Common Skincare Myths and How To Handle Them

Those dark, purple circles under your eyes don't necessarily mean you're tired.

The beauty world is full of urban legends, especially regarding skincare. Unfortunately, many everyday things learned about skincare may only have some truth.

So to help separate fact from fiction, Health decided to go straight to the source and ask top skin experts to weigh in on the most common skincare myths.

Myth: If Retinol Irritates Your Skin, Stop Using It

Retinol is the undisputed anti-aging superstar. It's a type of retinoid, a medication class created from vitamin A. Retinoids are also used for treating skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and some cancers.

Retinol also comes with the likelihood of some side effects—including redness, dryness, and flaking. "You should expect your skin to be dry and irritated, especially when you first start using retinol," Ife Rodney, MD, a dermatologist and founding director of Eternal Dermatology in Fulton, Maryland, told Health.

Instead, Change How You Use It

If you're experiencing this type of irritation, the key is not to ditch your retinol entirely but to change how and when you use it. The irritation results from using these products for long periods at higher doses and concentrations.

"Instead of stopping the retinol completely, you should decrease the frequency of use to every other night, or even every third night, then slowly increase as tolerated," advised Dr. Rodney. The other important point? Make sure you're using no more than a pea-sized amount for your entire face.

Note: See a dermatologist to determine if using retinol, or using retinoids in general, is right for you. You'll also want to consult a dermatologist if you experience side effects such as chronic skin dryness, irritation, and discoloration.

Myth: Eye Creams Are Best Kept in the Fridge

Cold temps indeed help to reduce swelling and puffiness under your eyes. However, refrigerating your eye creams may not fully contribute to taking care of your eye issues.

"Your body is also naturally 98.6 degrees, and when you place a cold cream onto the skin, your body will immediately warm it up," Danné Montague-King, author, botanical chemist, and founder of DMK Skincare, told Health.

Ensure Proper Storage and Use Additional Methods for Eye Care

While you can certainly keep your eye cream in a cold place, it's not required. Just remember that however you store your eye cream, cosmetics designed for areas around the eyes do have a shorter shelf life. Additionally, temperature changes can affect the color and texture of cosmetics.

If your goal is to reduce swelling and puffiness, Montague-King advised using a cold compress to maintain its cool temperature even when placed onto your warm skin. A tool, like a jade roller, will also do the trick.

Myth: You Get What You Pay for When It Comes to Skincare

Here's some good news for all of the budget-conscious shoppers out there: The cost of skincare products does not always serve as a perfect indicator of how effective they are.

"It's all about the formulation," New York-based dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla, MD, told Health. Case in point: Dr. Mariwalla's favorite product was underrated Vaseline.

That being said, certain ingredients, such as vitamin C, need to be formulated properly to work effectively, and these can get a bit costly. However, Dr. Mariwalla added that you often pay more for pretty packaging or a fancy brand name, particularly with moisturizers and cleansers.

Pay Attention to Skincare Product Ingredients

Your best bet? Instead of considering the price tag alone, look at other features of the products you wish to use. Learn about and seek out active ingredients that are best for your skincare routine and read the label, suggested Dr. Rodney.

Knowing your skin type can help you determine the best ingredients and products that will meet your skin needs. If there's an ingredient you don't recognize, research to find out what benefits they are supposed to offer.

Myth: You Don’t Need a Moisturizer if Your Skin Is Oily

It may seem intuitive to skip moisturizer if your skin already feels slick. On top of that, people with oily skin may have thicker skin, fewer wrinkles, and better skin preservation.

Still, oily skin can be dehydrated. That can contribute to the excessive oil production as a way of overcompensating for that dehydration, Stacy Chimento, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami, told Health.

Start or Continue Using a Moisturizer

Even if you have oily skin, moisturizers work to keep your skin hydrated. Using a moisturizer regularly can ultimately leave your skin less oily because it will help the oil production balance out, added Dr. Rodney.

Myth: There Are Topical Products That Work Just as Well as Injectables

There's no shortage of skincare boasting about being "Botox in a bottle." Still,  the bottom line is that topicals work differently than injectables, New York City dermatologist Hadley King, MD, told Health.

"Topical products are very important for sun protection, antioxidants, moisturization, exfoliation, and more. But they can't accomplish the things that injectables can," added Dr. King.

Neuromodulators, such as Botox, interfere with the communication between the nerve and the muscle. Dr. King explained that no topical product could penetrate deeply enough to have this same effect.

Also, where topical products may take a while to work, people can see results within three to seven days following injections.

Consider the Possibility of Using Both

Using the two in tandem is a good move since topicals can help maintain the effects you get from injectables, noted Dr. Mariwalla.

If you want to use any other wrinkle-reducing treatments, just test the products you want to use and start with one at a time. Also, keep using them for continuous results along with using moisturizer, and don't forget to use sun protection for your skin.

Myth: The Higher the SPF in Your Sunscreen, the Better

SPF measures the product's protection against UVB rays, which cause sunburn.

"The difference in UVB protection between an SPF 100 and an SPF 50 is marginal and doesn't offer double the blockage. SPF 100 blocks 99% of UVB rays, while SPF 50 blocks 98%," explained Dr. King. For reference, an SPF 30 blocks about 97% of UVB rays.

The general recommendation is to stick with a broad-spectrum formula—that blocks UVA and UVB rays—with at least an SPF 30.

Make Sure You're Protected from the Sun in General

To get the labeled amount of protection, apply an adequate amount of sunscreen—enough to cover your face and body. It's also never a bad idea to err with a higher SPF, particularly if you'll be out in the sun all day and reapply it frequently.

Myth: You Only Need Sunscreen During the Summer

Another important part of sunscreen is the timing of when you use it. You might think that you'll only need to focus on using sunscreen during the summer, but sunscreen use is also necessary for the rest of the year.

"Ultraviolet light doesn't take a break, and neither should you," warned Dr. Mariwalla.

Up to 80% of UV rays can go through the clouds on a cloudy day, and UV rays come from the sun no matter the time of year or the weather. So as long as you're exposed to outdoor climates, you'll want protection from the sun.

Be Sure to Wear Sunscreen Throughout the Year

Make sure that you have sunscreen available 365 days a year—rain or shine, and even while indoors. If you’re near water, snow, or sand, using sunscreen is a big deal because the sun’s rays can reflect off of their surfaces and lead to sunburn as well. 

Myth: Dark Circles Are a Sign You're Tired

A lack of sleep can exacerbate the issue of dark circles, but it's not the only cause.

Dark circles can result from factors such as genetics, aging, dryness, extra pigmentation, and wrinkles. Also, dark circles become much more prominent the thinner the skin is.

Find the Right Treatment for Dark Circles

It's tough for topical eye creams to address dark circles. However, depending on what's causing the dark circles, there are a number of treatments available. Recommended treatments might include options like topical corticosteroids or antioxidants like vitamin C, fillers, or laser treatments.

Myth: Your Pores Can Open and Close

You may have heard about pores being able to open and close. However, "pores don't open or close like shutters," noted Dr. Chimento. This terminology refers to pores dilating or becoming stretched out.

This dilation can occur due to factors like age and temperature combined with them being clogged with dirt and oil. This also then makes them appear larger and more prominent.

Use Methods To Minimize How Your Pores Appear

Your best bet for minimizing the look of pores is regular exfoliation, and you could try one of these derm-approved liquid exfoliants to clear out clogged pores. You'll also want to consider:

  • Using skincare products and makeup that won't clog your pores
  • Being gentle with your skin
  • Treating acne and sagging skin
  • Protecting your face from the sun

Myth: How Your Skin Ages Is 100% Based on Genetics

Genetics do play a role, but skin aging is a complex process and is determined by intrinsic and extrinsic factors, said Dr. King. For example, a person's facial skin may age due to repeated facial expressions like squinting.

To help reduce skin aging, pay attention to external factors that could be causing the issue and that you may be able to change. The following are some examples and the changes you could consider:

  • Sun exposure: Wear sunscreen and protective clothing to limit exposure to the sun
  • Diet: Eat fruits and vegetables and limit sugar or refined carbs
  • Smoking: Use a smoking cessation plan to quit smoking
  • Stress: Find ways to manage stress, including exercise or reading

A Quick Review

There are a few myths to be aware of when it comes to skincare and skincare products. These myths include keeping eye creams cooler to reduce undereye puffiness and not needing sunscreen all year.

Some myths have truth in them, depending on the situation, while others require changes for optimal skin care. If you have questions or concerns about your skin, talking with a dermatologist can help.

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