9 Skincare Myths You Always Believed

Protect your face and body by learning the facts behind these popular misconceptionsBy Marlisse Cepeda

There are a slew of skincare dos and don'ts, but following all of this supposedly sound advice may do more harm than good. And knowing the whole story on skin will get you closer to the glowing, flawless complexion you've always wanted. With help from top experts, get the scoop on nine easy-to-fall-for skin myths that are actually far cries from the truth. Photo by Getty Images.

1. Hot water opens pores.
Despite cleansers, scrubs and other skincare products claiming to have pore-opening powers when paired with warm H2O, this advice just doesn't hold water. Skin's openings neither change in size nor operate like train doors, says Glenn Kolansky, MD, Director of the Advanced Dermatology Surgery and Laser Center in Tinton Falls, NJ. In reality, hot water loosens hardened dirt, oil and makeup within pores, allowing for better cleansing, explains Dornechia George Carter, MD, a dermatologist with Methodist Charlton Medical Center in Dallas, TX. Still, watch the temperature. Washing your face with too-hot water can strip skin of natural oils and possibly lead to irritation and dryness, warns Dennis Gross, MD, a dermatological surgeon and creator of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare.

Related: Learn about 6 all-natural beauty fixes.

2. Facials are a key part of a good skincare regimen.

Spa services cost big bucks, and luckily for your budget, this particular treatment isn't necessary. Facials are relaxing, but they won't change "skin's structure and function in the short-term or long-term," explains David Bickers, MD, Chairman of the Department of Dermatology at ColumbiaDoctors Midtown in New York City. While the intense moisturizing may make skin shinier for a day or two afterward, the fleeting post-facial glow may not be worth the price, says Helen M. Torok, MD, Medical Director of Trillium Creek Dermatology in Medina, OH. And if you're acne-prone, Ariel Ostad, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City, recommends getting customized treatment suggestions from a dermatologist; spa services are often done the same way for everyone.

3. Greasy foods and chocolate cause breakouts.
Binging on pizza and candy bars obviously isn't good for your health-or your waistline-but are they the acne-causing culprits they're rumored to be? According to Dr. Ostad, studies have proven that neither type of food is responsible for breakouts. The false association may exist because stress hormones lead to zits-and they're the same things that call you to the nearest cookie jar, says Michele Green, MD, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. That's not to say acne and diet are unrelated. If you have pimple problems, limit foods high in carbohydrates and dairy, suggests Joshua L. Fox, MD, founder and director of Advanced Dermatology, PC, of New York and New Jersey. Those are more likely to cause breakouts.

Related: Try these 15 fiber-packed foods.

4. Your skin will age just like your mom's.
Your mother's wrinkle-free, so that means you're destined for complexion perfection, right? Even though genetics play a big part in the aging process, external factors, like sun exposure, facial expressions, smoking, pollution and diet, affect how skin looks over time. So if Mom turned her nose up at tanning and you eschew shade, you may not grow old as gracefully. The bottom line: Good genes aren't a free pass to flawless skin.

5. SPF 30 provides double the protection of SPF 15.

SPF stands for sun protection factor, and the SPF number relates to the amount of time it would take skin to burn. In other words, SPF 15 means sunbathers can bask 15 times longer without getting sunburn than they would without sunscreen. Higher SPF numbers prevent a greater percentage of rays from reaching skin, says Dr. Carter, but the differences between 15, 30 and 45 are smaller than you'd think. For instance, SPF 15 blocks about 93% of the sun's rays, while SPF 30 blocks 97% and SPF 45 blocks 98%. So doubling the number doesn't double your skin's protection, especially since the average person doesn't apply as much as she should-1 tsp for your face and 1 oz for the uncovered areas of your body, reapplied every two hours. One more thing: Always use sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection, which blocks UVB and UVA rays.

6. Makeup with built-in SPF is as effective as sunscreen.
As convenient as sunscreen-infused products are, relying on them for sun protection is a big no-no, says Dr. Fox. "Due to makeup's thickness and how it binds to the skin, it would take almost 14 times the normal amount of powder used and seven times the normal amount of foundation used to get the desired amount of SPF," he explains. Although proper sun coverage varies for everyone, a good rule of thumb: Pair SPF 15 sunscreen with SPF 15 cosmetics.

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7. Use separate day and night creams.
Although evening is primetime for your skin's repairing process, what's best for your skin type is more important than whether a cream is marketed for use at a certain time of day. Have dry skin or eczema? Try a cream containing peptides or Vitamin C antioxidants, says Dr. Fox-and use it day and night. If you use anti-aging products, apply those at night, since retinol-their key ingredient-is sensitive to sunlight. Have oily skin? Too much moisturizing can clog pores and result in acne. To rejuvenate skin without the negative side effects, opt for a prescription retinoid, like Retin-A or Differin gel.

8. Buy skincare products labeled as containing only natural ingredients.
Thanks to clever marketing, anything "natural" is assumed to be better for you. But there's no evidence that natural products are more effective or safer. In addition to there being no regulation on what's labeled natural, Robyn S. Gmyrek, MD, Director of Cosmetic Dermatology at ColumbiaDoctors Midtown, reminds that "while naturally occurring ingredients aren't synthetically produced, they still can cause allergic reactions and be harmful." Dr. Fox's advice: Find the right product for your specific skin issues with the help of your dermatologist-whether or not the ingredients are all natural.

9. Scrub your face frequently to nix zits.
Sorry, but harsh scrubbing doesn't keep pimples at bay. Oil overproduction, dead skin cells and bacterial growth cause acne. Excessive scrubbing dries out skin, which prompts extra oil production and more breakouts, says Dr. Gross. Once-a-week exfoliation is more than enough. But if you have active acne, Dr. Ostad suggests skipping exfoliating altogether, since it may spread bacteria to the rest of your face. For sudden breakouts, topical medications and gentle cleansing are your best bets.

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