The Most Controversial Skin-Care Practices Aren't What You Think

Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Should I or shouldn't I? When it comes to taking care of your skin, simple questions don't always have simple answers.

And we're not even talking about polarizing procedures, such as Botox or lasers. We mean the seemingly innocuous products and treatments, like eye creams or extractions, that spark debate. Everyone has a different opinion about whether they're beneficial. That's because everyone has different skin. One person's flash in the pan is another's miracle in a jar. The key to finding out what works for you is to collect a ton of information, and to conduct some trial-and-error experiments of your own.

In an effort to help you on your way, we combed through our archives and found opinions from both sides of every beauty coin. Ahead, pros and cons from the experts on some commonplace (but controversial) skin-care practices.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
PRO: Whether they plump with hyaluronic acid or build collagen with a low dose of retinol, many skin-care pros swear by hydrating, brightening, purifying, and even acne-fighting masks. “Acne-prone skin has lower levels of inherent antioxidant enzymes, and less of a natural ability to neutralize free radicals,” says New York City dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD. “Flooding it with antioxidants [in a mask] just as pores have been cleansed of debris can really help shore up [the] skin’s defenses.”

CON: We all love a good face mask, but not every skin expert thinks they're worthwhile. "Face masks are not necessary [to a] skin-care routine," says dermatologist David E. Bank, MD. "You can get the same type of benefits (or, sometimes, even better) from hydrating moisturizers, and exfoliating or medicated facial scrubs."
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
PRO: "Toners, aside from balancing your skin's pH, help to remove any residue left behind after cleansing, and minimize pores," says celebrity aesthetician Christine Chin. "[They] also [make] any treatments you use afterwards more effective, and can act as...[anti-inflammatories]."

CON: “Toners are a complete waste of time,” says Austin-based dermatologist Ted Lain, MD. “Toners came into fashion when facial cleansers were not pH-balanced, leaving an acidic residue on the skin that toners then balanced. Now, however, cleansers are completely balanced, so using a toner is unnecessary."
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
PRO: “Peels help to resurface, stimulate collagen, and keep fine lines and pigmentation at bay,” says Haideh Hirmand, MD. Milder at-home peels are also good for maintenance after an in-office peel, she says, but on their own, they’re not as effective as the professional variety. "Pretty much any kind of peel works," says Dr. Hirmand, "if your goal is to look rejuvenated."

CON:
If you don't have problem skin, then chemical peels are probably a waste of time, and money, says Dr. Bank. "Chemical peels are not a necessary part of a person’s beauty routine. Rather, they are a type of treatment for those who suffer from acne, sunspots, and even fine lines," he says. "[It's] a cosmetic procedure...but not necessary to keeping skin healthy."
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
PRO: “Dark circles around the eyes can be caused by transparent, thin skin, so you're seeing the veins underneath,” says Debra Jaliman, MD. Eye creams that contain brightening ingredients can significantly improve the appearance of shadows, while others help to de-puff and soften wrinkles.

CON:
This may come as a shock to you, but Joanna Czech — one of the world's top aestheticians, owner of a new eponymous spa in Dallas, and global skin-care advisor for La Mer — doesn't think you need to use eye cream. "If your moisturizer is hydrating, you can just use that around your eyes," she says. It's as simple as that.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
PRO: But Czech is all about facials. "The facial should be an integral part of everyone’s regime, starting at any age when imbalances of the skin (acne, pigmentation, etc.) start to arise," she says. "For instance, facials could be beneficial for adolescents looking for more supportive, alternative ways to treat the skin. For individuals approaching [their] 30s and beyond, facials become a necessity. A facial should be viewed similarly to a healthy diet and exercise — consistency is the key to any and all results."

CON:
Dermatologist Hadley King, MD, of Skinney Medspa, thinks facials are unnecessary — or, at least, overrated. "They may be fun and nice and relaxing, and totally worth it if you want to feel pampered, but I do not think they are really doing anything meaningful for your skin," she says. "There are so many treatment options that are likely to produce better results at doctors' offices or medspas. And some at-home treatments deliver similar results with greater convenience and lower prices."
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
PRO: Over the past couple years, the popular Japanese practice of double-cleansing — washing your face with an oil cleanser, followed by a water-based face wash — has caught on in the States. "It started as the only means of cleansing white, metallic makeup [worn by women as a sign of beauty], which traumatized the skin," says Maree Lavo, vice president of education and sales development at Shiseido. "Cleansing oils were the only product that could remove this very difficult, paint-like foundation. However, after the makeup was removed, a second wash using a foam-like cleanser refreshed the skin and, at the same time, removed any residuals from the oil." Though we wear less makeup today, the process has remained basically the same, and proponents swear by cleansing the face once to remove makeup, and a second time to truly purify the skin.

CON:
Dr. King thinks this is more of a passing trend than a permanent fixture. "Double-washing the face is generally unnecessary," she says. "Unless you are wearing very heavy makeup for the stage or television, you probably can find one cleanser that will clean your face sufficiently."
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
PRO: When asked her thoughts on extractions, Annet King, the director of education for The International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica, says: "Love them! But while necessary for some clients, leave extractions to the pros. Taking on extractions at home can lead to hyperpigmentation, permanent scarring, and additional breakouts. We prep the skin with specialized alkaline-based products to soften the follicle opening and the impaction itself. We have a specialized technique that is painless and never breaks the skin or causes redness or puffiness."

CON: "I'm against most extractions," says aesthetician, cosmetic chemist, and founder of M.S. Apothecary Mary Schook.
"I rarely ever perform them. They can create LOTS of damage [if performed by] the wrong hands. There are VERY few technicians that do an extraction correctly."

Dr. King, the dermatologist, adds: "[Extractions] are okay if it is important to you to temporarily remove some of the normal keratin plugs from your pores, but even the best results will only be temporary. And extractions should never be done on inflamed or infected skin."
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