Between all the beauty influencers sharing their overly-complicated facials on TikTok and countless companies trying to sell you so-called “miracle creams” on TV, it’s no wonder skincare can be so confusing. Shopping at the drugstore can be challenging as well, when you need to read through all of the labels, ingredients, and over-promising claims before you make a purchase.
So, how do you know which treatments and/or skincare routines are actually worth it?
Since there are so many products, so much misinformation, and only so much time and money you’re willing to spend on figuring this skincare thing out, we've asked dermatologists to debunk what they believed were the most common misconceptions about the skin and keeping it healthy.
Here are the top five myths these experts say you should trash, stat, so you can truly understand how to help your skin looking and feeling its best.
Myth #1: People with oily skin don’t need moisturizer.
The truth: You do need to moisturize at least once a day, even if it seems counterintuitive to your skin type. Why? “The oil glands in the skin go into overdrive to compensate for being dehydrated,” says Annie Chiu, M.D., a dermatologist with The Derm Institute in Redondo Beach, CA, making oily skin seem even more so. That’s not to say oily-skinned folks need the heavy-duty stuff: Look for lightweight options labeled “noncomedogenic,” meaning less likely to clog pores. Or try a serum or a gel rather than a cream, suggests Paul Friedman, M.D., director of the Dermatology & Laser Surgery Center in Houston, to hydrate without feeling greasy.
Myth #2: “Dermatologist-tested” means a dermatologist recommends a product.
The truth: This squishy marketing claim means only that a product was reviewed by a board-certified dermatologist—not that they liked it, and definitely not that it underwent any third-party testing. “This terminology doesn’t differentiate between an at-home test and a scientifically rigorous clinical trial,” Dr. Chiu says. In fact, a product can proclaim itself “dermatologist-tested” even if only one skin doc has vetted it, says Tina Alster, M.D., director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, DC. Rather than relying on labels, talk to a dermatologist for recommendations for your skin, advises Dr. Chiu. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be saddled with a 72-step evening skincare ritual. “A dermatologist can guide you based on your skin type, your budget, and whether you want a very simple routine,” she says.
Myth #3: Crossing your legs causes varicose veins.
Truth: It’s not your sitting position that puts you at higher risk, but how long you sit. Bulging varicose veins and red spider veins pop up when valves inside your legs get damaged and allow blood to flow back from deeper veins to more superficial ones, Dr. Friedman says. “The superficial veins then bulge with all the pooled blood, becoming visible through the skin.” And sitting for hours at a time, cross-legged or not, causes valve damage.
That said, other risk factors are beyond your control. Women are about twice as likely as men to have these visible veins, and one study found that the risk of developing varicose veins was over 60% for women when one parent had them. To exert what control you do have, though, take frequent standing breaks, maintain a healthy weight (extra pounds put more pressure on your veins), and don’t smoke, says Dr. Friedman.
Myth #4: A skin rash signals an allergy.
The truth: Loads of skin issues (psoriasis, eczema, seborrhea, and heat rash, for instance) can trigger a rash, but that doesn’t mean you’re allergic to anything. Figuring out what’s making your skin freak out is key, because the cause should dictate the next steps. Take psoriasis, which affects more than 7.5 million American adults. Though its rash may look to the untrained eye like eczema, it is an autoimmune condition often linked to other serious health issues (like arthritis), and prescription medications may be required to get it under control. It can be tough for you—or Dr. Google—to decipher whether that splotchy rash is caused by an irritant (such as a new laundry detergent), an allergy (something in the environment that triggers a true immune response), or an underlying health condition. That’s why it’s worth making an appointment.
Myth #5: Vitamin E fades scars and stretch marks.
The truth: Rubbing on vitamin E will do nothing to fade these marks, and it could wind up irritating your skin. In one small study, a third of people who applied vitamin E to their scars reported an itchy red rash. Time does the most to fade scars and stretch marks, says Dr. Chiu, though creams and lotions with hyaluronic acid, retinols, and the medication tretinoin can do a little bit of good. Avoiding the sun is also beneficial, as scars tend to darken with sunlight (stretch marks will stand out more because they won’t tan with the rest of your skin). If yours are giving you angst, talk to a dermatologist about in-office procedures like laser therapy and microneedling (pricking the skin with small needles to encourage collagen and elastin production). Neither can completely erase your skin’s history, but both can help.