- Toothpaste helps to heal blemishes.
Remedy revealed: Tons of people think that toothpaste helps to dry out blemishes. But it actually does the opposite. “Toothpaste irritates burns, causes more breakouts and scars skin,” Francesca Fusco, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, tells Lifescript, a Web site dedicated to women’s health. Today, toothpastes are especially irritating because of their whitening and bleaching ingredients, she adds.
What do to instead: Forget the toothpaste and turn to traditional acne remedies. One of the best ways to help a blemish heal is to use a spot treatment that contains salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. If you have acne-prone skin, look for cleansers with these ingredients. Plus, you can use an exfoliating formula several times a week to slough off dead skin cells, which contribute to acne when mixed with sebum (skin’s natural oils) and bacteria.
For more information: Tips for Treating Adult Acne, Acne Products: Understanding the Ingredients, Acne Treatment for Dry or Sensitive Skin.
- Vitamin E repairs scars.
Remedy revealed: The idea that vitamin E is a scar superstar goes way back. According to the experts, however, vitamin E isn’t just ineffective but it can also irritate your skin and trigger allergic reactions. For instance, a 1999 study at the University of Miami looked at whether vitamin E helped heal the scars of individuals who had minor surgery. After four weeks, almost one-third of patients experienced an allergic reaction.
What to do instead: It’s best to “clean a burn or wound daily with a mild cleanser or soap and water, followed by a soothing cream such as Aquaphor Healing Ointment,” according to dermatologist Rachel Herschenfeld, M.D., in The Washington Post. For raised or firm scars, she says that steroid injections can help, while laser treatments can improve redness associated with scars.
For more information: Improving Acne Scars and Discoloration, Your Questions Answered on How to Hide and Fade Scars, Minimally Invasive Procedures for Scars.
- Cucumbers perk up puffy eyes.
Remedy revealed: Cucumbers have become the go-to natural remedy to minimize puffiness and swelling and refresh the eyes. In fact, many skin care devotees swear by cucumbers.
But there’s nothing particularly special about cucumbers. They’re mostly made of water, and the small amount that is fiber holds no skin care benefits, writes researcher G. Todorov on this Web site, Smart Skin Care. If you do experience some improvement after applying cucumber slices, it’s because of their temperature.
Specifically, “It is the cold (not the cucumber) that shrinks the swelling by constricting blood vessels and thus reducing inflow of fluid into soft tissues. You can get the same results with a washcloth dipped in cold water,” he says.
What to do instead: For starters, there are various factors that can cause eye puffiness (and once you know the triggers, you can treat them). The natural aging process is one. According to plastic surgeon Darrick E. Antell, M.D., on WebMD: "There is a certain amount of fat naturally in the under-eye area; it's held in place by ligaments. As you age, the ligaments get weaker, allowing the fat to push forward, forming that little puffy pillow under your eye." But how quickly this process happens really depends on your genetics.
Believe it or not, your puffy eyes might be the result of allergies or a sinus infection, and treating the underlying infection can reduce puffiness. If you have other symptoms like a stuffy nose, watery eyes or pain above your cheekbone or brow, then you should see an allergist, WebMD recommends.
Your lifestyle can also play a role. Too much sodium or alcohol can cause puffiness, so cutting down on both can help.
When buying skin care products, look for formulas with caffeine, which is good at reducing swelling, or products specifically designed to treat puffy eyes. That’s because other creams can contain ingredients that boost puffiness, such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid and aloe vera. These humectants are superior moisturizers — because they draw moisture to the skin — but when used too close to the eyes, they lead to puffiness, dermatologist Ron M. Shelton, M.D., says in Shape .
If you’re looking for an instant home remedy, give green tea bags a try. According to dermatologist Audrey Kunin, M.D., in The DERMAdoctor Skinstruction Manual , green tea contains EGCG, a natural anti-inflammatory ingredient that can decrease fluid build-up.
For more information: Effective Eye Creams for Every Need, 5 Pesky Skincare Problems Solved.
- Cleansing helps to eliminate acne.
Remedy revealed: It’s a common misconception that acne is caused by dirty skin, especially because blackheads make it seem like dirt’s to blame. In reality, however, acne is caused by a combo of dead skin, sebum and bacteria. So no amount of washing or scrubbing will help clear up your complexion.
In fact, over-cleansing — washing your skin more than twice a day — and using harsh scrubs can leave skin tight, dry and dull, and worse, it can actually irritate your skin. When the skin loses moisture, it starts churning out more sebum, which makes your complexion greasy and can inflame acne and lead to additional blemishes. You can even create small cysts, according to dermatologist Kenneth Beer, M.D., assistant professor at the University of Miami and director of The Cosmetic Bootcamp, on LifeScript.
Plus, irritating already inflamed skin can also make skin more prone to scarring.
What to do instead: “Acne means your skin is inhabited by bacteria, oil or clogged pores, so you need to use a pad or facial cleanser that contains salicylic acid, an ingredient that exfoliates skin and cleans out pores,” says Dr. Beer.
Keep cleansing like you normally do, unless your skin is feeling tight. If that’s the case, cut back on how often you wash your face and consider a gentler cleanser. Your best bet is to start using an exfoliant a few times a week, if you aren’t already. And, again, like Dr. Beer suggests, consider investing in an anti-acne formula for your skin type.
For more information: How to Banish Blackheads, Banishing Blemishes on the Chest and Arms, A Guy’s Guide to Acne, Preventing Plugged-Up Pores.
- Vaseline prevents wrinkles.
Remedy revealed: Vaseline doesn’t protect the skin from premature aging. However, it can help in other ways. Dry skin tends to look older and highlight fine lines and wrinkles. Applying petroleum jelly to the skin can help to smooth out the lines, and make skin look softer and more supple. Why? "Petroleum jelly is the strongest moisturizer there is because it forces oils into the skin and prevents them from evaporating," New York City dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank, M.D., tells Real Simple. The downside to using petroleum jelly, though, is that it can lead to breakouts because it’s so greasy.
What to do instead: If you’re interested in products that do prevent aging, consider effective ingredients like antioxidants and retinoids (or over-the-counter retinol).
Antioxidants fight off free radicals that damage the skin, promote premature aging and even contribute to skin cancer. Retinoids are prescription-strength vitamin A-derivatives that boost collagen production and even reduce severe sun damage. They’re incredibly potent, and lead to a younger-looking and healthier complexion overall. They tend to irritate and dry out the skin, but there are various retinoids your dermatologist can prescribe depending on your skin type.
If your skin doesn’t tolerate retinoids, you might also look into retinol — a lower-strength vitamin A-derivative that’s available over the counter. Results will take longer and won’t be as dramatic, but retinol causes far less irritation.
For more information: Vitamin C, Coenzyme Q10: Protective Antioxidant Compound, CoffeeBerry: A Wakeup for the Skin,Antioxidants: Power Plants of Youthful Skin, 5 Reasons to Try Retinoids, Top 5 Ways Retinol Can Improve Your Skin.
Because most of the above remedies have been around for years, passed down from generation to generation, it’s tempting to view them as effective solutions. According to the experts, however, in the case of these commonly held beliefs, it’s clear that you’re better off trying other treatments. Many aren’t just ineffective, but they can also harm your skin. So remember to be extra skeptical before trusting your skin to seemingly timeless treatments.