Bright, clear skin is often an indication of good overall health. Eating a healthy diet, staying hydrated, and making healthful lifestyle choices all promote beautiful skin on the outside, and a healthy body on the inside. However, advancements in medical aesthetics, cosmetic dermatology, and ingredient technology now offer short cuts to skin that is physically clearer, with fewer lines, and more even texture and pigmentation. We now see people looking ten years younger overnight due to cosmetic treatments, have “miracle” ingredients that claim to clear up acne within days, and “brightening” serums to get rid of dark spots. These treatments can certainly seem attractive, especially for someone who’s been living with a skin condition for a long period of time. But don’t let the illusion of blemish-free, smooth, peachy skin fool you–smooth, plump skin doesn’t necessarily equate healthy skin.
While many of these treatments and products are effective, they may not be good for the actual physiology of the skin—in fact, some products and treatments can cause permanent damage.
Here are the top 5 myths and realities about skin health:
Myth #1: Squeaky clean skin is healthy skin. Many people believe that they aren’t removing excess oil and debris from the pores unless they use lathering or foaming cleansers and drying toners.
Reality: Cleansers that foam or lather likely contain harsh detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate (SLS/SLES). Toners that leave the skin feeling dry and tight often contain high amounts of alcohol. SLS and SLES and alcohol, along with other chemical detergents and foaming agents do remove dirt, but they also remove the skin’s protective lipid barrier which is necessary for protecting against the elements and retaining the skin’s moisture, in addition to other functions. When this barrier is stripped, the skin is more susceptible to free radical damage from the environment, different types of infections, and dehydration—any of which can have adverse effects on the immune system and speed up the skin’s aging process.
Myth #2: Skincare products from a spa or doctor’s office are always good for the skin.
Reality: While professional and medical skincare products do sometimes contain higher concentrations of higher quality ingredients than drug and department store products, more isn’t always better. It’s always important to get the best quality ingredients available; but super-high concentrations of active ingredients—even seemingly beneficial ingredients like Vitamin A or C or alpha hydroxy acids—can irritate the skin, increase its sensitivity to the sun’s rays, and disrupt its barrier function.
Myth #3: Higher SPFs mean better protection from the sun’s damaging rays.
Reality: A higher SPF does not mean better protection or that you can stay out in the sun without reapplying for longer periods of time. If this was truly the case, then skin cancer wouldn’t be as prevalent as it is now. It just means more chemicals, which can do more damage than good since most of the chemicals used in common sunscreens (such as oxybenzone) have been shown to cause toxic effects to the body. According to Kabana Skin Care, “SPF 15 equates to 93.3% UV absorption, which means by applying such a product 93.3% of the UV your skin would otherwise be absorbing is getting absorbed by the product. Doubling the SPF value to 30 provides 96.7% UV absorption, or only 3.4% more UV protection.” It’s best to use a product with a SPF of 15 to 30 and reapply about every two hours; or right after getting out of the pool, sweating, or toweling off after your workout.
Myth #4: Drinking alcohol has no effect on skin.
Reality: Getting flushed cheeks, neck, or ears after having a few drinks may seem like a temporary inconvenience for some. However, drinking too much alcohol (especially on a regular basis) can cause capillaries near the skin’s surface to dilate, and they can remain visibly dilated permanently. This is commonly referred to as “broken capillaries.” Too much alcohol also takes a huge toll on the liver, and liver toxicity is now suspected to contribute to the development of melasma (a mask-like pattern of hyperpigmentation or dark spots which can be permanent), acne, rosacea, and other conditions.
Myth #5: Exfoliating regularly is necessary for healthy skin. People seem to be obsessed with exfoliation these days. At-home scrubs, spinning facial brushes, alpha hydroxy acid peels and microdermabrasion treatments have rapidly grown in popularity because people are convinced that they have to constantly slough off the old, dead skin so the vibrant, youthful skin cells underneath can come to the surface.
Reality: The stratum corneum (the outermost “dead” layer of the epidermis) is there for a reason. It protects the layers underneath that house cells that produce skin pigment, cells that boost immunity, and cells that produce the proteins of youth, collagen and elastin. Skin cells are produced in these deeper layers and gradually flatten and rise to the surface in due time when the “old” ones shed on their own. Forcing the cell turnover rate to speed up brings the cells to the surface before they are ready, which may cause them to form incorrectly or become permanently damaged. This also causes unnecessary inflammation to the cells in the deeper layers of the skin which may lead to DNA damage and dermal thinning—both of which reduce immunity and speed up the aging process of the skin. To maintain a healthy cell turnover rate, try eating a healthy diet, exercising, using nourishing and gentle products, and drinking more water!
I can help, and there are several ways we can work together to get to the bottom of your skin condition and help you get the skin you want and deserve to have! Click HERE to learn about my holistic and integrative skincare coaching programs.
*Image 3 credit: Didriks. “Nubar Cocktails in Didriks Glassware.” Some rights reserved, 2014.