Deceptive Skin Care Myths You Have to Stop Believing

In the world of skin care, myths, and misconceptions abound. It’s easy, for instance, to make dry skin worse by using the wrong ingredients. Or, you may discover your regimen is missing key steps or ingredients to help your skin deal with changes in your environment. And it doesn’t help that it’s easier to stumble on myths than to find reputable information.

In fact, most of the skin care articles and advice you read isn’t based on science. And the ways that well-meaning people try to explain how skin works and reacts often doesn’t reflect the physiological reality of what really goes on when you use the right (or wrong) products on your face.

To help you sort out fact from fiction, we’ve collected some of the worst skin care myths that people just won’t stop repeating. Some may be actively bad for your skin, while others will simply have you missing out on the best the skin care world has to offer. But all of them are myths that you should really stop believing if you want the best for your skin.

1. You should choose your skin care products based on your age

pretty woman washing her face with pure water

Don’t look for skin care products that are for one particular age group. | iStock.com/shironosov

Skin care expert Paula Begoun reports one of the more pervasive skin care myths is the idea you should choose your products based on your age. Skin care lines promote this idea by marketing their products to people in specific age groups, but a story on Begoun’s site notes “age is NOT a skin type.” She says someone who’s 50 years old can have the same skin type and skin care concerns as someone in their 30s. “Oily skin and clogged pores don’t just automatically go away when you turn 50 and dry, dull-looking skin can be a problem in your 20s.” And contrary to popular belief, you can (and should) start fighting signs of aging as soon as possible.

2. If you have sensitive skin, just look for hypoallergenic products

man walking on commercial street with a lot of shopping bags

“Hypoallergenic” products may not help your sensitive skin. | iStock.com/twinsterphoto

Another skin care myth that bothers Begoun’s team? The misconception that products labeled hypoallergenic are less likely to cause irritation and are therefore better suited to allergy-prone or sensitive skin types. But as the story notes, there aren’t any ingredient restrictions or regulations associated with the term. This means in reality, such products don’t carry any lower likelihood of irritating sensitive skin.

Instead of looking for labels that say hypoallergenic, people with sensitive skin should look for gentle, fragrance-free products that have the correct ingredients to soothe and replenish skin.

3. You’ll outgrow acne sooner or later

Man and woman washing their faces together

Acne is not a condition you can outgrow. | iStock.com

Begoun cautions against believing the myth you’ll grow out of your acne with age. People in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and even their 60s can experience acne. And according to Begoun and her experts, even the notion of adult acne as a phenomenon distinct from the acne that teenagers experience “is more myth than fact because what triggers acne and helps it resolve aren’t dependent on age.” Having clear skin as a teenager also doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get acne later in life. But what is proven is that using a consistent routine with scientifically validated treatments can help to clear up acne, no matter your age.

4. Bar soap is a good cleansing option

A bar of soap

Skip the bar soap in your routine. | iStock.com

Esthetician Renée Rouleau reports many people think is alright to use is bar soap, but the binding ingredients that hold a bar of soap together naturally have a high pH balance. Rouleau reports these ingredients “are always going to be too strong for the skin.” When you wash your skin with a soap or cleanser that’s too harsh, you’ll leave it dry and you’ll start building up dead skin cells. If you’ve been washing your face with bar soap, you owe it to yourself to try a gentle, sulfate-free cleanser instead. And if your skin feels tight after you wash it, your cleanser, no matter the form, is probably too harsh.

5. Alcohol-based toners are a key skin care step

Asian woman washing her face in the sink

Alcohol-based toners are likely too harsh for the skin. | iStock.com/ferlistockphoto

Another product Rouleau says you should avoid using? Alcohol-based toners. Some skin care companies continue to use denatured alcohol or SD alcohol 40 as a main ingredient in their toners. But this ingredient “will strip the skin of water,” which makes the skin appear dull and causes the buildup of dead cells. It’s not a good idea to strip your skin even if it’s an oily skin type, since buildup of stripped cells can trap oil and cause more breakouts and increased oil production. Toners without alcohol are a much better choice, and in fact, are recommended by many dermatologists and estheticians as a post-cleansing step in your skin care regimen.

6. Products that sting are just doing their job

Woman looking in the mirror

Your skin care products should not hurt you. | iStock.com/chachamal

Rouleau notes products that sting upon application may be doing more harm than good. In the case of a vitamin C serum, which you can use to slow down the appearance of aging and fade brown spots from sun damage or breakouts, some manufacturers use acid forms of vitamin C. Rouleau explains “the research on skin aging indicates that daily use of skin irritating acids actually encourage free radical formation, which counteracts the reason why you’re using vitamin C in the first place.” If a product consistently stings every time you apply it, chances are good that it’s causing more irritation than it’s worth.

7. Drugstore products are inferior to those from more expensive lines

Man holding moisturizer in his hand

Don’t ignore a good product just because it’s from the drugstore. | iStock.com

It’s a common misconception that more affordable skin care products from your local drugstore will be inferior to more expensive products from department stores. But while there are practically endless choices of skin care products on the market, there are limited active ingredients for them to draw upon. Drugstore products that use scientifically-proven ingredients and packaging to maximize the stability of the ingredients are often just as good as products sold at more expensive stores. You can use a database like Beautypedia or EWG’s Skin Deep to research each product you’re considering — and you might be surprised by the drugstore products that match your priorities.

8. If a product doesn’t give you fast results, choose something else

Glob of lotion in hands

Most products take time to work. | iStock.com

Whenever you try out a new product or a new skin care regimen, it’s natural to want fast results. But you actually need to give new products weeks — as long as eight to 10 weeks, depending on whom you ask — before judging whether it works for you. Anti-aging products, for instance, will produce different results for different people. But ingredients like retinoids require time for your skin to adjust to and build a tolerance for, so you’ll likely need to increase the frequency of usage. The moral of the story? Give a new product or skin care regimen some time before moving on to the next thing. It may be working better than you’d think by judging the results prematurely.

9. Sunscreen is only necessary in specific times and places

Woman wearing hat applying sunscreen

Sunscreen should be worn in the winter, too. | iStock.com/LiudmylaSupynska

UV radiation from the sun can cause skin damage and premature aging regardless of the time and place. This means you shouldn’t believe the myth that you only need to wear sunscreen during the summer or on particularly sunny days. It’s a good idea to wear SPF every day, year-round — even on days when you won’t be going out into bright sunlight. That’s the best way not only to prevent sunburns and pigmentation problems, but also to reduce your chances of developing skin cancer.