10 Skin Care Myths and Truths You Should Know
Healthy skin gives you not only more confident about the look but also protects you from the environment such as bacteria and UV rays. Maintaining healthy skin needs many things, eating well, good sleep, well-circulated blood, and hygiene. Then, we have skin care products. Skin care products can provide benefits when you use right products to target the issue you are trying to improve.
While there are many skin care products and testing them takes time and money, trying different skin care products to see which one works the best is necessary. You can read ingredients list and benefits about each product, but it is impossible to know the result on your skin until you use it. Even though the benefits found fantastic, you should know what the realistic result you can expect from the product rather than just accepting the marketing claim before making a purchasing decision.
1. Claims on skin care products
The first truth about skin care is there aren’t many studies done about non-medical skincare yet. A lot of claims on skin care products are based on individual ingredient’s data or a small focus group testing result. Generally, we need a lot of replicated studies to make rules like standards and regulations and there is not much in skin care. So, unless the product has the data from testing with real people used in the same way as you will use it, you may or may not get the result.
2. Harmful and bad for health ingredients
People just pick up one piece of information about particular ingredient and decide if the product is harmful or good for the skin. The truth is benefits and safety depend on how the ingredient is used in the formulation. For example, Vitamin C is good for the skin, but you need to use it at the right concentration and in a right way to avoid irritation and possible damage.
Many chemicals claimed to be bad for you such as Parabens and PEGs are perfectly safe within the regulated concentration and usage. Often the reported data is from a testing which was done in a very different condition from how we use the chemical in skin care. This is why the information from research is often misunderstood.
3. Natural and clean skin care
All ingredients in any skin care products are chemical including water. Even our body is made of chemicals and the chemical reactions keep us alive. The truth is almost all ingredients used in cosmetic and personal care products are modified version or synthetic. Even ingredients derived from natural source need to go through multiple processes to purify so that they are safe to put on the skin. The processes usually involve synthetic materials. There is no evidence that ingredients derived from 100% natural resources are better and safer than synthetic ones to the skin. We tend to believe that natural chemicals are safer than synthetic chemicals. The truth is that the toxicity of natural chemicals are much higher than synthetic ones. For example, the most toxic natural chemical, Botulinum Toxin, is 1000000 times more toxic than the most toxic synthetic chemical, Dioxin.
Another thing you should be aware of is there is no definition of “natural”, and the meaning of natural or clean depends on the brand’s story.
4. Does skin care change my skin?
There is a good thing about not having a lot of scientific evidence on skincare products. Skin care products are categorized as “cosmetic”, and they are not expected to get into the body and make biological changes. The definition of “cosmetic” is “it is for improving the appearance”.
However, as your experience, moisturizer can improve dry skin condition, anti-acne cream can reduce acne, etc. Most skin care products sit on the surface of the skin, provide protection layer from the environment, and keep moisture in the skin. This can actually have a big impact on the skin as you already know. The truth is there are many skin care products that do more than a cosmetic should do but the regulation doesn’t allow to claim. This is one of the reasons there is a lack of studies on skin care.
5. Cleansing skin
Good skin care routine starts with a good cleansing…
Do you need to exfoliate? For most people, the skin naturally sheds its superficial keratinocytes about once a month. You don’t need additional exfoliators or anything abrasive on your skin. Exfoliation could be a good addition to your skincare routine, but you should do only once or twice a week and avoid overdoing it. Also, most physical exfoliators such as coffee scrub are too abrasive on face. Soft cleansing brushes, soft washcloth, or gentle scrubs (softer and smaller size exfoliators) are suitable for face.
Do you need tonner? Tonners are suggested to cleanse excess oil on the skin after washing. However, washing with a gentle cleanser and water is good enough to cleanse face. You don’t need or shouldn’t try to make your face 100% squeaky clean. Removing all natural oils means losing the natural protective film and making it prone to damage. Unless you use a toner targeting another problem, it is not necessary.
Antibacterial cleanser to keep the skin clean? Healthy skin has bacteria on it. Many experts are concerned that using antibacterial cleanser could lead to more antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Wash more often to treat acne? The truth is hygiene doesn’t play a role in the development of acne. You can wash enough to keep the skin clean, but acne is more to do with oil production, bacteria, hormones and stress.
6. Active ingredients
Active ingredients are chemical that is proven to have biological influence on the skin.
The problem with guessing the effectiveness of the product is ingredients list doesn’t tell the concentration of each ingredient or the delivery system. The delivery system is a way that active ingredients can get into the skin to work. For active ingredients to work, they need to go through the surface of the skin which is pretty hard. So, choosing right active ingredient for your skin issue is only the first step. Hopefully, the product has the delivery system to make it work.
Here are some examples of active ingredients
Retinol – Retinol is one of the ingredients many people recognize and know the benefits. There are a range of different Retinoid ingredients (Retinol is one of them). Not all of them work the same way and not all of them have the same level of evidence to support the effectiveness. Retinol and Retinyl Palmitate are not regulated as drugs. Because they are not drug, just having Retinol in a product doesn’t mean it works. Just keep it in your mind when purchasing a product with Retinol. If it is sold as a drug, the final product has been tested to work on people’s skin. Retinol is also very unstable and hard to keep for a long period. You could search a product that has Encapsulated Retinol which is more stable.
Collagen – This is one of the biggest myths. We have collagen in the skin and losing it can cause wrinkles. However, putting collagen on top the skin doesn’t do anything because the size of collagen molecule is too big to get through the surface of the skin. What collagen does on the skin is that it grabs moisture in the air and keep your skin hydrated.
Vitamin C – It can help increase collagen in skin by applying on the skin. Vitamin C is also very unstable and hard to keep for long period. When the color changes it will not have the benefit anymore.
Vitamin E – It is oil soluble antioxidant and protect cell membranes. However, it will not help skin wounds heal faster.
7. Essential Oils
Essential oils are complex mixtures contains over 60 different chemical substances and not all of them are good for the skin. Even though “100%” natural sounds good, you need to know a few things to use them safely on the skin.
- It depends on each essential oil, but generally, you need to dilute to less than 2% in skin care.
- Essential oils contain many beneficial chemicals but also have bad ones that could cause allergic reaction or irritation.
- Some chemical substances in essential oils may be absorbed into skin. That means it is good for your skin if the substances are good ones. But it could affect negatively especially on young children’s skin and when you are pregnant. Therefore, essential oils are not recommended during pregnancy.
- Some essential oils, Bergamot, Bitter Orange, Lemon, Lime, and Grapefruit are photosensitizers. This means they will make a stain on your skin with sunlight.
Preservatives are necessary for whatever contains water or contact with water regularly. Even in house cleaning products, if the product contains water, it should have preservatives. Neglecting proper preservation in those products is actually a great risk for out health. For example, when you wash your hair with liquid shampoo contaminated with bacteria, you could get infection via ears, eye, or damaged skin area. The result of infection could be acne, irritation, itchiness, rush, etc. The reasons why “preservative free” liquid products aren’t safe…
- Most products are adjusted to pH level of around 5.5 which is perfect for bacteria and fungus to grow.
- Many products especially with natural oils and extracts have a rich food source for microorganisms
- Cosmetic products are usually kept at warm room temperature which is ideal for microorganisms
- Essential oils and extracts could be effective for some types of microorganisms, but don’t cover all types.
- Vitamin E and other antioxidants will help protecting oxidation. But they don’t act as preservatives.
- Anti-bacterial products are effective on bacteria, but not effective on other types of microorganisms.
A common myth is “preservatives are bad for our health”. The usage of preservatives is very strictly limited by regulatory, and they have been studied multiple times by multiple organizations around the world. They are proved to be safe when used within limited usage. Organizations like EU Commission and Australian Society of Cosmetic Chemists warn misinformed consumers. https://ascc.com.au/preservatives-used-in-personal-care-products-2/
Sunscreen is one of the essential products in any skin care routine because UV exposure is a powerful attack on the skin. You should be wearing enough sunscreen every day even in winter or clouded days. However, sunscreen is the most confusing product as well.Chemical vs. Mineral: Both sunscreens absorb UV and turn it into heat. Mineral sunscreens reflect about 10% of UV but this does not make a big difference.
The SPF number indicates UVB radiation protection. UVB rays cause sunburns and tanning while UVA rays penetrate deeper and cause wrinkles, dark spots, and premature aging. Look for UVA indication label on the product.
Reef Safe Sunscreen: The claim “reef-safe” is not regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. The truth is the ongoing research on coral reefs continues to find there is no evidence about sunscreen causing negative impact on coral. If you want to do more meaningful to coral reefs than purchasing reef-safe sunscreen, here’s what scientists suggest… “We can stop using fertilizers in our garden, Government can improve wastewater solutions and invest in more renewable energy.” The biggest contributor to coral reef damage is climate change.
Alcohol is believed to be a bad ingredient for the skin and hair because it dries out the skin, kills skin cells, and causes inflammation and aging. There are actually different types of alcohols and some of them are beneficial for the skin. For example, Glycerin, Sucrose, and Cetyl Alcohole hydrate and moisturize the skin. What about Ethanol? It seems studies on hand sanitizer suggests alcohol in skin care will unlikely cause negative impact on the skin. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ics.12364