The beauty world is full of myths and urban legends, and arguably even more so when it comes to skincare. And while we're not saying you shouldn't listen to the sage skincare advice your mom or grandma gave you, the truth of the matter is, many of the common things we've been lead to believe are simply that—myths.
So to help separate fact from fiction, we decided to go straight to the source and ask top skin experts to weigh in on 10 of the most common skincare myths.
Retinol is the undisputed anti-aging superstar, but also comes with the likelihood of some seriously irksome side effects, including redness, dryness, and flaking. But if you're experiencing this type of irritation, the key is not to ditch your retinol entirely, but rather to change how and when you're using it. "You should expect your skin to be dry and irritated, especially when you first start using retinol," says Ife Rodney, MD, a dermatologist and founding director of Eternal Dermatology in Fulton, Maryland. "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," she advises. The other important point? Make sure you're using no more than a pea-size amount for your entire face. One to try: L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Night Serum with .3% Pure Retinol ($29; amazon.com).
"The colder temperature does not prolong your product's shelf life," notes Danné Montague-King, author, botanical chemist, and founder of DMK Skincare. "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." It is true that cold temps help to reduce swelling and puffiness, so if that's your goal, Montague-King advises using a cold compress, which will maintain its cool temperature even when placed onto your warm skin. A tool, like a jade roller, will also do the trick. We like the Herbivore Jade De-Puffing Face Roller ($30; amazon.com).
Here's some good news for all of the budget-conscious shoppers out there: "Not all expensive skincare products necessarily work better than their cheaper counterparts," say New York-based dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla, MD. "It's all about formulation," she adds. Case in point: One of Dr. Mariwalla's favorite products is underrated Vaseline ($5; amazon.com).
That being said, certain ingredients, such as vitamin C, do need to be formulated properly in order to work effectively, and these can get a bit costly; however, Dr. Mariwalla adds that, particularly with things like moisturizers and cleansers, you're often simply paying more for pretty packaging or a fancy brand name. Your best bet? Learn about and seek out active ingredients that are best for your skincare routine and read the label, suggests Dr. Rodney. That's a much better guideline than the price tag.
It may seem intuitive to skip moisturizer if your skin already feels slick, but resist that urge. Oily skin can still be dehydrated; in fact, that can be what's contributing to the excessive oil production as a way of overcompensating for that dehydration, explains Stacy Chimento, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami. Using a moisturizer regularly can ultimately leave your skin less oily because it will help the oil production balance out, adds Dr. Rodney. The key is to choose a lightweight, oil-free formula, like the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Gel-Cream ($16; amazon.com).
There's no shortage of skincare touting to be 'Botox in a bottle,' but the bottom line is that topicals work differently than injectables, says New York City dermatologist Hadley King, MD. "Topical products are very important for sun protection, antioxidants, moisturization, exfoliation, and more. But they can't accomplish the things that injectables can." Neuromodulators, such as Botox, interfere with the communication between the nerve and the muscle, and no topical product can penetrate deeply enough to have this same effect, she explains. Similarly, injectable fillers add volume in a way that topicals also can't. That being said, using the two in tandem is a good move, since topicals can help maintain the effects you get from injectables, notes Dr. Mariwalla.
Basic math principles don't exactly apply when it comes to sunscreen. First and foremost, remember that SPF only measures the product's protection against UVB rays, those that cause sunburn, points out Dr. King. "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%," she explains. (For reference, an SPF 30 blocks 96.7% of UVB rays.) Hence why the general recommendation is to stick with a broad-spectrum formula—that blocks both UVA and UVB rays—with at least an SPF 30. The caveat? In order to get the labeled amount of protection, you need to apply an adequate amount of sunscreen, something most people don't do. As such, it's never a bad idea to err with a higher SPF, particularly if you're going to be out in the sun all day and don't plan to reapply frequently.
Discoloration around the eyes occurs when blood and fluids aren't circulating efficiently, points out Montague-King. Yes, a lack of sleep can definitely exacerbate the issue, but it's not the only cause. It could mean that you lack iron or aren't getting enough oxygen, he adds. Not to mention, dark circles also become much more prominent the thinner the skin is, which naturally occurs with age. It's tough for topical eye creams to address dark circles, but using a formula that contains caffeine (known to help boost circulation and constrict blood vessels) can help. Find it in First Aid Beauty Eye Duty Niacinamide Brightening Eye Cream ($32; amazon.com).
People talk about open and closed pores all the time, but, "pores don't open or close like shutters," notes Dr. Chimento. What this type of incorrect terminology is referring to is pores dilating, or becoming stretched out, which can occur due to age, temperature, and genetics, combined with them being clogged with dirt and oil. (This also then makes them appear larger and more prominent.) Your best bet for minimizing the look of pores is regular exfoliation. (Psst, try one of these derm-approved liquid exfoliants to clear out clogged pores.)
Of course, genetics pay a role, but skin aging is a complex process and is determined by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors, says Dr. King. So while you get what you get when it comes to genetics, you have much more control over extrinsic factors, which include things such as sun damage, pollution, stress, and smoking, she points out.
Consider this yet another reminder that wearing sunscreen 365 days a year—rain or shine, and even while indoors—is arguably the single best thing you can do for the health of your skin. "Ultraviolet light doesn't take a break and neither should you," warns Dr. Mariwalla. "While you may not see the sun, remember that ultraviolet radiation is present in daylight and is always emanating from the sun, even when it's a cloudy day. And it's that ultraviolet light that causes aging and skin cancer," she explains. Like we said before, a broad-spectrum with an SPF 30 should be a staple. One of our favorite picks: EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 ($32; amazon.com).
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