4 Things Nearly Everyone Gets Wrong About Skin Care, According to Dermatologists

Lindsey Lanquist
4 Things Nearly Everyone Gets Wrong About Skin Care, According to Dermatologists
Photo: IMaxTree.

Many of us may consider ourselves armchair skin care experts. We stay abreast of the latest releases in the sheet mask space, we swear by our nine-step routines, and we’ve at least humored the idea of buying a mini-fridge for all our favorite products. But even those of us who pride ourselves on having a veritably sophisticated understanding of skin care may be susceptible to a misconception or two. Skin care myths creep up on us all—even those of us who have thoroughly armored ourselves against them.

The truth is, many of the things we’ve long accepted as fact are little more than pervasive myths—misunderstandings passed down from generation to generation. Those DIY face masks your mom swore by were more fun than functional. The advice espoused by your go-to ‘zine has since been debunked. And many of the tips you traded at sleepovers aren’t all they were cracked up to be (even if they did seem to work about half the time).

Misconceptions abound in the skin care space, because, of course they do. We all want to keep our skin in tip-top shape, and with all the research, products, and advice out there, it’s nearly impossible to guarantee you’re doing the right thing 100 percent of the time. All you can really hope for is getting it right most of the time—OK, some of the time. And ridding your head of some of the world’s most pervasive skin care myths will get you one step closer to that very attainable goal.

Myth: Acne is largely caused by poor hygiene—and it only happens to adolescents.

Though many of us will experience acne at some point in our lives, a lot of us don’t seem to understand it—at least not totally. Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, M.D., dermatologist at Mudgil Dermatology, tells StyleCaster that while many people think acne is the result of poor hygiene, it usually has more to do with hormones. “Acne is hormonal in nature in nearly all patients,” Dr. Mudgil says. “Most patients with acne have perfectly fine hygiene!”

Dr. Gretchen Frieling, M.D., board-certified dermatopathologist at GFaceMD, co-signs this, telling StyleCaster that one of the most common skin care myths she hears is that “acne is the result of bad hygiene.” Another common misconception? “Only teenagers ‘should’ get breakouts,” Dr. Frieling says. This isn’t the case at all. “Acne [isn’t] an adolescent issue,” Dr. Mudgil says. “My most common acne patients are adult women!”

Myth: The more skin care products you use, the better—especially if those products are expensive.

“[People think] that more is better—more product and more expensive!” Dr. Mudgil says. “That’s just not the case. When it comes to skin care, less is more.” Dr. Mudgil specifically recommends a mere few products: a good cleanser, a good sunscreen, and a solid retinoid.

Dr. Frieling agrees, noting that many people believe they need to use every product in a skin care line when they simply do not. And don’t underestimate drugstore products either, she says. The idea that luxury brands are the only ones worth using is completely off-base.

Myth: If a skin care product stings, that means it’s working.

When it comes to skin care products, aggressive isn’t always better. “[Many people think] aggressive brushes and facial scrubs are the best way to remove blackheads,” Dr. Frieling says. But gentler options—like cleansing, using prescription acne topicals, and getting extractions done by a licensed esthetician—can be more effective (and much kinder to your skin).

The same holds true with cleansing, exfoliation, and using products in general. “[People think] if you strip your skin of all oils ([for example, by] using toner several times a day) you won’t break out,” Dr. Frieling says. That’s not the case. “[People think] if you exfoliate the heck out of your face you can ‘wipe the slate clean’—you can’t,” she says. “[And people think] if skin care stings, that means it’s working.”

Harsh isn’t always the right move. And if a product is hurting your skin, you might want to consult your care provider about trying a different option.

Myth: Beauty sleep is overrated.

One bit of sage generational wisdom that actually rings true? Beauty sleep really is invaluable. “During sleep, your body goes into a rejuvenating state,” Dr. Frieling says. “[It] eliminates dead skin cells and makes new ones.” The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that adults get seven-to-eight hours of sleep per night, so heed their (and Dr. Frieling’s) advice.

This one just goes to show that not every skin care tip you heard growing up was wrong.