Not too long ago skin care routines were defined by a face wash, a moisturizer, SPF, and a mask if you were feeling fancy. Somewhere along the way, though, the Internet became a home to beauty tips from un-credentialed folks, resulting in beauty junkies using their skin as a canvas for science experiments or indulging in an unnecessary amount of product. But according to dermatologists, a lot of popular skin care advice simply isn’t true. Sure, many beauty hacks have proven to be useful, but unfortunately there are the skin myths that are better left unheard, and ultimately send skin care professionals into a frenzy (please, don’t put lemon juice on your face). Here seven trusted derms reveal common skin care tips that you should straight up ignore.
Bad Skin Care Advice #1: Oily Skin Doesn’t Need Moisturizer
Fact: Just because skin is oily doesn’t necessarily mean it's hydrated. According to Dr. Rachel Maiman, every skin type can experience dehydration — including oily. This is because dehydration refers to skin that lacks water, not oil. Dr. Maiman says that skipping out on moisturizer means you’re not providing your skin with sufficient water, which prevents the skin barrier from functioning optimally. The result? Your skin is more susceptible to irritation caused by anything from cold weather to certain ingredients like retinol and hydroxy acids.
But if that isn’t enough for you to incorporate moisturizer into your routine, what Dr. Maiman told TZR next may: “As a very, very smart machine, the body (including the skin) has feedback mechanisms that allow it to maintain homeostasis (balance),” she explains. “When skin is dehydrated, a feedback mechanism kicks in that tells oil glands to amp up their activity in an attempt to compensate for the lack of water.” Translation: Your skin can produce even more oil if you don’t properly moisturize it. If you’re concerned about contributing to the grease, go for an oil-free moisturizer.
Bad Skin Care Advice #2: A Tight Feeling Post-Cleansing Means Your Face Is Clean
It’s actually a sign your skin is irritated, Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose tells TZR. “This advice is so common and I have patients tell me all the time how they love that immediate feeling of tightness,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose. “The truth is, that sensation is actually a very mild irritant contact dermatitis and a hint that your skin barrier is under assault.” If your face wash is giving you a tight feeling, steer clear of foaming cleansers and opt for a more gentle formula. And, always apply moisturizer after washing your face.
Bad Skin Care Advice #3: You Don’t Have To Wear SPF If It’s Not Sunny
If you only apply sunscreen on beach days, Dr. Joshua Zeichner says you’re doing your skin a major disservice. Unfortunately, as long as you can see daylight, your skin is at risk for UV damage. While UVB rays are the ones responsible for causing a sunburn, it’s the UVA rays that can penetrate right through glass windows and clouds and lead to skin cancers and premature aging.
“You are at risk for sun damage even if you can’t see the sun itself, so make sure you’re applying sunscreen with at least SPF 30 protection and reapplying every two hours (or immediately after heavy sweating or swimming),” warns Dr. Zeichner. Also, sunscreens only work if you apply an adequate amount and work it completely into your skin. Dr. Zeichner recommends applying a quarter-sized dollop of sunscreen to your full face and rubbing it in, starting at the center of your face and moving outwards.
Bad Skin Care Advice #4: Getting A “Base Tan” Will Protect You From Burning
“People say this all the time, and it is very bad advice,” says Dr. Dendy Engelman. “There is no such thing as a safe UV tan. Tans are caused by harmful UV radiation, and if you have one, you’ve sustained skin cell damage.” In actuality, having prior skin damage won’t protect you from further damage the next time you go out in the sun — it’ll just build upon itself. And as it’s been proven, long-term skin damage contributes to wrinkles and dark spots, and increases the risk of developing skin cancer.
“The only way to really protect yourself from the sun is to cover up (either by staying inside or wearing protective clothing, like a large hat) and apply sunscreen frequently,” Dr. Engelman states. That being said, if you still crave a little color before your tropical vacation, there’s no harm in adding a layer of self-tanner (just make sure you’re still applying SPF while vacationing).
Bad Skin Care Advice #5: Toothpaste Cures Breakouts
You’ve heard it a million and one times that toothpaste can eliminate breakouts, but according to Dr. Howard Murad, toothpaste is not a proper spot treatment for acne. “This advice probably came about because some toothpastes contain anti-inflammatory ingredients, which likely led to reduced redness when applied to acne,” he says. While it may help to shrink the pimple (and that’s a very big maybe) toothpaste might also cause a subsequent rash, irritation, or dryness. Instead, save the toothpaste for your pearly whites and use a regimen containing salicylic acid, says Dr. Murad.
Bad Skin Care Advice #6: Natural Products Are Automatically Good For Skin
“Natural” doesn’t always mean better. In fact, Dr. Marisa Garshick says that even natural products may still contain ingredients that can be irritating or harsh on the skin. For example, these products can contain natural fragrances “that still may lead to irritation in those with sensitive skin,” she notes, like essential oils. “Most importantly, there is no true definition of what constitutes natural skin care, so there is no standard as to what is or isn't truly natural and the related claims that they make.”
Dr. Garshick advocates for having transparency when it comes to your skin care products, but she advises avoiding certain ingredients versus looking for a “natural” label. If you have especially sensitive skin, scout for products that are free of fragrances, parabens, phthalates, sulfates, silicones, formaldehyde, and mineral oil, all of which are are potential skin irritants.
Bad Skin Care Advice #7: All Skin Care Acids Can Be Used Together
Exfoliating acids can be the key to reversing sun damage, clearing your complexion, and keeping acne at bay. But, as Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank tells TZR, too many acids can cause severe irritation and strip the skin of its essential protective barrier. The key to layering acids? Know which can be mixed and which shouldn’t. “Some acids mixed together in low concentrations work well together, such as glycolic and salicylic acid, which are often found in the same product,” he says.
However, AHA and BHA cleansers and toners can be powerful anti-acne and anti-aging products to help with cell-turnover and keep your complexion looking glowy and youthful as long as you use them sparingly and in the correct way. As for what to avoid mixing: retinols and AHAs, retinoids and benzoyl peroxide, and retinol and salicylic acid. Overloading your skin with too many harsh actives is a major no-no, so when in doubt, stick to gentle products and use one spot treatment a few times per week for the best results.