Many of us swear by a few favorite, tried-and-true skincare products. But what about all of the lotions and potions we’d never use? Here are the ones you won’t find on this dermatologist’s bathroom shelf.
Toners. They may feel tingly and nice on the skin, and they can play a role in exfoliation and removing sebum (skin oil) in the oiliest skin types. But for most people, toners have the potential to trigger redness, itching, or irritation, and may disrupt the skin’s barrier. The risk of using them usually outweighs their potential benefits, and many dermatologists (including me) consider them medically unnecessary.
Coconut oil products over acne-prone areas. People love them for their moisturizing and itch-fighting properties, but they are a quick way to clog pores and cause breakouts.
Facial scrubs with ground-up fruit pits. Yes, they can exfoliate the skin to remove dead, dry, built-up skin cells. But irregularly-shaped pit bits can be harsh on the skin, and may cause small scratches, skin injuries, or even scars. Gentler, safer, more predictable options include chemical exfoliants (such as a solution, cleanser or light peel containing glycolic or salicylic acid) or mild scrubs containing consistently-sized, round granules.
Facial oils. Many people love, love, love their facial and essential oils. They may smell and feel nice, and many are claimed to have therapeutic value. But they’re not backed by significant research, and in my opinion, they don’t moisturize as well as creams, lotions, or ointments. They simply sit on the skin, can leave it feeling greasy, and can make it appear shiny rather than dewy. Many oils also contain ingredients that can cause skin rashes (called irritant or allergic contact dermatitis).
Skincare products loaded with fragrance. A scented moisturizer or serum can feel lovely and indulgent during a skincare routine. However, fragrance is the most common allergen in cosmetic and skincare products, and can lead to an itchy, pink, bumpy rash called allergic contact dermatitis. People with sensitive skin or anyone dealing with rashes can lower the risk of skin reactions by choosing fragrance-free moisturizers and products.
Moisturizers or cleansers that cost over $30. In fact, I rarely spend more than $10 or $15 on these items. There are so many effective, safe, gentle, and well-formulated lotions, creams, and cleansers available in the drugstore and mass market stores. We could easily spend hundreds (some of that cost goes toward pretty packaging), but the truth is that we can effectively cleanse and quench our skin using inexpensive but well-tested products from brands like CeraVe, Cetaphil, Aveeno, and La Roche-Posay.
Eye creams. Some contain lovely and effective ingredients that may hydrate and benefit the thin, delicate skin around our eyes. There’s no harm in this, but is it actually necessary to use something separate for this area? Not according to me and many of my dermatology colleagues. For the skin around my eyes, I rely on the same products and ingredients that I use on the rest of my face, neck, and hands. These include a vitamin C serum, sunscreen, a nightly retinoid cream, and moisturizer.
Self tanner. Don’t get me wrong -- I have no concern about the safety or health of self-tanning products. In fact, they are the only safe way to get a tan. (Any skin color change that results from ultraviolet light - whether it comes from the sun or indoor tanning - is a sign of skin damage.) But I think they just further an unhealthy obsession with changing our skin tone. I’m naturally pale, and I used to seek a tan thinking that would make me look better or healthier. All I really did was increase my risk for skin cancer, wrinkles, and sun spots. Now, I choose not to contribute to the idea that a tan looks best on fair skin. Our natural skin tone is our healthiest - why should we feel the need to change it?