There’s not much people won’t do in the pursuit of everlasting youth and smooth, flawless skin. But are the expensive creams, laser treatments, and facials really worthy investments toward a fountain of youth?
Here are seven skin care myths and treatments you can stop wasting your time—and your money—on.
1. Vitamin E Makes Scars Fade
All evidence to support this common misconception is anecdotal. To truly reduce the appearance of scars, you have to invest in scar revision surgery for larger scars or laser resurfacing for smaller scars, and these treatments will only reduce, not erase, them. For keloid scars (large, raised, red scars), steroid injections can flatten them and reduce redness, but may require years of injections.
Try Instead: As an open wound is healing, wash the area twice a day with soap and water and apply petroleum jelly until completely healed. Once you have a scar, studies have found that you can reduce them with silicone gel or sheets. For facial scars, like acne scars, Fraxel, a form of laser treatment, has been very effective.
2. Higher SPF Means Better Sun Protection
Sun protection factor (SPF) measures how much UVB rays a sunscreen blocks—for example, a sunblock with an SPF of 50 blocks 98 percent of UVB rays, which are primarily responsible for sunburns. However, you need to protect yourself from both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays can increase your chances of melanoma. Higher SPF sunblocks can create a false sense of security by preventing sunburn, but still allowing the UVA rays in.
Try Instead: The key to choosing sunscreens? In addition to an SPF of 30 or more, look for broad-spectrum sunscreen that includes some combination of the following UVA-blocking ingredients: zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, avobenzone and ecamsule. Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and include a hat, sunglasses, and long-sleeved clothing in your sun protection regimen.
3. Greasy Food Causes Acne
It definitely isn’t doing your waistline any favors, but a greasy meal isn’t what’s causing the craters on your face. The longstanding myth that greasy food gives you pimples is just that—a myth. Genetics, oil production, hormones, clogged pores, bacteria, and medications like birth control and lithium are the real culprits when it comes to breakouts. However, working around grease, such as in a kitchen, can cause acne because oils can stick to the skin and block pores.
Try Instead: Greasy food might not be to blame, but studies have found that carb-heavy foods and dairy are linked to acne. So do your skin a favor and avoid carbs and decrease your dairy consumption if you’re experiencing breakouts.
4. Antibacterial Soap Is Better for You
There isn’t much by way of scientific proof that antibacterial soap is better than regular soap. In fact, long-term exposure to triclosan and triclocarban, two active ingredients in antimicrobial products, may disrupt levels of thyroid hormone, estrogen, and testosterone, and may also create triclosan-resistant bacteria. Besides, viruses are what really cause typical illnesses like cold and flu and gastrointestinal infections—not bacteria.
Try Instead: Stick to regular soap and water, wash your hands thoroughly for at least 30 seconds, and avoid products with triclosan.
5. All-Natural Products Are Safer
“Natural” is an unregulated term that many companies abuse for marketing, so you can never really be sure if the ingredients are truly “safer” than other products. Additionally, “all-natural” isn’t necessarily a good thing—some all-natural products may be more susceptible to microbial contamination.
Try Instead: Natural products aren’t all bad, either. Ingredients like argan oil, reservatrol, and green tea have beneficial properties for your skin. However, some products containing synthetic ingredients are just as good—if not better.
6. Facials Are Good for Your Skin
There are many unrealistic anti-aging, acne-banishing expectations tied to facials when, really, facials usually aren’t doing that much for your skin. Worse, getting a one-size-fits-all facial may cause breakouts or severe allergic reactions, and frequent abrasive treatments, like chemical peels and microdermabrasion, can thin the skin over time.
Try Instead: View facials as spa treatments—not miracle wrinkle and acne cures. Get a facial by an experienced provider who knows your skin, and limit treatments to no more than one per month. Alternatively, try a focused treatment, such as Botox or laser resurfacing, which will work toward the specific results you’re hoping to achieve.
7. Creams, Lasers, and Surgery Reduce Cellulite
You’ve sweat it out on the treadmill, slathered on firming creams, and suffered through painful laser treatments all in the name of getting rid of those unsightly bumps and dimples on your thighs and butt. Unfortunately, there’s no permanent solution for cellulite. Cellulite, when fat puckers out over connective tissues creating a rippled or dimpled effect on the skin, is caused by genetics, regardless of weight—although being overweight can make it more pronounced. Lasers and creams will temporarily reduce the appearance of cellulite, but they won’t have permanent results. Even liposuction won’t get rid of cellulite, and may potentially make it look worse.
Try Instead: A new laser therapy known as Cellulaze has seen promising results. It requires inserting a laser under the skin to melt fat cells and cut the fibers that create dimples. However, the treatments are expensive and recovery can be painful.