There’s a lot of bad skin care advice swirling around out in the world. Here, two top dermatologists set the record straight on some of the worst offenders.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, most of us have heard — and even fallen prey to — some pretty terrible skin care advice. The thing is, most of this advice is well-intended and some of it even gets perpetuated in beauty forums, via blogs and video tutorials, by word of mouth, and yes, sometimes in the pages of a magazine. A prime example of this is DIY skin care recipes that incorporate ingredients like baking soda or lemon juice, which can wreak havoc on your skin and even cause burns.
Because dermatologists have basically made a career out of dispelling this bad advice, we asked two of them to share some of the most egregious examples they’ve come across. If you’re guilty of any or know someone who is, now’s the time to educate and correct!
Bad Advice: You Have to Spend a lot of Time in the Sun to Get Enough Vitamin D
“There are safer ways to get vitamin D than lying in the sun,” says Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. “Ultraviolet light is a carcinogen. It will age your skin and increase your risk for skin cancer. Always practice sun-safe practices, eat a healthy diet and ask your doctor if you need a vitamin D supplement.”
Bad Advice: As Long as the Product Lists an Active Ingredient, You’re Good to Go
When it comes to any sort of purchase, it’s important to bear in mind that not all products are created equally. This is especially true for skin care.
“Many products found on the shelf will claim that they have active ingredients such as retinol or vitamin C. However, the concentration of these agents are often too small or too unstable to actually make any difference in the skin,” notes Dr. Amy B. Lewis, also a board-certified dermatologist practicing out of New York City. “When consumers speak to practitioners at doctor’s offices, they become more educated and learn what true retinol percentage is necessary, what antioxidants are active and stable, and what the best commercially available formulations for them are.”
Bad Advice: You Don’t Need Moisturizer if You Drink Enough Water
Yes, drinking water is super important for your skin, but guzzling your daily H20 doesn’t excuse you from your topical hydrating duties.
“If you tend to have dry skin, you cannot fix that by drinking water alone,” says Dr. King. “You need emollients to lock in the moisture in your skin. We all need these even more when the humidity is low, [which causes us to] lose more moisture from our skin into the air.”
In addition to being diligent about a morning and evening skin care routine (and misting throughout the day as necessary), try adding a humidifier to your bedroom, living room, and even office.
Bad Advice: If You Work Indoors, You Can Skip Sunscreen
If you spend any amount of time in the sun — even just commuting from your front door to the driveway — you need to wear sunscreen.
“I always ask people, ‘Did you travel through a tunnel to come see me?’ People are always exposed to the sun even when they are indoors and sit by a window. Always put sunscreen on in the morning even if you believe you will not be outdoors,” says Dr. Lewis. “Also, you must reapply sunscreen every two hours in order for it to be most effective, even if the SPF is high.”
On that note, Dr. Lewis adds that the SPF in makeup is almost always not truly sufficient for sun protection. This is because the amount of makeup you apply to the skin is in a much thinner layer than needed to achieve the SPF that’s advertised.
Bad Advice: You Need a “Base Tan” to Protect Yourself From Getting Burned.
Yep, one more piece of bad advice related to the sun. The myth of the “base tan” has been around for decades, and we’re setting the record straight.
“There is no such thing as a healthy tan,” says Dr. King. “Tanning is a defense mechanism your body uses when the DNA of the skin cells is being damaged by UV radiation. Lifetime cumulative sun exposure, whether from a base tan or from burns, impacts your risk for some types of skin cancer, and for premature aging of the skin.”
Bad Advice: Popping Your Zit Will Make It Go Away Faster
Even though it’s super tempting to just get in there and squeeze out all the goo of a pimple that’s been ruining your week, messing with your zits is never advised unless under the strict supervision of a dermatologist or esthetician. A better way to speed up the healing process is with a pimple patch like the Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patch.
Dr. Lewis says, “Popping a pimple will actually aggravate it more and damage the skin. If you leave it alone, or allow a dermatologist to extract it, it will heal much faster.”
There’s clearly a ton of misinformation about skin health and skin care out there, and though the Internet is a blessing, it is also a prime culprit in the propagation of bad advice. Sometimes it’s born from marketing efforts, and sometimes just plain old ignorance. It’s important to only trust information that’s been thoroughly vetted. If ever in doubt, refer to your dermatologist for real, fact-checked, science-based skin care information.