When it comes to a beauty routine, it may seem like there’s a good amount of wiggle room. After all, methods, products, and the frequency or ferocity at which they’re applied can (and in some cases should) differ depending on individual hair and skin types, conditions, and concerns. Of course, busy schedules can also come into play, making it tempting to skip a shampoo, shower, or makeup removal when you’re ready to hit snooze or to borrow a friend’s lipstick or brush in a bind. But at what point does skimping and sharing in the interest of saving a little time or hassle mean compromising your health?
1. Sharing hair products and tools
Grossness level: Pretty gross.
Explanation: While sharing products that have uncompromised formulas (such as spray gels and mousses) are generally low risk, Kallie Henskens, a hairstylist at the Golden Soul Salon in Austin, considers sharing hair brushes a big no.
“The same goes for sharing combs and accessories, which can leave one vulnerable to additional bacteria, dandruff and psoriasis,” she explains. When involving high heat, Henskens would place styling tools a bit lower in terms of grossness level. “A good temperature usually ranges anywhere from 200 to 450 degrees, which tends to burn off any bacteria,” she says.
Recommendation: According to Henskens, you should avoid sharing regular hair tools and accessories unless you can ensure they’ve been properly disinfected. “While many salons take sanitization seriously, you can also ask them about their procedures or explore bringing your own brush, etc. as comfortable.”
2. Skipping shampoo
Grossness level: Somewhat gross.
Explanation: While you should aim to shower for your body every day, experts say you can get away with—and even benefit from—cleansing hair less often.
“Washing your hair daily can strip your scalp and strands of natural oils. These oils are produced to nurture and protect, and ridding them too often can leave strands dry, limp and lifeless,” cautions Irving Ramirez, a hairstylist in New York.
Martha Lynn Kale, owner and operator of the Mirror Mirror hair salon in Texas, also points out that hair is most vulnerable when wet. “Then you factor in the brushing, blow-drying and heat-styling tools that typically correspond with washing, which can further damage hair!”
Recommendation: As a general rule, experts say you should aim to wash hair once to twice per week. “Use a clarifying shampoo with a nourishing conditioner and properly style your hair—the effort will pay off and save you time on other days!” says Kale.
If you work out often during the week and feel the need to wash more often, Ramirez recommends rinsing hair out with water and just using a conditioner. “If you absolutely must use shampoo, opt for a baby or sulfate-free formula, as they tend to be gentler.”
If you are prone to dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis), Dr. King says you’ll want to find a balance that works for you, as washing hair less frequently could potentially contribute to a flare. “This may be because of yeast on the scalp that builds up and contributes to inflammation.” See your dermatologist for a recommendation that suits your individual condition and needs.
3. Not flossing
Grossness level: Pretty to dangerously gross.
Explanation: According to experts, flossing should be a natural (make that non-negotiable) part of any oral hygiene routine.
“Brushing without flossing is like taking a shower and washing everything but your armpits,” cautions Dr. Lazare. “All surfaces of your teeth need to be cleaned, especially those areas between the teeth that can trap food and bacteria and lead to tooth decay and gum disease.”
Recommendation: Dr. Lazare prescribes flossing at least once per day to remove food and plaque from areas your toothbrush can’t reach, preferably after you brush and before you go to sleep. “The right technique is critical to ensure you do not traumatize your gums. Ask your dental care provider for guidance.”
Grossness level: Dangerously gross.
Explanation: Another common—and perhaps more concerning—skincare trend Billeci and Amato have witnessed is clients taking matters into their own hands when it comes to picking blemishes and even attempting to perform their own extractions.
“It just takes one poorly-done extraction to create a cascade of expensive and expansive skin issues, including a high risk of developing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and uncontrolled breakouts. Spreading bacteria below the surface of the skin and neighboring follicles will actually slow your progress and create issues where there weren’t any to start,” Amato warns.
Recommendation: Billeci and Amato say professional facials and extractions are your best bet when it comes to blemish and blackhead control. “Timing for this is also dependent on one’s skin type. Some clients can get away with every six weeks, whereas others may need a cleanup every three to four weeks. Lifestyle, nutrition, travel, and compliance are also factors when timing out these treatments.”
5. Sharing cosmetic products and tools
Grossness level: Pretty to dangerously gross.
Explanation: Looking for a quick pop of color? You might want to think twice about swiping your friend’s lipstick.
“Sharing contaminated cosmetics and tools that directly touch the skin can spread microorganisms and potential infections,” says Dr. Zeichner.
According to Dr. Zeichner, this is especially true of water-based formulas (which are more prone to bacteria growth) and products and tools that come in contact with bodily fluids, such as eye liners, lip glosses and anything that has the potential to break the skin surface.
“The eyes are considered mucous membranes, and can easily become infected with microorganisms, causing conditions like pink eye or even herpes,” he warns.
Recommendation: If you must share, Dr. Zeichner says the key is to ensure the formula itself is never contaminated. “If using the same liquid makeup, make sure that you are always using disposable applicators and do not double-dip. For example, you can use someone else’s mascara only if the wand has not been used and put back into the tube,” he explains.
If sharing powder makeup, use a freshly cleaned brush (Dr. Zeichner points out that they can easily become contaminated), and be sure to thoroughly sanitize any shared tools before and after use. “And do not ever share tools, such as razors or dermaplaning devices, that are likely to come into contact with bodily fluids through cuts in the skin.”
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