The 15 Most Shocking Beauty Myths Busted


In this Article:

  1. You should choose skincare products based on your age.
  2. Hypoallergenic products are better for sensitive skin.
  3. "Age spots" are simply a fact of getting older.
  4. You'll eventually outgrow acne.
  5. Makeup causes acne.
  6. Expensive cosmetics are better than inexpensive ones.
  7. Natural ingredients are better for skin.
  8. If a product cools or tingles on skin, it’s working.
  9. Blackheads can be washed or scrubbed away.
  10. Dry skin? Drink more water!
  11. Your skin adapts to products you use so they eventually stop working.
  12. There are skincare products that can work like Botox or dermal fillers.
  13. Everyone needs an eye cream separate from their facial moisturizer.
  14. Your anti-aging products should contain collagen and/or elastin.
  15. Mineral oil is bad for skin.
  16. Recommended Articles

Between fashion magazines, beauty blogs, and YouTube tutorials galore, there’s more beauty advice available at your fingertips than ever before. Unfortunately, while well meaning, a lot of it is inaccurate. Most of us have seen tips like dry skin can be fixed by drinking more water or that a tingling sensation means a product is working, but surprise—those aren’t true. Read on to learn the truth behind these top beauty myths and learn what really works!

Myth: You should choose skincare products based on your age.

Fact: Many products on the market claim to be designed for a specific age group (especially for "mature" skin, which the industry refers to as anyone 50+), but age is NOT a skin type.

Not everyone in the same age group has the same skin type, which is why choosing products based on your age isn’t a wise way to shop. Turning 50 does not mean you should automatically assume your skin is drying up and therefore, in need of richly emollient products for "mature" skin—that’s simply not true for everyone. For example, if your skin is still oily, using emollient products will only make matters worse. Instead, the skincare products you buy should be dictated by YOUR skin type and skin concerns.

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A classic example of this is the fact that for some of us, turning 50 doesn’t mean the battle with breakouts is over. People of any age can struggle with acne and blackheads. There’s no shame in using anti-acne products whether you’re 13 or 63—the ultimate goal is to have clear skin. You can fight breakouts with products like our Clear anti-acne treatments, no matter what your age—and you can still use anti-aging products, too!

Myth: Hypoallergenic products are better for sensitive skin.

Fact: There are no accepted testing methods, ingredient restrictions, regulations, guidelines, rules, or procedures of any kind for determining whether a product qualifies as being hypoallergenic. [1,2]

The term "hypoallergenic" is meant to imply that a product is unlikely or less likely to cause allergic reactions and, therefore, is better for allergy-prone or sensitive skin types. The problem? Beyond the fact that "hypoallergenic" is an unregulated term, we’ve seen hundreds of products labeled "hypoallergenic" or "good" for sensitive skin that contain seriously problematic ingredients (like fragrances, whether natural or synthetic) capable of triggering allergic breakouts or sensitive skin reactions. And many of us have used products labeled hypoallergenic that have caused a reaction of some sort.

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If sensitive or allergy-prone skin is one of your concerns, then the #1 thing to look for is products that are free of irritants. The major irritants that show up in an astounding number of products, especially in products labeled organic or natural, are fragrance (both synthetic and natural fragrance are equally bad for all skin types), high amounts of alcohol (isopropyl, SD, or denatured alcohol), and harsh cleansing agents. [3,4] ALL of these ingredients can (and often do) appear in products labeled hypoallergenic.

Myth: "Age spots" are simply a fact of getting older.

Fact: First, the term "age spot" isn’t quite accurate. Brown, freckle-like skin discolorations are not a result of age; they are the result unprotected sun exposure, including past suntans.

Sun spots, dark spots, brown spots—whatever you want to call them—can show up at any age, from the freckles sprinkled across a child's nose to smooth, flat brown discolorations you may see as early as your mid-20s, depending on how much sun exposure you’ve had. At any age, treating sun-induced brown discolorations takes proven ingredients (such as hydroquinone, niacinamide, vitamin C, and select plant extracts) plus daily broad-spectrum sun protection to make a noticeable, lasting difference. [5,6]

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Other promising skin-lightening ingredients include licorice extract (specifically glabridin), azelaic acid, arbutin, flavonoids, hesperidin, and polyphenols. Get more info about how to use skin-lighteners + products recommendations via this article.

Myth: You'll eventually outgrow acne.

Fact: If only that were true! Adults in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and even 50s can have acne just like teenagers, and the treatment principles remain the same.

Having clear skin as a teenager isn’t a guarantee that you won't get acne later in life, for women that could mean breakouts during menopause or pregnancy. You can blame this often-maddening inconsistency on hormones! What is true is that men typically outgrow acne, because after puberty male hormone levels become more balanced, while women's hormone levels fluctuate throughout their lifetime. That’s why many women experience breakouts around their menstrual cycle and, for some, during or after menopause.

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Acne is tricky enough on its own, but it can be made even worse by the abundance of misguided "treatment" advice blasted on the web and in magazines. See our article on top acne myths busted to make sure you don’t fell prey to these mistakes!

Myth: Makeup causes acne.

Fact: Not if you’re taking it off correctly and consistently—there’s no research indicating that makeup or skincare products cause acne, and there is no consensus on which ingredients or mix of products are problematic.

Foundations are designed to stay on the top of skin; they don’t absorb into the pore and cause problems like thick, emollient moisturizers can. But what can cause acne is not getting all of your makeup off at night. Rather than blame your breakouts on the makeup you’re wearing, blame it on being a bit too tired at night to follow your skincare routine. For more on this subject see our article on Makeup for Acne-Prone Skin.

Myth: Expensive cosmetics are better than inexpensive ones.

Fact: The absolute truth is that there are good and bad products in all price categories. It's all about the formulation, not the price.

You would be shocked at how many expensive products are little more than water and wax—and how many inexpensive products are brilliantly formulated. Spending less doesn't hurt your skin, and spending more doesn't necessarily help it. Again, it's all about the formulation, not the price.

Myth: Natural ingredients are better for skin.

Fact: There’s no factual basis or scientific legitimacy proving natural or "organic" ingredients are better for skin. In fact, some "natural" ingredients actually do more harm than good.

Not only is the definition of "natural" hazy, but the term is loosely regulated, so any cosmetics company can use it to mean whatever they want it to mean. For example, many antioxidants are naturally derived, but by the time they are extracted, purified and processed, they are far from their natural beginnings. Additionally, just because an ingredient grows out of the ground or is found in nature doesn't make it automatically good for skin. The reverse is also true, just because a cosmetic ingredient is synthetic doesn't make it bad.

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Ideally, the skincare products you choose should contain a mix of beneficial naturally-derived and synthetic ingredients. When properly formulated, these ingredients work in harmony to give your skin the best that natural and synthetic have to offer, and you'll see the difference. Nevertheless, if natural is the way you want to go, just make sure the formulas you choose omit irritants, such as essential oils, and are stably packaged to keep the superstar ingredients stable.

Myth: If a product cools or tingles on skin, it’s working.

Fact: This sensation is your skin telling you it is being irritated, not helped.

Ingredients that cause a cool or tingling sensation, such as menthol, peppermint, camphor, and mint are counter-irritants. Counter-irritants are used to induce local inflammation in an effort to reduce inflammation in deeper or adjacent tissues. In other words, they substitute one kind of inflammation for another, which is never good for skin.

Irritation or inflammation, no matter what causes it or how it happens, impairs the skin's immune and healing response. And although your skin may not show it or react in an irritated fashion, if you apply irritants to your skin the damage is still taking place. Scary fact: This often-unseen damage is ongoing, so it adds up over time. [7]

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Additionally, irritating skin triggers stress-sensing nerve endings at the base of the pore, which in turn stimulate more oil production. [8] Not good news for anyone with oily/acne-prone skin—yet many products geared for those skin types produce this sensation. Don’t fall for it!

Myth: Blackheads can be washed or scrubbed away.

Fact: Blackheads may make skin look dirty, but they are unrelated to dirt or to how often you wash your face.

Blackheads develop when a clog forms within the pore and prevents oil and cellular debris from exiting the pore normally. As this clog nears the surface of the skin, the mixture of oil and cellular debris oxidizes and turns, you guessed it, black. Despite product claims that sound tempting, you cannot scrub away blackheads, at least not completely. Using a topical scrub removes the top portion of the blackhead, but does nothing to address the underlying cause, so they're back again before too long.

Think of it like the difference between mowing over a weed instead of pulling it out of the soil, roots and all. [9,10]

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Instead of a scrub, try using a well-formulated BHA (salicylic acid) product. Salicylic acid exfoliates inside the pore lining, dissolving oil and dead skin cells that lead to constant blackheads and breakouts. Paula's Choice offers a broad selection of BHA products, which you can find here.

Myth: Dry skin? Drink more water!

Fact: Ironically, dry skin is not as simple as just a lack of moisture. And, surprisingly, drinking more water won't make dry skin look or feel better.

The studies that have compared the water content of dry skin to that of normal or oily skin show that there doesn't appear to be a statistically significant difference. And adding more moisture to the skin is not necessarily a good thing. If anything, too much moisture, like soaking in a bathtub, is bad for skin because it disrupts the skin's outer barrier (the intracellular matrix) by breaking down the substances that keep skin cells functioning normally and in good shape. So how does dry skin happen?

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When dry skin occurs, the intracellular matrix (the substances between skin cells that keep them intact, smooth, and healthy) has become depleted or damaged, bringing about a rough, uneven, and flaky texture that allows water to be lost. But adding water won't keep that moisture in skin unless the outer barrier is maintained or repaired. To prevent dry skin, the primary goal is to avoid and reduce anything that damages the outer barrier, including sun damage, products that contain irritating ingredients, alcohol, drying cleansers, and smoking. All of the research about dry skin is related to the ingredients and treatments that reinforce the substances in skin that keep it functioning normally. [11,12]

As for drinking lots of water each day, if all it took to get rid of dry skin was to drink more water, then no one would have dry skin and moisturizers would stop being sold. Keeping your liquid intake up is fine, but if you take in more water than your body needs, all you will be doing is going to the bathroom more often! The causes of and treatments for dry skin are far more complicated than water consumption.

Myth: Your skin adapts to products you use and eventually stop working.

Fact: Skin doesn't adapt to skincare products any more than your body adapts to a healthy diet.

Spinach and grapes are healthy for you today, and they’ll continue to be healthy for you six months from now, even if you eat them every day. The same is true for your skin: As long as you are applying what is healthy for skin (and avoiding negative external sources such as unprotected sun exposure) it remains healthy.

You may see skin stop improving as much as it initially did. However, it stands to reason that if you were using products with irritating or drying ingredients and then switch to well-formulated products, your initial improvement is going to be much more dramatic than what you'll see months down the road, when skin is maintaining its new-found healthy, younger appearance.

Myth: There are skincare products that can work like Botox or dermal fillers.

Fact: There is no research showing that skincare products can work even remotely like Botox or dermal fillers.

When administered by professionals, Botox and dermal injections almost immediately make wrinkles and folds in the treated area disappear. Believing that skincare products can do the same, over any length of time, is a complete waste of money. If skincare products did work like Botox or dermal fillers, they would be exceedingly dangerous for consumers to use. Just think, if you slathered on a product that worked like Botox to "relax" or paralyze muscles, it could lead to drooping and sagging. And how would you be able to control the application?

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Interestingly, there are two companies (Revance Therapeutics and Allergan) that are in the process of developing a topical version of Botox. Both are still in the testing phase, with FDA approval still years out. Once approved, the treatment will only be available at a qualified practitioner's office and will require administration by a doctor who is experienced with Botox and well-versed in how it affects muscles.

Although initial testing has shown impressive results, many dermatologists remain skeptical that the topical version of Botox will offer as dramatic of results as the injectable form. Nonetheless, for those who do not want to go under the needle, it’s a potential alternative. And just to reiterate, this is not a skincare treatment that you’ll be able buy at a store—it will require a trained professional’s calibrated application.

Myth: Everyone needs an eye cream separate from their facial moisturizer.

Fact: Any product loaded with antioxidants, emollients, skin-repairing and anti-inflammatory ingredients can work wonders when used around the eye area. Those ingredients don't have to come from a product labeled as an eye cream or gel or serum or balm—they can come from any well-formulated moisturizer or serum.

However, if you are using a lightweight lotion or gel moisturizer, even if it is a wonderful formula, it may not be rich enough for the eye-area skin, which for many is drier than skin on the rest of the face. That’s when you may want to consider an eye cream.

What about eye creams for improving dark circles and puffiness? Some can help, but, sadly, none can eliminate either concern, especially age-related puffiness (often referred to as "undereye bags"), which require cosmetic surgery.

Myth: Your anti-aging products should contain collagen and/or elastin.

Fact: The collagen and/or elastin in skincare products cannot fuse with the collagen and elastin in your skin to help rebuild or reinforce those structures.

The molecular sizes of both collagen and elastin are too large (WAY too large!) to penetrate the skin’s surface. [13] Some products claim that the collagen or elastin they include has been "bioengineered" so it’s small enough to be absorbed into the skin. As helpful as that sounds, it’s completely useless. No matter how small these ingredients are engineered to become, they still will not fuse with the collagen and elastin in your skin. Claims to the contrary are not supported by independent, peer-reviewed research.

Even if there were some remote possibility that the collagen and elastin in skincare products could reinforce those elements in your skin, how would it know which collagen and elastin to attach to in your skin, and which to leave alone so the wrong parts of your face don’t start puffing out or becoming lumpy? Fortunately, that’s a scenario we don’t have to worry about, because it simply doesn’t work that way.

Myth: Mineral oil is bad for skin.

Fact: This recurring misinformation about mineral oil and petrolatum is maddening because it just isn't accurate.

Although mineral oil does originate from crude oil, this oil is as natural as any other earth-derived substance. Moreover, lots of ingredients are derived from awful-sounding sources, but are nevertheless benign and totally safe. Salt is a perfect example. Common table salt is sodium chloride, composed of sodium and chloride, but salt doesn't have the caustic properties of chlorine (which chloride is derived from) or the unstable explosiveness of pure sodium. Mineral oil is actually a great ingredient for dry skin! [14].

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Cosmetics-grade mineral oil and petrolatum are considered the safest, most non-irritating moisturizing ingredients ever found. Yes, they can reduce the amount of air that comes in contact with skin, and reduce its impact on skin, but that's what a good antioxidant is supposed to do; they don't suffocate skin! There are several studies showing that mineral oil can help heal and moisturize skin quite effectively. [14,15]

The confusion around mineral oil is also caused by some cosmetics companies and people who use the information about non-purified mineral oil as a scare tactic. The mineral oil used in skincare products is certified as either USP (United States Pharmacopeia) or BP (British Pharmacopeia), and it's completely safe, soothing, and healthy for skin. It does not contain impurities that harm skin in any way. Those with oily or breakout-prone skin may not find the texture of mineral oil favorable but it’s not known to clog pores because it remains on the surface of skin, protecting it from dryness. [14,15]

Recommended Articles:

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth scientific research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! Learn more at Shop Paula's Choice.

References Cited:

  1. Murphy L, White I, Rastogi S. Is hypoallergenic a credible term? Clin Exp Dermatol. 2004;29(3):325-7.
  2. Wolf R, Wolf D, Tüzün B, Tüzün Y. Cosmetics and contact dermatitis. Dermatol Therapy. 2001;14:181–7.
  3. Johansen J. Fragrance contact allergy: a clinical review. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2003;4(11):789-98.
  4. Kwak S, et al. Ethanol perturbs lipid organization in models of stratum corneum membranes: An investigation combining differential scanning calorimetry, infrared and (2)H NMR spectroscopy. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012;1818(5):1410-9.
  5. Baumann L. Skin ageing and its treatment. J Pathol. 2007;211(2):241-51.
  6. Battie C, et al. New insights in photoaging, UVA induced damage and skin types. Exp Dermatol. 2014;23 Suppl 1:7-12.
  7. Basketter D, Darlenski R, Fluhr J. Skin irritation and sensitization: mechanisms and new approaches for risk assessment. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2008;21(4):191-202.
  8. Tanghetti E. The role of inflammation in the pathology of acne. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2013;6(9):27-35.
  9. Kurokawa I, et al. New developments in our understanding of acne pathogenesis and treatment. Exp Dermatol. 2009;18(10):821-32.
  10. Makrantonaki E, Ganceviciene R, and Zouboulis. An update on the role of the sebaceous gland in the pathogenesis of acne. Dermatoendocrinol. 2011;3(1):41–9.
  11. Rawlings A. Trends in stratum corneum research and the management of dry skin conditions. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2003;25(1-2):63-95.
  12. Harding C, et al. Dry skin, moisturization and corneodesmolysis. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2000;22(1):21-52.
  13. Wehr R, Krochmal L. Considerations in selection a moisturizer. Cutis. 1987;39(6):512-5.
  14. Rawlings A, Lombard K. A review on the extensive benefits of mineral oil. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2012;34(6);511-8.
  15. Nash J, et al. A toxicological review of topical exposure to white mineral oils. Food Chem Toxicol. 1996;34(2):213-25.

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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