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9 Skin Care Myths Debunked

The truth about products, treatments, and what’s right for your regimen.

By Annabelle Robertson

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS

WebMD Feature

Amidst the  constant buzz about new, must-have products, the influx of anti-aging treatments, and skin-care advice from every corner, it’s hard to separate the hype from reality.

Here, leading dermatologists give you the facts about some commonly held beauty beliefs.

 

Myth: Tanning booths are safe as long as they don't contain UVB rays.

You know that tanning in the sun is unhealthy and can lead to skin cancer and premature aging. But what about tanning booths? Tanning booth companies often say that they are filtering out the so-called "sunburn" UVB rays, says Jenny Kim, MD, an assistant professor of medicine and dermatology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California at Los Angeles. But when you go to a tanning booth, you're still exposing your skin to UVA rays, which penetrate deeper into the skin and cause damage that can lead to premature aging and skin cancers.

Myth: The higher the SPF, the better the protection.

There are three kinds of ultraviolet (UV) rays: UVA, UVB and UVC. UVA rays penetrate the skin fairly deeply, altering your pigmentation to produce a tan. UVB rays are the primary sunburn rays. These rays also damage your skin's DNA and cause photoaging, pigment changes, and carcinomas (cancerous tumors). UVC rays are absorbed by the atmosphere and don't make it to the ground.

The SPF on a sunscreen refers to the amount of protection the product offers from UVB rays or sunburns. Many sunscreens, therefore, need to offer protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Broad spectrum means protection against UVA and UVB. Look for an SPF of at least 15 and one of the following ingredients: mexoryl, oxybenzone or avobenzone (Parsol 1789) for UVA protection, or titanium dioxide.

Myth: You don't need sunscreen on a cloudy day.

Even on a cloudy day, UV radiation from the sun reaches the earth's surface. So make sure you use sunscreen every day and reapply it every two hours as well as after swimming or sweating.

Also, don't fall prey to the myth that you're protected just because you're wearing makeup with an SPF. According to Leslie Bauman, MD, director of the University of Miami Cosmetic Group and author of The Skin Type Solution, you would have to put on 14 or 15 times the amount of makeup that a normal person would wear to reach the SPF on the label of powdered makeup. The same thing goes for foundation and liquid makeup. Make sure you use sunscreen in addition to your makeup.

Myth: Scrubbing your face with soap will keep your skin healthy and acne free.

"When you scrub your face, you're taking off some of the protective oils and barriers, which tends to lead to rashes and even burns," says Sandy Johnson, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with Johnson Dermatology Group in Fort Smith, Ark. Instead, she says, use a gentle cleanser followed by a moisturizer or sunscreen.

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