4 Skin Care Facts Even the Experts Mess Up

4 Skin Care Facts Even the Experts Mess Up4 Skin Care Facts Even the Experts Mess Up
"Information is not knowledge." - Albert Einstein

Let's face it, even the most highly regarded experts make mistakes from time to time. Whether it's George Clooney flubbing a line on set or Maria Sherapova missing the occasional swing, no one is batting 1000 all the time. The same can be said in the world of skin care, where even dermatologists and plastic surgeons with years of hands-on training can have differing opinions. Here are four quotes I've heard recently that are wrong - with all other expert names removed, of course:

1. "Alpha hydroxy acid thins the skin."
I always believed this one myself, but it turns out, it's simply not true. According to a study from Acta Derm-Venerologica, alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid do not thin the skin at all. They do, however, make it more susceptible to UV damage, which is related to the fact that glycolic acid smooths and refines the skin, decreasing its ability to scatter UV rays. The smooth skin surface will absorb slightly more UV rays instead.

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2. "Alcohols are drying and damaging to the skin, and should be avoided."
As far as chemical compounds go, alcohols are very drying. However, in a skin care product, alcohols can increase the potency of other key ingredients, leading to greater efficacy in less time. How? Alcohols essentially can bind to the water surrounding a key ingredient. What's more, alcohols evaporate quickly, so they can concentrate a solution. Alcohols also have been shown to increase the level of penetration of a skin care product into the skin somewhat, leading to greater efficacy as well. There is also no direct proof that topically applying alcohol to the skin causes oxidative or any other kind of damage. So if you love a product that happens to contain alcohol, don't throw it away!

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3. "Zinc oxide and titanium oxide are both superior UVA sunscreens."
I read this one recently, and nearly choked on my soup. It is a little-known fact that zinc oxide is better than titanium oxide. This is because UVA and UVB rays are separated into longer UVA (UV-aging) and shorter UVB (UV-burning), and zinc oxide blocks a significantly longer portion of UVA rays (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2005). Does it hurt to have a sunscreen with both? No. Yet, if given the choice, it's zinc over titanium, every time.

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4. "Self tanners are a perfectly safe way to get the look of a tan."
It is true that self-tanners are safer than basking in the sun. Yet most self-tanners work by using dihydroxyacetone (DHA) as the main ingredient, which causes the skin to release 180% more free radicals once being exposed to the sun, according to a 2007 study published in Germany. This means two important things: One, avoid using self-tanner for "base color" before going to the beach, and two, sun protection is extremely important when you have used DHA-containing self-tanners within the past 24 hours!

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