7 biggest skincare myths, debunked by an expert

Think toothpaste can treat pimples? Or oil shouldn’t be applied to oily skin? Think again. Here, expert Lucy Macdougald reveals the seven biggest myths when it comes to skincare.

When it comes to skincare, we all know that the influx of information can be overwhelming, making it hard to tell what to really believe in (and even harder to know what to do)!

Beauty myths and old wives’ tales have been circulating for years, and whilst some might make a lot of sense, others need to be debunked – stat.

Here, Biologi Dermal Specialist Lucy Macdougald reveals the biggest skincare myths, and what you should be doing instead.

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Biggest skincare myths, debunked

Myth 1: The harder I scrub, the cleaner my skin

False! Many people thinking scrubbing skin will get rid of excess dirt and residue (which is true) but it also depletes the skin of its natural oils.

The skin is home to a complex ‘skin microbiome’ or ‘skin flora’, which refers to the microorganisms that reside on the skin, comprised of trillions of bacteria that are part of the immune system. In the skincare industry, the skin microbiome is often referred to as the ‘Acid Mantle’ which is made up of a mixture of sweat, oils and dead skin cells.

The skin’s microbiome is our first line of defense against disease and infection. Its job is to protect the skin from bacteria, environmental pollutants and moisture loss by neutralising contaminations and holding cells tightly together – this makes it harder for viruses to penetrate and moisture to escape.

When we cleanse or scrub our skin too much, we can disrupt how effective our acid mantle is, thus throwing it out of whack and causing skin issues like excessive oil production, which can lead to blemishes.

Rough scrubbing can also irritate the skin and cause inflammation which can result in a myriad of skin issues.

For most people’s skin, you should really only need to exfoliate once a week with a gentle enzymatic exfoliant, and this requires no scrubbing at all.

Body+Soul recommends: Alpha-H Balancing Moisturiser & Gentle Exfoliant 50ml, $62 at Adore Beauty

Myth 2: Toothpaste can be used to treat pimples

This is an old wives’ tale that has been circulating for years (let’s be honest, you probably learnt it from your mother or grandmother and it just continues to be passed down the line).

The myth likely arose due to the fact that toothpaste typically contains some ingredients that will dry a pimple out. But that doesn’t mean it will treat it or cause it to go away effectively; instead, it can dry the top layer of skin leaving the sebum trapped underneath.

If you have a pimple that you want to treat, the best thing to do is to leave it. Don’t touch it and don’t squeeze it. If you absolutely must squeeze it, please be gentle. Apply a medium amount of pressure on either side of the pimple and slowly push down with the lightest pressure possible. Do not wiggle your fingers back and forth to try and squeeze it out.

Large amounts of pressure or pushing at the skin will create micro tears, which can cause scarring. It can spread the bacteria in the pimple further, which can create a bigger problem for your skin. Ideally, you’ll avoid touching your face at all, unless it’s to apply a gentle serum after it has been left alone.

Body+Soul recommends: Subi Perfect Pimple Patch, $15 at Style Story

Myth 3: Budget skincare products are just as effective as expensive ones

There are definitely some areas where you can save money when it comes to your beauty routine, however skincare shouldn’t be one of them.

Unfortunately, in most cases you get what you pay for and whilst it might not be obvious straight away, over time it becomes apparent. Some poor-quality skincare ingredients can have an adverse effect on the skin over time, particularly synthetic ingredients which have been known to build up toxicity in the skin over time.

A great example of this is sheet masks – have you ever felt your face tingle from a sheet mask? That’s your skin getting irritated from the cheap ingredients which can actually cause inflammation to the skin.

When you approach your skincare routine, try to look for quality over quantity. Your skin only needs a couple of quality products to survive, so invest in a quality cleanser, a multi-purpose serum and a high protective sunscreen.

Then beyond that you might want an oil for those nights when you need extra hydration and an exfoliant for once a week – that’s it! Too many skincare products can actually have an adverse effect on the skin so keep it simple but keep it quality!

Body+Soul recommends: StarSkin Orglamic Celery Juice Serum-in-Oil Emulsion 50ml, $98 at Sephora

Myth 4: You should never put oil on oily skin

This myth isn’t all that surprising given that on the surface it makes a lot of sense – why would you put oil on already oily skin? Well, because oily skin is likely producing more oil because it needs it.

Let me explain. When someone cleanses their skin of oil or strips their skin of the natural oils it needs to regenerate, the skin can start to overcompensate by producing more oil. So, if you add a bit of oil to the skin, the reverse can actually happen, and your skin can balance out.

Just be mindful of the type of oil you use as you don’t want to end up looking like an oil slick.

Body+Soul recommends: The Jojoba Company Ultimate Youth Potion + L22, $44.95 at The Jojoba Company

Myth 5: Only old people need anti-ageing products

Let me say this – don’t wait until it is too late! Many people often look to anti-ageing products when their skin may have already aged quite a bit. Ideally, you’ll want to approach anti-ageing in a way that is preventative, rather than trying to fix a problem.

Unfortunately, as we get older our collagen levels start to deplete by one to two per cent every year until the age of 50. The unfortunate truth is that by 50, we have very little collagen left.

Start your anti-ageing journey in your early 20s if you can, which can help to maintain your youthful appearance rather than trying to get time back. Your skincare can play a big part in your anti-ageing journey so look for ingredients that are superior in their antioxidant power and have collagen-boosting potential.

Also, be mindful of how your lifestyle choices can affect your ageing process – things like drinking, smoking and poor diet choices can all have an effect on your appearance.

Body+Soul recommends: Skin Virtue Anti Ageing Liquid Facial Treatment, $116 at Skin Virtue

Myth 6: You can shrink your pores

I’m sorry to say but the short answer is – no, you can’t shrink your pores. The size of your pores is mostly due to your genetics and your age. As we age our pores can start to appear larger due to our skin slowing down production of collagen and losing its elasticity. This stretches and sags the skin making our pores look bigger.

Many products claim to shrink pores; however, this is incorrect – we can only make them appear smaller. You can do this by implementing a thorough facial into your skincare routine once a month which can help to keep your skin in check and reduce the appearance of pores.

Microdermabrasion is a great for unclogging pores, which can be the culprit for making pores appear larger. Microdermabrasion will assist in the removal of dead skin cells from the surface of the skin which in turn can reduce any congestion and target blackheads.

Body+Soul recommends: innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask 2X 100ml, $22 at Adore Beauty

Myth 7: Natural skincare doesn’t work

Unfortunately, the term ‘natural’ often comes with some negative connotations when it comes to skincare and its efficacy.

Many people think that natural skincare isn’t as effective as synthetic skincare, but that’s likely because they’re referring to the activity of the product. Natural active skincare works effectively – and often better – than its synthetic counterparts.

The active ingredient in a skincare product is the thing that works on your skin, so the higher the potency the more effective it can be (just be careful of synthetic actives as these can cause harsh reactions in high potencies). So just look for products made from natural ingredients that are 100 per cent active.

Try to find natural, organic and sustainable brands over synthetic alternatives. As humans, we are already exposed to so many chemicals and toxins in our daily lives that we should try to avoid them when it comes to our skincare.

Also, take your time to really look at skincare labels and what the ingredients and terminology means. The skincare industry is rife with misleading, confusing and unsubstantiated claims, so it can be a bit of minefield. If you’re not sure, do your research, Google the ingredients and how they are made, and ask the brand directly about their processes. Try not to get sucked into marketing gimmicks like buying a celebrity endorsed or cult product – just because it has a fancy name attached to it, doesn’t mean it is going to actually work.

Also, be mindful of other marketing gimmicks like ‘dermatologist approved’ because that usually means that a dermatologist has been paid to endorse a product (not that it truly works or has been properly tested).

Body+Soul recommends: Biologi Save My Skin Bundle, $268 at Biologi

Lucy Macdougald is a Biologi Dermal Specialist.