With all the information out there, it can be tricky to distinguish what's true and not true about skincare. There is a lot of misinformation out there: Certain ingredients and rituals are said to be harmful when they're not, and vice versa, which leaves room for a great deal of uncertainty about what you should and shouldn't do. For this reason, we spoke to two top dermatologists—Dr. Corey L. Hartman and Dr. Shereene Idris—to debunk common skin care myths, de-mystifying questions like, "Can you can actually shrink your pore size?" and "Does oily skin needs moisturizer?" Keep scrolling to find out more.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Corey L. Hartman is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, AL.
- Dr. Shereene Idriss is a board-certified dermatologist, founder of Idriss Dermatology in NYC, and creator of the #PillowTalkDerm series on Instagram.
Myth: You shouldn't use a moisturizer if you have oily skin
Many patients with oily skin go to Dr. Hartman with the misconception that they can't use moisturizer. "They don't want to add a moisturizer on top and make skin even slicker," he says. But oftentimes, if you have oily skin, you may need a moisturizer to help regulate sebum production.
This is because dehydrated skin can potentially increase sebum production and make the oil worse. "If you add proper moisture to the skin, it can actually lead to your skin cutting back on sebum production because it no longer has to compensate for the lack of moisture on the skin by producing so much oil," he explains.
Myth: Higher ingredient percentages make better products
While you may believe that a higher percentage of a specific ingredient makes the product more efficacious, Dr. Idriss advises that is it not true. "The biggest example is niacinamide," she says. "The range in which it works best is anywhere between three to five percent."
The same can be said for a whole other slew of ingredients. "People often think they need to start with the highest concentration, but if your skin can't tolerate it, you're going to cause more destruction to your skin barrier than good so higher concentrations are not always better," says Dr. Idriss.
Myth: You can shrink the size of your pores
Both dermatologists say that patients often ask how they can make their pores smaller. However, shrinking pores and getting "poreless" skin are not achievable. "The truth of the matter is that pore size is mostly genetic and there's no way to change the size of your pores," says Dr. Hartman. "Pores can appear enlarged if they are filled with debris like oil and dirt, and if you exfoliate to remove the debris, they may appear smaller."
Dr. Idriss echoes this, reminding us that it's an unrealistic, unachievable, and unattainable standard of beauty to achieve. "I think what we need to learn is how to treat our pores to best serve us and to really work with our pores so they don't get overfilled with oil and crude and are as healthy as they can be," she says.
Myth: Fragrance should be avoided
We've always been told that fragrance in skincare is something we should avoid. However, Dr. Idriss says that fragrance is not all that bad. "If you have very sensitive skin, are prone to allergies, or have eczema, then yes, avoid and stick to fragrance-free formulas," she explains. "But if you are completely normal and have no issues with your skin or life, then fragrance is actually a beautiful adjunct to add to some of your products—especially cleansers or body washes."
Myth: If your skin tingles or feels tight, that means your skincare is working
Truth be told, your product making your skin feel tight or tingly isn't necessarily an indication of it working better or more effectively. In fact, Dr. Hartman says it may be just the opposite. "Some skincare products might be too overpowering for your skin, leading to your skin being stripped of essential oils or an increase in sensitivity due to an active ingredient," he says. "If your skin feels tingly or overly sensitive after use, it may not be the right product for you."
Myth: Hyaluronic acid is the best ingredient for skin hydration
Yes, hyaluronic acid can increase hydration. But, is it the best humectant that you can use? Dr. Idriss says no. "Beauty brands tout hyaluronic acid because they know that people know what it is and it generates the highest search engine optimization," she says. "However, it's not the best humectant out there and I much prefer glycerin."
Myth: Parabens are bad for you
Parabens have been touted all over the internet as being bad for your skin—but are they really? Dr. Idriss says no. "They've never been proven to be bad for you," she says. "The Cosmetic Ingredient Review actually put out a statement saying that they're not carcinogenic."
Another myth she wishes to debunk? Those saying that parabens are banned in the EU. "In fact, the ones actually used in cosmetics are not banned, which are methyl, ethyl, propyl, and butyl," she explains.
Myth: The more you wash your skin, the better
Washing your skin every night is an important part of your skincare routine. However, according to Dr. Hartman washing your skin in excess doesn't give you more benefits. "If you overwash your face, you may cause irritation and dryness, which may lead to redness, peeling, or flaking skin," he says. "Twice daily washing—once in the morning and once at night—is more than enough for most people."
The only exception? "If you workout in the middle of the day and are really sweaty, then you should wash your face—or ideally your whole body—once finished to avoid the sweat mixing with dirt on your skin as it may lead to acne," he says.
Myth: Drinking water in excess makes your skin look radiant
Drinking water is essential for health, but drinking water in excess won't make your skin look more or less radiant, explains Dr. Hartman. "There is little evidence to suggest that drinking water directly helps the look and moisture level of the skin," he says. "While I don't recommend stopping to drink water entirely if you stick to the generally recommended amount of around eight glasses a day it is more than enough."
Myth: Expensive skincare products equal better products
"There are some fantastic inexpensive drugstore skincare options that use real, efficacious ingredients and deliver results," says. Dr. Hartman. "There are also more expensive products that also use amazing ingredients and deliver results along with products on both sides of the spectrum that do nothing for your skin."
At the end of the day, it's best to talk to your dermatologist to figure out products that you can afford that'll truly show real results on your skin.
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