From the way you file your nails to the way you apply fragrance, your beauty rituals can have a surprising impact on your health. Here are five unhealthy beauty habits and how to break them

By Camilla Cornell

5 unhealthy beauty habits you need to break

1. Squinting in the sun

Squinting and UV exposure can lead to wrinkling around the eyes and forehead. But the effects aren’t only aesthetic: UV exposure can cause photokeratitis—basically a sunburn on your eyeball that can cause tearing, pain, redness, headaches and swollen eyelids, says Keith Gordon, vice-president, research for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. Even worse, long-term exposure to the sun increases your risk of cataracts (clouding of the lens that causes blurred vision) and age-related macular degeneration (the most common source of vision loss in people over 50).

The remedy: You may think of sunglasses as 
a summertime-only accessory, but they are a must all year long, advises Gordon. It doesn’t matter how light or dark the lenses are; look for a manufacturer’s label indicating that the glasses offer 99 percent UVA and UVB protection. ’

2. Rubbing your wrists together after applying fragrance

Fragrances are composed of molecules, and when you expose those molecules 
to heat, cold or friction, you alter them,” explains Marian Bendeth, a Toronto-based global fragrance expert. This results in a deadening of the delicate blend and distortion of the scent.

The remedy: Spritz your inner wrists, your neck and the inside of your elbows, preferably from six inches away or more to ensure the scent is dispersed over a larger area. Then it’s hands off, says Bendeth. Blow on your wrists, or let fragrance dry on its own. Your body heat will help diffuse the scent.

3. Sawing your nails with a file

Sawing back and forth with a nail file can separate the layers of your nails, potentially causing them to split and break, says Angela Cooper, the senior aesthetician for Spirit Spa in Halifax.

The remedy: If your nails are too long to file, clip them first (preferably with nail scissors), then file gently with a fine-grained emery board or a crystal file. File each side of the nail toward the middle, always in the same direction so you avoid the sawing motion. And avoid metal nail files, which are harsh on your nails.

4. Over-plucking your brows

One of the biggest beauty mistakes is to go wild with the tweezers—too-thin brows (think Pamela Anderson) can age you. And compensating with makeup is never as good as having full natural brows, says Kira Thompson, owner of The Brow House in Toronto, which does professional brow shaping. Neither do you want to end up with a shape that’s not naturally yours, like a rounded clown brow or a hook (a.k.a. “tadpole”) shape.

The remedy: Thompson recommends learning from a professional about the shape of your own brows and how they grow, and what works for you to keep them groomed.

5. Never washing your makeup brushes

Makeup brushes are a vital part of your beauty tool kit, but over time they become contaminated with dead skin cells, oil, old oxidized colours and bacteria, says Donna Bishop, a makeup artist and owner of online beauty boutique greenbeauty.ca. That can play havoc with your daily makeup routine, as powder clings to the oils on the brush, clumping on your skin. Worse still, because you’re applying bacteria along with your blush and other makeup, you may experience breakouts, allergic reactions or infections in the form of a rash, pimples or redness.

The remedy: Bishop suggests cleaning your liquid foundation brushes every time you use them, and powder brushes at least once a week. Her advice: Squirt a dollop of baby shampoo into your hand or onto a plate, then run your brush under lukewarm water to dampen it before swishing it in the shampoo until a lather forms. Finally, pointing the brush down to ensure water doesn’t get trapped in the handle, rinse it until the water runs clear and lay the brush flat to dry on a clean towel. Or, for everyday cleaning, try a brush cleaner such as Spray BeautySoClean Conditioning Brush Cleanser. Apply on the brush and swipe it over a paper towel. It will dry in seconds. ($20, 125 mL)

This article was originally titled "Kick That Bad Beauty Move (The Sequel)," in the September 2010 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience—and never miss an issue!—and make sure to check out what's new in the latest issue of Best Health.

Best Health Magazine, September 2010

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