Dermatologists Say These Are The 5 Viral Skin Care Trends Worth Trying
Plus, the ones to avoid.
It's happened to all of us: TikTok or Instagram influences you to succumb to a viral skin care trend (or several). Videos promoting strange yet captivating beauty hacks can easily suck you in and make you throw caution to the wind, trying said product concoction instantly. But only certain trends merit a permanent spot in your routine.
To navigate which skin care fads are worth hopping on, it is valuable to discern between ones that may better your complexion versus those that are problematic. Of course, a good understanding of your skin type is rule number one in cracking through all of it. From there, it becomes a judgment call as to what's reasonable opposed to what is downright silly. But even if you are in tune with how your skin responds to certain ingredients, there's no denying that misinformation swirls around of-the-moment trends on the internet. Dermatologists recommend to veer on the side of caution, and most agree that if there's little scientific evidence proof behind a movement, it's best to steer clear of it.
Ahead, TZR unpacks the truth behind popular skin care trends replete with the help of top dermatologists. Plus, we dive into all of the biggest fads — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and why you shouldn't succumb to every single one.
The Skin Care Trend Conundrum
If it seems like there's a new skin care craze every week, that's because there is. But, unfortunately, for every complexion-friendly trend, there's a handful of hyped-up ones that are unfavorable in the eyes of experts, specifically if they over-exfoliate the skin, deprive it of moisture, or strip the barrier, which can bring about an onslaught of problems.
According to Dr. Erum Ilyas, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group, skin care marketing is super effective. So much so that most of her patients have followed a popular beauty fad or two at some point, even if it's as simple as buying a trending product. Dr. Kenneth R. Beer, M.D, a board-certified dermatologist in Juniper, Fla. adds, "People feel the need to jump on every new skin care sensation because they want to be ‘cutting edge,’ and know what's new and cool. But, on the other hand, some people need to outcompete their friends and peers when it comes to skin care."
The frequency of these posts showing up in your feeds is another major factor in why there’s a continuous cycle of trends. Dr. Karan Lal. D.O., F.A.A.D., a double-board certified dermatologist in Scottsdale, Ariz., chalks it up to social media’s emphasis on them. Then, of course, there's the hope that following a fad will remedy a concern or issue. And some reel you in and make you want to try them, no matter what they consist of. "Younger people are all over some of these trends, like using snail mucin, for example," Dr. Lal says. He even admits to falling into skin care traps like anyone else.
However, there is some good to come out of these viral moments. Overall, the emphasis on trends is putting the importance of skin health, such as moisturization and barrier protection, to the forefront. Dr. Lal says social media attention on skin care encourages those who don't practice routine skin care to give their complexion what it needs. "The plethora of beauty crazes and trends has helped some of my patients. For example, everyone now uses moisturizer, a staple skin care product, because it’s trendy to do so,” he says.
If you're game to try something new, remember that the ultimate goal is to improve your skin without causing damage. Dr. Beer says using ingredients and practicing unfit techniques can provoke inflammation, infections, and scarring, especially when utilizing unsterile materials or misusing products. While it's always important to be aware of the worst-case scenario, Dr. Ilyas says the more common outcome with many trends is no positive or visible change to the skin.
There's also the issue of overloading the skin with every buzzy treatment and product. The more ingredients and products your complexion is exposed to, the greater the risk of inflammation, over-moisturizing or over-exfoliating. Too much moisture can clog oily and acne-prone complexions and even instigate a bumpy, dull texture, whereas overdoing it with exfoliators, physical scrubs and acids can strip the barrier. "The barrier is like a shield for the skin, and when it is interrupted, chemicals gain more access to the skin than intended," adds Dr. Beer. "That can lead to skin irritation, sensitivity, redness, dryness, itching, flaking, contact dermatitis, and hard-to-treat acne, eczema, and psoriasis."
How Can You Tell If A Trend Will Benefit Your Skin?
Distinguishing which skin care trends are useless and which are beneficial involves acting as your own complexion advocate. When in doubt, veer on the side of caution and consult a dermatologist. Or gauge their advice on social media through their reels and TikToks, which is bound to be legit.
Following a fad, no matter what it may be, without considering the risks, can result in increased breakouts, swelling, irritation, peeling, dryness, and sometimes worsen the problem you started with. "I see this commonly with trends that treat spots," Dr. Ilyas says. "Everyone defines a ‘spot’ as something different, which can include active acne, rosacea, blemishes, sunspots, or keratoses. So, the trends and products that address them vary widely." She explains, for example, following a viral craze to spot treat a sunspot on rosacea-prone skin will likely inflame the skin and worsen the rosacea. "That's why it's critical to determine if a trend serves a purpose for your skin."
Dermatologist-Approved Trends & Ones To Avoid
Chances are you've heard of slugging, which locks moisture into the skin by creating a barrier with occlusive moisturizers like petroleum jelly as the final step in your nightly regimen. Dr. Lal says slugging is best for those with dry skin. “Oily skin should skip slugging because it can make it more oily and prone to breakouts.” Blocking the pores with heavy moisturizers prevent it from “breathing” properly, leading to a buildup of oil and dead skin and eventually breakouts. With slugging, the occlusive barrier also traps in sebum, and for oily skin types, the sebum must flow freely out of the pores so that pimples don't arise.
Besides dry skin, Dr. Beer says slugging is also suitable for thick skin, which is usually darker. “Thicker skin often needs a little help getting products through the skin barrier, and slugging forces the product into the skin.”
The Bottom Line: Slug if your skin is dry, but avoid it like the plague if you’re super oily or break out frequently.
Dermatologists have been low-key singing the praises of following a one-day on two-days off retinol routine since the beginning of time. Then, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe's videos explaining the concept took off and put skin cycling on the map. Overusing any exfoliating acids (the same rule of thumb applies to alternating glycolic and salicylic acids) can do more harm than good. Dr. Beer adds that many of his patients who cycle using exfoliating acids have smooth, even complexions.
Dr. Lal says, in general, the retinol movement has been good, especially as a prophylactic approach to help fight the signs of aging in all skin types." However, while most skin types benefit from skin cycling with retinol or retinoids to mitigate irritation and dryness, some skin types who are more tolerant of vitamin A-derived ingredients may be OK with more frequent or even nightly use, especially if cystic acne is an ongoing problem.
The Bottom Line: Keep a close eye on what your skin can tolerate. If using retinol or retinoid nightly or every other night renders your complexion red, irritated or inflamed, scale back on the product. Or, if you need a nightly dose of it, talk to your dermatologist about dialing down the strength so it's more palatable to your skin.
Using ice to calm and cool the skin is believed to improve blood and skin circulation. Whether you use ice cubes, plunge your face into a bowl of freezing cold water, or run a roller stored in the freezer over your face, the coldness decreases puffiness and wakes up the skin for a bit of brightening. However, there may be some danger in applying ice directly to the skin for prolonged periods — don't do it for more than a few minutes at most — which can cause burns. Instead, wrap the cube in a paper towel or thin rag to create a barrier, protecting the skin so you can still reap the benefits.
The Bottom Line: “Ice facials are great for all skin types,” Dr. Lal says. The trend has no real downside as long as you protect the skin and limit how long the ice is in contact with it. “Prolonged ice contact can cause burns, leading to white spots and possible inflammation of facial fat if you keep the ice on the skin for too long."
The idea behind double cleansing, which involves first washing the face with a balm or oil cleanser followed by a gel- or cream-based-cleanser, is to rid the skin of makeup and sunscreen thoroughly. Some dermatologists, including Dr. Lal, find double cleansing to help achieve a deep clean in all skin types, especially those who are acne prone. "I've seen it help many acne patients," he says. But the key here is not to over-cleanse — doing it at night is most beneficial to remove makeup and sunscreen — which can strip the barrier and affect skin pH levels.
The Bottom Line: As long as you use the proper cleansers for your skin type and thoroughly remove the first oil or balm cleanser before moving onto the gel or cream one, double cleansing is considered safe.
Exfoliating With Lemons
Rubbing your face with a fresh-cut lemon to exfoliate or brighten it is not OK, so put down the lemons. Dr. Beer says using the citrus fruit directly on the skin can be irritating and even burn it.
Theoretically, vitamin C in lemons can achieve similar results as a product but with one big caveat. According to Dr. Iylas, vitamin C used in topical products is far more stable and formulated in predictable concentrations for controlled exposure. "Using lemon directly on the skin can deliver varying amounts of this ingredient." Plus, straight vitamin C and lemon extract are far too harsh and acidic to use directly on the skin, which will strip away its natural pH levels and oils, leaving it dry, irritated and inflamed. Instead, reach for tried-and-true non-damaging exfoliators.
The Bottom Line: This one’s a hard pass.
Toothpaste As A Spot Treatment
Years ago, toothpaste contained triclosan, an ingredient that killed acne-causing bacteria, and other antimicrobials, which is likely where this zit-zapping hack stemmed from. However, today toothpaste is void of the ingredient because of its skin-drying and irritating capabilities. But even without the triclosan, Dr. Lal says applying toothpaste to the skin can burn it and lead to rashes and perioral dermatitis. Plus, using it as a spot treatment can affect the skin's pH levels, cause dryness, and even bring about more breakouts.
“Using toothpaste to dry up zits is trending again because skin care is sometimes cyclical,” Dr. Beer says. “It’s been about ten years since this trend last came back into favor, and people forget that it isn’t helpful.”
The Bottom Line: If random blemishes are an issue, reach for a spot treatment with tried-and-true acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide to help shrink zits. For more consistent, inflammatory acne, it’s best to schedule a visit with your dermatologist, who can prescribe an oral or topical medication to get it under control.