September 2020

Whilst there is a lot of good information on skin and skincare available, there is also a lot of misinformation. Conflicting or misleading advice that can be harmful to your skin and health is sometimes shared across social platforms or even in the media. Let’s have a look at some common myths to highlight the truth.

Myth #1: ‘Once-a-day’ sunscreens do not need to be reapplied.

Throughout the day we carry out activities which cause us to sweat and cause sunscreen to rub or wash off e.g. resting your arm on a table, hugging someone, washing hands, thus making regular sunscreen reapplication important, regardless of whether it is a standard or ‘once-a-day’ sunscreen.

Myth #2: Exfoliating daily is good for your skin.

Exfoliating gets rid of dull, dead skin cells, but limit it to twice a week. Exfoliating too often will compromise your skin barrier and strip your skin of moisture, and lead to increase sebum production, making oily skin oilier. Consider chemical exfoliators containing ingredients such as lactic acid and glycolic acid as they are gentler on skin compared with physical exfoliators such as scrubs.

Myth #3: Your baby will develop eczema if there is a family history of it.

Having family members with eczema will increase your baby’s risk of developing eczema, but it does not mean that your baby will definitely have eczema. There is good evidence that moisturising your baby daily from the day he/she is born reduces the risk eczema. Use a bland, fragrance free moisturiser suitable for babies.

Myth #4: Physical sunscreens titanium dioxide and zinc oxide work by blocking, reflecting and scattering UV rays, unlike chemical sunscreens which absorb UV rays.

Physical sunscreens do reflect and scatter UV rays, but this only accounts for a very small proportion (approximately 10-15%) of UV rays. Physical sunscreens predominantly work the same way as chemical sunscreens, by absorbing UV rays and converting it to heat.

Myth #5: People with sensitive skin cannot use a retinoid.

Retinoid is an umbrella term for all vitamin A products; retinoic acid esters, retinols, retinaldehydes and retinoic acids. Almost everyone can use a retinoid if used correctly. If you have sensitive skin, start off by using a low strength retinol e.g. 0.3% which is generally better tolerated, with lower side effects and less likely to irritate your skin, and increase how often you use it very gradually.

Myth #6: Psoriasis only affects the skin.

Psoriasis can affect skin, nails and joints, in any combination. People with psoriasis are also at higher risk of developing certain internal medical conditions e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, heart attacks, strokes, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, fractures, anxiety and depression. Current research suggests that the risk of developing some of these conditions are higher, the more severe one’s psoriasis is and controlling the severity of psoriasis may reduce some of these risks.

Myth #7: Sunscreen is only important on sunny days.

The sun emits UV rays all year around. Up to 80% of UV rays penetrate your skin on cloudy days and UVA in particular penetrates through windows, so it is possible to increase your skin cancer risk and skin ageing and burn even on a cloudy day. If you spend any significant amount of time outdoors or indoors by a window, then you should wear sunscreen on all exposed areas all year round.

Myth #8: Makeup with SPF provides adequate sun protection.

SPF refers to UVB and some UVA2 protection. SPF does not tell us how much total UVA protection there is (UVA protection is highlighted by the UVA circle logo or star rating or term ‘broad spectrum’). As makeup generally only mentions SPF, it is difficult to quantify how much total UVA protection makeup provides. It is important that our skin has both adequate UVA and UVB protection, so it is important to use a separate sunscreen.

Myth #9: Black salve is a safe natural treatment for skin cancer.

Black slave is not an effective treatment for skin cancer and it’s use often delays effective medical treatment, making cancer outcomes worse. It is also a highly destructive chemical which causes large, disfiguring, black wounds with dead skin. It’s sale as cancer treatment is illegal in a lot of countries.

Myth #10: Retinoids should not be used around the eyes.

The skin around your eyes age just as much as the rest of your face so it is important to use a retinoid in this area too. The skin around your eyes is thinner and more sensitive so you may need a lower strength retinoid for this area. Start off with a low strength retinol e.g. 0.1% and build up how often you use it very gradually. Consider using a hyaluronic acid product and moisturiser around your eyes 15 minutes after using your retinoid to combat the drying effects of retinoids.

Hopefully this has helped shed some light on the truth. Remember, if you’re not sure speak to a consultant dermatologist or your GP for advice.

Dr Sivanie Sewell, Consultant Dermatologist

Find Dr Sewell on Instagram and Facebook.

Donate to skin disease research    Go to our A-Z of skin disease