This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
We make hundreds of decisions on a daily basis — many of them dictated by common sense and years of trial and error: Will Jennifer Lawrence’s pixie cut work for my coarse curly hair? Do I go on a second date with someone who was mean to the waiter during our first one? Should I buy pleather-paneled leggings? While these questions practically answer themselves — no, no, and if the price is right, why the hell not? — there are times when our instincts are way off the mark, and the strategies that we’ve followed forever are actually compromising how we look and feel. If “avoid water when you feel bloated” or “oily skin doesn’t need more oil” sounds like solid, appearance-enhancing advice to you, read on. We asked top experts to dispel some long-held beliefs about beauty and health, and tell us what to do instead. Heed these tips and you just may have a dozen fewer decisions to make today.
Moisturize oily skin.
The myth that a breakout-prone complexion should be stripped of any and all lubrication has followed us around since puberty. The truth: “You should always moisturize, no matter your skin type,” says David Bank, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia University/Presbyterian Hospital. “The purpose of a moisturizer is to trap water,” he explains. “Your natural oils, or sebum, can do that, but they’re not replaced as quickly after cleansing as you need them be.” To compensate for the lost moisture, sebum goes into overdrive, causing the very problems you’re trying to avoid.
“Applying the right lotion or cream immediately after cleansing can restore skin’s balance,” says Bank. “The key is choosing one that hydrates without clogging pores.” His recommendation: An oil-free moisturizer formulated with water-binding ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and AHAs.
De-bloat by drinking water.
If last night’s margarita-fueled, chip-and-queso binge has left you feeling like a water balloon, downing some H2O may be the last thing on your mind. But, it will behoove you to hit the bottle anyway, according to Cynthia Sass, R.D., author of S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches . “Sodium attracts water like a magnet, while not drinking enough sends your body into panic mode, holding onto water because it isn’t sure when it will get fluid again.” To flush out the excess sodium and fluid and bring your body back into balance, do as the Institute of Medicine suggests and drink eight to 12 cups of water daily — whether you’re thirsty or not.
Don’t brush directly after meals.
Yes, this habit was drilled into you from childhood, and yes, that minty flavor can instantly put a stop to mindless noshing. But, brushing immediately after meals or drinks — especially those on the acidic side — won’t do those pearly whites any favors. “Studies show that the practice can wear away the tooth enamel, which is the primary barrier to cavity formation,” says Gigi Meinecke, D.M.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry. Your mouth may also lose its sparkle: By eroding the enamel, you expose the dingy-yellow dentin layer below it.
To play it safe, wait at least 30 minutes after drinking or eating something acidic (think soda, wine, tomatoes, and even chocolate) to reach for that Sonicare. Miss that fresh, clean feeling? “I advise my patients to rinse with water or pop a piece of sugar-free gum, particularly one sweetened with Xylitol,” says Meineke. “Chewing gum increases the flow of saliva, which aids in restoring the pH to neutral, and xylitol has been shown to be an effective cavity-fighter.” Also consider a cheese course: A recent study published in the AGD journal of General Dentistry found that eating cheese ups the production of saliva and the mouth’s pH to protect against erosion and cavities.
For shiny hair, skip the shine products.
Locks lost their luster? Check your styling arsenal — ironically, one of the products that promises to boost shine may be the culprit. “Many of these sprays and serums are silicone based, so they lay on top of the cuticle rather than absorbing into it,” says Renée Cohen, senior stylist for Serge Normant at John Frieda Salons in New York City. “The water-insoluble compounds can build up, dulling and weighing down hair.”
To restore and maintain sheen, wash hair less frequently using a sulfate-free shampoo, and commit to weekly deep-conditioning treatments. “Also, keep styling tools to a minimum,” says Cohen. “When you do blowdry, use a lower setting and always point the nozzle downward to keep the cuticle smooth.” For a glossy finish, smooth a silicone-free oil or cream over the surface of hair. One to try: John Frieda Full Repair Perfect Ends Deep Infusion.
Put off shaving until after your pedi.
“While nail salons are required by law to clean their tubs with a hospital-grade solution after each and every client, it’s not foolproof. “Small spores of bacteria can remain in those tubs,” says Bank. “Tiny nicks or abrasions may allow that bacteria to enter and result in a serious infection.” Shaving also strips legs of a thin layer of skin, he adds, increasing the chances of irritation caused by perfumed scrubs and cream. Trust us, your nail technician won’t be even slightly repulsed by your prickly legs, and you can rest easy knowing you’ve lowered your odds of leaving with a bumpy rash.
Go easy on the eye cream.
If a little anti-aging cream or serum is good, more must be better, right? Not necessarily. “Since the lower eyelid skin is thin and delicate, it can become irritated and puffy when active ingredients are over-applied,” says Bank. To cover the lower lids without oversaturating, “Aim for the size of a pencil eraser [for your cream],” he says. “Any less won’t be enough, and any more won’t fully absorb into the skin.” Apply the cream onto a cotton swab or an eye-makeup applicator, or pat it on using your ring finger.
Don’t switch your hair color with the seasons.
Like not wearing white after Labor Day, the rule that you have to lighten your hair come summer and go deeper or darker during the colder months was made to be broken. “Color is highly individual, ranging from personal to person, and there are plenty of situations when you want to do just the opposite,” says Rachel Bodt, a senior colorist at Cutler Salons.
Before choosing a hue, she takes into account her clients’ skin tone, texture, and lifestyle. “Blondes tend to get bleached out in the summer, so I often add lots of lowlights for dimension. And, then I have clients with really fine hair who need the lift of highlights during the humidity-free months.” Bottom line: If you love your hair color, stick with it, or talk to your colorist about making some subtle, yet high-impact tweaks that aren’t contingent on the calendar.
Wash your face once a day.
It’s one of the last things you do before turning in at night, so why is it necessary to do it again in the morning? “Using harsh cleansers and scrubs in the a.m. can do more harm than good, stripping your skin of essential oils,” says Bank. “You can start your day feeling clean and refreshed without drying out your skin by simply splashing it with water and smoothing on a moisturizer with an SPF of 15 or higher.” If you still have some leftover makeup on and need to cleanse, use a mild moisturizing cleanser that doesn’t contain harsh detergents and follow with the same SPF moisturizer.
Hold on to those calluses.
At some nail salons, your pedicurist might offer to shave the calluses on your feet with a vegetable peeler-like instrument. But, however tempting it is to have touchably smooth soles, politely decline. “In the wrong hands, putting metal to skin can open you up to an infection,” says Ernest Isaacson, D.P.M., a New York City-based podiatrist. Plus, some calluses can be protective and beneficial, protecting you from daily wear and tear. Rubbing off the hardened skin with a pumice stone is a safer option, he says, provided you don’t try to remove it all at once. Gently degrade while showering or soaking in the tub so skin is soft, then follow with a cream containing lactic acid or urea.”
When to see a professional? “If a callus becomes painful or interferes with normal walking or your quality of life,” says Isaacson. A podiatrist can shave the callus with a sterile instrument and discuss potential causes and options to eliminate the friction permanently.
Illustrated by Sydney Hass
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