing DIY anti-acne facials, and covering important topics such as eczema, skin purging, microdermabrasion, and more.

For my third Acne Awareness Month post, I'm listing out eight common habits that could be causing you to breakout. And for some extra insight, I've enlisted a dermatologist, Dr. Michael Lin, to assist.

1. Going Overboard With Cleansing

For those of us with oilier skin, washing it more often--or with harsher cleansers--seems like a natural step. But it's a definite don't!

"Abrasive scrubs, harsh cleansers, or alcohol-based toners do not decrease oil production," explains Dr. Lin. "In fact, stripping the skin of natural oils can actually cause sebaceous glands to go into overdrive. A better choice is a gentle, effective cleanser with salicylic acid to help open pores."

Don't wash your skin more than twice per day. I only wash mine once per day, before bed. I use oil followed by a gentle foaming cleanser, serum, and/or cream. Using this rule I've seen a huge difference in my acne-prone skin.

2. Using Dirty Makeup Brushes And Sponges

Always, always, always wash your makeup brushes and sponges. It makes a big difference in application and preventing breakouts. Makeup brushes are like a super fun playground for bacteria. I kind of abhor washing my sponges because it takes ages, but it's absolutely worth the effort and your skin will thank you. If you use disposable sponges, don't use them more than once. They're inexpensive and your skin is worth it. As for your more quality makeup sponge, replace it on an as-needed basis and wash it weekly with your makeup brushes.

3. Touching Your Face Too Much

Did you know that the common cold and other ailments are more often spread by touch than air? Bacteria rests on surfaces where it's picked up by your hands and transferred to other parts of your skin, including your mouth and nose. So clean hands means a cleaner immune system, as well as clearer skin!

While the "no touching your face rule" is preached by skin care gurus and experts, we often do it without thinking. I like to keep alcohol-free moist towelettes in my purse. A good ol' sink and faucet also works, but the convenience of wet wipes makes it easier to keep clean on the go.

While we're on the topic of clean hands and minimizing how often you touch your face, let's talk about skin picking: don't do it. A blemish lasts, on average, a week. Pick it and you'll get a scar that can last upwards of several months. If the prospect of acne scarring (which can be permanent) doesn't dissuade you, hear this: Dr. Lin says that squeezing pimples and picking at your skin can "potentially deliver bacteria into the deep venous sinuses," which leads to painful and unsightly infections.

4. Not Changing Your Bedding Often Enough

How often you change your bedding is up to you, but based on my research and conversations with skin experts, I'd suggest at least once a week. And no, I'm not just talking about your pillow case. Your bed is a prime camping ground for gross stuff: germs, bacteria, dead skin cells, sweat, dirt, etc., all of which are especially prevalent if you don't shower at night. Keep your sheets clean and the bacne monster will be less likely to attack. As for pillow cases, some people swear by changing them every day or laying a clean towel down before hitting the sack. I change my pillow cases once a week and I am fine.

5. Not Wiping Down At The Gym

Not only is the gym chock-full of sweaty equipment with who-knows-what festering on the surface, it's also a place where you're very likely to touch your face to wipe away sweat. Unless you're rushing home right away to clean up, it's a good idea to take a quick shower after your workout (bring a shower cap or wrap your hair in a towel before hopping in). You can also bring your facial cleanser or wipes.

"For the ultimate convenience, look for towelettes moistened with gentle cleansers and salicylic acid," advises Dr. Lin.

My go-to skin wipes are by Stridex. They're alcohol-free and contain 2% salicylic acid (BHA).

Oh, and wipe down that equipment before you use it. Gyms usually have disinfectant wipes stocked near the equipment for this very purpose.

6. Pressing A Not-So-Clean Phone Against Your Cheek

Danielle wrote up some amazing spring cleaning tips for your hairbrushes, combs, and hot tools. But it's also wise to keep your phone clean. After all, how many times do you touch it or bring it to your face every day? Use an antibacterial wipe once a day and you're good.

Other items to keep clean that you may forget about: eyelash curler, tweezers, pimple zappers, nail tools, razors and anything else that touches your skin.

7. Not Checking The Expiration Dates On Products

Expired or spoiled beauty products are a recipe for a serious breakout. When cleaning out your stash, follow these rules: toss anything that's expired or has a funky odor, look for separation of oils (sometimes a sign of an expired product), and consider getting rid of things you haven't used in the past six months. On average, eye shadow keeps for two to three years; lip products and eyeliner for one year; foundations, primers, concealers, and BB creams for one to two years; mascara for six months; and creams, lotions, and sunscreens for two to three years.

8. Avoiding The Doctor's Office

So many women tell me that they've put off a trip to the dermatologist despite persistent skin care woes, usually because a.) they don't think it's worth the money, b.) that they can figure out their skin issues on their own, c.) that the doctor will give them useless advice, or d.) that they'll go in "X" weeks or months.

"Chemical peels and extractions, performed by a licensed professional, help accomplish deeper cleaning for acne-prone skin," says Dr. Lin, who also noted that a visit to the doctor is best to treat ongoing issues.

Unless you've found yourself an absolutely terrible dermatologist, you're better off addressing the issue immediately. Acne, especially persistent acne, is physically painful and often detrimental to self esteem.

Which of these habits do you need to kick?