An unfortunate truth within the beauty industry is that there is tonnes of misinformation out there, passed on by word of mouth from generation to generation. Without the advice of experts, it is difficult to decipher what is true and false when it comes to skincare, especially with so many opinions out there.
In the skincare industry, many of us disagree on certain points, with essential oils and mineral oil being particular points of contention, but nevertheless, there are some things that are mentioned as definitive truths when they simply aren’t.
For example, the myth that toothpaste works as a fantastic spot cream. No. No, no, no, no. The reason that this myth still does the rounds is because an antibacterial ingredient called triclosan used to be found in every toothpaste going.
It is this antibacterial ingredient that would have had any effect on breakouts, but even back then, toothpastes included SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate, the drying sulphate that is best to avoid in large doses) and abrasive ingredients designed to polish the surface of your teeth. Overall, the negatives outweighed the positives even while triclosan was in toothpaste.
Nowadays, triclosan ain’t even in the vast majority of toothpastes due to concerns surrounding it being an endocrine disruptor (chemical that disrupts hormones) and affecting the efficacy of antibiotics, so you are just applying skin-dehydrating minty freshness directly to your skin.
However, for many, the toothpaste myth HAS been busted, so we are going to look into myths that are very frequently still believed with regard to the skin…
Skin myths to stop believing
Skin myths: pores open and close
At some point in your existence, you have probably heard that facial steaming and then going in on your blackheads is the path to clear skin as warmth “opens” your pores. The fact of the matter is that pores ain’t doors and they do not “open”, nor do they close. Most things within our body that open or close are operated by muscles and unfortunately, our pores aren’t as complex as this, being openings that lead to hair follicles and allow us to perform the process of excretion.
Warm water, rather than hot water, can help to loosen plugs of oil (sebum) and debris in the skin, allowing for blackheads and other forms of congestion to slide out easier. Like any oil or fat, it’s easier to manipulate when it is warmer… Sorry for the visual but the explanation is necessary.
Facial steaming and applying super hot cloths to your skin will dehydrate it, possibly heightening oil production and causing more congestion. On top of that, it can cause broken capillaries due to a dilation of capillaries and blood vessels. When blood vessels dilate and contract too often or rapidly, the walls can collapse, leaving you with the signature spidery red mark. As you may know, broken capillaries are much easier to accrue than treat, with IPL and laser being the most surefire of options.
Ditch the facial steaming and at-home extractions and work on beating congestion at the source with a 360˚ approach including supplements and topical skincare, specifically with products that contain salicylic acid such as the IMAGE Clear Cell Clarifying Gel Cleanser (€36.00, available on The Skin Nerd store). Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant that can additionally dissolve debris in the pore to stop blackheads from forming in the first place, and it is your new best friend if you are spot-prone.
Skin myths: the cause of acne is always dietary
For those of us who have had life-long and continuous problems with acne and congestion, sometimes you want to turn and snap at the person who suggests that you cut dairy because they read online that it helps. Actually, Barbara, would you believe I have tried it?
Even considering this, I’m a huge believer in the effect of diet on skin, especially the effect of dairy on inflammatory acne. We have had hundreds of clients take intolerance tests and then cut dairy from their diet and see massive change in their skin. We have also had clients who have seen a minor improvement when they lower their dairy or sugar consumption but will still get spots.
Acne is a particularly tricky skin condition. Sometimes it is easily treated without medication, sometimes medication does the job and sometimes, regardless of what you do, it will hang around as long as it likes. With women, it tends to be linked to a hormonal imbalance and try as we may to resolve this with supplementation and options such as oral birth control, for many, it can ease but not fully get rid of it.
When we look at acne within the Nerd Network online skin consultation service, we try to reduce what could be exacerbating acne from a number of angles. If we believe that someone may need antibiotics, we will refer them to Dr. Olga, our resident online GP with a special interest in dermatology, and make sure that we are also addressing issues such as overly-drying skincare products or congesting cosmetic makeup, for example.
Chronic, systemic acne is often nuanced and sometimes, it can be reductive to suggest that all someone needs is a sugar-free or dairy-free diet.
Skin myths: moisturiser is essential to a skincare routine
“Cleanse, tone, moisturise” was the skincare mantra of the 90s and because of this, the need for a moisturiser is ingrained in us. What if I told you that serums are much more important than moisturisers, in the nerdie opinion? Moisturisers are less concentrated than serums and tend to be designed to comfort the upper layers of the skin, rather than penetrate further into it.
Serums, on the other hand, are often concentrated and the emphasis is on the beneficial active ingredients in them. Serums are formulated to get as far into the skin as possible, often incorporating delivery systems that ensure ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, vitamin A and vitamin C can get further down into the epidermis.
Moisturisers aren’t the only nor the best way to hydrate your skin and it is hydration (not moisturiser) that’s integral to a skincare regime!
There is a place for richer, more comforting, oil-heavy creams in certain individual regimes, especially in those with genetically dry, mature or heavily dehydrated skin. However, for the most part, a serum is probably what you’re looking for.
A hyaluronic acid serum will bring hydration to both dry skin and oily skin without it feeling heavy on the skin, irritating it or causing spots. We rate the Pestle & Mortar Pure Hyaluronic Serum (€43.00, available on The Skin Nerd store).
Skin myths: toners are key for balancing your skin’s pH
Toners have always been marketed as a way to remove traces of makeup and balance your skin’s pH levels to reduce oil production. Some traditional toners can actually unbalance your skin’s pH level due to their astringency!
The optimum skin pH is 5.6. We always want our skin to be slightly acidic to prevent the growth of bacteria. Our skin actually does a deadly job of being the right pH on its own, so long as we are cleansing it without dehydrating it, ensuring its barrier is healthy and ensuring it has the correct nutrition.
A pH-balancing cleanser, such as the Biofresh Probiotic Ultra Delicate Cleansing Milk (€18.00, available on The Skin Nerd store), will help to ensure that your skin’s pH is in the right place with no need for a toner afterwards.
Skin myths: when your skincare stings, it means it is working
There is a satisfaction with feeling a tingle. We associate it with power and potency, and in the past, we had fewer ways to reduce irritation when it came to the use of more powerful ingredients. Nowadays, the vast, vast majority of the time, your skincare shouldn’t sting you.
When you’re using high amounts of ingredients such as alpha-hydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic, azelaic etc.) or retinol, you may feel a mild warming tingle when you apply them and this is relatively normal so long as the tingle subsides after a minute or two. However, if a product is actually stinging you to the point of discomfort, and it continues past a minute, this is not a good sign and could point towards dehydrated skin with a damaged barrier.
If a product starts stinging you when you’ve upped your usage, drop that back down NOW and go gradually. You need to ease into exfoliating products that contain acids and vitamin A and ensure that you are also nourishing your skin at the same time. Omegas (essential fatty acids) are like an internal moisturiser. You can get Advanced Nutrition Programme Skin Omegas+ (€37.00 for a month’s supply) on The Skin Nerd store.
Skin myths: skin always makes sense
It is satisfying to think of skin in an “if you have A, then B will fix that” approach. From cumulative decades (not ridiculously far from a century) of experience within Team Nerd, we know this unfortunately ain’t true, which is why we consider ourselves to be the opposite of a beauty counter. We don’t make over-the-top promises and we understand that results take time.
With some skin conditions and skin damage, minimising is all that will be able to be done without much more invasive and expensive means being used. You can’t always track certain acne, psoriasis or eczema flare-ups to a logical trigger… Sometimes, they may just happen! In the circumstances where you are not sure why it has happened, we will help you to investigate and help you to fix it.
That’s why the Nerd Network skincare community exists. Where some may set you a supposedly logical path of treatment and send you on your way, we make ourselves contactable to you for any queries or woes you will have on your journey to total skin health. We are not averse to switching up the routine we’ve recommended entirely, so long as you have given it a proper chance to try to work!
Do we sound like your cup of (green) tea?