Your skin is only the largest organ of your body—which is why it’s high time you started to look after it, in case you’re not already. The thing about skincare is that it is very specific to an individual, and everyone’s concerns require customised routines for solutions. While this is something a dermatologist can easily help you devise, most people tend to try out remedies they’ve overheard, or treatments that their family members have been using for decades, first—only choosing relevant expert advice as the last resort.
The result is expected—you end up with no results, or worse, a bigger issue than you started out with. There is a lot of unverified counsel floating out there, with little to no basis in science. And as is the case with most myths, once one goes around and gains momentum, the false information almost becomes a fact that everyone comes to believe. Dermatologist to some of the biggest Bollywood actors—everyone from Ranbir Kapoor to Sonam K Ahuja trust her with their skin—Dr Jaishree Sharad is all set to bust some of the most common skincare myths that people tend to blindly believe in. Below is an exclusive excerpt from her second book Skin Rules: Your 6-Week Plan To Radiant Skin, which is slated to release this week.
1. All-natural products are better for the skin
Natural is the ‘in’ thing. The question is: are the products really natural? Can you keep fresh orange juice in the refrigerator for over a week? It will decay, won’t it? In order to keep natural things well preserved, preservatives are required. And preservatives are chemicals too. Quite often natural ingredients can cause irritation and allergies. I have seen reactions to some of the most common ingredients such as aloe vera and tea tree oil in people with sensitive skin. Firstly, the plants and trees whose leaves, barks or fruits are used should not be chemically treated or infused with pesticides. The soil in which they are grown should be organic too. Thirdly, the extracts must be pure. Then, the preservatives must also be natural. So always check the authenticity of the products and the manufacturer and do not forget to check the ingredients.
2. You’ll eventually outgrow acne
It is a popular belief that acne is a normal teenage problem. This is not true at all. Acne occurs due to hormonal changes in the body, especially when your androgen hormones increase. There can be many triggers for acne, such as stress, oil-based cosmetics, etc. (refer to the next chapter on acne for more details) irrespective of age. Acne can occur right from the teens to even the sixties. Adult acne is on the rise and just because you have never had a pimple during your teens does not mean you cannot have a pimple when you grow older.
3. Hot water opens pores, ice closes pores
I am sorry, pores do no open or close like a tap on their own, nor are they temperature-sensitive. A pore is an opening of the duct which carries sebum from the sebaceous gland to the surface of the skin. When the sebaceous glands secrete more oil or sebum, the ducts enlarge, giving the impression of an enlarged pore. Elastin fibres which hold the duct in shape lose their elasticity due to sun exposure or ageing. This can also cause the pores to become larger. While some anti-ageing serums and creams containing retinoids or peptides help in firming the elastin fibres, fractional lasers or micro-needling may help a bit more. However, there is no 100 per cent solution to open pores.
4. Blackheads need to be scrubbed away
When too much oil or sebum is secreted by the sebaceous glands, the channels which take oil from the gland to the skin’s surface get blocked just like a jam due to excess traffic. When this clogged oil, mixed with dead skin, reaches the surface of the skin, it gets oxidised and becomes a blackhead. It isn’t dirt at all, so you cannot scrub it away completely. All you can manage to do is remove the upper part of the blackhead, and so it returns very soon. You need to use a salicylic acid- or lactic acid-based lotion or facewash which will exfoliate the lining of the pore and dissolve the oil, thus removing it completely. Scrubbing vigorously will only disrupt the protective layers of the skin, giving way to more microorganisms to enter the skin and cause more havoc.
5. Drinking a lot of water will prevent acne or dryness and make the skin radiant
I often have these troubled patients who guzzle tonnes of water and yet have dry skin or acne. They are so distraught that water isn’t doing the trick for them while it does wonders to people on the Internet. The good part about water is that it is extremely essential for our body to function well and remain hydrated. So we do need six to eight glasses of water a day. But water plays a small role in acne and dryness. It is the oil inside your skin, produced by the sebaceous glands (endogenous), and outside, in the form of moisturisers (exogenous), which is responsible for how dry or oily your skin actually is. So if your skin is dry, make sure to use moisturisers rather than simply drinking four litres of water a day. And if you have acne or oily skin, use products to reduce the oil or get to the root cause and treat it. Do not expect water to be a miracle worker. Our liver does all the detoxing and the digestive system or the urinary system flushes out the toxins. Water certainly aids them to function better. So drink water for their sake.
6. Any cream or serum, if applied for long, will stop working because the skin gets used to it
‘Doc, the serum you prescribed was fab the first two months and then it stopped working,’ is something I often hear from my patients. The truth is, your skin has its requirements depending on the climate, the environment, your hormones, the product you put together for your skin ritual. So how will a cream which was amazing in summer, when you were sweating most of the time, work in winter when your skin is cracking up? Don’t forget that your skin is an organ; it will change with time and age. So you do need to change products. You may go back to the ones you have used in the past, depending on the skin conditions.
7. Skincare is a girl thing
I wonder why so many people believe this. Skin is something that men possess too. They can also have eczemas, rashes, pimples, wrinkles, blemishes. So why should skincare be a girl thing? I often see my brothers splash some water on their face, shave and use an aftershave lotion. That’s the beginning and end of their skincare regime. They love to talk about fitness, protein and other supplements. But if you have a good body and a dull face, would they complement each other? Yes, men have slightly thicker skin, more sebaceous glands, more collagen. So they need different products. Men needn’t keep a bunch of flowery or pink products which exude sweet fragrance in the bathroom or on the dressing table. I tell my husband to do me a favour by just using a sunscreen in the day and a moisturiser at night. Even this is more than enough. And if you follow the entire skincare ritual, you will surely have radiant, blemish-free skin.
8. I won’t develop wrinkles or pigmentation because my mom’s skin at sixty is still so radiant and youthful
It’s true that genes play a big role in how your skin and facial features are. But ageing is based on both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Your genes are the intrinsic factors but sun exposure, poor lifestyle, smoking, alcohol, stress and pollution play a huge role in shaping your skin, especially after you cross the forty mark. No matter how good your mom’s skin is at sixty, you could still look like you’re fifty at forty if you don’t take care of your skin. Sun protection, healthy food, exercise, beauty sleep and no addictive habits are the key to good skin even in later years. Of course, you will need a little support from dermatologists in the form of a fruit peel or a non-surgical skin tightening once you cross forty-five or fifty.
9. Regular facials are a must once I turn thirty to prevent ageing
Amid the humdrum of daily routine and busy schedules, facials can be stress-relieving and have a relaxing effect. The radiance on the face is a result of thorough cleansing but it’s at best temporary and can also be achieved at home. Facial massages have a calming effect, but science has proved that massages neither improve circulation nor cause any lymphatic drainage. A study done in University of Wisconsin-Stout, USA, showed that massage therapy’s effect on the stress hormone called cortisol is ‘generally very small and, in most cases, not statistically distinguishable from zero’ as opposed to the claim that massages can reduce cortisol levels.
Secondly, nothing can be massaged into the skin to the point that it reaches the liver and detoxes it. This is more voodoo than truth. Applying things that enter blood circulation would be considered drugs and would have to be regulated by the FDA. Also fluid build-up on the face cannot be reduced by facials. That is a function of the kidneys. Sun protection is the single most important thing to ensure your skin looks good for a long time. Facials are a feel-good factor. Neither are they a compulsion nor do they stimulate collagen or tighten your skin or cause any lymphatic drainage or body detox. I do not discourage facials because it is nice to relax once in a while and have your skin cleansed too.
10. I sleep well but I have dark circles
Yes, inadequate sleep is hugely responsible for the dark circles under your eyes but there are various other reasons too. Low haemoglobin, allergy to cosmetics or creams, dust allergies resulting in constant rubbing of eyes, asthma, hay fever, genes and certain medication can also cause dark circles in spite of you having your eight hours of beauty sleep every day. So try to find out the cause and get it treated accordingly. Your dark circles will certainly reduce.
11. I will develop wrinkles if I do not apply moisturiser and foundation in upward strokes
This is completely untrue. You cannot rub wrinkles into your face, nor can you alter your muscles or fat just by using your makeup in upward strokes. In young people, the skin is more elastic. So when you stretch it, it bounces back. In mature skin, the elastin fibres are weaker and the skin is not so supple due to the loss of elasticity. So when you sleep with the same side of your face squished into the pillow every day, you will develop more wrinkles and sagging on that side of the face. Instead of focusing on the movement of your hands while applying makeup, train your mind to sleep straight on your back rather than curling up on one side.
12. I will be able to get rid of my wrinkles with facial exercises
Exercise does help to tone your body and is extremely good for your skin and overall health. But facial exercises have to be taken with a pinch of salt. Constant movement of muscles will cause more lines and wrinkles rather than reducing them. Actors and people who emote more as they speak always end up with more wrinkles. A report in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal published in 2014 showed that facial exercises do not play a role in facial rejuvenation. Hence, it is better to stick to squats in the gym than exercising your face in front of your dressing mirror.
13. Toothpaste is the quick fix to my pimple
Most teenagers who consult me for their acne have already tried dabbing toothpaste on their pimple in the hope that it will disappear. This is an old hack which won’t work now. The older formulation of toothpaste contained an ingredient called triclosan, which killed acne-causing bacteria. So it did help to dab toothpaste on your acne. However, triclosan was found to reduce the immunity in children who were exposed to antibacterials at an early stage. Hence, newer toothpastes stopped including it as an ingredient. As a matter of fact, some of the current ingredients may lead to irritation and rashes. So stop applying toothpaste on your pimple a day before your prom night. You don’t want a rash on your face which you can’t even conceal with makeup.
14. Wine and dark chocolate are great for skin
While red wine has resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant, having it every day in the name of beauty can actually be detrimental to your skin. It can leave your skin dehydrated, sallow and wrinkled. You could also end up with puffy eyes. A glass of red wine once in a while is good enough. You might as well gorge on cranberries, blueberries, dark grapes, pistachios and peanut to get your resveratrol.
Dark chocolate has cacao which contains resveratrol and polyphenol antioxidants. But you should look for 80 per cent dark chocolate with minimum sugar if you want to actually benefit from it. You can’t have any chocolate considering it to be good for your skin. On the contrary, sugar causes glycation, which results in early signs of ageing.
15. I will become fair if I take glutathione injections
Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant used for the treatment of liver disorders. It can be taken in the form of tablets or aerosol sprays for its antioxidant benefits. The dose is 600-1200 mg/day and not more. Skin lightening is a side effect of glutathione, as it depletes the pigment melanin from the skin. However, not everybody develops a side effect. Moreover, for the side effect to persist, you will need to continue taking glutathione. Once you stop it, your colour may go back to what it used to be within a year or so, sometimes even earlier. And if you do not develop a side effect to glutathione, it will not make your skin lighter unless you overdose yourself. It is not yet US FDA approved.