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Top 10 Skincare Myths, Debunked

February 19, 2018 Reviewed by Marta 8 Comments

Myth 1: Drugstore beauty brands work just as well as department store brands.

Truth: Actually this is kind of true  they all too often work just as badly, as in barely at all. In the case of both mainstream drugstore and department store brands, most of the money goes into marketing, then packaging and finally the product. And the products are often dominated by ingredients that are fillers, or things that make a cream more creamy, but don’t do a thing for our skin. That is why I have spent the past few years exploring independent and artisanal brands that put all their effort into making products that their formulators are passionate about. When I started to focus on the brands that you won’t find in the big stores, I started to find things that really work.

Let’s take, for example, Olay's Total Effects Anti-Aging Eye Cream($21.99). This drugstore stalwart isn't all bad and in recent years, Olay has streamlined the formula and ditched some of the worst offenders (such as parabens). With a focus on niacinamide as the active ingredient, you could do a lot worse. In the department store you'll spend just over $70 on NIA24's eye cream. It also has niacinamide and can arguably justify its price against Olay by the inclusion of the peptide combo Matrixyl 3000. But unfortunately there's a ton of fillers, fragrance, silcones, paraffin.... I could go on, but will stop at saying this is a waste of money.

However, if I then look at high-end independent ReLuma, I see an eye cream ($95 in the shop) in a very different league. It also has niacinamide, but there are many other standout ingredients including its proprietary growth factor complex and various peptides. Nothing nasty aside from the preservative phenoxyethanol. And, yes, it works.

Myth 2: You can get glowing skin with face scrubs.

Truth: Over-exfoliating can lead to irritated skin and, ironically, the overproduction of sebum and increased breakouts. A good exfoliating cleanser can be used a couple of times a week. There are two that I like, the new(ish) Skin 2 Skin AB/AH Exfoliating Cleanser ($42 in the shop) and Medik8's White Balance Cleanse ($57 in the shop), a brightening, powder to foam exfoliating cleanser. Once a week, I use Your Best Face Prep Microdermabrasion ($80 in the shop), an antioxidant-packed exfoliator and mask.

Myth 3: You don’t need an eye cream; your moisturizer or serum does it all.

Truth: The skin under the eye does not have much support structure, which is why it wrinkles easily and isn’t very elastic. The eye area is also surrounded by some of the thinnest and most delicate skin on the body. There are few oil glands to lubricate this area. Furthermore, eyes have some very specific issues such as milia, dark circles and puffyness.

Those prone to milia will respond better to an eye gel than a cream, such as Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic & Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum ($68 in the shop) and AQ Eye Serum ($99 in the shop); dark circles require specific ingredients including haloxyl and eyeseryl, which you’ll find in the excellent Your Best Face Correct ($150 in the shop); and puffy eyes respond to Ayelet Bio Active Firming Under Eye Cream ($26 in the shop).

Myth 4: Wearing a BB cream, foundation or moisturizer with an SPF means you're being sun safe.

Truth: Unless you put them on in a thick layer you will not be getting enough protection. It is a better idea to keep your sunscreen separate and layer it over your serum and/or moisturizer and foundation last. If you really want a two in one, go for a sunscreen that happens to moisturize (rather than the other way around), such as Ao Skincare Proect ($59.95 in the sjop), which is super hydrating, has antioxidants that boost sun protection and plays nice under foundation.

Myth 5: The more serum you apply, the better your results.

Truth: Smear rather than slather; twice daily is rarely needed; layering is usually unnecessary. We all want results yesterday, but more isn’t faster in the world of skincare. A lady wrote to me in disappointment because she had used a whole bottle of an expensive serum and hadn’t seen results. She’d used the entire the bottle up in three weeks, using too much, too quickly to be of any use. I am a smearer, not a slatherer and I target expensive serums on the most needed areas. Most high quality actives are good for a once a day application.

Myth 6: Running will make you look older.

Truth: Runners tend to be lean and so there theoretically could be less fat in a runner’s face and therefore some sag. But the counter-arguments are persuasive. Running strengthens bones and increases bone density. Recent research has shown that exercise unlocks the stem cells of our muscles. Exercise puts a jaunty spring in our step, what scientists call improved the levels of “spontaneous locomotion.” Well-toned bodies look younger.

Myth 7: Retinol is the only anti-ager that really works.

Truth: This myth is perpetuated by many dermatologists and was once even repeated to me by a former Johnson & Johnson executive. It was probably true back in the day before some real breakthroughs in anti-aging skincare in the form of powerful growth factors and peptides: see KERACELL Anti-aging Serum ($100 in the shop) and BRAD Essential Elixir Multi-Peptide ($95). Overuse of retinols will cause irritation and make your skin look worse, leading to redness, peeling, and inflammation. They can make the skin thinner over time.

Having said that, there are some new retinols that are very effective while having none of the side effects associated with the ingredient. Take a look at Medik8's r-Retinoate ($185 in the shop) and Ao Skincare's Rewind ($119.95 in the shop).

Myth 8: Its OK to spend way less on your body lotion than on your face serum.

Truth: There seems to be a price threshold for body lotions – everyone’s is slightly different But the person who will give over $120 for a face serum will balk at half as much (what, a $60 body lotion) for their arms, legs and bumpsadaisy. The problem, of course, is that with so much surface to cover, body creams get used up quickly. I have a couple of tips: as mentioned in Myth 5, good quality products do not need to be slathered and, if necessary, they can be used every few days and augmented by a lower cost, but still good quality maintenance lotion. The best anti-aging body lotions I have found are Volante Radiant Glow Body Serum ($95 in the shop) and KERACELL's Firming & Sculpting Body Lotion ($80 in the shop).

Myth 9: You should wash your face twice a day.

Truth: If you have cleansed at night and all you have done is gone to bed, then it’s hard to justify washing again in the morning. It seems like an excuse to use more product. I typically wash my face in the evening when I get home from work. I mostly use Expurtise Effective Anti-Aging Ultra Purifying Cleanser ($36 in the shop).

Myth 10: Only oily skin types need toners.

Truth: There was a time when toners were used to try to control sebum or even finish off the job of a poor cleanser. These days we know better. A toner restores pH balance and also delivers anti-aging ingredients. In the morning's I'll use a toner to rebalance my skin before applying my regimen. My current toner of choice is Skinveda's and I'll be reviewing it very soon. Your Best Face Uplift Toner Mist ($22 in the shop) has antiaging ingredients.

  • February 23, 2018

    by scout

    I have been an avid tretinoin user since my teens because my father suffered from severe cystic acne and he took me to the dermatologist when I developed my very first pimple. Fortunately, even back then my dermatologist was very knowledgeable, so I practiced diligent skincare and sun protection(on my face). Then in my 20's I worked as a medical skincare educator for a well known medical line. Tretinoin does not thin the skin. Quite the opposite, it thickens the dermal layer- where all the "good stuff" resides to keep your skin supple, smooth, firm, and retain moisturized. Everyone is different, so you have to 1) slowly build up a tolerance to retinoic acid and 2) find your sweet spot in regards to strength of tretinoin and the highest regularity of night use and you will no longer suffer the side-effects. That is the biggest problem with people using tretinoin. They won't use it long enough to overcome the side-effects which is when tretinoin truly begins its magic. Yes, it exfoliates the epidermis and will continue to go through that process when you start, stop, start, stop, etc..... It is still the gold standard for skin health and helps with all skin concerns(except telangiectasias). I am so happy my dad took me to the dermatologist when I was young and I walked out with Cetaphil cleanser, Rein-A 0.05%, and a bottle of physical sunblook. I will turn 50 yrs old in a couple of months and people think I am in my 20's. Of course, I use other products but tretinoin is an absolute in my regime. Great article!

  • February 21, 2018

    by Marta

    Hi Kate, I just updated my regimen for 60-somethings:

  • February 21, 2018

    by Kate

    These are very interesting myth busters...much appreciated. Wondering what regimen you would suggest for
    65+ year old skin that is beginning to seriously age? I have good skin, high cheek bones, little under eye sag, and a thinnish face. I would like a thoughtful and effective regimen to begin with and add more as necessary.
    Thank you

  • February 20, 2018

    by valentina

    Thank you for all your feedback & information. We all need all the help we can get in this world of sooooo many skin care products. Your sight is always filled with up to date information.

  • December 26, 2013

    by Heike

    Thank you very much for your great Job, Marta!
    Finally One is really thinking about the Various Marketing strategies with a rational and Academic Point of view. Well done!

  • October 22, 2013

    by Nancy S. Gray

    What do you know about micro needling and which is better the pen or roller?

  • July 18, 2013

    by Jennifer

    Yes, great article! I'm the poster child for Myth 2. Having heard how important exfoliation is, I was using a Clarisonic, exfoliating cleanser, facial scrub, glycolic acid mask, and retinol all at once. My non-sensitive skin reacted strongly with six months of constant breakouts that left scars--the first time I've had acne in my nearly 40 years! I learned my lesson the hard way, so I hope others learn from this article.

  • July 17, 2013

    by Sophie

    Great article, Marta!

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