Skin Care Myths

Dec 12, 2011 | Blog

Separating useful from useless

Smooth, flawless skin is an important part of physical attractiveness and a desire of many in our culture. Helping people achieve such skin has been an increasing focus of different aesthetic, medical and cosmetic practitioners and companies over the past two decades. The skin care industry, however, is based on varying proportions of art, science, marketing and myth. There is a dizzying array of products, services, information and misrepresentation on skin care in advertising, the press and popular opinion. Let’s examine a few of them.

What exactly is hypoallergenic?

It’s a meaningless pseudo-medical term with no credible definition and fulfills no enforceable regulatory criteria. This term was coined by cosmetics companies to provided a pretense of scientific validation for their skin care products. No company interested in a future would knowingly use compounds in concentrations that would cause allergic reactions (allergenic).

Is sunscreen with SPF 15 adequate when I’m in the sun?

Sun protection addresses evidence that excessive sun exposure can damage our health — particularly our skin and eyes. Protection should include avoidance/minimalization when possible, and the use of clothing, hats, sunglasses and broad-spectrum sunscreen when exposed. While SPF refers only to protection in the UVB spectrum of ultra- violet light, UVA can also be damaging. For wider protection against damaging ultraviolet light look for sunblocks combining a minimum SPF 30 (most people don’t apply sunblocks thickly enough to attain the labelled SPF) and UVA blocks including zinc oxide (also called micronized zinc), titanium dioxide, Parsol 1789 (also called avobenzone), or Mexoryl SX.

Is tanning in salons safer than in natural sunlight?

Tanning and burning represent injury to the skin from ultraviolet rays. There is nowhere for your skin to hide from this injury, so it tries to protect itself by darkening. Whether the source of these rays is natural sunlight or tanning beds, the damaging effect is similar. Tanning in salons may be especially damaging due to the mistaken belief that tanning lights are safer. While the use of UVA lamps may reduce the risk of burns, they also contribute to skin and eye damage leading to premature skin aging, increased risk of skin cancer, cataracts and retinal damage. While we do require some sun exposure for healthy bones, the total daily exposure can be as little as the time walking from a parking lot to an office or store.

What about getting a base tan before I go south for a vacation?

Based on the above, it should be obvious that there is no medically justifiable reason to obtain a base tan at any time. Doing so is as absurd as voluntarily inhaling secondhand smoke in preparation for going to an establishment that allows smoking.

What is a reasonable regime to care for my skin?

Skin care varies with age, skin type and season. The general principles of good skin care are gentleness and protection.

  • Cleanse to remove oil, dirt and makeup with gentle soap or soap-free detergents.
  • Avoid abrasive rubs, scrubs and steaming, which can irritate your skin. Astringents such as witch hazel may be helpful for especially oily skin, but avoid alcohol-based lotions which may dry the skin.
  • In the morning a moisturizer with SPF 15 can be used as an under-foundation product.
  • In the evening, facial moisturization is useful to reduce fine facial lines developing from drying of skin.
  • In winter, moisturizing the body is especially important to reduce the effect of low humidity leading to dry skin, flaking and itching. Applying moisturizers just after bathing or showering can help seal in moisture. For extremely dry areas, additional application before bedtime may provide a more intensive and prolonged effect.

Does breaking vitamin E capsules and massaging their contents help reduce thickened scars?

Evidence in the medical literature suggests that vitamin E does not help reduce scar formation or reduce thickened scars beyond the effect of moisturization or massage. Breaking vitamin E capsules and applying the contents onto skin is also a problem as the vegetable oil may lead to pimples and allergic reactions. Now, instead of just a scar, you may have pimples, irritated skin and a scar. Furthermore,vitamin E for oral administration cannot be absorbed into skin. There are more effective treatments for thickened scars.

What does “refining, refreshing or rejuvenation” mean?

These are terms derived from cosmetic marketers to describe the effect of skin care products and procedures on the surface of skin rather than the deeper layers. Improving the appearance, clarity and colouring of the skin just doesn’t have the same ring to it. On the other hand, maybe they’re referring to a cup of deep roasted morning java.