You buy all the products, you put them on your face… and then your skin gets worse?
Today we’re busting five skincare myths that are ruining your skin – and I swear I’m not just going to talk about wearing sunscreen every day.
Video is here on YouTube, keep scrolling for the text version…
Myth 1: High concentrations are better
It makes sense that we feel this way. If 5% of something is good, then 10% must be twice as good. But there’s diminishing returns when it comes to skincare.
It’s like eating burgers. One burger is good, two burgers is maybe better… but then ten burgers? You start to feel like trash.
Or cake ingredients. One teaspoon of vanilla extract is nice, two is better. The whole bottle is maybe a bit much, and if the whole cake is made of vanilla extract, it’s definitely not a good cake.
It’s the same with actives in skincare – it’s about hitting that sweet spot in the middle.
If you don’t have enough of something, it has no effect. If you have too much of something, then it’s too much – you’re in side effect territory. For skincare, side effect territory is usually irritation, or stripping your skin barrier.
You know you’ve done this if your normal products start to sting when they get on your face – water might even sting. Your skin might go red and feel tight, and get weirdly shiny. You might also get bumpy, textured skin, which is usually the opposite of what you’re going for.
Irritating your skin also leads to inflammation, which is also not good. There’s the term “inflammaging”, which some brands have been trying to make catch on for a while now. It hasn’t really caught on much in skincare, but the gist is that inflammation can speed up some of those changes that happen in your skin over time (premature aging), which isn’t good.
Inflammation is also one of the four factors that contributes to acne.
Related video: My Top 5 Acne Tips
So stick with a concentration that makes your skin happy! Don’t try to go higher just for the sake of going higher. And if people tell you to start on a low percentage, start at a low percentage! Don’t try to cut corners. The corner is a lie.
Myth 2: You should exfoliate flaky skin
This also seems like makes sense. Your flaky skin wants to come off, so you help it off with exfoliants.
But sometimes the reason your skin is flaking off is that your skin’s natural shedding processes are messed up. Adding exfoliants will probably mess it up more! If your flaky skin is red or irritated, then adding an irritating exfoliant into the mix is not going to help.
Related download: FREE Exfoliation Guide!
So if that’s your situation, leave it alone and let it chill. Maybe slather on a nice soothing cream, like La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 or even just Vaseline. Lack of hydration can also sometimes mess up your skin’s desquamation process (natural exfoliation), so something bland and hydrating can help.
OK, sometimes you do need to get rid of dead skin flakes really quickly, like if you’re about to put on foundation. In that case, you can exfoliate it off super gently with a damp towel or a gentle peeling gel. You want to just to break off the dead skin at the surface.
But apart from that, leave it alone!
Myth 3: You need to use every active ingredient every day
This happens to people a lot. You have a day routine and a night routine, but you want to use 10 products. So you use 3 in the morning and 7 at night.
Now, some people enjoy having a nice long routine… but you probably don’t need one, and sometimes it is actually too much.
Quite a lot of actives are fine being used less regularly than once a day, and can be used once or twice a week instead.
For example, there are studies on tretinoin (a form of vitamin A) where they were used once every three days.
Related post: Busting Retinoid Skincare Myths (with Video)
Vitamin C is believed to have a depot effect – in other words, it stays active in your skin for more than 24 hours.
There’s also exfoliation. It’s usually recommended that you only exfoliate once, or maybe twice a week.
So you don’t need to use every product every single day! The best approach is to learn to listen to your skin and give it the products it needs. Most importantly, you need to not mess it up more when it’s already a bit messed up.
I talk more about getting to know your skin in my eBook The Lab Muffin Guide to Basic Skincare. Basically, you want to keep track of what you’re putting on your skin, and how your skin responds. Keeping a skincare diary is a good way, as is taking photos. You should also change one thing at a time so you can see how your skin actually responds.
And remember, if you use too much of anything, you can end up with skin irritation, mess up your skin barrier and get that textured, uncomfortable feeling along with stinging. And inflammation can also lead to accelerated aging and acne.
I personally use a three night cycle. On night one I’ll use a retinoid, night two will involve chemical exfoliation, then night 3 is the rest night where I use gentler things like niacinamide and vitamin C. (For me, vitamin C is quite gentle but for some people it’s not – so again, listening to your skin is super important!)
Myth 4: Cleanser doesn’t matter
It’s tempting to assume that your cleanser won’t make a big difference, since you’re washing it off your skin so quickly. But sorting out my cleanser and cleansing routine was one of the things that made the biggest changes to my skin!
There’s actually quite a lot of scientific research on cleansers – like how to make them more gentle, and how to make them not contribute to acne. But there’s still a lot of cleansers on the market that don’t follow the rules.
For example, the best practices for formulating cleansers include making them at a low pH, and adding some hydrating ingredients to stop them from stripping your skin.
So before you buy a cleanser, make sure you look up reviews from people with similar skin to you.
I have oily skin, so when I was younger I used a pretty harsh cleanser. I used it twice a day, and unsurprisingly, it dried out my skin. This seemed to be a good thing, but it often felt like my skin was really tight and hard, and the oil just sat on top (a classic oily-but-dehydrated skin symptom). After I cleansed in the morning and applied makeup, the oil came back really fast and my foundation would wear off quickly.
Once I got better at skincare, I switched to a gentle cleanser once a day and my skin has been so much happier since. Makeup lasts for much longer, and my skin doesn’t flood back with oil as quickly.
Related post: Is Your Skin Dry or Dehydrated? And How to Treat It
Also if you’re wearing a mask a lot, you might end up with mask-induced skin issues that a different cleansing routine can improve.
Wearing a mask means you’re trapping moisture against your skin, and that extra moisture changes the microbes on your skin. It also makes your barrier a bit more permeable. There’s also extra friction, and overall this can lead to a lot of irritation and inflammation.
Taking off your mask when it’s safe and cleansing underneath is a really good idea. If you’re out, you can use wipes or micellar water.
Also check for how you’re cleansing as well – things like your water temperature and what cleansing tools you’re using can also make a big difference.
Myth 5: Sunscreens are all awful
I kind of lied – I did need to talk about sunscreen!
I see a lot of people trying to make the wrong sunscreen work. I don’t mean in terms of chemical vs physical sunscreen, or what SPF to use, but rather, just what works for your skin.
And so many sunscreens are just annoying! They might roll off your skin, or they might break you out. They might just feel really terrible.
I blame men. There are a lot of men in the skincare industry who don’t use skincare and wash their faces with shampoo – and they’re making decisions about what skincare products get launched, resulting in lots of products that don’t make sense to the people using them. And this crappy sunscreen situation means a lot of us aren’t using enough sunscreen – or even worse, we might just skip sunscreen altogether.
But there are more women and men who use skincare getting into decision-making roles, as well as just people who are considerate and listen to what their customers actually want, even if they aren’t part of the target market themselves. So there are a lot of better sunscreens hitting the market – don’t feel like you just have to put up with bad sunscreens!
These days, not all sunscreens are awful, and a lot of them feel really nice on your skin (I talk about my latest favourites here).
Related post: My Favourite Sunscreens: 2021 Update (with video)
Also, a lot of fear-mongering about sunscreen ingredients and rules for what sunscreen you’re meant to use aren’t really legitimate!
Related post: Sunscreens in your blood??! That FDA study
It’s more about finding a sunscreen that you enjoy, so you’re happy to wear it every day, with a decent application amount (about a quarter teaspoon for your face).
What’s the worst myth you believed?
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