20 beauty myths busted

Flip through the pages of your favourite fashion magazine or check out a beauty blog, and you're likely to get a ton of advice. Surprisingly, there is a lot of it that's either inaccurate or just plain wrong. Ever had someone say that dry skin can be fixed just by drinking more water, or that tingling skin means a product is working? Read on to learn the truth behind these and more myths, written by Paula Begoun and our Research & Education Team – and learn what really works.

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Myth: Jar or clear packaging is fine, what counts most is what’s inside, not the packaging itself.

Fact: Packaging is a crucial component of skincare products. If the packaging exposes what’s inside to light and air, that could mean the key ingredients will lose effectiveness much sooner.

It’s best to look for skincare products with bio-active ingredients that only come packaged in containers that are airtight or keep air and fingers out as much as possible and that are opaque or have a UV-coating to protect them from both light and air.

Myth: Certain skincare ingredients work better when used at night because skin repairs itself best while you sleep.

Fact: Skin is in repair mode around the clock, and research has shown it’s better at repairing during daylight hours when we’re active, than when we’re at rest.

Based on the research, the optimal time for skin or the body to heal is during the day when our bodies are active and in motion. This further stimulates blood flow, oxygen, cell renewal, and other body functions which aids in the overall healing and maintenance processes.

Your skin is receptive to and benefits from a wide variety of ingredients no matter the time of day. Your skin isn’t keeping track of what time of day it is, so use products and ingredients based on what works best for your routine. Sunscreen of course is the obvious exception, since it is only needed during daylight hours.

Myth: Applying face creams in an upward massaging motion and facial exercises help 'lift' skin and prevent sagging.

Fact: Whenever you see skin move up or down, you are stretching out the skin’s elastin and collagen support fibres causing it to prematurely sag, which is exactly what happens during facial exercises.

The more you move skin, the more you’re stretching and breaking down skin’s natural elastin and collagen support fibres which leads to premature sagging. Gravity and age are already working to pull skin downward; they don’t need to help speed up the process!

Studies looking at results from facial exercises show slight subjective improvement in some signs of ageing, but the studies were short-term (a few weeks to months), meaning they’re not measuring changes that would occur if the practice was done routinely for years.

Myth: You should never pop a pimple.

Fact: Popping a pimple the right way will help it go away faster!

The standard advice about never popping a pimple is wrong: not only can it be done safely without wounding skin and causing a scab but releasing the pressure inside a filled pimple frees the skin-damaging substance sitting inside. Of course, you never want to damage skin, which is why this task should be done with the utmost care. Timing is key since it’s critical to know when the blemish is ready for its contents to be released. You’ll know it’s ready when you see a noticeable “whitehead” on the surface, and the zit begins to look and feel slightly swollen. When the time is right, you have to be as gentle as possible.

Myth: Clean beauty guarantees a product is safe and natural.

Fact: Nowhere in the world is there a regulated definition of what “clean beauty” means so anyone can use their own definition. Good skincare is about a smart combination of ingredients that are safe and effective.

The truth is far more nuanced than simply believing everything natural is good and anything chemical is bad. “Clean beauty” should never be about synthetic ingredients versus natural ingredients. Synthetic ingredients can be completely safe, effective, and sustainable, while natural ingredients can be harmful, ineffective, and unsustainable. Whether labelled as “clean beauty” or similar, what matters most is that every skincare product you use contains the most beneficial blend of non-irritating, natural ingredients, along with a smart selection of safe and effective synthetic ingredients.

Myth: Adult acne is different from teen acne.

Fact: What causes acne (and can worsen it or prolong healing) is the same for teens and adults. Also, what helps control and heal acne is the same regardless of your age.

There is no research showing that adult acne is physiologically different from teenage acne. Some of the confusion around this myth stems from the fact that many adults struggling with acne believe products for acne-prone skin are made for teens, so they won’t address the root cause of their “adult” acne, but that isn’t what the research shows to be true.

Myth: Sunscreens with ultra-high SPF ratings provide exponentially better protection.

Fact: Sunscreens with SPF ratings over 50 have their place, but don’t get overconfident. The reality is SPF 100 blocks only about 3% more UVB rays than SPF 30 based on regular testing. And SPF rating only relates to UVB rays; they tell you nothing about UVA rays, which cause skin ageing and play a role in skin cancer.

Here’s how it breaks down:

SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor.” This rating is a time-based measure of how much UVB protection a sunscreen provides when liberally applied to skin. SPF 15 shields skin from 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks about 97%, SPF 50 blocks 98%, and SPF 100 blocks 99% based on regulated testing.

How do you know if a sunscreen protects from UVA rays? That’s where the broad-spectrum claim comes in. In order to earn this claim, a sunscreen formula must pass what’s known as the critical wavelength test.

One very important fact about sunscreen: you need to apply enough of it in order to achieve the protection indicated by its SPF rating. Countless studies done around the world have consistently shown people tend to under-apply sunscreen, often applying less than half of what’s needed to achieve the product’s official SPF rating.

Myth: Wearing sunscreen daily leads to vitamin D deficiency.

Fact: Sunscreen’s effect on vitamin D levels is considered minimal for most people. Ironically, skipping sunscreen and getting a tan can trigger vitamin D deficiency.

The truth is that everyone is at risk for vitamin D deficiency whether they have lighter skin tones or darker skin tones, even among people who live in sunny climates and are outdoors year-around. Skipping sunscreen is a case where the risk significantly outweighs the reward, so it just doesn’t make any sense to do in hopes of increasing your vitamin D levels. Doing so will negatively impact your appearance and potentially your health in the short and long term, which isn’t a good trade-off.

Myth: Chemicals are bad for skin, so look for cosmetics labelled 'chemical free'.

Fact: All cosmetic ingredients, even the natural ones, are chemicals. Everything from the air we breathe to the oceans, plants, food, clothing, and the human body itself is made of chemicals or relies on chemical reactions to function.

We need to stop thinking of the word “chemicals” negatively because the truth is just like there are good and bad ingredients for skin, there are good and bad chemicals. Without chemicals, we wouldn’t have any skincare ingredients!

It’s also more nuanced than that: good chemicals can do bad things if too much is used, if they’re used incorrectly, or the exposure is too high (for example, drinking too much water can be fatal). Many chemicals claimed to be bad for you are perfectly safe in the amounts typically used, a truth that applies to many cosmetic ingredients such as parabens, acrylates, PEGs, and sunscreen ingredients. The dosage matters a great deal.

Myth: A minimalist skincare routine is best

Fact: A minimalist routine can work for some. However, if you have multiple or stubborn concerns such as fine lines, wrinkles, large pores, clogged pores, uneven skin tone, acne, rosacea, seborrhea, oily skin, or discolouration, sagging, and so on, minimalist skincare won’t be enough, and your skin concerns will just get worse.

Skincare routines can be a little confusing, especially if you are new to skincare. And while having to do fewer steps morning and night might sound appealing it doesn’t work for everyone. Lots of people need more. As with most things related to skincare, there’s no one-size-fits-all plan. While minimalist skincare routines may be on-trend and can work for some, it’s important to think about your personal skincare goals and concerns, then assemble a skincare routine accordingly. Remember to experiment a bit as well to see which combination provides the best results.

Myth: The order you apply your skincare products doesn't matter.

Fact: Applying skincare products in a certain order matters a lot for key steps at the beginning and end of your routine, and there’s a simple rule for layering the products in between.

The general rule for any skincare routine is that the first step is to cleanse skin, then apply a toner, and then apply a leave-on AHA or BHA exfoliant. After those steps you apply all the other products in your skincare routine in order of their consistency, from thinnest to thickest. The last product you apply during the day is always sunscreen (nothing except makeup should ever be applied over sunscreen).

At night, you can finish with a facial moisturiser and eye cream, if desired, although if you have oily skin, you may find the hydration provided by treatment-oriented products like serum is enough. If you plan to use a facial mask meant to be left on overnight, apply this as the final step in your night-time routine.

Myth: Drinking more water cures dry skin.

Fact: Studies show drinking extra water has little to no impact on visibly alleviating dry skin.

There is only one study indicating drinking more water could nominally help dry skin, but it took approximately a gallon of water to see improvement (and a gallon is double the eight glasses of water you usually hear recommended). More important, the improvement was so minor, most people wouldn’t notice a difference in real life unless they were dehydrated, in which case resuming normal (not excess) water consumption would likely make skin look better.

What can help? Applying replenishing ingredients like ceramides, hyaluronic acid, omega fatty acids, lecithin, electrolytes, niacinamide, non-fragrant plant oils, and glycerin.

Myth: Oily skin doesn't age as fast as dry skin

Fact: Excess oil can make fines lines and wrinkles slightly less noticeable, but it does not determine how fast skin ages or make you less susceptible to premature signs of ageing.

No matter your skin type, unprotected sun exposure (the biggest culprit), genetics, repetitive facial movements (plus tugging and pulling at skin), health, lifestyle, gravity, and more all pay a role in how quickly skin ages. Research supports that it’s essential to be as gentle as possible with your skin. It’s also important to make sure that you’re getting a good dose of antioxidants, skin-replenishing, skin-restoring and skin-soothing ingredients every day. And most importantly, be diligent about liberally applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen rated SPF 30 or above daily because it is your best defence against fighting signs of ageing.

Myth: A cool or tingling sensation means a product is working.

Fact: A brief, seconds-long tingling sensation such as you may get from a leave-on exfoliant is OK, but a lingering cool or tingling sensation is you skin’s way of telling you it’s being irritated, not helped.

Some people experience a slight, short-lived tingling sensation when trying higher concentrations of exfoliating ingredients such as glycolic acid. If the sensation is brief (lasting just a few seconds) and subtle, it’s not concerning. Why? Because sometimes this is skin’s initial response to a bio-active ingredient. In the case of exfoliating acids, the benefits these provide overweigh the brief irritation.

Ideally, this sensation will subside once skin acclimates to the exfoliating ingredient. If it does not or if the sensation worsens, it would be best to stop using the product (if may be too much for your skin.)

The most common ingredients that cause a cool or tingling sensation on skin include denatured or SD alcohol, menthol, menthyl lactate, peppermint oil, camphor, and eucalyptus. Avoid products that contain these ingredients, especially when they are among the first ingredients listed.

Myth: Dark circles, especially those you inherit, can be corrected if you get the right eye cream

Fact: Getting rid of dark cycles is very difficult but even more so if you’ve inherited the problem as a family trait. When the cause of your dark circles is inherited an eye cream won’t be of much help but lasers and certain cosmetic corrective procedures might be able to help.

Some dark circles around the eyes respond well to ingredients like niacinamide, retinol, vitamin C, and azelaic acid. Applying a leave-on alpha or beta hydroxy acid exfoliant and of course, daily application of mineral-based sunscreen can also help. But if you have a genetic/physiological propensity for dark circles, it’s going to take more than skincare to address the underlying causes.

Myth: You should avoid skin and hair care products that contain sulfates, parabens and mineral oil because all of these ingredients pose a risk to your health.

Fact: Sulfates, parabens, and mineral oil are brilliant ingredients in the world of skincare with decades of research proving their efficacy and safety, yet they continue to be wrongly vilified and maligned. Just when we think the unfair negative hype about them had subsided, it gears up again, often adding new misleading information to the story.

Parabens are a food grade preservative and also found naturally in plants such as raspberry, cherry, carrot, and onions. Mineral oil is a colourless, odourless oil that’s considered completely safe and benign on skin.

Myth: Chemical sunscreen ingredients are bad for your skin

Fact: So-called “chemical” sunscreen actives are not inherently bad for skin. This is another example of “chemical” (synthetic) ingredients being viewed negatively when the research is 100% clear that the threat of the sun’s UV light is the real danger. Anything you can do to protect your skin from the sun will save it from premature ageing and decrease the risk of cancer.

Technically, all sunscreen ingredients (indeed, all cosmetic ingredients, regardless of the source) are considered “chemicals.” There are two main types of sunscreen ingredients, mineral and non-mineral. Mineral sunscreen ingredients include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. The non-mineral sunscreen actives such as oxybenzone and octinoxate are often deemed “chemical”. A more accurate name for these non-mineral sunscreens is synthetic, since they are lab-made, and they are completely safe and effective when used as directed.

Myth: You should choose either a BHA or AHA exfoliant and never use them together.

Fact: For some people AHAs and BHAs can be used together – with either alternating use or applying at the same time – with extremely positive results.

While you might not need to use an AHA and BHA exfoliant together, you absolutely can – what’s the most important is experimenting to find out which application method works best for you. The key reason for using an AHA and BHA exfoliant at the same time is whether your skin needs more thorough exfoliation. This might be the case for those who have advanced signs of sun damage, deep wrinkles, stubborn clogged pores and bumps, or persistent dull, flaky skin.

Myth: Having regular professional facials is a must in order to take the best care of your skin

Fact: Regular facials are not a requirement to achieve better-looking skin and can often be a waste of time and money. Facials that rely on products containing irritating, highly fragrant ingredients, that pull or tug at skin, use devices that repeatedly damage the barrier, or use steam on skin are especially problematic.

The truth is that you can achieve clear, healthy, glowing skin at home with consistent use of well-formulated products for your skin type and concerns. This goal goes hand in hand with being sun smart every day. Although facial treatments can be relaxing and in the right hands provide some noticeable results in the short term, they’re not a requirement for great skin over the long term.

Myth: You shouldn’t apply niacinamide at the same time as vitamin C or retinol

Fact: Retinol, vitamin C, and niacinamide can be used together without concern. In fact, using all three has a synergistic impact which enhances your results.

Although all these superstar ingredients are incredibly effective on their own, research has shown that combining niacinamide with retinol can keep skin calm and enhance tolerability while retinol works its wrinkle-fighting magic. These two ingredients work in different yet complementary ways to reduce signs of ageing, while also addressing other issues like enlarged pores and uneven skin tone. It’s also safe to use both niacinamide and vitamin C, either together in the same product, or combined from different products that you layer one over the other.

Whenever you’re incorporating new active ingredients or combining advanced formulas, it’s smart to introduce them into your routine gradually. As long as your skin tolerates them well, you can increase frequency of use as desired.

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