Most of us have spent a lot of time and money on testing out beauty tips. But how do you know if this advice is legit? We ask the experts.
Whether they were handed down to you from your parents, picked up from magazines when you were younger, or ferociously Googled as an adult, we have absorbed a lot of information about looking after our skin, hair and nails.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in the beauty industry, meaning that myths about the causes and solutions to your concerns are rife. We asked some experts to put right the most commonly believed beauty lies. A few might surprise you…
Were you ever warned against shaving because once you start, you can’t stop? Well it’s not true that your hair will grow back wiry and thick once it’s cut off, says Megan Felton, co-founder of skin mentoring company Lionne.
“Your hair is thinnest at the ends, which means shaving cuts off the finest part of the hair,” she explains. “That is why it appears or feels thickest, but the hair texture hasn’t actually changed.”
This myth was debunked by science nearly 100 years ago in 1928 in a study from Washington University that concluded that hair thickness and growth rate didn’t change after shaving. A 2007 paper from the British Medical Journal explained that, because shaving does not disrupt the living section of the hair which lies under the skin, there’s no reason it could change the thickness of the hair.
Good news for new parents, busy workers or late-night partygoers: a 2015 study debunked the myth that a lack of sleep causes darkness under the eye, concluding that sleep quantity and quality did not correlate with the appearance of circles. According to the research, dark circles are hereditary, meaning nothing we do in day-to-day life (or night-to-night life) has much impact on our under eyes.
“The thing no one wants to hear is that it’s likely down to your genetics because it sounds unsolvable, but for most people that is the case,” says Felton.
So why are your eye bags getting worse? It’s probably to do with ageing which can change the structure of ligaments on the face, thin the skin and cause hyperpigmentation which all make the under eye appear darker, according to a 2016 review by researchers at the University of Texas.
“Dark circles can also be linked with a deficiency in iron or other minerals but you need that to be medically diagnosed before you supplement,” advises Felton.
For the most part, there’s a cheap and easy method to reducing the appearance of dark circles: “Concealer is the number one best and cheapest way to change the appearance of the under eye,” says Felton.
Just a heads up: all those cellulite-busting workouts and nutrition tips you see on Instagram are lying. As a quick explanation for those lucky enough to be out of the loop, cellulite is the name for dimples and bumps that appear under your skin. They are most commonly found on the legs and hips but can appear anywhere on the body.
All of the research suggests that our genetics are responsible for much cellulite we have. Women in particular are more likely to have dimples (and traditionally more likely to be shamed for it in the media), because of the way that fat cells interact with connective tissue.
Women's cells are oval-shaped, meaning the fat can push through them to be closer to the skin layer. In men, the cells are crisscrossed and so there’s more of a barrier against the fat cells, meaning they aren’t as visible from the top layer of skin, according to research from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
There’s also no evidence that changes to your diet, workout or beauty routine can change the appearance of cellulite. “The main suggestions involve reducing processed and high-sugar foods to reduce toxins and fat in the body. It's a classic example of tips that sound logical but are in fact unscientific,” says Clarke.
In a 2016 study from the International Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that reducing highly processed, high sugar and high-fat foods found no effect on markers of cellulite.
Felton also adds that there is also no cream that can reduce the appearance of cellulite, and while invasive treatments that are very costly might help, they’re unnecessary given the fact that cellulite is normal and doesn’t indicate anything about your health, beauty or worth.
A lot of skincare products are targeted to dry, oily or neutral skin – but don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are one or the other, says Felton. “Your skin mood is changing all the time and you really need to respond to that and listen to what your skin is telling you,” she says.
Typically, the most significant change in skin mood is season by season. For instance, you probably find your skin feels drier and tighter in winter than in summer, so you should treat your skin differently in the colder months.
But different areas of skin can have their own moods (your forehead might be dry while your chin might be oily, for instance) and your skin mood can change from day to day or week to week depending on elements like your stress levels, environmental exposures and, particularly in women, hormonal fluctuations.
“The key is to ask yourself how your skin feels every morning and have products ready for every type of ‘mood’, whether it feels tight, dry, flakey or oily,” says Felton.
Have you ever googled how to get rid of a pesky spot that plagues your chin and come across advice telling you to cut out dairy or sugar? You won’t be alone – but is it really true that your diet is causing your acne?
“There are an infinite number of reasons that you can have acne breakouts,” says Felton. “Diet is one thing that impacts the skin, but I prefer to think of it as a trigger rather than a cause, particularly as there’s a lot of shame surrounding acne. Really, hormones, stress, a lack of sleep, the skincare you’re using and so many other different factors can be at the root of acne.”
After all, there’s a reason teenage years and PMS are linked with spots – it’s not because of dietary changes during those times but the rollercoaster of hormones.
Clarke agrees that in those who are predisposed to acne, nutrition could be a management strategy. “There is some evidence to suggest that dairy is neutral and other evidence suggests it has an inflammatory effect. What we do know about skin conditions like acne is that people can have different triggers, which might explain why dairy doesn’t affect everyone’s skin equally.
“There’s also no decent evidence that restricting sugar intake helps with skin health but a healthy, varied diet and exercise may help by reducing pro-inflammatory processes,” he explains.
“The one thing everyone needs to do is wear SPF every single day and top it up at least every five hours,” says Felton.
Yes, even in the depths of winter, your skin can be exposed to harmful sunlight. “UV rays can penetrate windows and cloud coverage, so during the daytime, you are likely getting some type of exposure,” she adds.
Skin cancer charities also advise the same. “Even when it’s cold or overcast, UV rays that cause skin ageing and skin cancer are reaching your skin. In the right winter weather conditions, you can sustain sun damage just as easily as during the summer,” says the president of The Skin Cancer Foundation Deborah Sarnoff.
The added benefit of SPF is that it doesn’t only protect against the sun but also other environmental pollutants. “Put it on as a barrier to protect your skin from irritants all year round,” adds Felton.
With the rise in one-ingredient skincare brands, products like retinoids and acids have become increasingly popular. The problem is that overusing strong chemicals can make your skin problems worse. “You might hear people say that retinol is good for anti-ageing or acids help with decongestion and that’s true, but these harsh ingredients shouldn’t be applied liberally without consideration,” says Felton.
“I think the danger is that people don’t consider other products in their routine and how ingredients they apply are going to interact with those. They also don’t consider how strong some of these over-the-counter skincare treatments are and it can lead to skin irritation and even burns.”
Before stocking up on strong ingredients, do your research. Most people under the age of 25 probably don’t need retinoids and strong acids that can strip the skin barrier. In those who do want them to control skin concerns, make sure they are used in conjunction with moisturising and protective skincare.
Do you wipe a damp cotton pad of micellar water over your face and head to bed? That might not be the best make-up removal technique.
“I’m seeing a lot of contact dermatitis around the eyes and irritation on the skin in the clinic from people not washing off their micellar water,” says Felton.
While many micellar water products are advertised as ‘no rinse’, many dermatologists insist that the micellar residue left on the face can be bad for the skin. These include surfactants, which have been shown to induce skin damage and irritation if left to penetrate the skin barrier.
Unfortunately, it seems the swipe-and-done technique might be too good to be true. “Micellar water chemicals and the make-up they are removing can often get ‘stuck’ on the face, so please make sure you rinse your micellar water off,” says Felton.
Words: Chloe Gray
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