By Debra Jaliman, MD
Dermatologists know that there are wonderful, truly effective skincare products being sold in drugstores and department stores. By the same token, we also know that there are some items that, for reasons that mystify me, continue to sell year after year, despite being either useless or downright harmful. Here, in no particular order, are products that I would never encourage my patients to buy:
1) Peel-off strips and masks. Manufacturers promise that these will pull out blackheads and eliminate dead skin, especially around the nose area. What they never mention is these products also damage healthy skin and break blood vessels. If you have any of these strips and masks at home, do yourself a favor and toss them. To get rid of blackheads, use a product with 1-2% salicylic acid every night. You can alternate this with a retinol-containing cream or serum, because retinol encourages skin cell turnover, which means blackheads are less likely to form. It’s best to use any product with retinol or salicylic acid at night, because they increase sun sensitivity. Don’t forget to use sunscreen during the day.
2) Abrasive facial puffs. These are much too harsh for facial skin, which is more sensitive than the rest of the body and should be treated gently. Using these puffs often leads to skin irritation and broken blood vessels, the last thing anybody wants on the face.
3) Nail strengtheners with formaldehyde. The European Union has banned formaldehyde from all nail products, and I wish FDA would do the same. The more upscale nail polishes do not use formaldehyde, but many cheaper brands do, especially in nail-hardening formulations. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen which can cause irritation and allergies, sometimes severe. If your nail polish contains formaldehyde or toluene sulfonamide-formaldehyde resin, just get rid of it.
4) Long-wearing lipsticks. Yes, I understand the attraction of a lipstick that stays on for hours, but most long-wearing lipsticks tend to dry lips and make them peel. In short, you’re not doing your lips any favors by using these.
5) Deodorant soaps. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: deodorant soaps are a terrible idea, since they dry out the skin and cause irritation. Mild soaps or body washes are always best.
6) Waterproof mascara. I see many models and actresses in my practice, so I’ve observed the effects of waterproof mascaras many times. These mascaras tend to dry out the lashes. Eyelashes, by the way, are quite fragile, and when dry, they break easily.
7) Highly fragranced makeup and skin care products. Not everybody reacts to them, but a growing number of people do. I’ve never understood the appeal of perfumed lipsticks and facial cleansers. Keep in mind that even if you are not allergic, you can easily develop sensitivity to fragrances.
8) Topical steroid creams used as facial moisturizer. I’m serious about this, hard as it is to believe. Every week in my practice I see patients who use over-the-counter cortisone creams to reduce redness or rough patches. The creams are safe enough for occasional use on the face, such as for insect bites. But facial skin is very delicate. Regular use of cortisone creams leads to irreversible thinning of the skin, as well as broken blood vessels and white spots. Cortisone creams should only be used under a physician’s supervision.
Bottom line: With so many good options out there, why use products that can harm your skin?