Surprisingly, it can be more complicated than that. Ironically, the very choices we make to benefit our health can be the same ones that can eventually hurt us.
1. Using Too Much Hand Sanitizer
If you reach for hand sanitizer any time you make contact with the outside world, you might want to take pause. Unless you’re in an especially germ-prone place like a hospital, soap and water will work just fine, says Richard Gallo, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Dermatology at the University of California-San Diego.
When you’re not near a sink, hand sanitizing gels can help, but be sure to read the label first. Recent research has shown that those containing triclosan may promote bacteria and virus resistance to antibiotic medications (this goes for antibacterial hand soaps that contain triclosan, too). Instead, choose brands like Purell, that contain at least 60% alcohol, which will kill 99% of bacteria on contact.
2. Testing Out Too Many Skincare Products
Who isn’t tempted to buy the latest skin creams and serums? While looking for something that works for you is a good idea, overhauling your routine every few weeks in search of the fountain of youth isn’t.
“I’ve always encouraged my patients to create a daily regimen and stick with it,” says Jody Levine, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. “Women get easily bored with their beauty routine, especially if they don’t see results right away. It can take between six and eight weeks to see changes; if you’re using a product to increase collagen, expect to wait six months to see results.”
She often cautions patients against constantly changing products, noting that it may cause adult rosacea (a condition that results in red, patchy and sometimes inflamed skin). “People may be forming sensitive skin by trying out too many different products with high levels of fragrance and other sensitizers,” Dr. Levine says.
Instead of always trying something new, stick with what works for you, or see your dermatologist to develop a new routine. And manage your expectations—according to Dr. Levine, a consistent regime should “keep your skin clear, clean and smooth. Make that your rule of thumb and don’t expect miracles, especially when it comes to over-the-counter antiaging products.”
3. Wearing Flip-Flops Too Often
Giving your feet a much-need break from heels by pulling out those flips is a great idea, right? Not necessarily.
Turns out, your summer shoes aren’t doing you any favors. According to Jordana Szpiro, DPM, a podiatrist and foot surgeon in Boston, “Flip-flops and other unsupportive sandals, which have no arch support and give no structural support to the foot, can lead to stress fractures since your uncushioned feet become strained when they try to support too much weight,” she explains. “Extensor or flexor tendinitis is also a common problem that happens as a result of trying to keep your flip-flips on—the muscles on top or underneath your feet overexert themselves while trying to grip your shoes.”
She also advises against walking around shoeless, even if you’re by the pool or in your gym’s locker room. “Aside from not giving your feet any support, going barefoot can also be challenging for those prone to infectious skin diseases such as plantar warts and athlete’s foot, which are easily spread poolside, in pedicure salons and in gyms.”
But that doesn’t mean you need to spend your summer in closed toe shoes. Dr. Szpiro recommends comfortable sandals that also provide plenty of support, like styles from Fit Flops, OrthoHeel and Mephisto.
4. Brushing Your Teeth Too Often
Rushing to brush immediately after every meal may seem like a great way to keep your oral health in check, but according to Greg Diamond, DDS, a New York City periodontist, it’s better to hold off. Food can leave acid on your teeth, which can weaken the enamel, “and brushing while the enamel is in a weakened state can actually scrub the enamel away.”
To dislodge any food particles that may remain after eating, he recommends simply rinsing your mouth out with water and saving the brushing for morning and night. Then when you do brush, be sure to do so in a circular motion. According to Dr. Diamond, this will improve your chances of removing harmful bacteria between the teeth and gums. Brushing up and down or back and forth, on the other hand, can leave behind harmful bacteria, causing gum disease; while applying too much pressure can lead to receding gums.