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What's Up Magazine

Skin Care: What’s Myth and What’s Fact

Mar 02, 2015 11:40AM ● By Cate Reynolds

We clarify some common misconceptions about our complexions.

Myth 1: The right skin cream can keep your skin looking young.

Fact: There are hundreds of skin treatments that claim to help you look younger or slow the aging process. For reducing wrinkles, the topical treatment with the best evidence behind it is retinoic acid (as in Retin-A). Many over-the-counter products contain retinoic acid as well, but it’s difficult to say if one is better than another. But the best ways to keep wrinkles at bay are using sunscreen and not smoking.

Myth 2: Antibacterial soap is best for keeping your skin clean.

Fact: Skin normally has bacteria on it. It’s impossible to keep your skin completely free of bacteria for any amount of time. In fact, many experts are concerned that the use of antibacterial soap could lead to more antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibacterial soap is not necessary for everyday use. Regular soap is fine. Thorough and consistent hand-washing, not antibacterial soap, is what helps prevent the spread of infection.

Myth 3: Eating chocolate or oily foods causes oily skin and acne.

Fact: The truth is that an oily substance called sebum causes acne. It’s made and secreted by the skin. In fact, there’s no evidence that any specific food causes acne.

Myth 4: The higher the SPF of your sunscreen, the better.

Fact: Above a certain level, a higher sun protection factor (SPF) has little added benefit compared with a lower SPF. Experts generally recommend using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks out 97 percent of UVB radiation. It may be worth a higher SPF if you’re planning to be outside for more than two to three hours, especially during hours of peak sun exposure (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). But in most circumstances, a higher SPF may not be worth the extra cost.

Myth 5: Vitamin E will make scars fade.

Fact: There’s little evidence to support this claim. Talk to your surgeon or dermatologist if you have concerns about the appearance of a scar. There are many options for improving the appearance of scars, including laser treatments.

Myth 6: Crossing your legs causes varicose veins.

Fact: There are a number of risk factors for varicose veins, but crossing your legs is not one of them. Heredity is one of the most important—an estimated 80 percent of people with varicose veins have a parent with the same condition. Other things that make a person prone to varicose veins include smoking, inactivity, high blood pressure, pregnancy, obesity, and having a job that requires prolonged standing. If you already have varicose veins, elevating your legs and using compression stockings may be helpful. Seeing a vascular specialist is also a good idea. But keeping your legs “uncrossed” won’t prevent or improve the condition.

Myth 7: Scalp massage can prevent baldness.

Fact: There’s simply no evidence that scalp massage prevents baldness, tempting as it is to believe.

For more advice on caring for your skin and keeping it healthy make an appointment with a dermatologist or purchase a copy of Skin Care and Repair, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.