From Reversing Aging to Shrinking Pores, 6 Things Your Skincare Ingredients Aren't Actually Doing

Separating fact from fiction.

Updated 11/11/19

In the skincare industry, brands claim "life-changing" results as part of their marketing strategy every chance they get. There's always a new, buzzy ingredient—a miracle-worker promising to tackle our biggest beauty concerns. So many ingredients in the beauty space are purported to do this, and that, and so on, and the never-ending list is constantly growing. It's hard to take it all at face value. To separate fact from fiction, we had two skincare experts weigh in on skincare ingredient myths.

Sarah Akram, an esthetician based in Washington D.C., and Jacky Banayan, a clinical skincare specialist in L.A., call out the vast misinformation surrounding ingredient labels and how we consequently misuse products. Below, both experts help to bring some clarity. Keep scrolling for all the skincare information you've been looking for.

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Peptides to boost collagen

"Skincare products often claim a miracle-working ingredient, like peptides, collagen, or retinol. Though, the efficacy of the product directly correlates to the sister ingredients they choose to combine it with," explains Banayan. Can a product really be a miracle worker? Banayan says yes. "I do believe the right skincare regimen can create miracles—of course when combined with lots of water consumption, a healthy diet, and lifestyle," she says. "The ingredient list as a whole is what's important."

Our skin is mainly made up of collagen and fatty tissue. Collagen is a protein made up of long-chain amino acids—and when our collagen starts to break down, it forms short-chain amino acids called peptides. "Using peptides in skincare is meant to trick your skin into reproducing collagen, because the peptides remind the skin collagen is breaking down," says Banayan. "So, when brands claim their products contain peptides—great, peptides are awesome. But in reality, unless this peptide is combined with a fatty acid, you will hardly benefit from it." Why is this? Your skin cannot process the peptide unless it is properly made with a fatty acid.

Hyaluronic acid as a stand-alone moisturizer

"A lot of skincare brands say hyaluronic acid will add moisture and plumpness to your skin," states Banayan. "When properly composed, this statement is 100 percent true. But, did you know hyaluronic acid needs to be combined with a water-loving lipid to truly hydrate the skin? This means hyaluronic acid will actually draw moisture from your skin unless properly combined with an aloe base or a moisturizer." If not applied properly, Banayan warns that hyaluronic acid could really be drying out your skin.

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"Clean" labels

"'Clean' products are all the rage these days," notes Akram. "One big issue we are seeing in the industry is that there is no official governmental regulatory body to certify cosmetic products are in fact 'clean,' or even guidelines for what that word even means. The FDA regulates consumer cosmetic products, determining whether it can be sold over the counter or as a prescription. That’s it!" Akram's advice is to do your research. "Read the ingredient list on the back of your product and make sure the ingredients listed closest to the top are things you can identify." Another option she suggests is to check out the Environmental Working Group. "They have logged thousands of products, checked their ingredients, and can offer you insight about what’s safest to use on your skin," she says.

Meet the Expert

Sarah Akram is a board-licensed esthetician with a roster of loyal A-list clients in both New York City and Washington, D.C. In 2015, she opened her own skincare boutique in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia where she works to deliver an all-natural path to anti-aging skincare.

Products that claim to "shrink pores"

"Pores don't really shrink past the point that they were genetically made to be," Banayan clarifies. "Now, let's say you genetically have smaller pores, but they've stretched out over the years because they've been filled with sebum and oil from lack of care. There are some products that will help clean out the pores to make them 'appear smaller.'" That's where the controversy begins. "Is the product shrinking your pore? Eh, probably not," she says, "but it is most likely stripping your pores of excess sebum to give the appearance of smaller pores."

Vitamin C to "reverse aging"

"Lots of people are in love with vitamin C for its anti-aging properties, but there is some misconception on how it actually works," Akram explains. Vitamin C creams, lotions, and serums are "fantastic products that work in conjunction with your SPF to prevent damage from free radicals—which are the main cause of aging." That said, vitamin C products will not reverse aging. "Remember: it’s a protectant," she says.

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Cosmetics containing SPF subbing in as sun protection

Many foundations, BB, and CC creams contain SPF these days, leading many to ditch their SPF and sub in their cosmetics to do the job. "There’s a big problem with this, as makeup simply doesn’t provide the same kind of protection as a standalone physical SPF," warns Akram. "The majority of makeup you’ll find is no higher than SPF 15. The SPF standard minimum across the skincare industry is 30." Akram's suggestion? Before applying foundation, BB, or CC creams, apply a thin layer of SPF 30 or higher and then continue using your SPF-infused cosmetics for an extra boost of protection.

FYI: Here's exactly how to read a skincare ingredient label.

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