Damaging Skincare Myths, Debunked

“If you eat chocolate, you’ll get acne.” “If it burns, that means it’s working.” These are both skin myths that many people grow up hearing. Although lots of us have heard these statements, science and dermatology don’t back them up. Some of these beliefs can even damage your skin.

If you’ve heard that makeup ages your skin or that shaving makes your hair grow thicker, you’ll want to keep reading. Dermatologists are consistently trying to stomp out these myths, although they often fall on deaf ears. Don’t make these mistakes. Here are common skincare myths, debunked.

Shaving Doesn’t Make Your Hair Thicker

Young woman shaves her leg, close-up
Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Many people have grown up with their mothers telling them that once they start shaving, their hair will grow back thicker. This is actually not true. According to Dr. Lawrence Gibson of Mayo Clinic, shaving gives the hair a blunt tip, which gives your skin a “stubbly” feeling. Although your hair might appear darker and thicker, it’s not.

Shaving won’t make your hair grow back faster, either. This is purely perception since our skin can only remain smooth for so long. Licensed esthetician Jordana Mattioli of Complete Skin MD asserts that razors don’t affect your hair follicles. Sunlight, pollutants, and chemicals can reshape your hair, but not shaving.

“Base Tans” Don’t Stop Your Skin From Burning

Sunbathers relax on lawn chairs at St. James's Park
PA Images via Getty Images
PA Images via Getty Images

Many people think that after tanning a bit, your skin will be less sensitive to sunburns. In reality, base tans are “completely meaningless,” in the words of Yale’s chief of dermatologic surgery David Leffell. Researchers at the UAMS Dermatology Department believe that base tans are the equivalent to SPF 1-4. That’s not strong enough to prevent future burns.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a waterproof SPF of at least 30. Base tans don’t come close to the amount of sun protection your body needs. Remember that frequent tanning results in skin aging and a higher risk of skin cancer.

Chocolate Doesn’t Cause Acne

Woman eats chocolat4e.
Chantal CASANOVA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Wodicka/ullstein bild via Getty Images

One of the most popular myths is that eating chocolate worsens acne. But the research shows that chocolate isn’t the culprit; the dairy within chocolate is. Dermatologist Ava Shamba told HuffPost that chocolate alone won’t make you break out, but a diet rich in sugar, fat, and dairy will.

Dr. Shamban adds that milk and white chocolate have more sugar and dairy than dark chocolate does. “Dairy and sugar substances can trigger hormonal changes, which in turn may cause inflammation, especially for acne-prone people,” she clarified. You don’t need to worry about the occasional chocolate treat.

Organic Products Aren’t Necessarily Better

Woman holds up organic soap by Syrian company.
Daniel Karmann/picture alliance via Getty Images
Daniel Karmann/picture alliance via Getty Images

The “all-natural” preference has dominated skincare as well as diets, with people asserting that organic products are better for you. However, research has yet to back up this claim. The organic skincare industry isn’t regulated yet, so these products often have a short shelf life and exfoliants that can irritate your skin.

According to dermatologist Kelly C. Nelson, assistant professor at Duke University, said that natural ingredients sometimes work, but sometimes don’t. She explained that people with sensitive skin may be prone to ingredients that could potentially cause an allergic reaction.

Don’t Exfoliate Every Day

Woman receives a handmade turmeric face mask.

Exfoliating cleansers sell well, and they may influence people to exfoliate every day. But dermatologists say that exfoliating every day will irritate your skin. Daniel Behroozen, director of the Dermatology Institute of Southern California, recommends exfoliating only once or twice a week.

If you have acne, exfoliating won’t make your zits go away. “Acne is, to a great degree, inflammatory,” says facialist Tracie Martyn, “so if you’re not gentle, you’ll only create more inflammation.” Help your skin by spacing out your face masks and exfoliating scrubs.

Burning Does NOT Mean It’s Working

Man applies shaving cream to his face uncomfortably.

This is a dangerous skin myth because it sounds believable. Some people say that if a skin product burns, it’s working because it’s killing the bacteria on your skin. “Those are signs of chronic inflammation,” dermatologist Karyn Grossman clarifies. In other words, burning and tingling sensations damage your skin.

Some ingredients, such as retinoids and acids, tingle for a little bit before disappearing. But if your skin appears red after applying the topical, or if it burns for more than a couple of seconds, stop using the product. It could cause dryness, scarring, and increased sensitivity in the long run.

Bandages Help Your Wound Heal Faster

Man wears a band-aid on his face.

You may have heard that exposing wounds helps them heal faster by drying them out, but this is incorrect. According to a 2015 review in BioMedicine, bandaged wounds receive helpful bacteria that help them heal quickly. If the wound is uncovered, these organisms die out.

Bandaged wounds also help blood vessels heal faster. The moist environment prevents pro-inflammatory cells from growing. If you receive a cut, keep your Band-Aid on after it stops bleeding. It’ll heal and disappear more quickly that way.

Lotion Doesn’t Prevent Stretch Marks

Woman in bath towel applies body lotion.

Although many lotion companies market that their products get rid of stretch marks, these markings aren’t related to skin moisture. “The formation of stretch marks mostly has to do with a woman’s collagen and how well her skin stretches,” says obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Yvonne Bohn.

It is true that the more moisturized your skin, the more easily it will stretch. But most lotions don’t absorb deeply enough to impact stretch marks. During rapid skin stretching, such as pregnancy or rapid weight gain, no amount of skin moisture will prevent these marks.

Makeup Doesn’t Age You Faster

Woman applies makeup while looking in a mirror.

If you wear makeup often, you’ve probably heard that the gradual irritation will make your skin age faster. Fortunately, this is not the case. Dermatologist Neal Schultz, the host of DermTV.com, assures everyone that wearing makeup every day does not visibly age people. As long as you wash your face before bed, you’re in the clear!

Another myth is that all makeup products harm your skin. But many high-quality makeup products actually nourish and protect your skin throughout the day. Dermatologist Heather Woolery-Lloyd assures everyone that “most people can use makeup without problems.”

Cleansers Need More Than A Couple Of Seconds To Work

Woman applies foaming face wash to her cheeks.
© William Gottlieb/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Many people lather soap on their face and then immediately wash it off. This method doesn’t give your cleanser enough time to work. Dr. Jerome Garden, director of the Physicians Laser and Dermatology Institute, recommends keeping the cleanser on your face for 20 to 30 seconds. For an easy way to remember this, sing the alphabet before washing it off.

Dr. Garden also advised SELF readers to mind the “T-zone” and “U-zone.” These include the nose and forehead as well as the jawline, which are areas that most people ignore. If you want to get the most out of your face soap, spend a couple more seconds while washing your face.

Toothpaste Doesn’t Zap A Zit

YouTuber Dominic Ciccarelli tries a toothpaste face mask.
YouTube/Dominic Ciccarelli
YouTube/Dominic Ciccarelli

For years, people have used toothpaste as a spot treatment for pimples. This myth used to have some basis. Older toothpaste contained a chemical called triclosan, which worked as an anti-bacterial. But after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that triclosan interrupts thyroid hormones, toothpaste companies removed it. So this myth no longer has any basis.

Dr. S. Manjula Jegasothy, dermatologist and founder of Miami Skin Institute, says that there is no hard evidence of toothpaste as an acne product. “Other ingredients in toothpastes can irritate the skin and cause further breakouts,” she explains.

No, You Don’t Need To Wash Your Face More

Man sprays water on his head with a shower head.

When people develop skin blemishes, they may think, “I should wash my face more often.” However, washing your face more than twice a day can irritate your skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Over-washing can also strip healthy oils that would otherwise heal your acne.

At most, wash your face in the morning and at night. Dermatologist Mona Gohara simplifies it further by only washing her face at night. “I like to give my skin a chance to be in its natural state,” she told Cosmopolitan.

A High Concentration Of Benzoyl Peroxide Is Far, Far Worse

Model Rosie Vela applies cleansing lotion to her face
Arthur Elgort/Conde Nast via Getty Images
Arthur Elgort/Conde Nast via Getty Images

Benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria that sprout whiteheads. This is great, but it doesn’t mean that higher concentrations of peroxide. During a 2013 study in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, researchers found that a 10% concentration of benzoyl peroxide irritated the skin and was no more effective than 2.5% peroxide.

Lower concentrations of peroxide provide the same bacteria-fighting benefits, but are not intense enough to redden and dry out your skin. If you use benzoyl peroxide, choose a product with the ingredient rather than pouring undiluted peroxide straight on your face.

Eight Glasses Of Water Won’t Moisturize Your Skin

A young woman sits amid black-eyed susans and drinks a glass of water.
Getty Images
Getty Images

Many people hear that drinking more water hydrates your skin. “There’s a lack of research actually proving [that] water consumption impacts skin hydration,” says dermatologist and surgeon Margarita Lolis. When you drink water, it doesn’t directly hydrate your skin–especially the outer layer, which is mainly dead skin.

Water hydrates our bodies via the bloodstream and being filtered by the kidneys. Although it hydrates our bodies overall, drinking more water won’t transform your appearance. Dermatologist Joshua Zeichner told Byrdie that moisturizers aid your skin far more than eight glasses of water.

Even If Your Skin Is Oily, Use A Moisturizer

Jordyn Woods at the St. Ives Mixing Bar in Flatiron creates custom scrubs and lotions
Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for St. Ives
Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for St. Ives

When their face feels oily, some people don’t add any moisturizer because they believe that lotion will keep it oily. But keeping your skin dry only makes it worse. Dr. Emmy Garber, president of the Dermatology Institute of Boston, told The Healthy that not moisturizing your skin leads to more oil production than before.

If you’re struggling with oily skin and acne, look for a non-comedogenic moisturizer. This means that the cream won’t clog pores or aggravate acne. Also, find an oil-free moisturizer with hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid.

If You’re Indoors All Day, You Still Need Sunscreen

Telecoms Director Frank O'Callaghan works at his desk at his office
LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

If you work an office job, you still need to wear sunscreen. Sitting near windows, such as in your car or office, lets in enough light for sun damage. “Glass only blocks UVB rays, not UVA rays–the ones that are associated with accelerated aging and an increased risk of melanoma,” says dermatologist Lydia Evans.

Skin Cancer and Cosmetic Physician Scott McGregor told Spa and Clinic that makeup SPF isn’t enough. If you spend time in your car, walk around during lunch, or work out after work, you need daily sunscreen.

Men’s And Women’s Razors Are Not The Same

Two young men shave their faces in front of mirror
Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you need to borrow another person’s razor in a pinch, should you? Sharing razors and buying other brands of razors can harm your skin, says Dr. Whitney Bowe in an interview with InStyle. Men’s and women’s razors are designed differently, so handling them will make you more prone to nicks.

Speaking of nicks, sharing razors puts you at risk of infection. Dr. Bowe says that in the best-case scenario, sharing razors puts you at risk of developing warts and fungal infections. “If there’s blood on the razor from a previous cut, it could result in transmitting blood viruses,” she warns.

If You Have Acne, Tanning Won’t Help

Man relaxes and tans on a beach.

Some people eagerly tan to eliminate their acne. They believe that UV rays are lethal to acne-causing bacteria, which is true, according to dermatologist Ava Shamban. But this isn’t nearly as effective as tested products, and it opens the door to skin disorders. In other words, you trade one skin problem for more skin problems.

Tans also hide acne, which makes people believe that it works better than it does. Dermatologist and director of Capitol Laser and Skin Care, Elizabeth Tanzi, says that no dermatologist will recommend tanning for acne. And once the tan fades, your skin will look more discolored than before.

High SPF Sunscreen Won’t Cover Your Entire Day

Sunscreen products line store shelves.
John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images
John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Higher SPF doesn’t mean that you receive longer UV protection. According to a 2016 study in Consumer Reports, 93% of sunscreens over SPF 30 were not as strong as the bottle says. If you buy a high SPF sunscreen, you’ll have to reapply it as frequently as you do an SPF 30 cream.

Dermatologist and skin cancer surgeon Bobby Awadella says that SPF levels are measured in eight-ounce bottles. Most people don’t use eight ounces of sunscreen on their skin, so we aren’t getting as much UV protection as advertised. You may want to get a high SPF sunscreen for safety.

Your Skin Doesn’t Need Supplements

Supplement pills are held in the pill bottle cap.
Getty Images
Getty Images

Although the vitamin industry sells products specifically for skincare, you don’t need any supplements for your skin. It’s true that C and B vitamins improve skin health, but most people receive plenty of these nutrients from their diet. During a 2017 study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, participants who took vitamin B supplements had higher health risks than those who didn’t.

Your skin health relies more on your diet than your supplements, according to Dermatologist Fayne Frey. Dr. Frey recommends a well-balanced diet, including whole grains, lean protein, produce, and legumes. That’ll give you all the vitamins you need.