Six Myths About Skincare Products

I think every one of us will see ourselves when we read this list, including me. I have definitely fallen into some of these traps—some of them more than once.

1. Products have to cost a lot to be good. There are some excellent drugstore products made by large international cosmetic companies that cost between ten and twenty-five dollars. You don’t have to spend four hundred dollars on a serum to get good skin care.

2. The newest, latest, greatest thing is better. Usually the only advantage to the newest, latest, greatest thing is its marketing muscle. Some of the best products on the market are tried and true with long track records of success. For example, vitamin-A cousins (like Renova and Retinol) have been shown over many years to help prevent skin cancers, normalize sun-damaged cells, and prevent wrinkles.

3. Creams can really make us look significantly younger. There is, at this writing, absolutely no cream on the market that will make you look five years younger just by using the cream. Darn! The fact is, the only things that have been proven over time to improve skin are sunscreens, vitamin-A cousins (like Renova and Retinol), vitamin-C serums (not creams), a few other antioxidants, and hydroxy acids.

4. Cosmetic companies spend a lot of money on research. Some do and some don’t. It depends on what you mean by “research.” If you mean researching how to market and sell it, yes. And cosmetic companies do spend time and money trying to figure out how to put the latest “discovery,” like green tea, into a topical cream or lotion. But take note that these companies almost never do the type of research that is standard in any scientific laboratory, like controlled trials comparing the new product with older products that we know work well. Just because a product sounds exotic or rare does not mean it has any benefit for skin whatsoever in a cream form.

5. If something is good for me to eat or drink, it must be good in a cream. Absolutely untrue. Number one, even many tablet supplements have not been shown to be beneficial to skin in the long run. And, even if something is beneficial to take in a tablet form, putting it in a cream changes the way it reacts with cells. The skin is such a good barrier layer that it’s very difficult to get active ingredients through the barrier layer into the part of the skin where it might actually do some good. What’s more, the companies who put supplements into cream don’t spend much time or money on the research in actual patients to show if it works or not.

6. Plant-based creams are always safe. Any dermatologist will tell you that we have all seen many, many allergic reactions to creams, lotions, gels, and ointments. Some of these are due to plant ingredients. Think about all the people who have allergies to plants and imagine what happens when similar plants get put on their skin in a cream form.

Next, see what is in Dermatologist Dr. Irwin’s Skin Care Product Regimen.

See Dr. Irwin’s expert answers to other reader’s questions on skincare myths:
Busting some myths about cleaning your skin.
How can I get the most out of my products?