If you’ve been paying attention to current beauty and health trends, you know we’re amid a skincare revolution. More brands, products, and tools are available to help you maintain your skin health than ever before.Don’t chalk this trend up to mere vanity, though—taking good care of your skin is about more than just wanting to stay youthful-looking. As your body’s largest organ, the skin also plays a vital role in regulating body temperature, manufacturing vitamin D, and acting as your first line of defense against harmful germs. It only makes sense that you’d want to take the best possible care of it.
But sometimes you sabotage yourself with your best intentions. Believing some common skincare myths can cause (or worsen) the very skin problems you’re trying to correct or avoid. Learn fact from fiction as we bust five widely believed skincare fallacies and offer tips to making skin-friendly choices.
Myth 1: There is one right kind of skincare regimen.Sure, most of the generic cleansers you can find at any supermarket or drugstore will remove dirt and oil from your skin. And any moisturizer will provide some boost in hydration. But to really see positive results and make your skin its happiest, you need to give it exactly what it needs.
The first step in adopting a bespoke (read: personalized) skincare regimen is to understand your skin type. Small pores with rough, flaky patches? You probably have dry skin. If you tend to get blackheads and need a blotting tissue every afternoon, you’re likely on the oily side of the spectrum. Or, you could be a combination of both if you see midday shine in your T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) but are scaly around your cheeks. If you tend to be easily irritated, you could have sensitive skin. If you’re still unsure what category you fall into, take this skin type quiz to find out.
Whatever your skin type, choose a regimen that supports the health of your all-important skin barrier to help you look and feel your best. The protective outer layer of skin contains a lipid or moisture barrier that protects you from your environment and keeps natural moisture in. When your skin barrier is performing at its best, your skin looks firm and plump. It also has a natural dewy glow. Keeping your moisture barrier healthy is important to get the results you want to see in the mirror.
A bespoke skincare regimen can be as simple as cleansing and moisturizing or as robust as the Korean 13-step routine. However many steps you choose, make sure each product in your regimen is geared toward your skin type. In general, the following are common staple products of a skincare regimen:
Myth 2: You only need skincare for your face.That skin barrier we discussed above? It covers and protects the skin all over your body. That means the rest of it needs just as much care and attention as the skin on your face.
To baby the delicate skin you’re in and pamper those often-neglected body parts:
Myth 3: The higher the SPF, the better the protection. It seems like the logic should be simple: the higher the SPF number in a sunscreen product, the better it protects against the sun’s harmful rays. The reality, however, is a bit more complicated.
Even though both UVA and UVB rays can damage the skin, SPF typically only measures the amount a product protects against UVB rays—the rays that cause the worst sunburns. If you used certain high-SPF sunscreens, you might not see skin redness or get a sunburn, but that doesn’t mean your skin hasn’t received a high dose of damaging UVA radiation.
Even the SPF numbers themselves can be deceiving. Most people believe that SPF 30 provides double the sun protection that SPF 15 does. In actuality, SPF 15 sunscreen blocks 93 percent of UVB rays, while an SPF 30 product blocks 97 percent.
Further complicating matters, SPF is tested by applying two milligrams of sunscreen to one square centimeter of skin. Most people apply half— or less —that amount. If you skimp on applying sunscreen, you could be much less protected than you assume.
So what’s the sweet spot? Look for an SPF between 30 and 50 that protects against both UVA and UVB radiation. This will often appear on product labels as “broad spectrum,” “multi spectrum,” or “UVA/UVB spectrum.”
For optimal sun protection, apply more sunscreen than you think you need. Be sure to reapply when exposed to direct sun for more than two hours or if you’ve been in the water or exercising. Also take other sun-avoiding measures like seeking shade, wearing loose, light-colored protective clothing, a hat, and limiting time spent in the sun.
Myth 4: Beauty sleep is real only in fairy tales.Sleeping in until noon on Saturdays will not erase your crow’s feet or banish your smile lines. But a growing amount of research suggests consistently getting a good night’s sleep will do wonders for your skin long term. And, conversely, getting poor rest can have highly damaging effects on the skin.
A study of British women showed pretty conclusive results. All saw an increase of wrinkles, dark circles, and overall dull complexion after five consecutive days of getting only six hours of sleep per night—compared to after getting a night of eight hours of sleep.
The immediate effects of a rough night can be obvious in the form of dark circles under puffy eyes. But the damage sleep deprivation can cause the rest of your skin goes much further.
During sleep, your body goes into repair mode. It gets busy eliminating old, dead cells, making new ones, and cleaning your body of toxins. When you shortchange yourself of a full night’s sleep, you’re missing out on hours of collagen production, which can lead to your skin sagging and looking older sooner. You also won’t get the normal amount of blood flow to your face necessary to give you a healthy, rosy glow.
Lack of sleep also increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to breakouts. Imbalances in pH and loss of moisture are other common byproducts of sleep deprivation, and can wreak havoc on your complexion.
So go ahead and hit the sack a bit earlier to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep you need every night. And don’t forget the cardinal rule in skincare: never sleep without first removing your makeup.
Myth 5: Eating greasy foods will make you break outYou’ve probably heard this myth since you were a teenager: if you pig out on chocolate, French fries, or other junk foods, you’ll be promptly rewarded with an unsightly breakout. The old logic was that because oily skin tends to be more prone to imperfections, eating greasy foods will worsen your skin’s oil problems. In reality, oil in your diet doesn’t equate to higher production of sebum (your skin’s natural oil).
Don’t go throwing a parade through your nearest drive-thru just yet, though. What you eat still affects your skin. You are what you eat, and certain foods can trigger hormonal responses that may negatively affect how your skin looks. This is especially true for those that have food sensitivities or allergies. Research has shown that there are some foods that could aggravate problem-prone skin. If that describes you, try staying away from the foods and beverages listed below for a while to see if your skin troubles subside.
It turns out that some of the advice your mother and grandmother gave you about skincare aren’t backed by science or reality. The good news is this golden age of skincare provides more options than ever to make the best choices possible for your unique skin.