2 top skin care myths you need to stop believing

Michelle Williams laughing

There’s a good chance both will take you by surprise

The Internet can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to beauty. While it can be a treasure trove of brilliant beauty tips and tricks, it can also be a minefield of misinformation. We’ve already warned you about these DIY beauty treatments, and now we’re debunking two top two skin care myths with the help of the pro who knows best, skin expert and founder of Paula’s Choice Skin Care, Paula Begoun.

Myth #1 / Essential oils are good for your skin

Essential oils offer some exceptional aromatherapeutic benefits when inhaled. Spritzing a lavender blend on your pillow before bed can help improve sleep, while citrus or peppermint oils dispersed via an aroma diffuser can boost the energy in your home. But according to Begoun, essential oils are best avoided in your skin care, especially if you have sensitive skin. She explains that although not every substance that makes up an essential oil is bad and that many essential oils are packed full of beneficial antioxidants, it’s the “specific compounds that create an oil’s aroma that can be irritating when applied to the skin”. Additionally, because essential oils are such highly concentrated essences, their potency can cause sensitivity and irritation when applied directly to the skin.

While essential oils might smell great, Begoun notes that what’s good for your nose is rarely good for your skin.

And while it’s all well and good to stop using a product if it causes irritation, what you also need to know is that skin inflammation is often happening below the surface without you even realising. “The skin hides irritation very well, which often means you don’t see the damage it’s causing,” says Begoun. She explains that the best way to think of hidden irritation is like smoking: You can’t actually see the internal damage each cigarette is causing. Skin inflammation and irritation follows the same idea. While you may not be able to see any tangible damage on the skin, that doesn’t mean it’s not occurring below the surface. She also adds that the cumulative impact of using skin care products formulated with potential irritants like essential oils is pro-ageing, which sounds like a positive but is the opposite of anti-ageing. If your skin is constantly being irritated by an external aggressor, collagen degradation can occur, which in turn limits the skin’s ability to fight environment damage and heal itself effectively.

One of the best and easiest ways to prevent any future damage caused by skin irritation is to switch to fragrance-free skin care products. And while finding quality formulas that aren’t packed full of fragrance used to be a hard ask, there are now a plethora of quality brands available to us. Paula’s Choice, Drunk Elephant and Cetaphil are just three of our favourites. But that's not to say all fragranced products (from natural essential oils or synthetic ingredients) are completely bad, it just pays to know what’s in your products and how it could be impacting your skin.

Myth #2 / You should avoid products formulated with parabens

The debate around the pros and cons of parabens has been a hot one in recent years. While some think cumulative exposure to parabens can potentially lead to a number of health issues, others believe parabens to be a safe and gentle preservative.

Parabens are added to formulas to increase their shelf life and protect our favourite products from bacteria, fungus and mould.

Begoun happens to belong to the latter camp. “Parabens are one of the most gentle, broad-spectrum preservatives out there – they’re brilliant.” She adds, the benefits of parabens were called into question “after one study in 2004 found them to be present in 19 out of 20 cancer tissue samples”. She explains that what has largely been forgotten off the back of that study, however, is that while it proved parabens were able to penetrate the skin and remain within the tissue, it didn’t prove they were able to cause cancer.

Begoun also notes the conversation around parabens in skin care formulas specifically, has been overhyped because parabens are found in practically all the foods we consume. “Parabens are found naturally in plants and serve the purpose of protecting that plant from bacteria, fungus and mould. As such, all the fruits and vegetables you eat, from raspberries to lettuce, likely contain parabens. So yes, while parabens were found in tissue samples of 19 cancer patients, there’s absolutely no way to tell if those parabens came from cosmetics. And there’s no research to suggest those parabens were the cause of any health issues,” she notes.

Looking for answers to more of your burning beauty questions? Then discover whether derma rollers are actually good for your skin and find out how often you really need to be washing your makeup brushes.

Do you use products formulated with parabens? Let us know in the comments below.

Main image credit: Getty

Kate has worked for BEAUTYcrew since early 2016, first as a contributor, before being named Beauty Writer in 2017. She loves picking the brains of the industry's top experts to get to the bottom of beauty's toughest questions. Bronze eyeshadow palettes are her weakness and she's forever on the hunt for the perfect nude nail polish to suit her fair skin. Her words can also be found in Men's Health magazine.