5 Skincare myths about products, sagging, wrinkles and sun damage!

Here are some recent questions. I am interested in products that are for anti-aging like retinols and glycolic acids, but that are not tested on animals. Can you recommend any? Also products with peptides or other firming ingredients?

We all love skincare products! And, we can all relate to his/her questions above. We want the best possible products, that do the most to make us look our best. The marketing on many skincare products give us the hope that we can fix the skin problems we have, and that we can prevent further problems. And hopefully, NOT AGE!  🙂 Of course, we all also know in our hearts that avoiding aging altogether isn’t realistic. So what is true, and what is myth? What are reasonable expectations, and what is gimmick? Lets cover the big 5 I see most often.

Skincare Myth#1: Skincare products can firm skin

This is really not true. A skincare product that actually tightens or firms skin does not exist yet. Yet many brands use confusing language to make you think it does. This type of marketing targets consumers concerned with “sagging skin”. Skin products can stimulate collagen only superficially and minimally. Lasers and radiofrequency devices are better at generating collagen. Collagen is one of the main structural components of skin; it’s a little like the scaffolding. So if you want firmer skin, try a laser treatment.

Fractionated lasers like the carbon dioxide (CO2) laser or an erbium laser like the Fraxel build more collagen than skincare products.

Lasers and radiofrequency/ultrasound, done well and by experts, are also safe and effective at building deeper collagen. For example, Thermage uses radiofrequency energy to create a uniform heating effect in the deep dermis. This tightens existing collagen and stimulates the production of new collagen. In the right patient, it can achieve a subtle brow lift, cheek and jaw line lift.  More on how this procedure works, who is a good candidate, heal time (spoiler alert, there’s no down time!) and costs in my resource on Thermage here.

Skincare Myth #2: Skincare products are tested on animals

Not true. European and American companies don’t test on animals any more. However, Animal rights are less important to Asian companies generally.

Skincare Myth #3: Deep wrinkles can be cured with skincare products

Not true. A skincare cream or lotion cannot cure wrinkles, especially deep ones. Superficial wrinkles and fine lines improve with good formulations of retinol, glycolics, and cell growth factors. That’s not true for deep wrinkles. Deep wrinkles need a combination of good skincare products, plus fillers, Botox/Dysport, and lasers. The treatment depends on the cause of the wrinkles, and the area of the face. See my resource here where I go in depth on these treatment options. Depending on the wrinkle severity, location and cause, you have varied options.

Skincare Myth #4: Sun damage cannot be improved by skincare products 

Not true. Sun damage can be improved significantly with a great sunscreen every morning (10-20% zinc), a high quality vitamin C serum, and a vitamin A cousin like Retin A (tretinoin) or retinol. Vitamin-A creams have been and are still the gold standard for sun damage repair and anti-aging. They also help to prevent precancerous lesions and skin cancer. There’s nothing better available in a cream form. Everyone who can tolerate them should be using one! The Vitamin-A creams go by all sorts of names like Renova, Retin-A, Tazorac, tretinoin (generic Renova and Retin-A), and Retin-A Micro (all available by prescription only). Retinol is a weaker form available without a prescription. But there is one Retinol product—the SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0—which is almost as strong as the prescription form.

Skincare Myth #5: Newer skincare products are better

Not true. The most effective products in patients that have the most science behind them are the skincare products I listed in #4. The rest are nice additions, but not as essential.  Many newer products are mostly marketing, and have little science or experience to support the claims. I you want to browse the products I personally use and cab attest to (based on tests I have done at my own practice), you can shop them here.


Hope this helps, Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

Ask me your skincare question!

Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

  • All our content is written and researched by myself.
  • My medical office in Seattle has treated thousands of patients for 15+ years.
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One of the best investments in your skin is your daily skincare. Why? Because you can prevent many problems with blotchy skin color, lack of glow, texture, some types of acne, and fine lines with good skincare products. You can also correct some of these problems with effective skincare products. Great skincare is often more expensive because quality ingredients are expensive. Some companies spend on research/development which benefits all of us and adds to the cost. Are they worth it? In general - yes! I have handpicked some of what I consider to be the best skin care products, and offer them for sale on SkinTour's shop. This is based on my team and I's testing and research at our clinic. Many of the products are in my own regimen. What could be better than using skin care products a dermatologist uses?!