Skipping sunscreen on a gray winter day or flopping into bed in makeup is unlikely to do any real harm, but too many lapses in beauty judgment could lead to signs of age. The flip side? Taking a few minutes a day for smart skin care can prevent years' worth of wrinkles, brown spots, and more. Whether you're a repeat offender or just make the occasional mistake, here are five common excuses that could be aging your skin, plus simple solutions to keep you looking young.
1. I'm too tired to cleanse
"It's been a long day, and the last thing I want to do is wash my face."
Excuse buster: The 2 minutes it takes to cleanse before bed helps ensure a fresh-faced look for years. "Sleeping with dirt, oil, and makeup on causes acne and enlarged pores," says Audrey Kunin, MD, an associate clinical instructor of dermatology at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. To easily remove debris, keep no-rinse face wipes in your nightstand.
Try: Boots No7 Quick Thinking 4-in-1 Wipes ($7; Target) or Pond's Clean Sweep Age Defying Wet Cleansing Towelettes ($6.50; CVS).
2. SPF is for summer
"I don't need sunscreen, it's winter!"
Excuse buster: Exposure to UVA rays, the primary culprit behind aging, happens all year long. And because they can penetrate glass, you're susceptible even when you're indoors, says Fredric Brandt, MD, a New York- and Miami-based dermatologist. The number one way to guard against this and keep skin looking youthful: Every day, use a sunscreen or moisturizer with an SPF 30 that's labeled broad-spectrum. For the best protection, choose one that contains either avobenzone, Helioplex, Mexoryl, titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide.
Try: Olay Professional Pro-X Age Repair Lotion with SPF 30 ($42; drugstores) or Aveeno Positively Ageless Daily Moisturizer, SPF 30 ($20; drugstores).
3. Products are too pricey
"Taking care of my skin costs too much."
Excuse buster: To save, shop at drugstores. Studies show that mass products are as effective as (and sometimes more than!) more expensive lines. "Look for active ingredients, not fancy labels," says David E. Bank, MD, an associate professor of dermatology at Columbia University/Presbyterian Hospital. The most effective anti-agers include retinoids, AHAs, peptides, vitamin C, and hydrators such as hyaluronic acid.
4. My efforts are futile
"I've tried almost everything, and nothing seems to work."
Excuse buster: It can take at least 8 weeks to see the results of many ingredients, so give products time to deliver their benefits.
Another must: Incorporate new products slowly — one about every 2 months. "Your skin needs to build up a tolerance to aggressive anti-agers," says Bank. "Going overboard can cause inflammation, which accelerates fine lines, brown spots, and sagging."
5. My skin is too sensitive
"Exfoliating makes my face red and irritated."
Excuse buster: Getting rid of dead cells helps soften wrinkles and brighten skin, but aggressive scrubs can lead to redness and irritation. To slough safely, choose a chemical exfoliator, such as glycolic acid, or gentle cleansing beads. Avoid scrubs with an uneven texture, such as walnut shells. Exfoliate just once or twice a week; if you're using an OTC or Rx retinoid or AHA, it alone provides sufficient skin sloughing.