Let’s face it: We’ve all had those moments of panic — a pimple before picture day, a bright purple stretch mark right at the start of swimsuit season, that dreaded first wrinkle — where we’re willing to try (almost) anything to make our “imperfections” disappear.
Unfortunately, despite what Pinterest, Instagram, or some beauty blogs may have you believe, most skin woes don’t have a magical fix. So how can you tell good advice from bogus? To take some of the guesswork out of it, BuzzFeed Life rounded up some of the most common skin care tips circulating online and asked four dermatologists to weigh in. Here’s what they want you to know.
1. Expensive moisturizers don’t actually work better than cheap ones.
If you’re looking to remedy dry or oily skin, chances are there’s a product that will soothe your skin for much less than the “miracle” lotion endorsed by your favorite celeb.
“Vaseline is an outstanding moisturizer in that it “locks in” moisture from the outside and prevents what we call ‘transepidermal water loss’ which is associated with dry, irritated skin,” says Jason Miller, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with CentraState Healthcare System in Freehold, New Jersey and a clinical instructor of dermatology at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “Blotting dry with a towel (not rubbing all of the water off) and immediately applying vaseline or another inexpensive moisturizer, such as Cetaphil or Eucerin, works very well.”
2. Not all natural products are safe to put on your skin.
“Just because it comes from the earth doesn’t mean it’s safe to rub all over your skin,” says Doris Day, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical associate professor of dermatology at the New York University Langone Medical Center. “Arsenic and poison ivy are all-natural, but you wouldn’t want to rub those on your skin.”
While that might seem obvious, there are other seemingly harmless natural products you should probably steer clear of. For example, “Tea tree oil is estrogenic and young boys who used it started growing breasts,” says Day.
Over-the-counter products are better because they have been made and tested for use on your skin, she explains. If you’re set on using natural products, Day recommends mixing coconut oil, aloe, and honey, all of which are natural antibacterials. And it’s a good idea to test a patch of any mixture on your arm before putting it on your face, to see if you have a reaction.
3. Treating blackheads with lemon juice is a bad idea.
Another seemingly harmless natural product, lemon juice, can end up hurting your skin a lot more than it can help it. Lemon juice is more irritating than it is helpful, advises Day. Not to mention, citrus juices can seriously burn your skin when exposed to sunlight.
4. You don’t actually need to wash your face multiple times a day.
“Wash[ing] your hands or face multiple times daily causes dryness and irritation from washing the natural oils off the skin, often leading to rashes,” says Miller.
We’re not saying don’t wash your hands, but instead of over-washing, Miller recommends washing your face only at night — to remove any makeup or dirt — and washing your hands only when they are dirty, like after using the bathroom or touching raw food.
6. Cellulite creams won’t firm your skin back up.
Cellulite happens, regardless of weight, gender, ethnicity, diet, or exercise level. It’s also notoriously hard to get rid of. “Cellulite is irregularly shaped fat that is attached to the skin by bands called septae, which results in a dimpling appearance,” says Melissa K. Levin, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and physician at Marmur Medical in New York.
“There is little hope that applying cream on your skin can actually change fat deposits, break up the septae, or radically improve the appearance of cellulite,” says Levin. “The results are inconsistent, minor, and if experienced, are temporary. ”
If you’re dead-set on getting rid of cellulite, Levin recommends trying something a bit more invasive like cryolipolysis, which uses ultrasound-based devices to destroy fat by freezing or heating. You can also try minimally invasive micro-needling or laser-based technologies, which break up the dimple-causing septae.
7. The SPF in your makeup (or moisturizer) might not provide enough protection from the sun.
How much SPF is enough? According to Lin, you’re going to want to look for products that provide broad spectrum coverage and at least 30 spf.
“A lot of makeup companies make tinted moisturizers with an SPF of 15 or 20, which is just not a high enough spf,” she warns. “And often times they will lack broad spectrum coverage. I would steer away from those products.”
8. There’s no rule that says you should start using anti-aging products in your 20s.
“People age at different rates depending on genetics, sun exposure and damage, ethnic background, smoking history, and tanning bed use,” says Janet C. Lin, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. “The facial aging process is influenced by a combination of genetics, environment and behaviors, and how well, in general, someone take cares of their body.”
If you want to take care of your skin and prevent signs of aging, Lin recommends using a daily facial sunscreen.
9. You should never, ever use hand sanitizer on your face to tone down oily skin.
This piece of advice, found on a popular beauty blog, was a skincare tip from model. “No, please. Ouch. No,” a very horrified Day replied when asked asked about this myth.
“Hand sanitizers contain alcohol or triclosan as an antiseptic, which probably doesn’t work against acne anyway,” she added.
10. Chocolate isn’t causing your acne.
Chocolate lovers rejoice! According to Miller, chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is probably not to blame for your acne. “While there may be a relationship between diet and acne, it is primarily dairy products and low-quality carbohydrates (simple sugars) that are most responsible,” he says.
The high-glycemic index of simple sugars can cause your blood sugar to spike, which in turn stimulate hormones that lead your body to produce more oil. As for dairy products, scientists aren’t 100% sure why dairy and acne seem to be related, but a number of studies have shown a correlation. Bottom line: Candy bars still aren’t a great idea, but it’s not chocolate’s fault.
11. Neosporin won’t zap your zits.
Maybe your acne hasn’t gotten the memo that puberty is over. Unfortunately, an antibiotic ointment like Neosporin isn’t going to make it leave.
“Acne or pimples aren’t really infections,” Levin says. “Basically, we get pimples mainly because of inflammation from the buildup of dead skin cells and excess oils that clog up our pores. Since the driving force behind acne is inflammation, a topical antibiotic such as Neosporin is not an effective means to eliminate acne.”
12. Toothpaste isn’t the best way to get rid of a pimple.
This is probably the most popular acne hack, but does it work?
Baking soda, a common ingredient in some toothpastes, can help treat a breakout, says Miller. But that doesn’t mean you should go smearing toothpaste all over your zits. “Toothpaste can be very irritating to the skin, causing redness and peeling when applied to a pimple,” Miller warns.
“There is no evidence that [toothpaste is] any more effective than over the counter acne products with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.”
13. Calamine lotion isn’t great for pimples, either.
If it works for your bug bites, then why not pimples? While Day says it’s not the worst idea she’s heard, she’s certainly not a fan. “It’s sulfur-based and drying,” she says. “There are so many better things you can use.”
14. Even MORE stuff that won’t solve your pimple problems: rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and breaking open liquid gel pain relievers.
“Theoretically the anti-inflammatory component [of pain relievers] may help decrease swelling,” says Miller. “But, again, the scientific evidence is lacking.” Instead of treating your pimple, you might just irritate your skin, he warns.
Your best zit-zapping bet is to buy a product that’s actually designed for your skin. If over-the-counter acne products — ones containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide — aren’t helping your skin, your doctor can prescribe you something stronger like oral antibiotics or prescription retinoids.
15. Egg whites aren’t actually going to shrink your pores.
Save the egg whites for breakfast, because they aren’t going to do much for your skin. Egg whites may make your skin feel tighter just by drying and sitting on your skin, says Day, but they won’t do much else. Also: hello, salmonella!
16. Coconut oil won’t reduce age spots and wrinkles.
Over the past several years, coconut oil has been hailed as a miracle product. There’s a lot coconut oil is good for, says Levin. “Research studies have demonstrated that coconut oil is an effective moisturizer, improving skin hydration and increasing the skin’s lipid levels.”
It’s not going to treat all of your skin woes, though. “While it may be an effective moisturizer, it cannot relieve pre-existing age spots or wrinkles,” she says. It’s not going to protect you from sun damage, either.
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