- Dermatologists debunk nine skincare myths and offer advice on how to have healthy skin without falling for trendy, pseudoscience.
- It’s important to remember that genetics play a large role in your skin’s overall texture and appearance.
- The same skincare routine isn’t for everyone, and it may take some trial and error to determine what’s right for you.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Most people want luminous, clear skin, but skin health is about much more than just looking great.
Your skin is the largest and most visible organ in your body. Some might think that makes it easier to care for, but many people still follow outdated practices and believe false information about skincare, says Robyn Gmyrek, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City.
“Most myths were created years ago by those with limited scientific knowledge,” says Gmyrek. “They are passed on to us as children by our trusted loved ones. They keep going because it is difficult without studies or some objective data to go against what everyone seems to believe.”
Learn the science behind some of the most common skincare myths below.
1. Myth: There’s one right way to get glowing skin.
There are certain basics of skincare that everyone should follow, like washing your face, wearing sunblock, and using a moisturizer. But no matter how great your skincare routine, genetics play a big role in the appearance of your skin, affecting everything from acne to wrinkles.
"Just like people have different body types, people also have different skin types," says Helia Eragi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Newport Beach, California. "For that reason, the same skincare routine may not be appropriate for everyone."
It may take some trial and error - or professional guidance from a dermatologist - to determine what's right for you.
2. Myth: You need to scrub your face with hot water.
When it comes to washing your face, gentle is best, Eragi says. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends using a gentle cleanser and lukewarm water, and avoiding scrubbing, which can irritate the skin.
3. Myth: You only need sunscreen while outdoors.
Wearing SPF of 30 or higher should be a daily habit, says Eragi. Not only are we exposed to sunlight even when we spend most of our days indoors, but new research indicates that artificial blue light from computers and phones can also age our skin. However, currently no sunscreens can block out blue light or fluorescent light, both of which cause sun spots (liver spots) and aging. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are physical blockers which may combat blue light.
4. Myth: People with dark skin don't need sunscreen.
Everyone, including people with darker skin tones needs to wear sunscreen, Eragi says. Dark skin is less prone to burning but is not immune to damage from the sun. Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours, regardless of how light or dark your skin is. Everyone should practice good sun safety, including avoiding direct sunlight when possible.
5. Myth: People with oily skin don't need to moisturize.
Those with oily skin should use non-comedogenic moisturizers, which will not clog pores, as oily skin is already prone to clogged pores, acne, and blackheads. Hyaluronic acid moisturizer is great for both oily and drier skin as it is naturally found in the body and may hold one thousand times its body weight in water.
"You should be using some kind of moisturizer to keep your skin balanced and nourished," she says. She recommends applying moisturizer at least once per day.
6. Myth: You can shrink your pore size.
The size of your pores is determined by genetics and linked to ethnicity, Eragi says. Those with an olive complexion and darker skin, tend to have larger pores. Some products can shrink pores temporarily, but won't solve the problem long-term, Eragi says.
To reduce the appearance of pores, the AAD recommends avoiding any products that can clog pores and using a product with retinol to firm the skin. It is important to note for enlarged pores, as for acne scars, that topical skincare products cannot do the work alone. Laser-based procedures, which use heat to firm the skin, or microneedling which builds collagen and causes tightening of the skin, may be necessary to reduce the appearance of pores.
7. Myth: Eating greasy food causes acne.
Anyone who has struggled with acne has probably been told to look at their diet, but the AAD offers no dietary changes to manage the condition, Gmyrek says. That's because research shows diet has little effect on acne. In fact, the only food linked to acne development was milk.
However, eating a low-glycemic diet full of whole foods can help prevent acne by reducing spikes in blood sugar, the AAD says. Overall, 81% of your risk for acne is determined by your genetics not your lifestyle, although research has also found that taking a daily probiotic may help mitigate acne.
8. Myth: Lack of sleep leads to under-eye circles.
Your genes, rather than the amount of sleep that you've had recently, are more likely contributing to your dark under-eye circles, Gmyrek says. She points to a small 2015 study that found that good sleepers had better overall skin health, but there was no link between poor sleep and under-eye circles. However, the study did find that poor sleepers were less satisfied with their appearance, which might explain why the circles look bad to you after a night of tossing and turning.
Blue veins under the eyes may also cause dark circles. Hyperpigmentation due to older age, chronic rubbing of the eyes by those with allergies, or as a genetic trait all contribute to darkness under the eyes.
9. Myth: You can only get vitamin D from the sun.
Although the body can get vitamin D from sunlight, that comes with a risk for skin damage, including skin cancer, says Gmyrek.
Instead, she recommends getting your vitamin D from foods like salmon that are rich in the nutrient, or by taking a supplement. People of darker complexions may not get enough vitamin D from the sun as the higher concentration of melanin in darker skin can prevent the sun from being an effective natural source of vitamin D.
Most people want the newest, latest quick-fix for great skin, which is why it can be very difficult to separate skincare fact from fiction, says Gmyrek.
While organizations like the AAD give some universal advice on skincare, such as making sure to avoid sun exposure and wearing SPF, a lot of our skin's appearance and health is dictated by genetics. The best thing you can do is listen to your body and see what's working for your skin, Gmyrek says.
Additionally, it is important to consult a skin care professional before trying anything new and drastic. A board-certified dermatologist can provide a baseline full skin exam. Anyone with a history of sunburns, extensive sun exposure, abnormal moles, or a family history of skin cancer should seek a yearly skin exam.
"The most important thing to remember is that we are all individuals, and everyone's skin is different," says Gmyrek. "You will have to find what works for you and try not to get overwhelmed by the latest trends in skincare or what works for your friend."
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