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Skincare Mythbusting with Dr. Marisa Garshick

Have you ever put toothpaste on a blemish thinking it would be gone in the morning? Do you think rubbing your face will cause wrinkles, or that when a product burns, that means it’s working? If so, you’re not alone. It’s easy to be led astray by everything we hear about skincare, and as a result, it’s possible that some of what you believe about skincare is incorrect.  

Reading about skincare online or listening to old wives’ tales can result in some crazy (and occasionally harmful) beliefs that aren’t always doctor-approved. A lot of advice we get from the internet can be useful, but when it comes to skincare, the best advice comes from a medical professional.

We sat down with Dr. Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS: Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery, to ask about a few common skincare misconceptions. Read on to discover the truth behind some of the most common skincare myths. 

1. Junk food is bad for your skin.

For the most part, no — junk food is not bad for your skin. It was once thought that chocolate causes blemishes by increasing inflammation, but no studies at this time have shown evidence of a direct correlation between chocolate and poor skin. So chocolate lovers, rejoice: if you like it, you can eat it without worrying that it’s going to cause a breakout! 

Some studies have shown that foods with a high glycemic index (refined grains, added sugar) are associated with blemishes when compared to foods with a low glycemic index, though. This might be because they raise blood sugar and insulin levels, which can increase your risk of breakouts due to increased hormones. Additionally, though more evidence is needed, some studies show an association between dairy and skin issues, with some showing an association between skim milk and flawed skin specifically. 

Before you make any dietary changes, look to credible sources, and discuss your plans with a board-certified dermatologist if it seems like certain foods are affecting your skin. Ultimately, healthy eating will help your skin, as well as your whole body.

2. Makeup is bad for your skin.

No, makeup is not bad for your skin. It is important, however, to always remember to wash it off. A lot of makeup is made of oily substances, which, when left on the skin for an extended period of time, can clog pores and cause breakouts. If you are prone to blemishes, look for makeup that is non-comedogenic or oil-free, which means it won’t clog your pores.

3. Breakouts are a sign of a larger health problem.

No, not necessarily. Many people who experience breakouts don’t experience any other related health problems. But since blemishes can impact quality of life and self esteem, we take them very seriously, even if they aren’t always a sign of a larger physical health problem. There are some situations when skin imperfections can indicate a larger medical issue though. For example, those who have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can experience hormonal breakouts. Blemishes can be related to bacteria or yeast, too, so it can be helpful to see a board-certified dermatologist if you think they may be a sign of a real health problem.

4. Sunscreen clogs pores.

While some sunscreens can clog pores, many do not. Above all, it’s important to find a sunscreen that works well for you and your skin type, but if you want to avoid pore-clogging sunscreens, look for one that says “non-comedogenic” or “oil-free.”

5. My pillowcase can cause wrinkles.

At this time, there are no scientific studies that show pillowcases cause wrinkles. That said, some studies suggest that silk pillowcases can help minimize wrinkles as they are more gentle on the skin and minimize friction, so when you wake up, you won’t notice as many fine lines. We do know that people who tend to sleep on one side may experience a flattening, loss of volume, and slightly more pronounced lines on that side, but we don’t know if changing the pillowcase will necessarily prevent that. Certainly using a silk pillowcase wouldn’t hurt, though — they’re incredibly comfortable, and silk is less absorbent than cotton so it helps the skin retain moisture, which we know can improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.  

6. Drinking water makes a difference for your skin. 

There is no specific scientific evidence that states that drinking lots of water will make a big difference for your skin’s health and appearance. The best way to hydrate your skin is typically through various moisturizing creams, lotions, and ointments —  hyaluronic acid is the ultra-hydrating ingredient to look for. That being said, you should always drink lots of water. Staying hydrated can help you feel better and healthier, which can have a positive effect on the skin, not to mention your whole body. 

If you were surprised that some of these were myths, don’t worry. Skincare can be complicated. But luckily, there are a lot of resources to make it easier to understand. From differentiating between similar skincare terms to simplifying the science behind skincare terms, we’re here to help you put your best face forward.