Top 10 Skin Myths Debunked

Are you approaching your regimen all wrong? Dermatologists expose common blunders that could be sabotaging your complexion.

Top 10 Skin Myths Debunked
(Image credit: Claude Guillaumin)

MYTH 1: A complete skincare routine must have three steps.

TRUTH:Cleanse, tone, then moisturize has been drilled into our heads, but feel free to skip the second step, says Cambridge, Massachusetts, dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch: "People think that toning an oily complexion will make it better, but oil is protective and the body produces it in response to injury. When you strip your skin, it reacts by making a ton of grease."

MYTH 2: You need to cleanse your face at least twice a day.

TRUTH: Using a face wash in the morning is just an excuse to go through more product, according to Hirsch, who advises avoiding antibacterial soaps at all costs because they're too harsh for your face. "In the morning, the best thing is water and your fingers, not a cleanser," she says.

MYTH 3: Scrubs make skin glow.

TRUTH: Overexfoliating leads to extra oil production, so the glow you see the first week will eventually turn into a greasy mess. "Skin is actually a good exfoliator on its own, so I rarely recommend manual scrubs," says Hirsch.

MYTH 4: Dryness causes fine lines.

TRUTH: People confuse dryness and flaking with wrinkles, says Hirsch, who suggests smoothing things out visually with a little lotion: "Just moisturizing will make wrinkles look better. The lines are still there, but you won't see them anymore."

MYTH 5: You should buy your best friend's favorite eye cream.

TRUTH: "Everyone has different eye issues, so one size does not fit all," reveals New York City dermatologist Dr. Anne Chapas. If you have puffiness, choose a gel (heavy creams can boost swelling) with caffeine and store the tube in the fridge to maximize benefits. If you have dark circles, look for a product with a lightening ingredient like vitamin C and a collagen-builder like retinol.


(Image credit: Pando Hall)

MYTH 6: Leaving a mask on overnight gives you more for your money.

TRUTH: Masks deliver a potent dose of active ingredients or moisture quickly into the skin, but you can overdo it, causing irritation or breakouts. "You should use things as directed. Rarely do you outsmart the people who have done the clinical testing for a product," says Hirsch.

MYTH 7: Wearing foundation with an SPF means you're being sun safe.

TRUTH: You should still apply a sunscreen underneath, says Chapas. "Unless you're slathering on a mask of makeup, you're not getting enough protection. You need to wear an SPF of at least 30 on your face every day, and nobody puts on enough foundation to get that SPF value out of it."

MYTH 8: Nano-size titanium dioxide sunscreen causes cancer.

TRUTH: "The majority of studies show that titanium dioxide nanoparticles are not absorbed through the normal skin," explains Dr. Chapas. "There are animal studies that show a link between nano-size titanium dioxide and organ damage, but the mice tested were ingesting or inhaling multiple times the amount that you would put on your skin. As far as we know, nano-size sunscreens that are applied topically are safe."

MYTH 9: The more wrinkle cream you apply, the better your results.

TRUTH: Morning and evening applications are a waste of money, says Hirsch. Most active ingredients work really well once a day, and antiaging retinols should be used only at night (because they're broken down by sunlight). Plus, slathering on too many retinols will cause irritation and make your skin look worse, leading to redness, peeling, and inflammation.

MYTH 10: The best way to get rid of blackheads is extractions.

TRUTH: Pulling and pressing on pores can cause scarring, warns Chapas. "After extractions, skin just fills right back up with oil. Using retinols and gentle acid peels at home is enough to unclog pores."