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01/27/2016 09:08 am ET

5 Anti-Aging Myths We Need To Stop Believing

You know that expensive products aren't necessarily better than drugstore finds and that winter weather doesn't mean you can skip sunscreen (right?), but these myths belong in the "busted" category, too.
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Myth #1 -- Wrinkles are the biggest giveaways of age.
The Truth -- Lines do play a role, but there's another factor that adds years: pigmentation. "On movie sets I've worked on, when they want to make an actor look older, they paint on age spots," says Ranella Hirsch, MD board-certified dermatologist in Boston. A 2006 study (which was funded by P&G Beauty, a division of Proctor & Gamble and one of the world's largest beauty companies) found that faces with uneven skin tone were judged to be up to 12 years older. (Yet another reason for sunscreen.)

Myth #2 -- If your mom still looked 40 in her 60s, you will too.
The Truth -- Your genes certainly play a role in skin, says Whitney Bowe, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, but so do lifestyle and environmental factors. If you won the genetic lottery and inherited Mom's seemingly ageless looks, and you adhered to a similar lifestyle (we're betting hers was pretty healthy and involved a lot of sunscreen), you've got a good chance of aging the way she did, says Bowe. But if your habits differ quite a bit, your skin may not hold up as well. That also means that on the other, happier hand, if your mom didn't age so well, you're not necessarily destined for the same facial fate if you make smart skincare choices (it's never too late to be diligent about SPF!).

Myth #3 -- A well-moisturized face is a wrinkle-free face.
The Truth -- Your youthful-looking grandmother may have sworn by a good slathering of moisturizer, but experts will tell you that probably wasn't the key to her smooth complexion. "Moisturizers seal in moisture -- that's all they do," says Hirsch. "You look younger very briefly because your skin is hydrated, but the effect doesn't last." To address wrinkles long-term, you need a product that actually targets them. Ask your dermatologist what they'd recommend for you. (And remember that you should still use moisturizer to maintain your skin's lipid barrier, which keeps moisture in and substances like bacteria, dirt and pollutants out.)

Myth #4 -- If a little retinol is good, a lot is better.
The Truth -- "There's a diminishing return and a higher risk of irritation that comes with overapplying retinol," says Sejal Shah, MD, board certified dermatologist in New York. The same goes for all anti-aging products: they contain more active ingredients in more concentrated doses, she explains, so they lead to increased skin cell turnover -- hence, that raw look and feel you get when you use more than the directions on the product specify.

Myth #5 -- Facial exercises will take off years.
The Truth -- Contrary to some stories making the rounds on social media, contorting your face this way and that probably won't make a big difference in your appearance. (One small study in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment found that a twice-a-day-for-8-weeks program of specific facial exercises did improve firmness and elasticity, but the study mentioned nothing about wrinkles.) The dermatologists we spoke with actually warned that it could make existing wrinkles worse. "Think about the way facial lines are formed," says Shah. "Repetitive facial movements can lead to wrinkles, and that's what these exercises are -- repetitive facial movements."

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