Have you heard the one about annunciating vowels being an effective anti-aging exercise or that it's normal for retinol to make your face molt? Those falsehoods and other misconceptions are like the urban legends of dermatology. It's unclear who's responsible for spreading these lies, but it's time to set the record straight. I'm here to dispel ten common skin myths.
1. You don't need sunscreen in the rain, on a cloudy day or in the winter.
Even if the plummeting mercury keeps you practically mummified, you need to protect what little skin is visible. There is no place to hide when it comes to UVA or UVB--they are present 365 days of the year, no matter the temperature, amount of clouds in the sky, or precipitation. And should you even you think that your lack of outdoor time is helping your cause, simply sitting by an open window or under a fluorescent light is enough to cause UV damage. The lesson here: Apply a broad spectrum SPF every single day.
2. Botox prevents wrinkles.
The answer isn't so clear-cut with this one. By inhibiting facial movements, it can help slow the development of certain lines. But if you get hooked on the injectable too early, it can actually have the opposite effect in the long run. That's because when you start using it before the effects of aging actually set in can cause muscles and skin to atrophy so you might find you're speeding up the sagging. And really, no wants to look like a Shar-Pei. We all have expression lines; it's the resting creases that are bad. The key is not to start with Botox until you first notice the wrinkles. Remember it's all about the long game here.
3. Facial exercises tighten the face.
Doing all those squats and lunges tightens your butt, so why wouldn't a workout for your face do the same? But while over-annunciating your vowels can help tighten certain areas of your face, it's often to the detriment of other spots and can even lead to the creation of new wrinkles that you never dreamed of. And it doesn't solve one major aging bummer--sinking, which is due to volume loss and cannot be replaced by facial exercises. Stick to doing reps at the gym, not in front of your bathroom mirror.
4. Natural ingredients are safer to use.
If it comes from the earth, it seems like it would be perfectly fine to slather on your face. But then consider the range of flora that can cause a flare-up like Poison Ivy or Oak. The same thing can happen with topicals. If you're the sensitive type, even botanical-based ingredients can trigger irritations and allergies. And there is the shelf life to consider. Lab-made preservatives have made it possible for products to last longer, which means they are safer and more cost effective. Science really is a beautiful thing.
5. Expensive products are better than lower priced products.
That rare flower, which can only be harvested for a few hours one day out of the year, is probably not going to be the fountain of youth. Most products contain similar ingredients, whether it's Retin-A, Vitamin C or Green Tea, for example. The price tag is frequently dependent upon the quality of packaging, distribution and the marketing strategy rather than effectiveness of the product. So if you don't have the cash to splash out on luxe lotions and potions delivered on a silver platter, not to worry. You can still get compliment-worthy skin with more budget-friendly options.
6. It is okay to squeeze a pimple if it has a head.
Though that whitehead or blackhead might prove irresistible to pop (I've been there myself), please, summon all your self-control and fight the urge. Squeezing a pimple will only make it more prominent, deeper, and more inflamed; it will actually make it stick around longer and leave a scar. Instead, rely on an over-the-counter treatment with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. If it's really swollen, ask your dermatologist to clear out the puss with a comedone extractor, or if you need that damn spot gone quickly, have them inject it with cortisone. Always remain hands off when it comes to pimples. That little squeeze can cause a whole range of issues like scarring, dark marks, and infection so it's best to leave it to the professionals.
7. Using a retinol the skin should look worse before it looks better.
It's really not necessary for you to look red, raw, or like you've had a chemical peel when you use retinol treatments. Now that they come in many forms, including moisturizing formulas with emollients and combined with soothing ingredients like chamomile and cortisone to make them less inflammatory, anyone can use them without seeing a reaction. If your skin looks chapped or feels tender, you're not using the right retinol. Though retinols that are OTC are less likely to do that, you should consult your derm if you have sensitive skin. And it's not a moisturizer, so you shouldn't be slathering it on. The amount should be no bigger than the size of a pea. Remember: The goal is to leave you with smooth, even skin, not like you've gotten the worst rug burn of your life.
8. It is better to use all your products from one brand.
This isn't so black and white. If you want to buy an entire regimen from one brand and not think about it, then yes, it's simpler because the products are designed to work together. I've had patients come in with a shopping bag of products that they can't possibly use all in one day. And they're using too much of one ingredient or over-exfoliating. By using one range, you know you'll be getting the right amount of exfoliation, anti-aging and SPF. It's balanced so you're not over-using an active ingredient or neutralizing another product. It's really all about finding what works for your skin so if you discover a specific eye cream from one line, a night cream from another, and a day cream from another, feel free to cherry pick your routine.
9. You need to change up your routine depending on the season.
If it's not broke don't fix it. In other words, if you've been depending on the same regimen year-round and aren't having any issues, then stick with it. I know that the philosophy is use lighter products in summer and heavier products in the winter, but if it's business as usual--literally as in you're going to the office all day and limiting your outdoor time--there is no reason to make a change. It's really about your lifestyle, not what's happening outside. No matter what the weather, you should always use a good cleanser, moisturizer and exfoliant. But if during the warmer months, you're out in the sun a lot more, then you should step up exfoliation to once daily to reduce sun damage and free radical activity. And in the winter, if you're taking part in outdoor activities like skiing or snowshoeing, use a heavier moisturizer and add a barrier repair treatment. Just refer to your social calendar rather than the climate.
10. Lunchtime procedures mean no downtime.
If we're talking long, leisurely power lunches, then it's possible to pretend you're just out to eat rather than getting a little lift or laser. But more realistically, if you only have an hour to spare, you're going to be heading back to work with the physical evidence of that touch-up. Always check with your derm regarding possible side effects. Filler will leave you with a little bruising and that concealer will only make a black mark look grey. With Botox, you shouldn't apply makeup for at least four hours. And while lasers are mostly fractional so won't leave you looking like a burn victim anymore, they will make you look like you've lied out in the sun without sunscreen. And because it's not recommend you put makeup on immediately, there is no way to cover it up. Either way, you're going to look less than picture perfect so if you have to go back to the office, you might want to come up with an excuse for your appearance. You've been stung by bees? Had an allergic reaction? An afternoon tryst? So bottom line, I always put lunchtime in quotations because there will be visible effects with every procedure.
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