Did you know that the skin is an organ just like the heart and lungs? Did you also know that the skin is part of the immune system? Both are true. Human skin is an organ with multiple functions, including fighting off foreign organisms that would seek to enter the body. So we should be careful about abusing it. Everything from natural skin care oils to how we exfoliate needs to be examinedin order to fully understand how the skin is being affected.

In reality, we abuse the skin in ways we are not even aware of. This is not a condemnation of humanity, but rather a reminder that there is still plenty we need to learn about protecting the skin in order to maintain good health. In light of that, here are five ways we inadvertently abuse the skin, along with solutions:

1. Cleansing with Harsh Chemicals

Skin has to be cleansed on a regular basis in order to remain healthy. That much we know. But many of us cleanse with harsh chemicals that actuallydo more harm than good. For example, your average bar of soap contains sulfates that can cause skin irritation, parabens that have been linked to breast cancer, and fragrances that can be made with just about anything. A better alternative is natural skin care oils that don’t contain harsh chemicals.

2. Over-Cleansing the Skin

We have become a culture that is generally paranoid about germs, so we over-cleanse the skin with antibacterial products that can cause dryness and other reactions. More importantly, over-cleansing prevents the skin from doing what it is supposed to do. If you do not let your skin fight bacteria, it will eventually stop trying. A better practice is to cleanse once or twice a day with a good organic facial cleansing oil.

3. Harsh, Aggressive Exfoliating

Exfoliation is intended to remove dead skin cells, dirt and debris. Some amount of abrasion is required to thoroughly exfoliate, but too much is a bad thing. It can irritate the skin and encourage the overproduction of sebum (the natural oil that lubricates the skin), which can lead to clogged pores and breakouts. Again, natural skin care oils with exfoliating properties are the best choice.

4. Sleeping with Makeup Still On

Going to sleep without removing makeup is definitely not good for the skin. Time spent sleeping is time the body uses to repair and rejuvenate itself. Going to bed with makeup still on prevents the skin from doing just that. It also increases the likelihood of clogged pores, breakouts, and eye infections. It is much better to thoroughly cleanse the skin before going to bed.

5. Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Alcohol has two properties that can be damaging to the skin. First, alcohol dehydrates the skin. The more a person drinks, the more likely he or she is to have problems with dry skin. Second, alcohol is a hepatotoxin that damages the liver over time. One of the results of the subsequent liver damage is unhealthy skin that is exposed to the toxins the liver can no longer get rid of. The obvious solution here is to be very moderate in your drinking habits. One or two drinks a day is more than enough.

There are lots of ways we abuse the skin without ever knowing what we are doing. So in addition to using natural skin care oils and avoiding harsh chemicals, it pays to truly understand what is going on with the skin so that we can take better care of it.