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Myth busting: The skin edition

Get ready for yet another round of myth debunking! This time we’re looking at skincare advice that’s most definitely leading you astray. 
It’s that time again. My team has been busy collecting popular myths for me to debunk. Well-intentioned misinformation, questionable trends, and outright bad advice. Below we go into depth on the three top areas skincare misinformation often targets:
 
 The Sun, Breakouts, and Wrinkles. 
Take a look below and see if you’ve fallen prey to one – it’s easier than you think. Many a myth is rooted in a kernel of truth. 
Concerned you might be making a misstep with your skin? Read on to find out! And for even more takes on skincare misinformation, watch my recent video where I tackle these topics and more. 
 
The Sun

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The science is crystal clear – sun exposure is dangerous to your skin. So why does the myth of the healthy tan prevail?  

Repeat after me – getting a real suntan is never healthy – period. 
 
But, despite the abundance of medical data and research, even anecdotal stories from skin cancer patients who once worshipped the sun and paid the cost, this myth just won’t die. We really wish it would. 
 
A tan is your skin’s response to UV damage. How do you get a tan? The biochemistry is actually pretty straightforward. UVA rays from the sun oxidize the melanin in your skin, darkening it. UVB works on melanocytes, triggering them to make more melanin in response. If you’re tanning, you’re damaging your skin, it really is as simple as that. 
 
Lately, I’ve noticed tanning picking up interest as a health fad, and the catalyst seems to be the ‘all-natural’ movement. The exact reasons to forgo sun protection vary, but lately I see them fall into two camps – fears over not getting enough vitamin D and concerns over sunscreen being ‘unnatural’ and therefore dangerous. It’s an instance of taking ‘grains of truth’ and woefully misinterpreting them. Though melanin does have some SPF properties (minor protection against burning), a suntan is by no means a substitute for sunscreen. It does nothing to prevent premature aging, UV damage, and significantly increases your risk of skin cancer. Ironically, the very thing proponents of a suntan in lieu of sunscreen tout as their main reason – to avoid supposed cancer causing agents – is exactly what they’re exposing themselves to by getting a tan. And though our skin does make vitamin D in response to sun exposure (it’s a pretty cool trick we’ve evolved), we also have an abundance available in our modern diet and your body can’t tell the difference. 
 
Though this kind of misinformation is well-intentioned, this one in particular is not only factually bunk but it’s quite dangerous. The risk of skin cancers and premature aging from sun exposure far outweighs any perceived benefits. Natural, in this case, just isn’t better. 
 
And if you are anxious over chemical sunscreen ingredients or still worried you’re not getting enough vitamin D? There are fantastic mineral sunscreen options and inexpensive vitamin D supplements at your local pharmacy – your skin will thank you! 
 
Breakouts
Popping zits, controlling your diet, avoiding exercise, genetic destiny – for people experiencing breakouts, they’re often willing to do just about anything to get them under control – and that makes this an area riddled with (often well-intentioned) misinformation, so much so it can be hard to know where to turn. 
 
First, let’s start with breakout care. Is popping a zit really that bad an idea? You bet it is. Though popping zits often provides some immediate relief to a swollen pustule, you run the risk of introducing bacteria, causing an infection, or making an already inflamed lesion worse. On top of all that, popping zits opens you up to the risk of problematic scarring, guaranteed to be worse than if you’d left it alone. 
 
So, what to do instead? If breakouts are mild, explore over the counter options with your GP or pharmacist – they can help steer you in the right direction. If breakouts are severe enough, then talk to a qualified doctor and get a treatment plan in place and/or a referral to a dermatologist. Don’t let it wait – getting breakouts under control is your best defense against scarring and does wonders for your mental health and self-esteem if you’re suffering with acne.
 
Designed by Freepik
 
Getting acne under control can often feel and seem like an impossible task – but it’s an important first step in preventing scarring and guarding yourself against bad advice. 
 
Next, let’s talk about triggers. If there’s one perennial trigger that always seems to make the acne hit list, it’s chocolate, but is that reputation deserved? 
 
It might surprise you that chocolate alone won’t cause acne. Scientists have looked and a strong link just isn’t there – or if it is, it’s complicated. So why the persistence of this myth? 
 
This one starts not so much with a grain of truth, but with correlation – when things are associated with each other. Our brains are hardwired to recognize patterns, and when we see one, well, we have a compulsion to make deeper associations, and that’s where problems come in because a correlation doesn’t mean causation (it’s a concept we humans grapple with).
 
Designed by Freepik
 
Sometimes correlation is just that – a correlation, they’re found together. There might be a causative role, but it’s not a guarantee. 
Some correlations, such as smoking and lung cancer, are clear. We know smoking can lead to lung cancer – but the correlation of chocolate and acne? It’s tentative at best. 
 
What correlation does exist likely has to do with the prevalence of two specific ingredients – dairy and sugar. Again, the data is complicated, but dairy may aggravate acne through upregulation of insulin-like growth factors and androgens, which can both lead to increased oil production. Sugar on the other hand is thought to increase inflammation, potentially making acne worse. 
 
Does that mean sugar and milk could cause acne in everyone? That depends on your acne, your body, your skin and even genetics. but keep in mind that the mechanisms are poorly understood and very complicated. 


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Speaking of genetics, is acne genetic? Well, it can be. You have a higher chance of developing acne if members of your immediate family also have it, and you can inherit a susceptibility to the P. acnes bacteria that causes acne, but genetics is not a predictor – you could have family with perfect skin and experience acne or vice versa. 
 
There are likely many different genes that influence acne and the genetics that do exist are not well understood. Acne is often most prevalent during hormonal fluctuations which can greatly alter oil production. Though your teen years are the touchstone for hormonal fluctuations, there are other points in your life – especially for women during pregnancy, menopause, and menstruation – where fluctuations in hormones lead to rapid changes in oil production. This also means acne isn’t just a condition of the young (another myth), and adult acne has been on the rise for a decade. 


Wrinkles
We exercise the muscles of our body to help us look healthier and younger, so it sort of makes sense that exercising the muscles of your face would help build up those muscles and prevent wrinkles, right? 
 
 
Wrinkles aren’t something anyone needs to fix, but if that’s your goal, facial exercises will not get you there. 
 
While I can see the logic, unfortunately, that is just not how it works. The opposite is true. It’s the movements of our face overtime that cause wrinkles. That’s why the neurotoxin, botulinum, works so well, it paralyses the muscles, restricting movement. 
 
Where does this one come from? It likely comes from the fact that weightlifting and exercise in general, protects you against age-related conditions. Getting regular exercise and activity can do wonders as an anti-ager overall. But trying to target the face? Not so much. 
 
Final Note
Remember to take easy skin fixes with a hefty grain of salt. If it sounds too good to be true? Go with your gut until you satisfy your skepticism. 
 
And if you’re wondering how to care for your skin with ingredients that can help, not hinder? Consider my paired down skincare line, coming soon to Feelconfident.com. Like my content, it’s backed by science. 
 
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Written by
Kristi Charish
Edited by
Dr. Gary Linkov
The content of this newsletter is for entertainment and educational purposes only. This content is not meant to provide any medical advice or treat any medical conditions. Patients must be evaluated by an appropriate healthcare provider on an individual basis and treatment must be tailored to meet that patient’s needs. Results and particular outcomes are not guaranteed.
 
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