Knowing which skin care products to use and preventative measures to take requires dedication — and a healthy dose of skepticism. Here we set the record straight on some of the most enduring skincare myths and beliefs.
1. Dark-Skinned People Can’t Get Skin Cancer
The common belief that people with darker complexions can’t get skin cancer is not only false — it’s dangerous.
According to cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Maritza Perez, people of color are “less susceptible” to UV damage because they have greater amounts of melanin, a protective skin pigment that gives people more color in their eyes and skin tone. Still, people with non-Caucasian skin tones can suffer from excessive UV damage, which can lead to skin cancer.
In fact, Perez notes that Asians, African Americans and Latinos are at a higher risk for basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer. A broad-spectrum sunscreen that prevents UVA/UVB rays is a daily essential for people of all skin types and tones.
2. There’s No Way to Prevent Facial Wrinkles
With aging comes wrinkling — it’s unavoidable. Over time, the skin’s natural production of collagen and elastin decreases. That, along with years of sun damage, causes the skin to wrinkle and lose its elasticity. However, a diligent skincare regimen and regular use of anti-aging products can help you look younger, for longer.
The key to maintaining your skin’s youthful texture and tone? Sun protection and moisturizer. Using a daily sunscreen to prevent exposure to UVB/UVA rays is paramount. Also choose creams and serums that are fortified with free radical-fighting ingredients, to help boost collagen production and improve cell turnover.
3. Daily Exfoliation Is Good for Your Skin
Exfoliation — the removal of dead skin cells on the outermost dermal layer — is definitely good for your skin, but just like everything in life, moderation is key. Over-exfoliation can cause raw, red, painful and damaged skin. The best course of action? Start with twice-a-week exfoliation using gentle cleansers with micro-grains. Depending on how your skin responds, you’ll then be able to decide how much exfoliation it can reasonably handle.
You may also want to consider using exfoliating cleansers with green tea, vitamin A, and a lower concentration of salicylic acid to ensure that you don’t dry out or damage your skin. Those with more sensitive skin types may need to reduce exfoliation to once a week at most to avoid redness and inflammation.
4. You Stop Experiencing Sun Damage After a Certain Age
Have you ever heard that most sun damage is done before you turn 18 years old? Not true. According to the American Society for Photobiology, Americans acquire only about 23 percent of sun damage by the age of 18, and 10 percent more each following decade.
Indeed, people tend to spend more time in the sun when they’re younger, but the damage doesn’t stop once you’re a legal adult. The best way to prevent sun damage is to wear sunscreens fortified with active ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide every day. Choosing a sunscreen for your skin type will help keep it in great shape.
5. People with Oily Skin Don’t Get Wrinkles
Everybody knows that moisture is wrinkles’ biggest enemy. But the idea that only people with dry skin can develop wrinkles is, unfortunately, false. With that being said, people with excess natural oils will get different kinds of wrinkles rather than none at all. Those with oily skin types tend to have thicker skin, which means they’re more likely to age with deeper lines.
In contrast, those with thin, dry skin may be more prone to fine lines and crepey, crinkly facial wrinkles. And although it may sound counter-intuitive, people with oily skin types need a daily moisturizer as much as everyone else. A good-quality hydrator will not only help ward off the inevitable age-related wrinkles, but will also keep the skin well-balanced so it appears less greasy and shiny throughout the day.
6. A Higher SPF Is Always Better
Have you noticed that several of the most common skincare myths have something to do with that big, fiery globe in the sky? That’s because our understanding of sun damage and skin cancer is relatively new — sunscreen was only invented in 1938, after all — and there are still many misconceptions about how the sun affects our skin. The myth that a higher SPF is always better is a common one, and one that’s rooted in half-truths.
According to Steven Q. Wang, MD, any sun protection factor above 50 will provide a minimal increase in sun protection. In other words, while choosing an SPF 30 sunscreen versus an SPF 15 sunscreen may be beneficial, there’s rarely a need to go higher than 50. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, an SPF of 30 is recommended for most people to block out the majority of harmful sun rays.
7. Sun Exposure Is the Only Way to Get Vitamin D
There’s no doubt about it: the sun is an amazing source of vitamin D, which is essential for many basic bodily functions and good mental health. You need vitamin D to prevent cancer, excessive weight gain, and other serious health concerns such as depression and diabetes. But fortunately, you don’t need the sun to get your daily dose of vitamin D.
In fact, this miracle vitamin is found in a huge range of foods we eat every day — egg yolks, salmon, tuna and mushrooms, for example — and can be added to your diet via supplements. The average person needs about 2,000 IU of vitamin D a day, and more if you get little to no sun exposure naturally. While people who live in less-sunny climates should take vitamin D supplements, it’s important to note that you can still absorb some vitamin D when you’re outside on cloudy days.
8. Makeup Causes Acne
If you’ve noticed the occasional pimple or blemish after trying new makeup, you’re not alone. But the idea that makeup causes acne is, overall, false. The truth is that some ingredients in makeup are more likely to compromise clear skin than others. Those with acne-prone skin will want to choose makeup with non-comedogenic ingredients —ingredients that won’t clog your pores and cause breakouts — to prevent developing or worsening adult acne.
Acne-causing comedogenic ingredients include coconut oil, cocoa butter, lanolin, some artificial colors and coal tar. While ingredients like hydroxy acids (glycolic acid, for example) may be considered non-comedogenic, they can still cause breakouts in people with sensitive skin. Speak with a board-certified dermatologist for advice on which makeup is best for your unique skin type.
9. Facial Exercises Prevent Wrinkles
As good as it might sound, there’s simply no evidence to prove that daily facial exercises can help eliminate those stubborn wrinkles around your mouth and eyes. Studies show that facial exercises simply don’t help prevent or erase wrinkles.
The best way to prevent wrinkles is to use anti-aging skincare products that stimulate collagen production. Choose products in the vitamin A family — retinol and prescription retinoids, for example — if you’ve already got wrinkles or want a solid product to help ward off premature aging. You can target skin cells in specific areas of the face with a high-quality eye cream or all-over facial cream that will help keep skin hydrated and protected from free radicals. And of course, wearing sunscreen every day is essential to helping you prevent facial wrinkles throughout your life.