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Top 10 Skincare Myths, Debunked

July 17, 2013 Reviewed by Marta 4 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 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, GCB’s About Face Serum ($34), a good value, plant-based antioxidant serum, or one of the heavy guns such as my favorite E’shee KI Therapy Serum ($189 in the shop) with an extremely unusual and active FAR infra-red ceramic powder. They are very different and will give different results. But one thing that they do have in common is that almost every ingredient counts and they run rings around most things found in a mall.

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. Daily facial brushing with a Clarisonic or my own Ultra Clear ($86) is the most effective way I have found to gently keep the skin fresh of debris and dead cells. A good exfoliating cleanser can be used a couple of times a week. I love the Suki Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser  as its scrubbing action comes from sugar that dissolves beautifully into a citrusy lather. 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. Those prone to milia will respond better to an eye gel than a cream, such as Retrospect Flash Firm Eye Gel ($70) 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 eyeseryl, also found in Skinfinite LOL ($49 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 Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen & Primer, Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($45 in the shop), 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. And so even if you don’t want to sprint around your nearest park, you can change your body at any age (really!) with The Bar Method. Strip away a decade or so with the Accelerated Workout DVD ($20).

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 Medik8 Growth Factor ($160) 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, retinol is helpful for evening skin tone and getting a good start on stubbornly aged areas. The best retinol serums for my money are ones that are rounded out with other more nurturing anti-aging ingredients. Good examples are Amarte Eyeconic Eye Cream and Skinfinite Platinum PM Cream 1% Retinol ($79 in the shop) Finally, since they make the skin more sensitive to the sun, they should be used only at night.

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 is Osmotics Age Defense Body Repair Silk. For well-priced maintenance, Juice Beauty Green Apple Firming Body Moisturizer ($18) is hard to beat.

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. Depending on how my skin feels, I’ll choose Red Flower Lymphatic Phytopower ($42) if it is on the dry side and feel as if I need something creamy; Josh Rosebrook Moisturising Cleanser if I want anti-aging nourishment; and Snowberry Remineralising Toner if I am feeling oily.  

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. Check out these (they are most certainly not your mother’s toners): Tilth Aloe Restoration Toner ($32) has some very intriguing ingredients, while Sevani Rose Hyaluronic Age Defying Tonique ($39 in the shop) is so lovely you’ll find excuses to use it.

  • 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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