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misconceptions of skin care

Debunking Misconceptions of Skin Care

Ever had a friend share a skin care tip and wondered if it was true?

Have you been following particular skin care practices but not sure why?

While it's early in 2015, we thought it would be useful to debunk common misconceptions of skin care. It's easy to fall prey to magazine headlines that cater to skin care woes or even news headlines reporting on single non-replicated studies. Some of these common misconceptions you may already know, but perhaps you are not aware of the full reasoning behind it.  Whatever the case may be, lets get started on debunking misconceptions of skin care

Dr. Bailey's Debunked Misconceptions of Skin Care 

misconceptions of skin care Woman applying beauty cream

Skin Care Myth #1. To improve absorption, it is better to ‘pat’ your skincare products then to 'rub' them in

Patting does improve blood circulation in your skin, but it does not improve absorption. As Dr. Bailey explains in a guest post “Do Skin Lotions Work Better If You Pat Instead of Rub?,” neither patting nor rubbing have the ability to improve absorption through the tough outer skin layer call stratum corneum. This skin layer is one of the most important barriers to protect the body, thus it is not designed to allow anything to absorb easily in. There are ways to compromise or penetrate the stratum corneum, but it will require harsh chemicals or intense physical abrasion. However, skin care products can diffuse slowly into this skin layer and below, but neither patting nor rubbing will have any effect on this process.

Skin Care Myth # 2. If the sun is not out, sunscreen is not necessary.

This is perhaps the biggest “NO” of them all. UVA rays penetrate the earth the same, whether cloud cover is present or not. It has the same intensity during daylight hours and is only not present once the sun is down.  According to the CDC, the highest rates of skin cancer are not in the states popular for never-ending days of sunshine. Instead, it is much more prevalent in states with more rain and cloud cover, such as the Pacific Northwest. Below is a map from the CDC of the incidence rates for melanoma in 2011. Dr. Bailey continually stresses to wear sunscreen year round every day. It is one of the best methods to prevent skin cancer. Check out Dr. Baileys tips for picking the best broad-spectrum sun protection.

Skin Care Myth # 3. Eating chocolate causes acne

Not exactly. The research is mixed on the answer to this common myth. However, Dr. Bailey explains in her blog post “Does chocolate Really Cause Acne” it isn’t the cacao in chocolate itself that is leading to acne but rather the trans fat, sugar, and milk. If you are chocolate lover like Dr. Bailey, choose chocolates without these ingredients and with at least 60% cacao. Also look for chocolate bars made with cocoa butter instead of hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Skin Care Myth # 4. Higher SPF = more protection

False. SPF is indicator for how well you skin is protected from UVB, the UV ray type that causes sunburns. As we discussed above, your skin is exposed to UVA and UVB rays, and UVA causes significant skin damage even though it does not result in sunburn. This is why Dr. Bailey stresses to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen and to use physical blockers such as zinc oxide. SPF of the sunscreen isn't your best indicator for a good sunscreen, the ingredients themselves are. Additionally, as the numbers increase the % difference for blocking UVB rays isn't that large as it is for lower SPF numbers. This breakdown shows how much % UVB is blocked for SPF #
  • 50% = SPF 2
  • 75% = SPF 4
  • 90% = SPF 10
  • 93% = SPF 15
  • 97% = SPF 30
  • 98% = SPF 50
  • 98.5% = SPF 70
  • 99% = SPF 100
Most dermatologists feel SPF 30 is the sweet spot, but if the sunscreen does not offer UVA protection then you should reconsider using it. Dr. Bailey's opinion for the best sunscreen:
An SPF 30 that includes 5% or more of micro zinc oxide, applied every day, will take good care of your skin.

Skin Care Myth # 5. Most Anti-aging products can reverse wrinkles

False, well at least not all of them. It is important to look at the ingredients in your anti-aging products. Many products can help alter the signs of aging temporarily by plumping up certain areas, accelerating cell turnover, etc. The only FDA approved ingredient to effectively reverse wrinkles are skin care products with retinoids.

However, many studies (including October 2007 study in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) support Vitamin-C as another anti-wrinkle ingredient to effectively stimulate collagen growth, but the type of Vitamin C matters: L-ascorbic acid. Retinoids stimulate collagen synthesis, thus reversing fine lines and wrinkles in the process.

Retinol and tretinoin are popular forms of retinoids in skin care products.

  1. Tretinoin (RetinA) is a a prescription retinoid,
  2. Retinol is a non-prescription retinoid that is sold over the counter.

Dr. Bailey now has pharmaceutical-grade retinol night cream that is available without prescription:  intensive and ultra-intensive . If you want to learn more on how retinol works, read Dr.  Bailey’s “Retinol Facts.

"I am so thankful I followed your advice." “Dr. Bailey, you recommended that I should use retin a or a retinoid type product 24 years ago. I get complements all the time on my skin and I know it is all due to using retinoid products that you recommended. I am looking forward to learning about this new retinoid product! Thank you for all your dermatological words of wisdom.” Kristina G, 4/14

Skin Care Myth # 6. Drinking water helps treat dry skin

 False. Drinking water does hydrate the skin and improve its quality, it is unable to fully hydrate dry skin. As Dr. Bailey says: “Unfortunately, drinking water won’t fix dry skin any more than taking a bath will quench your thirst.” To treat dry skin, you have to apply rich moisturizing oils to damp skin to properly hydrate and lock in the moisture to your skin. Dr. Bailey details how to effectively hydrate your skin by clicking here.

Skin Care Myth #7. Parabens in skin care products increase damage in sun-exposed skin Inconclusive. 

The studies that featured the link between parabens and UV damage were performed on petri-dish (in vitro) skin samples (O. Handa paper in 2006 Toxicology) not on a living body. The skin is the largest organ of the body, and is far more complex as a working system that coordinates with other systems in our body . As Dr. Bailey states

I would not alter what I feel is a scientifically sound and good therapy based on these two studies because our body’s ‘intact skin’ is a miracle of complex interrelationships between the keratinocytes and many other cells, with biochemical reactions, unique structural elements etc.

Additionally, a skin care product chemist (whom Dr. Bailey deeply respects) from the FDA asserts in regards to paraben use

“The FDA has been continually calling for scientific papers and studies regarding paraben safety (especially since it is a food preservative) and to date they have found no risk in using parabens.  They (parabens) are the principle preservative used since World War II and even more compelling is the fact that epidemiological studies (studies on large groups of real people) have not shown increased risk from usage (of parabens).  There is no definitive peer reviewed study (this is the kind of study that is really strong and respected by scientists and doctors) relating paraben and UV combination risk in humans.”

While interesting results exist for the link between skin cancer and parabens, we need stronger conclusive in vivo studies on a real living human skin. That said, we will continue to keep an eye out for new research on this subject. Although we have debunked several misconceptions of skin care, we realize there are many more to cover.


Handa O, et. al, Methylparaben potentiates UV-induced damage of skin keratinocytes, Toxicology. 2006 Oct 3;227(1-2):62-72.

Final amended report on the safety assessment of Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Butylparaben, Isobutylparaben, and Benzylparaben as used in cosmetic products. Int J Toxicol. 2008;27 Suppl 4:1-82

Skin Cancer Rates by State." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Aug. 2014. Web. 23 Jan. 2015.

  Photo Thanks and Gratitude to: © JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images/Corbis, © Laura Doss/Corbis,  and CDC