21 Myth-Busting Skin Care Facts (A Dermatologist’s Guide)

21 Myth-Busting Skin Care Facts (A Dermatologist’s Guide)

Since the skincare industry has boomed, we have also seen a massive growth of information sources on beauty and skin on the internet.

There is probably hardly any subject in the world right now, which is discussed and written about more than beauty.

While this sounds like a dream to have all the skin care facts available at your fingertips, more often than not, it leads to a lot of misinformation and myth-building.

On the internet, where there is no chance (or willingness) of verifying the credibility of your source before sharing information, people often fall for gimmicks and false marketing and, even after spending a ton of money, end up getting disappointed with the results.

As a dermatologist and medical writer, it is my job, and I make great efforts to clear up these ‘myths’ and give hard facts to help my patients and readers achieve their dream skin.

So today, we are going to disprove some myths about skin care and lay out some of the beauty and makeup facts.

Here are 21 skin care facts you should know:

Cleansing facts and myths

Cleansing facts and myths

1. How much cleansing should your cleanser do?

Myth:

  • Your skin is clean only if it ‘feels’ clean.

Fact:

  • If a cleanser is making your skin feel squeaky clean and tight, it is more likely damaging your skin more than it’s helping it. Aggressive cleansers that contain harsh surfactants (detergents) could end up giving you dry patches and inflammation, as well as increase the chances of irritation due to other products.

Tip:

No matter your skin type, don’t buy cleansers that make your skin feel dry and tight. Gentle and effective cleansing is the FIRST step to any good skincare routine.

2. To buy or not to buy: the cleansers with lots of promises!

Myth:

  • Your face wash should contain a lot of active ingredients.

Fact:

  • Your cleanser or face wash remains in contact with your skin for a minimal amount of time. In that time, only a tiny percentage of ‘active ingredients’ get deposited on the skin (most often less than 1%),(1) and the benefit from it is often negligible as compared to leave on products with the same ingredients.

Tip:

Don’t pay big bucks for a cleanser that promises to change your skin. Choose a cleanser with moisturizing ingredients like plant oils and a skin-friendly pH (4.5-5.5) to neutralize the drying effect of surfactants.

3. The bus of double cleansing: Should you jump in?

Myth:

  • Double cleansing is a far superior method than just washing your face with a cleanser

Fact:

  • There is absolutely no evidence that says so. Double cleansing is necessary only when you are wearing makeup. For a normal day to day life, single-step cleansing is adequate to get rid of the extra sebum, dirt, and products on your skin.

Tip:

If you are into double cleansing, use mild products for both steps. An example would be to use micellar water for the first step and wash it off with a mild foaming cleanser.

Exfoliating facts and myths

Exfoliating facts and myths

4. Have apricots and walnuts in your meal, not on your skin

Myth:

  • All physical scrubs mechanically remove the uppermost dead layer of skin, unveiling a healthy layer underneath.

Fact:

  • If I could ask you to throw out one product from your cabinet out of the window, that would be a walnut/apricot scrub. Physical scrubs with small uneven particles cause micro-injuries and affect the normal skin flora, giving rise to redness, inflammation, and even acne.(2)

Tip:

If you love physical exfoliation, go for scrubs with jojoba beads or finely milled sugar, which dissolves on coming in contact with skin and water, thus exfoliating without damaging the skin.

5. Moderation is the secret to flawless skin

Myth:

  • Exfoliation is required in a daily skincare routine.

Fact:

  • Apart from salicylic acid in acne-prone skin, exfoliating the skin daily may make it more sensitive to environmental damage and more prone to irritation. AHAs like glycolic acid makes the skin more susceptible to sun damage, and hence not an ideal choice for daily use.(3)

Tip:

On the day(s) you choose to use exfoliation products, keep the use of other irritating products with active ingredients to the minimum.

Sunscreens facts and myths

Sunscreens facts and myths

6. Live, laugh, wear sunscreen: At all times

Myth:

  • I don’t need sunscreen unless I am on a beach vacation.

Fact:

  • If you tell me to choose one product for the rest of my life at gunpoint, my unwavering answer will be sunscreen. EVERYONE, irrespective of age, gender, occupation, needs sunscreen added to their morning routine.
  • No matter what your skin goals are- having healthy skin, amping up the glow, getting an even skin tone, or anti-aging, sunscreen is essential in every routine. You also need sunscreen on a cloudy day, a rainy day, in winter, in your car, and even indoors. UV rays are everywhere.(4)

Tip:

The best sunscreen is the sunscreen that you will use! Experiment around with various textures and brands until you find the one. Choose a sunscreen with antioxidants that neutralize the free radicals which are produced by chemical sunscreen ingredients or due to the interaction of sun rays with the skin itself.

7. When it comes to sunscreen, there is strength in numbers

Myth:

  • SPF 50 has just a little more protection than SPF 30.

Fact:

  • While it may be true that SPF 50 shields the skin from 98% Ultraviolet (UV) rays and SPF 30 around 97%, what needs to be evaluated is ‘what gets through.’ SPF means that 1/SPF percent of rays get through. That means SPF 30 lets 1/30, i.e., 3.3%, and SPF 50 lets 1/50, i.e., 2 percent through. 3.3% is 1.65 times more than 2%, so the protection offered with SPF 50 is 1.65 times more.
  • In addition to that, it is known that most users do not apply the adequate amount of sunscreen (2 finger length for face and neck), thus not achieving the complete benefit of sunscreen. In the amount most commonly used by people, which is usually ⅓ of the recommended amount, SPF 30 works no more than SPF 10. It becomes important to apply the highest possible SPF to get at least decent sun protection.(5)

Tip:

Since most apply sunscreen way less than it is needed to provide the protection mentioned in the packaging, reapplication of the sunscreen 2 hours after the first application ensures a good level of protection.

8. Makeup is just a dessert to the sunscreen’s main course

Makeup is just a dessert to the sunscreen's main course

Myth:

  • My foundation/powder has SPF 20. I don’t need to use sunscreen

Fact:

  • Sunscreen should be applied in an amount of 2 mg/cm2.(6) For an average face, that would equal 1.2 g of facial powder or foundation. An average woman applies 0.085g of facial powder, which is 14 times less than it is required to achieve the mentioned protection. Thus it is no alternative for sunscreen.

Tip:

Use a silicone-based sunscreen if you are a regular makeup user. Silicone is the most commonly used ingredient in primers as it smoothens the skin, and makes for a very good base for makeup,

9. Moisturizer with SPFs: Aiming two birds with one arrow?

Myth:

  • Moisturizer with SPF is different than a sunscreen

Fact:

  • As long as it possesses an SPF equivalent to usual sunscreen, and adequate UVA protection, and is applied in recommended amounts, a moisturizer with SPF is just a sunscreen with hydrating ingredients.

Tip:

For dry skin, it might actually make more sense to use a moisturizer with SPF than use a moisturizer and sunscreen separately. It is cheaper than 2 products, easier and saves a step in skincare.

10. In the race for the highest UVB protection, don’t forget the UVA

Myth:

  • High SPF is the most important factor in deciding a sunscreen.

Fact:

  • SPF only indicates protection from UVB rays and not UVA rays. UVA rays are mainly responsible for pigmentation (tanning) and aging of the skin. Contrary to what was known before, recent studies show that UVA, just like UVB, also cause DNA damage and skin cancer.(7)

Tip:

When looking for a high SPF, also pay attention to the UVA protection level of the sunscreen. Depending on which country you live in, UVA protection is indicated as PA+ rating, Boots star rating, or PPD value.

11. The big ‘layering mystery’ – sunscreen first or sunscreen last

Myth:

  • Sunscreen should be applied as the last layer of the skincare routine.

Fact:

  • This held true for older physical sunscreens, which formed a white cast on the skin and did not let any other skincare penetrate through it. Current sunscreens with modern filters can be applied at any skincare step, except after an occlusive moisturizer.

Tip:

After applying sunscreen, before applying any other product, wait for a couple of minutes for sunscreen to get absorbed in the skin. This helps to avoid the disturbance in the even distribution of sunscreen and prevent you from getting patchy protection.

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Moisturizer facts and myths

Moisturizer facts and myths

12. Every type of skin is better when moisturized

Myth:

  • I have oily skin, so I do not need a moisturizer.

Fact:

  • Oily skin is rich in oil (sebum) production, but not necessarily in water content. When the oil layer is stripped off by cleansing or other oil reducing treatments, it could still lose water and become dehydrated.
  • Dehydrated skin appears dull with dry patches. Good moisturizers also aid in barrier repair of oily acne-prone skin, which gets disturbed due to environmental conditions and inflammation.

Tip:

Use a lightweight lotion or gel-based moisturizer to satisfy the hydration needs of your oily skin.

Beauty and makeup facts and myths

13. Cleansing wipes: Just like in life, there are no shortcuts in skincare

Myth:

  • You could apply your skincare products right after using a cleansing wipe to remove your makeup.

Fact:

  • It is 2020, and all skin experts disapprove of cleansing wipes. They are abrasive and harsh on the skin, smear the makeup around, and leave residues on the face, which could irritate the skin. Either wash your face with a cleanser after using a makeup wipe or better don’t use one at all.

Tip:

If you have sensitive skin, use an oil-based cleanser to remove the water-resistant makeup to avoid rubbing the wipes on your face. Or use micellar water on a soft cotton pad as the first cleansing step.

14. Makeup: if you like it, do it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise

Myth:

  • Makeup is bad for the skin.

Fact:

  • A badly formulated makeup could be bad for the skin, but quality makeup from trustworthy brands rarely harms your skin. Of course, sleeping with makeup on is still blasphemy, but just using makeup does not damage the skin.

Tip:

One of the commonest mistakes makeup lovers make is not washing the makeup brushes, which eventually become a breeding ground for bacteria. Wash makeup brushes once in 1-2 weeks. And on that note, don’t forget wiping off makeup from your phone.

Anti-aging facts and myths

Anti-aging facts and myths

15. The best thing you can do for your skin in your 50s is using the right skincare in your 20s

Myth:

  • Anti-aging skincare should start from the 30s.

Fact:

  • The skin has different needs based on skin type, genetics, etc. The need for any skincare product is governed by the condition of the skin and not by age. Someone at 35 with great genes and less sun exposure could have way fewer wrinkles than, say, a professional skier at 25 who has to stay out in the sun all day long.
  • Also, there is no set of products that are anti-aging. Every time you do a decent skincare routine with a mild cleanser, sunscreen, and moisturizer, you prevent your skin from aging faster, thus doing an anti-aging skincare routine.

Tip:

All-rounder skincare ingredients like Vitamin C, which improve the skin tone and stimulate collagen production, are good for all age groups and are a good transition between basic and targeted anti-aging skincare.(8)

16. Collagen creams: If only anti-aging skincare was so uncomplicated

Myth:

  • Applying collagen directly to the skin can substitute the lost collagen during the aging process

Fact:

  • To substitute the collagen lost, collagen particles in your cream need to be really small so that they can penetrate the skin barrier. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Collagen creams just sit on the skin, bind to water, and work as a good moisturizer. However, it does nothing to increase the collagen content of the tissues or to stimulate collagen production.

Tip:

Use ingredients like retinol or Vitamin C,(9) which stimulate collagen production to replace the lost collagen due to the aging process. Save your money on that exorbitant collagen cream, and buy a moisturizer with glycerin, hyaluronic acid, or plant oils.

And if you like such tips on which products are completely unnecessary and which products are worth putting in the shopping cart, do subscribe to our email list. It will be worth it.

Acne facts and myths

Acne facts and myths

17. About time we tell everyone, acne is not a hygiene problem

Myth:

  • Cleansing the skin multiple times a day would clean up the impurities clogging the pores and help get rid of acne.

Fact:

  • Just like deep cleansing, over-cleansing, the skin has no positive effect on acne.(10) It could have a negative effect, though. It could dry out the skin, making the oil glands secrete more sebum, resulting in increased oiliness. Depending on the detergent content, it could also irritate the skin more, leading to increased inflammation and redness associated with acne.

Tip:

Unless absolutely necessary, cleanse your face only twice daily and, at the risk of sounding repetitive, always with a mild cleanser.

18. What’s good for your teeth is not necessarily good for your skin

Myth:

  • Toothpaste heals the pimple overnight.

Fact:

  • While it is true that toothpaste dries out a pimple, many ingredients in toothpaste could cause allergies and dermatitis. Worse than having a pimple on your face is waking up with a red, inflamed patch the next morning. And it will take way longer to heal than your usual pimple and could end up causing a pigment change.

Tip:

Use hydrocolloid acne patches or salicylic acid ‘pens’ to soothe the pimple overnight.(11)

Skincare products facts and myths

Skincare products facts and myths

19. Eye creams: Another expensive product you can stop throwing your money on

Myth:

  • You need a specialized eye cream for the sensitive under-eye area.

Fact:

  • Not really. It is true that your under-eye area needs mild products, but so does your facial skin. If you are allergic to any ingredient in your under-eye area, the chances are that it may be unsuitable for your entire face too.
  • If your regular cream does not contain highly concentrated active ingredients like retinoids or acids, it should be okay for use in the under-eye area.
  • If your under-eye area has special needs like dark circles or prominent vessels, you may need a cream to treat those, but most moisturizing eye creams contain almost the same ingredients as a good facial moisturizer.

Tip:

Use the same sunscreen and moisturizer for your under-eye area like your face, and save yourself from this marketing gimmick.

20. Skin is the largest organ of your body, and it is always changing

Myth:

  • You have one skin type, and you need to buy products only for that skin type.

Fact:

  • The needs of the skin are very dynamic. It depends on the age, climate, geographical location at a given time, your routine, and stress in your life. Your skin in winter may need a way heavier moisturizer than in summer.
  • You can have oily skin but require a heavier moisturizer when your skin is dehydrated. Cleansing, sunscreen, actives, all depend on the current condition of the skin. Of course, it doesn’t change daily, but it is not unusual to see the skin behaving differently from the way it did last year.

Tip:

Be flexible with your skincare routine. Learn to recognize how your skin is behaving and construct a routine according to that.

21. Skincare steps: More is not always better

Myth:

  • You need to have a 10 step skincare to achieve the perfect skin.

Fact:

  • If you do not know inside out of the skincare, the chances are that you will do more damage than benefit to your skin if you have a 10 step skincare routine.
  • A multiple step skincare routine requires a profound knowledge of what products can be used together for the actives to show optimal function and for the skin to handle it without getting irritated. Overdoing skincare could actually damage the skin barrier more than ‘not doing’ skincare.

Tip:

If you are still getting to know the skincare science, stick to basics like cleanser, sunscreen, and moisturizers and introduce the active ingredients in your skincare routine really slowly. Do not use more than one active ingredient in one go.

Conclusion

So that was the first round of interesting (and fun) facts about skin and beauty that you should absolutely know not to get swayed by online gimmicks and making informed decisions.

Do you have any ‘facts’ about skin care in mind and want to know if it is true or just a myth, let me know in the comments.

And share the article with your skincare loving friends. I am sure they will learn a new fact or two.

If you like such articles that dispel the common misconceptions in skincare and give scientifically sound information, subscribe to our email list to receive similar content direct to your inbox. Our authors are all with medical backgrounds, and we aim to be on the right side of science.


References

1. Davies MA. Salicylic acid deposition from wash-off products: comparison of in vivo and porcine deposition models. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2015 Oct;37(5):526-31. doi: 10.1111/ics.12229. Epub 2015 May 22. PMID: 25899428.

2. Dreno B, Bettoli V, Perez M, Bouloc A, Ochsendorf F. Cutaneous lesions caused by mechanical injury. Eur J Dermatol. 2015 Apr;25(2):114-21. doi: 10.1684/ejd.2014.2502. PMID: 26069089.

3. Kornhauser, Andrija et al. “The effects of topically applied glycolic acid and salicylic acid on ultraviolet radiation-induced erythema, DNA damage and sunburn cell formation in human skin.” Journal of dermatological science vol. 55,1 (2009): 10-7. doi:10.1016/j.jdermsci.2009.03.011

4. Dale Wilson, Brummitte et al. “Comprehensive review of ultraviolet radiation and the current status on sunscreens.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 5,9 (2012): 18-23.

5. Petersen B, Wulf HC. Application of sunscreen–theory and reality. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2014 Apr-Jun;30(2-3):96-101. doi: 10.1111/phpp.12099. Epub 2014 Jan 6. PMID: 24313722.

6. Stokes, R. and Diffey, B. (1997), How well are sunscreen users protected?. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, 13: 186-188. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0781.1997.tb00227.x

7. Beani JC. Ultraviolets A et dommages de l’ADN ; leur place dans la cancérogenèse cutanée [Ultraviolet A-induced DNA damage: role in skin cancer]. Bull Acad Natl Med. 2014 Feb;198(2):273-95

8. Telang PS. Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2013;4(2):143-146. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.110593

9.Ganceviciene R, Liakou AI, Theodoridis A, Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis CC. Skin anti-aging strategies. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012;4(3):308-319. doi:10.4161/derm.22804

10. Choi JM, Lew VK, Kimball AB. A single-blinded, randomized, controlled clinical trial evaluating the effect of face washing on acne vulgaris. Pediatr Dermatol. 2006 Sep-Oct;23(5):421-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1470.2006.00276.x. PMID: 17014635.

11. Chao CM, Lai WY, Wu BY, Chang HC, Huang WS, Chen YF. A pilot study on efficacy treatment of acne vulgaris using a new method: results of a randomized double-blind trial with Acne Dressing. J Cosmet Sci. 2006 Mar-Apr;57(2):95-105. PMID: 16688374.

About The Author

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Board-Certified Dermatologist

Dermatology (Stanley Medical College, Chennai)

Germany

Dr. Singh studied dermatology from one of the most prestigious medical colleges of India – Stanley Medical College, Chennai. After finishing her post-graduation she went on to work as a consultant dermatologist in one of the largest cosmetology clinic chains in India – Kaya skin clinic. Working alongside expert aesthetic dermatologists of India, she worked extensively with customized skincare as well as lasers and injectables. Alongside, training under famous hair transplant surgeon – Dr. Venkataram Mysore, she learnt the nitty gritties of hair treatments. After doing two traveling fellowships in dermatology in Germany, she decided to settle there. Currently dividing her time between practicing dermatology and aesthetic medicine, she finds immense joy in educating people about the science behind skincare and haircare.

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