You’ve likely heard a lot of ‘misinformation’ about skin health since the time you were a teenager. Well-meaning parents and peers pass on information they read or heard somewhere and the myth frequently overrides the facts. These skin myths can range from eating chocolate or French fries will give you acne to getting a deep dark tan is good for you.
There are numerous discrepancies on the Internet, and magazines, about skin myths. The problem with them is that they can make you spend a lot of money on products that don’t really work and they can keep you repeating behavior that makes your skin, and you, unhealthy. Here are some of the most common skin myths and their replacement facts.
Skin Myths and Facts
Let’s start with the most common skin myths and work into the less common ones that you might not be aware of.
1. Spicy, greasy foods cause acne. Most of us have heard this one since we were young since teenagers tend to eat more of these types of foods. It isn’t true though. High sugar diets can aggravate acne as too much sugar can influence hormone shifts in androgens, or male hormones. These hormone shifts cause more sebum (oil) to be released onto the skin. If the skin is not kept meticulously clean, this sebum can clog pores and create blackheads and whiteheads. Pores can also become inflamed resulting in angry red acne. Past the age of 20, these types of acne breakouts usually decrease to only occasional. However, women may again start to experience acne outbreaks around menopause as hormones go into flux again. Keeping the skin clean, using a good astringent like witch hazel to clear the extra oil, and making sure you’re getting enough vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C and E, and water will help.
2. Tanning won’t hurt you and is healthy. Although you need a certain amount of sun exposure to make adequate Vitamin D to stay healthy, over-exposure to the sun through deliberate tanning is not healthy. The tanning process is a reaction of your skin to sun exposure. It actually is your skin developing more melanocytes (melanin cells) to protect your skin from the sun. And while a little tan color can be attractive and healthy-looking, too much tanning can lead to premature aging, dryness, and skin cancers. I recommend my patients get about 15 minutes a day in high noon sun during the summer to help make a good amount of Vitamin D. After that, I recommend protecting your skin with an SPF 15-30 sunscreen if you are going to be out in the sun, at the lake, pool, or golfing, most of the day. Also, take sun breaks in the shade.
3. Dry skin causes wrinkles. This myth is a little trickier. Dry skin can aggravate and worsen the look of wrinkles, however, it doesn’t really cause them. Wrinkles occur mainly from the breakdown/decrease in collagen that can occur as you get older. Collagen is what plumps your skin up and as it depletes, furrows, depressions, or hollows, form in its absence on your skin.
Lack of hyaluronic acid and Vitamin C, and/or not enough protein (all help build collagen) in your diet, are the real culprits behind wrinkle formation. Smoking depletes Vitamin C so collagen stores decrease. It also depletes oxygen from your body accelerating aging and making your skin appear grayish with dark hollows. Excess alcohol dehydrates your skin (and body) making your skin sag and “tent”. High hyaluronic acid foods like chicken, turkey, duck, organ meats, high retinol (vitamin A) content foods, cod liver oil and other fish oils help rebuild collagen stores. High vitamin C foods like cherries, oranges, grapefruit also help make HA. Or, take 1,000 mg of Vitamin C a day, and 80 mg of hyaluronic acid supplements daily. Skin also needs to be kept well hydrated to diminish the look of wrinkles, so drink half your weight in ounces of water per day (e.g. 170 lbs = 85 ounces of water). See also #4 below.
4. Topical antioxidants cure wrinkles. Although skin care manufacturers would like you to believe this, it’s simply not true. Topical antioxidants can help diminish the appearance of wrinkles by adding moisture and reducing dark spots, but they won’t reverse wrinkles. Products with Retin-A are the only known topical products that actually work to reduce wrinkles. Antioxidants taken internally – vitamin C, E, carnosine, alpha lipoic acid, help fight the free radical damage to skin cells. Omega-3 fish/krill oils help fight the dryness than can worsen the look of wrinkles. A good exfoliating product, or making your own from sugar, salt, or finely ground almonds added to a liquid cleanser, helps remove dead surface skin cells that make skin look “crinkly”. See also #3.
5. Herpes: No infection without rash. Herpes is a viral condition that affects skin cells. There are two types of herpes – HSV-1 (primarily affects the mouth) and HSV-2 (affects the genital areas). Either type can affect either area, though. The herpes virus sheds prior to a rash being present. It’s the contact with the virus that causes infection. Therefore, it is possible to become infected by someone who is not broken out in a rash. The best protection against a herpes infection is realizing that someone has herpes. Herpes infections are quite common – over 85% of the world’s population has one.
6. Skin Care Products – All Natural/Expensive Best: Both of these are absolutely not true. An expensive moisturizer does not mean it works better than, say, extra virgin olive or coconut oil, or even plain baby oil or aloe vera. In addition, products labeled “all natural” can be quite expensive and not work as well as less expensive, “synthetic” products. Manufacturers use the “all natural” phrase a lot in advertising their products and it can be misleading. For example, many people wrongly believe that “natural” products won’t cause an allergic reaction or will “cure” a certain skin condition. These are also myths.
There you have some of the most common myths about skin care and health and the facts about them. Keeping yourself healthy with an optimal nutrition diet, exercise, getting outdoors in fresh air and a little sun and staying well-hydrated will help your skin stay healthy and young.
Jay Brachfeld, M.D.
Natural Health News
Foods High in Hyaluronic Acid, http://www.livestrong.com/article/47571-foods-high-hyaluronic-acid/
Top 10 Skin Myths, http://dermatology.about.com/od/beauty/tp/skinmyths.htm
photo credit: thebeautyinsiders.com