Are you being flooded with beauty ads filled with unrealistic and sometimes blatantly false claims? It can be difficult to separate fact from fiction with so much information out there. Every cosmetic company is vying for your attention and precious dollars in this highly competitive industry. What can we really expect from the skin care products we choose?
With expertise grounded in science, we have weeded out some of the common misleading information to help choose wisely.
Myth: Natural ingredients are better for skin than synthetic
The terms “natural” and “organic” mean derived from nature. Unfortunately, these words are purposefully misleading and unregulated in advertisements, so buyer beware. Just because an ingredient grew out of the ground does not automatically make it safe or good for your skin. Take for example poison ivy, a plant that would be considered a natural product and is well known for causing extreme skin reactions. The reverse is also true, synthetics and chemicals are not all bad. Some lab synthesized “chemicals” are actually naturally occurring compounds like Vitamin C and hyaluronic acid. Many effective cosmeceuticals are a combination of naturally occurring and man-made ingredients.
Myth: Hypoallergenic products are better for sensitive skin
The term “hypoallergenic” is another unregulated advertising term that has no factual scientific basis. It implies that the ingredients are better tolerated and gentler on sensitive skin. Because we are all unique, there is no way to accurately test products for how our skin may react to them. Trying out different skin care products is the only way to know your tolerance to the ingredients. Sample sizes are a good way to trial a product for yourself.
Myth: The more expensive the product the better it will work
The effectiveness of the product is determined by the formulation, not the price. Unfortunately, labelling of cosmetic ingredients is not mandatory but most brands will label for active ingredients such as Vitamin C, retinol, and AHA/BHA. Fancy packaging and expensive ad campaigns do not mean better quality. Good products can be found in every price range. With the guidance of a trusted professional, search out the products with the right active ingredients for your needs.
Myth: “Anti wrinkle” and “spot” creams should work within days
Don’t buy into the hype. The majority of ingredients in topical skin care products simply sit on the surface of the skin, plumping it temporarily. By nature, the skin is a protective barrier. Only the smallest of molecules can penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin. Recent trends in beauty promote hyaluronic acid in creams to fight wrinkles. The truth is that the while the hyaluronic acid molecule can absorb a thousand times its weight in water making it an excellent surface hydrator, it cannot penetrate the skin barrier to make any structural changes unless injected into the deeper skin layers.
So what does work? Retinol, derived from Vitamin A, is one product that has scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness at treating acne, reducing fine lines and wrinkles and reversing sun damage. It does this by penetrating the deeper skin layers and increasing cell turnover. Some peptides and antioxidants like Vitamin C are also small enough to penetrate into the deeper skin layers where they are effective in providing building blocks for collagen, elastin, protection against damaging free radicals, and lightening of pigmentation.
Those active ingredients which benefit the skin do so when used consistently over months and years. Regrettably, there is no magic potion to make wrinkles disappear or to prevent them. Shielding your skin from the sun and daily use of sunscreen are the two best things you can do.
Myth: Some skin care products work like cosmetic injections
Topical skin care products cannot work like cosmetic injections because the ingredients cannot reach the targeted areas. Regardless of the claims, it just isn’t possible. With cosmetic injectables, the fillers or neuromodulators are delivered into the deeper skin layers where they are almost immediately effective.
Myth: A pea sized amount is all you need
Don’t skimp! While a few drops of serum may be enough to get adequate coverage, when it comes to creams most people need more than this. It is also important to apply products to your neck, décolletage, and backs of your hands. When marketing and packaging creams and serums, cosmetic companies often promise enough product in the purchase size to last 3 months. This is rarely the case and if you are stretching your products beyond 3 months you are not likely applying enough to be effective at all.
Myth: Always choose products from the same skin care line
Active ingredients are what is important. It is fine to find a cleanser you like in one brand, a Vitamin C serum from another, and a moisturizer with SPF from yet another.
Many brands promote kits as simple and straightforward regimens for targeted problems (e.g. acne, rosacea, pigmentation, anti-aging). Most people have multiple skin concerns that may not be addressed in a focused kit. Kits may be cost effective if you need to use all the products they contain and if they all run out at the same time. However, some kits may include extra steps and products such as toners which may be drying, irritating, and unnecessary.
Myth: The more products the better
Adding more products to your skin care regime will not guarantee better results. Don’t fall prey to FOMO. The more products that you apply to your skin, the more likely you are to react unfavorably to the combination and the more difficult it will be to sort out the irritating culprit.
Take for example eye creams. While you may wish to choose a product labelled specifically as an eye cream, it is not necessary. Your selected fragrance-free moisturizer or serum should be just as effective when applied around the eyes.
There is something to be said for a minimalist approach to skin care, where a few select and targeted products are used consistently over time to provide the best results. Focus your search on the active ingredients that you need. Do your research or rely on the guidance of a trusted professional. There is no magic fix. If respecting a budget, purchase well-formulated inexpensive brands and consider saving your dollars for injectables which will provide more immediate and dramatic results.