Demon Myths of Skin Care: The Real Truth Behind Them

Aly Walansky
woman looking in mirror

Yuri Arcurs/Hemera / 360

When it comes to skin care, we’ve all been told some pretty big lies. We’re tired of the false demons: Armed with the truths, we can have healthier, happier skin — and not be engaging in regimes that sometimes do more harm than good! We asked some of the experts for their favorite myths – and the reality behind the story!

All skin damage occurs before age 18.
This is not correct, although many people get a significant amount of their sun damage by age 18 it certainly does not stop at that point. This is why it is important for everyone to wear SPF on a daily basis, says Dr. David Bank who is a Board Certified Dermatologist, author of Beautiful Skin: Every Woman’s Guide to Looking Her Best at Any Age and Founder & Director of The Center For Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery in Mt. Kisco, NY.

If a sunscreen says ‘water resistant’, then I do not need to reapply.
Not true. “Sunscreens should be reapplied according to specifications on the label, which the FDA has now stepped in and regulated as of recently. Sunscreens are now required to specify water resistant, 80 minutes or water resistant, 40 minutes based upon testing of the product,” says Dallas dermatologist Dr. Kristel Polder.

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Scrubs will clear my acne.
Acne starts in the pore, not on the surface of your skin. “Scrubbing acne skin can make the inflammation worse so instead use gentle non-comedogenic cleansers and an exfoliating serum to prevent the acne from forming in the first place,” says Crystal Wellman, owner of Crystal Clear Acne Clinic.

Oily skin does not need a moisturizer.
Oily skin tends to become dehydrated (lacking water moisture) and can stimulate oil glands to produce more oil to balance the skin, says Wellman. Use a non-comedogenic moisturizer everyday!

Chocolate is bad for your skin.
Not necessarily!  Lisa Reinhardt, CEO & Founder of Wei of Chocolate, LLC says both the Swiss and Germans have conducted studies showing that high quality dark chocolate increases microcirculation in the skin (glowing, healthy look), decreases wrinkling (due to anti-inflammatory action – much wrinkling is caused by inflammation)  and is UV protective (less sun damage).  Reinhardt says if you’re eating cheap chocolate made by mass-production brands, this is not likely to be the case. “Most grocery store brands are filled with GMO sugar and soy, bad fats instead of heavenly cocoa butter, milk and artificial flavors and colors that are often allergens, and are the reason that chocolate got a bad rap!” says Reinhardt. Your best bet with chocolate is to go for dairy-free (milk blocks the absorption of the anti-oxidants and other good guys),  organic (way too many pesticides in ordinary chocolate, GMO sugar & soy in non-organics), and gluten-free (for those who are gluten intolerant, did you know that gluten causes those pesky bumps on the backs of your arms? Totally clears up when you eliminate the gluten!).

Hemorrhoid cream will help with eye area puffiness.
In fact, some of the harsh chemicals in the cream can irritate the sensitive eyes area and also cause breakouts due to its oily base, says Allison Tray, owner of  Tres Belle Spa in New York. Eye area puffiness is often hereditary or due to allergies. More successful routes to take when trying to deal with this would be a lymphatic massage around the eyes or cold cucumbers.

I should see progress within about two weeks of trying a new skincare system.
“You want to look for results after four weeks. The average turnover time for skin cells is 21 days, slower for older adults and faster for young people. Women will usually see results first in the area between their mouth and cheeks (the nasolabial fold). Most men will see their earliest improvements around their eyes: the puffiness and dark circles will diminish,” says skin care scientist Nathalie Chevreau, PhD, RD.

MORE: Is Acne Worse In the Summer? 

The higher the SPF, the better the protection when it comes to sunscreen.
This is not true. “I always recommend sunscreen that is at least SPF 30. You also need to find a broad spectrum sunscreen that blocks both the UVA and
UVB rays. The bottom line to healthy skin is avoid the sun and use a good sunscreen every day,” says Dr. Jayshri Gamoth from Ato Z Dermatology in Tempe, Arizona.

Facial exercise keeps the skin taut.
All exercise strengthens, tightens and tones muscles. They do not however, do anything to tighten the skin. “In fact, repetitive muscle contraction can lead to further collagen breakdown. That’s why Botox is used to treat excessive muscle action thus helping to reduce wrinkles,” says Dr. Bank.

You get what you pay for when it comes to skin care products.
This is absolutely not true. “Whether it is bought at your local drug store or the fanciest boutique in town, most active ingredients are similar. Many times you are paying for the package, instead of the what’s inside the cream or moisturizer,” says Dr. Gamoth.

Your skin can become used to products.
This certainly depends on the product and active ingredient. “Certain ingredients like retinol, the skin does not ‘get used to’ – for most people, this product can and should be used indefinitely. In contrast, people can get acclimated/resistant to pimple fighting topical antibacterials/antibiotics and in this case, if a product worked well and no longer appears to be effective, it may be wise to switch,” says Dr. Bank.

Sunscreen does not need to be worn on cloudy days.
Harmful UV rays can still penetrate the skin on cloudy days. Sunscreen needs to be worn every day, even cloudy days.

Alcohol causes rosacea.
Alcohol can trigger a flare of rosacea, or make the rosacea look worse and appear redder in color. However, drinking alcohol does not lead to rosacea, says Dr. Polder.

You can get rid of cellulite.
Cellulite is a complicated multifactorial problem. “While it may be improved temporarily by any number of treatments, there is no current treatment that will permanently get rid of it,” says Dr. Bank. Let the buyer beware!

You can catch poison ivy from someone else.
You cannot catch poison ivy or even poison oak from someone else. “Poison ivy is an allergic reaction caused by a substance called urushiol found in the sap of poison ivy or oak and you can get a reaction to it when in contact with it,” says Dr. Bank.

Leaving scrapes or wounds uncovered will help them heal.
Simply not true. “Wounds prefer a closed, moist environment to aid in healing and keeping them covered with antibiotic ointment and a bandage is the quickest way to for them to heal without leaving a scar,” says Dr. Bank.

You’ll age just like your mom.
Yes and no. “There are genetic factors that determine certain components of the aging process. For example, rosacea tendencies develop over time and are largely genetic. Similarly, the tendency to develop seborrheic keratoses in later years (grey to brown velvety warty growths) is also largely genetic. Additionally the tendency of skin to wrinkle and sag also has a large genetic component,” says Dr. Craig Kraffert, board certified dermatologist and president of Amarte Skin Care. Nevertheless, more than half of skin aging is related to behavioral factors. These behavioral patterns are also (to some degree) passed from generation to generation as well. The two most toxic behaviors related to skin aging are sun exposure and cigarette smoking. “Parents who have accumulated extensive unprotected sun exposure may be more likely to raise children who engage in similar behavior. Similarly, children of smokers suffer from secondhand smoke (which may contribute to premature skin aging) and are more likely to take up smoking as well. So, some factors of aging may be difficult to control but others are readily modifiable. Sun exposure and smoking behaviors are key factors that can be controlled to age differently and more slowly than mom,” says Dr. Kraffert.