8 Myths About Skin Care You Should Know About
Sometimes we read things about skin care products that are clearly incorrect, or at best, half truths. Here we explain why you should take statements like these with a grain of salt!
Myth 1: Rosehip oil (and other oils like sea buckthorn oil) contain abundant vitamin C
Wrong! Rosehip oil and sea buckthorn oil contain no vitamin C at all! While it’s true that the whole fruit of rosehips and sea buckthorn contain abundant vitamin C, the vitamin C found in these fruits is water soluble, and so none is retained in the oil. This means that no oil contains any naturally occurring vitamin C. The same goes for B vitamins, which are also water-soluble, and protein. Vitamin A, its precursor beta-carotene, and vitamin E are oil-soluble, so these vitamins are often present in significant quantities in plant oils. If someone claims a naturally occurring oil is high in vitamin C, please do not believe them!
Myth 2 : Coconut oil is good for all skin types
We love adding coconut oil to our body moisturisers, and a lot of people use it as a natural, no-nonsense makeup remover. However, coconut oil is not a great choice for use on the face if you have oily or acne-prone skin. It is made up mostly of saturated fats, with virtually no essential fatty acids, and can clog pores of those with oily skin unless it is diluted with a more appropriate oil. If you have oily skin, reserve the use of this oil for the body!
Myth 3: Lemon juice is good for oily skin
Using lemon juice on the skin can be risky for a couple of reasons. Firstly, lemon juice is very acidic, and can upset the skin’s barrier function, resulting in inflammation and other problems. Secondly, it contains chemicals that increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, which can result in burns, blistering and inflammation, sometimes causing permanent scarring. We recommend never using lemon juice, even in dilute form, on the skin.
Myth 4: Skin care products can add collagen to the skin
As we age, the amount of collagen in our skin falls, resulting in thinner skin that is more prone to wrinkling. It would be lovely if we could simply replace our collagen by adding some kind of magic ingredient to a cream, but it worries me that so many expensive creams out there use the word ‘collagen’ in their title, suggesting that they will magically replace the lost collagen in your skin. To date the only topically applied molecules known to boost collagen levels in the skin are the retinoids, particularly tretinoin (summarised in 1) and the hydroxy acids (summarised in 2). Apart from these two proven treatments, protecting our collagen is probably the best way to keep our skin looking youthful. We have written about how diet, lifestyle, and choosing the right skin care products (read it here) can help keep your skin - and the rest of your body - youthful.
Myth 5: The water in your moisturiser hydrates your skin
We have talked about water in moisturisers before, and why we don’t add it to our skin care products (read it here). When skin creams were invented in the early 1900’s, water was mixed with oils for the first time to make ‘cold creams’. The true function of the water was to dilute the oil component so that it would spread thinly over the skin. Today things haven’t changed much - up to 85% of a cream may be water, and most of it evaporates within 15 minutes (3). The outer layer of our skin is hydrated temporarily when we soak in water or apply a water-based cream, but that external water evaporates quickly. It is the oil component of a moisturiser that smooths our skin and helps form a barrier to water loss. Substances naturally produced in our skin, known collectively as Natural Moisturising Factor, also help keep water in our skin. The external application of water by any means will only temporarily hydrate our skin.
Myth 6: Emulsifiers in skin care products are harmless
Emulsifiers are synthetic molecules that must be added to any water-containing cream so that the oil and water components mix and form a stable cream. Emulsifiers are detergent-like molecules that bind to both water and oil, so that an emulsion can form. When a moisturiser is applied, the water evaporates but the emulsifier remains on the skin. Some emulsifiers are known skin irritants (4). Some, even the mildest nonionic emulsifiers, may upset the skin’s barrier function (5), causing water loss. This is not surprising: emulsifiers are detergent-like, and therefore have the ability to disturb the skin’s natural lipid structure that forms our skin’s barrier. Although there are some emulsifiers that cause no evident harm to most people, at Mokosh we do not use emulsifiers of any kind in our moisturisers. That means no one is left wondering whether these detergent-like molecules are harming your skin!
Myth 7: Preservatives are relatively harmless, and are needed in all skin care products
It’s true that preservatives must be added to any skin care product that contains water, because they are needed to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi. At Mokosh, we don’t add preservatives because of the unusual way we make our skin care - that is, without water.
Not all preservatives are considered harmless. Preservatives, along with fragrances, are the most common causes of contact allergies (6). Parabens are the most commonly used preservatives in skin care, and regulatory authorities state that they are safe to add to both food and skin care products at low levels. Some scientists do not agree that parabens are safe (Read our review here). Recently it was shown that parabens have oestrogenic effects even at the low doses considered safe for human consumption (7). For skin care, this is concerning, as it is known that parabens are absorbed into the skin and must be metabolised before they are excreted. Given the choice, I would not apply a substance that is known to be weakly oestrogenic to my skin each day! Finally, it has been shown that preservatives in skin care products will kill bacteria living in the skin to which they are applied, potentially altering the skin’s microbiome (8). We have written about the importance of protecting the skin’s microbiome here.
Myth 8: Essential oils are safe because they're natural
There are a number of essential oils that we would never use in our skin care products, because they are too risky for some people. Some are known to be toxic - for example, essential oils of pennyroyal, sassafras and sage. Others can cause photosensitisation, causing burns and blistering when exposed to the sun, for example bergamot, bitter orange and lemon essential oils. Some can be sensitising, increasing the risk of contact dermatitis, for example clove, clary sage and basil essential oils. Even the safer essential oils should be used in skin care at a rate of 1% or less, and they should never be used undiluted on the skin. Children and babies are particularly sensitive to the effects of essential oils and some health professionals recommend that children and pregnant women should avoid them altogether. Read more about essential oil safety here. Although we love using essential oils in many of our products for their wonderful health benefits, we have ensured our range contains plenty of essential oil free options for people who cannot tolerate them.
At Mokosh, we aim to help you understand exactly what you are putting on your skin when you apply skin care products so you will be empowered to make the healthiest choices for yourself and your loved ones.
1. Mukherjee, S. et al (2006) Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clin Interv Aging 1: 327–348
2. Kornhauser, A. et al. (2010) Applications of hydroxy acids: classification, mechanisms, and photoactivity Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol.; 3: 135–142.
3. Blichmann, C.W. et al (1989) Effects of single application of a moisturizer: evaporation of emulsion water, skin surface temperature, electrical conductance, electrical capacitance, and skin surface (emulsion) lipids Acta Derm Venereol. 69:327-30.
4. Corazza M, Virgili A, Ricci M, et al. (2016) Contact Sensitization to Emulsifying Agents: An Underrated Issue? Dermatitis.27:276-281
5. Barany, E. et al (2000) Unexpected skin barrier influence from nonionic emulsifiers. International Journal of Pharmaceutics 195:189–195
6. Hamilton, T. and Gannes, G.C. (2011) Allergic contact dermatitis to preservatives and fragrances in cosmetics. Skin Therapy Lett. 16:1-4.
7. Sun, L. et al. (2016) The estrogenicity of methylparaben and ethylparaben at doses close to the acceptable daily intake in immature Sprague-Dawley rats. Sci. Rep. 6: 25173
8. Lalitha, P.V.V. and Prasada, R.A.O. (2013) Impact of superficial blends on skin micro biota. International Journal of Current Pharmaceutical Research 5:61-65