Goodbye, dirty doubts

Don't let the dark circles of misconceptions prevent you from caring for your skin, the right way


Skin care is easy, but is made complicated due to the overdose of misleading information. Due to the sheer amount of interest the subject generates, everyone tries to impress the general population by giving more and more tips.

Often, the advice is given with blatant disregard to what is right. But the thing about beauty advice is that we under-value it, unless it is complicated. As an organ, skin itself is simple, unlike other organs like the heart or the liver.

Let’s sift through the heap of data to separate myths from facts.

Myth: Facials help lift the skin; you need to start getting one after 30

A facial is nothing but superficial cleaning and pampering of the skin. It clears the skin for the time being and enhances blood circulation. Apart from that, it doesn’t do much. Facial products [such as papaya, cucumber, strawberry or milk cream] used during a facial neither penetrate the skin, nor play any role in tightening the skin. Also, since the procedure is superficial, there is no age bar — you can even do it before 30.

Myth: Aloe vera, especially when used fresh, is good for skin and hair

Aloe vera certainly has skin-friendly properties but one has to understand it in detail. Aloe vera comes in various varieties, and not all varieties are good for the skin or hair. Besides, only processed aloe vera is good, as it is cleansed of certain unwanted elements. So cutting the leaves of the aloe vera plant from your back yard and applying it on your face is not wise.

Nowadays, many products — moisturisers, face washes, night creams, sun creams or dusting powders — contain aloe vera. But that’s not necessarily the right way to use it. It needs to be used in the proper fashion and in the right dose to give you the desired result. Also, good quality processed aloe vera doesn’t come so cheap that it can be used extensively. Beware of using products just because they claim to contain aloe vera. If you want to use it, select the processed form that is best for you in consultation with your dermatologist/cosmetologist.

Myth: Waxing, threading, shaving reduces facial/body hair

It’s not possible to reduce body or facial hair, unless they are destroyed from the roots. Neither waxing nor threading or shaving is capable of doing that. In fact, in some cases, waxing and threading stimulate hair growth and thickness.

Myth: Scrubbing with pumice stones/loofah is good for removing dead skin

Our skin has a natural tendency to throw away dead skin. So, normal cleaning with soap and gentle rubbing with a towel is enough to get rid of it. In fact, harsh scrubbing with a loofah or a pumice stone can cause deep pigmentation, which is difficult to treat and in many cases irreversible.

Myth: Applying fruits and vegetables can do no harm as they are natural

No systematic study validates the benefits of applying fruits and vegetables to the skin. Because of excess dependence on such measures, people often miss much better and trusted ways of taking care of the skin. Lemon, cucumber, tomato and garlic are commonly used for external application. However, they have a limited role to play in skin care. Take cucumber for instance. Patients often complain that they have dark circles, despite applying cucumber discs on the under eyes. Cucumber can only help to an extent; it can do nothing if your problem is hormonal. There are many factors that lead to a certain skin problem. And it’s important to find the right cause before resorting to treatments.

Using vegetables and fruits indiscriminately can cause irritation, which can lead to allergy and dermatitis. The best thing to do with them is to eat them. They will provide you a good source of vitamins and minerals, which will improve the health of your skin.

Myth: Natural products are always good for the skin

Natural does not always mean harmless. There are many hazardous and toxic herbs, which can harm your skin. The type, quality and processing of natural products is important. I fail to understand how natural products can produce lather. This suggests that not all natural products are made only with natural ingredients and hence may not be as good for your skin as you think.

Myth: Steam is good for all skin types

Taking a steam on your face helps loosen blackheads and whiteheads and to that extent, it is good. However, it should never be taken for over one or two minutes. The high temperatures of the steam can destroy elastin/collagen and can open pores wider than necessary. Also, it is not recommended for everyone to take steam, some individuals are, in fact, strictly forbidden because of their skin type.

Myth: Trimming cuticles is an essential part of nail care

Cuticles are designed to protect underlying nail matrix. The habit of trimming or pushing them back during manicure can damage the cuticle and lead to an infection.

Myth: Bleaching removes tan and makes you fair

Bleaching plays no role in making your skin fair. The colour of your skin is decided by your melanin count. What bleaching does is to lighten the facial hair, helping it blend with your skin tone [although not completely], which makes you appear fairer. People also believe that it is a must-do procedure after a facial. There is absolutely no need for you to do it after a facial; you can do it any time, since there is no correlation.

Myth: Branded cosmetics never cause problems

It does not matter if a product is branded or unbranded. If it does not suit your skin, it will cause problems. So, do a patch test before using anything on your skin.

Myth: Branded cosmetics never cause problems

It does not matter if a product is branded or unbranded. If it does not suit your skin, it will cause problems. So, do a patch test before using anything on your skin.

Myth: High SPF is good

For Indian skin and climatic conditions, an SPF of 15 – 30 is sufficient to protect against UV damage.

Myth: Imported cosmetics are better than local ones

Products made abroad are made as per skin types and weather conditions prevailing in that particular country. These may not match the environment and skin types found in other countries. So, it cannot be said conclusively that imported products are better than local products.

Myth: Cleansing, toning and moisturising is a must for all

No two persons have the same skin. Hence, they can’t follow the same routine. For instance, if your face is not dry, you need not use a moisturiser. Following a blanket routine without considering your skin type, is like playing a game of cricket with a baseball bat. I suggest you get the right bat and then play as much you want.

Myth: Using castor oil increases growth of eye lashes and eye brows

Application of any oil does not affect rate of hair growth, it just stimulates blood circulation.

This was first published in the August 2011 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

Dr Ashwini Padmawar is chief dermato-cosmetologist and founder of DermaCare Skin Clinic. She is also attached to a major hospital chain in Mumbai as a dermatologist and has been the panel cosmetologist for Miss Maharashtra, Miss Navi Mumbai and Mr Navi Mumbai pageants.


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