Beauty "Truths" We Now Know Are BS

Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
You’re a smart woman, so chances are you know a lot of beauty truths. For one, sunscreen is the best way to prevent signs of aging. And, eating chocolate? It doesn't cause acne. Most of us grew up learning certain facts about beauty, and they’ve carried us well into an adulthood of clear skin and lustrous hair. (Or, at least, something very close to it...hey, nobody’s perfect.)
While certain beauty basics are infallible, some of the conventional wisdom around beauty just doesn’t hold up. At all. So, we’re setting the record straight on some misconceptions about hair, makeup, and skin. Does drinking water actually hydrate your skin? Are natural ingredients less irritating? And, should you think about using fillers if you were born after 1990? The answers may surprise you.
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Read on to discover 12 beauty “truths” we now know are bunk — and the facts you actually need to know. Because, as a poet once said: Beauty is truth, truth beauty.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
We’ve heard it time and time again: For hydrated, healthy skin, you’ve gotta guzzle a lot of water. But, in reality, all of that agua doesn’t actually make it to your skin. “Water intake doesn't really correlate with skin hydration unless one is extremely dehydrated,” says Dr. Dendy Engelman, a dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon in New York City. “True skin hydration either is endogenous — meaning we create it ourselves through natural oil production — or it's exogenous, [meaning] we add moisture to the skin through creams, lotions, or oils.”

But, she adds, drinking H2O is still essential: "A general rule of thumb for good general health is to drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water per day." You’ll just need to invest in a good night cream as well.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
It’s true that using injectable fillers (think: Juvéderm) and neurotoxins such as Xeomin can reduce your chances of developing future lines. “The current consensus in the aesthetics community is that introducing injectables (toxins and filler) at an earlier age can prevent or slow the signs of aging,” says Dr. Engelman. “If we can’t make the wrinkle, we won't form the line.”

But, says Dr. Jeannette Graf, a dermatologist in New York City, most people don’t need to start in their 20s. “I am not a fan of ‘preventive’ injecting for many reasons, including the fact that it's expensive,” she says. “Also, the patient may not always require injections in those areas and could thus potentially cause a disfiguring appearance.” Dr. Graf recommends waiting until signs of aging start to show — generally in one’s 30s — for natural-looking results. “When injections are performed appropriately to the correct candidate,” she says, “the earlier they are addressed, the better and longer lasting the result is.”
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Natural ingredients have a host of benefits, and because they’re not cooked up in a synthetic-chemicals lab, they should be easier on your skin — or so you might think. But, as Dr. Graf points out, certain essential oils can trigger reactions when used on sensitive skin. “Some of the most common oils that can cause irritation include clove, peppermint, ginger, cinnamon, and tea tree oil,” she explains. If you’re going to go natural, Graf recommends looking for the highest quality ingredients possible. “The purer the extract,” she says, “the less potentially irritating the oil.”
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Lots of us have heard the recent concerns about hydroquinone, a skin-brightening ingredient, but Dr. Engelman says serious side effects are highly unusual. She points to a condition called exogenous ochronosis, a darkening effect on skin that has been treated with a brightening agent like hydroquinone. “This is rarely, if ever, seen in the U.S. market,” she explains. “The reports have been in countries where they formulate much higher concentrations of hydroquinone.” (In the United States, a maximum of 4% hydroquinone is allowed in prescription formulas.)

Still, the safety of hydroquinone continues to be debated; the European Union and Japan have banned the ingredient due to its possible link to cancer. Our advice: As with any drug, consult your dermatologist before using it.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
It takes quite a while to fade dark spots, but guess what? It doesn’t take much time in the sun for them to come back. “There is no point in treating hyperpigmentation,” says Dr. Engelman, “unless you commit to daily photo protection with a physical sunscreen.” Look for formulas that contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Well, this depends on your definition of “breathing,” says Elena Arboleda, Mario Badescu head aesthetician. “I’m pretty sure that what most people mean when they give the advice to let your skin ‘breathe’ is that it is good to let your skin be bare — or almost bare — sometimes.”

While your skin certainly does not have itty-bitty lungs within each pore, going #makeupfree now and then isn’t a bad idea. “Dirt, oil, makeup, and pollution can build up on the skin,” Arboleda says, adding that proper cleansing and exfoliation will help clear the skin of those pore-cloggers. But, don’t worry about suffocating your skin with makeup; it’s simply not possible.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Don’t you love how a facial can open up your pores, dig out the gunk, and close ‘em up so they look miniscule? Only one issue: That’s not actually what happens. “The idea that pores can be open, closed, or shrunk is not true,” Arboleda says. “Pore size is mostly determined by genetics, and they do not open or close.”

But, she adds, they can stretch, which is why congested pores appear larger (and clear ones look smaller). When an aesthetician steams your skin during a facial, she's not "opening" your pores — she's softening the sebum within them. “This makes it easier to clear the pore with a treatment or extractions,” Arboleda explains. “The more clear your pores are, the more refined they will look.” Now you know.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Remember how well that serum worked...for the first three months, at least? And, then it just didn’t seem to do a dang thing anymore? Arboleda says you’re probably not imagining things, but the product isn’t “broken” — you just need a shift in perspective.

“It is easy to forget that your skin is an organ,” she says. “It will change, age, and, sometimes, completely freak out. Your skin-care regimen needs to evolve when your skin does. So, while it may seem like your products stopped working, it is probably time to adjust your regimen to suit the changes in your skin.” In other words, your skin is having a whole “it’s not you, it’s me” conversation with your products, and it may be time to move on.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
We all want a gleaming smile, so it might seem that regular bleaching will keep teeth bright and white. Unfortunately, you actually can go overboard with whitening, says Dr. Stanton E. Young, DMD, a dentist in New York City. “Excessive whitening can make the teeth translucent,” he says. “I don’t advocate [using] bleaching trays or Whitestrips frequently,” he adds.

So, how often can you reasonably brighten your teeth? Once a year is fine, Young says. Unless you’re going for a see-through smile, it's best to heed his advice.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
The Food and Drug Administration evaluates beauty products to ensure their safety, right? Wrong. “Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, cosmetic products and ingredients, except for color additives, do not need FDA approval before they go on the market,” explains FDA spokesperson Theresa Eisenman.

But, she adds, products "must not be harmful to consumers when used according to directions on the label or under customary or expected conditions of use." Through the Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program, cosmetics companies are encouraged to report their formulations and safety data — but they're not legally required to do so.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
This one depends on the situation. Stylist Clint Wilson of Salon SCK in New York City says brushing dry hair will cause curly hair to frizz out, but when it’s wet, you can brush with impunity. “The best time to brush the hair is after a shower, using a bit of leave-in conditioner or detangler once it's towel-dried,” he explains.

Once it’s dry, shift to a wide-tooth comb — or use your fingers. “Taking your hands right through the roots and giving it a good shake gives curly hair lift,” he says.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
“It's an urban legend,” Wilson says. “It doesn't do anything to the root. Trimming your hair just creates the illusion that it’s growing.” So, why does it seem like your hair grows faster if you go in for regular trims? It’s all about split ends. “Breakage starts at the bottom and works its way up the hair follicle,” Wilson explains.

Chopping off the damaged ends, he adds, makes your coiff look fuller and healthier — but it won’t turn you into Rapunzel. That also goes for combing through your hair 100 times a day, by the way. You can put the brush down now.
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