Weekly Feature

beauty myths, beauty secrets

8 Beauty Myths

April 09, 2009
by Shannon Firth
Where do you get your beauty secrets: your mother, your sister, your best friend? Most of us trust the advice of our family and friends, but are any of their tips backed up by medical evidence? Beauty fixes that sound too good to be true often are and some advice is just plain dangerous. But take heart: simple changes to your daily routine can keep you looking fabulous.

MYTH 1: Chocolate causes acne

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For a long time parents told their teenagers that chocolate caused their acne problems. People thought that foods high in fat or grease would actually cause the skin to become more oily. While you may still run into the occasional person who claims that chocolate causes breakouts, the connnection is probably just in her head. The Acne Resource Center explains, “A chocolate candy bar is innocent, but is blamed regularly. Other foods that are blamed include pizza, potato chips and dairy products.” Eating foods that are generally considered unhealthy won’t trigger acne breakouts; however, adding fruits and vegetables to your diet can help prevent them.

MYTH 2: Most skin damage happens before you turn 18

While the threat of childhood sun damage may help mothers enforce sunblock rules while on vacation, it's not true that you accumulate more sun damage in early years than later in life. Children do tend to spend more time in the sun than adults, which might explain the misconception. But dermatologist Dr. Katie Rodan says, “Recent studies have shown that by age 18, you’ve only accumulated 18 to 23 percent of the sun damage you’ll incur over a lifetime.” Plus, while glowing tans look fabulous on sun-streaked teenagers, the sizzled look is probably not your most flattering option as you age. In short: it’s never too late to keep the sun from ruining your skin, so keep wearing sunscreen.

MYTH 3: Dry skin causes wrinkles

Dry skin and wrinkles often go hand-in-hand, leading people to jump to the conclusion that dry skin is actually the cause of wrinkles. Not a bad hypothesis, but it turns out to be flawed. According to “Cosmetics Cop” Paula Begoun, co-author of the book “Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me,” “Extensive studies and analysis have shown dry skin is frequently a by-product or result of other assaults on skin that are really the cause of wrinkles. In other words, dry skin is primarily a symptom of other factors causing wrinkles,” so while people with dry skin may end up with wrinkles, you can't hope to stay young-looking forever by just treating dry skin. Simply moisturizing may not be helpful. However, products containing antioxidants, exfoliants and “cell-communicating ingredients” can help keep your skin supple.

MYTH 4: Varicose veins come from crossing your legs

Another thing you've probably heard your grandmother or your mother tell you is that sitting cross-legged is a surefire way to get varicose veins. But that turns out not be the case, either. The New York Times reports that “more than 12 large studies that have looked at the risk factors for varicose veins have not found leg-crossing to be one of them.” However, the article adds that standing or being sedentary for more than 8 hours per day can lead to varicose veins, which explains why people might conclude that leg-crossing was the culprit. But next time you see Grandma, you can set her straight. You can also blame her: genetics are a factor.

MYTH 5: Lip balm is addictive

Your cherry-chocolate ChapStick may taste delicious, but if you keep applying it compulsively, you'll have to accpet that it's just your natural urge, and not any kind of legitimate addiction. Lisa Chavis, author of “Ask Your Pharmacist,” delves into the debate over “lip balm addiction”; many people regard this as a serious problem, although neither they (nor Chavis) appear to be aware that the “Lip Balm Anonymous” to which she refers is a spoof site. Chavis explains that the real problem may be “lip-licking.” Repeatedly applying and licking off balm causes chapping, “because the enzymes in your saliva are not very friendly to delicate lip tissue.” Or it might just be that lip balm feels good. Either way, it's harmless.

MYTH 6: Tanning hides cellulite

Dr. Mariusz Sapijaszko, medical director of the Western Canada Dermatology Institute in Edmonton, explains that tanning only hides cellulite in the short term. The only real way to get rid of cellulite is exercise, which might not make it disappear, but should reduce the appearance. Tanning is a brief fix. Eventually, long-term UV damage will make your cellulite look worse than ever. It will also make the rest of you look pretty haggard and wrinkly. If you want the look without the danger, try self-tanning products instead.

MYTH 7: Rinsing with cold water makes your hair shiny

If you’ve been enduring 15 seconds of arctic freeze each morning after you shampoo, you can stop now. Hair specialist Phillip Kingsley, author of “The Hair Bible” advises, “Cold water may help close your pores, but it doesn't affect the hair cuticle in the same way." Your hair might look a bit shinier, but only briefly, and it won't get any healthier. Keep your hair shiny by eating protein-rich foods, working omega fatty acids into your diet, using a clarifying shampoo once a week and applying a nourishing conditioner every time you wash.

MYTH 8: Vaporub or Listerine cures toenail fungus

Many have offered online personal testimonies that Vaporub or Listerine cures toenail fungus,  but no clinical research exists to confirm or deny these claims. The lady giving you your pedicure probalby has all kinds of ideas about ways to manage your fungus, for example, you may have heard bleach recommnded as well. But listen to a real doctor. Dr. Jeffrey Benabio agrees that these products may improve the look of your nails, but “none of these home remedies are likely to cure toenail fungus.” You’re better off consulting with your podiatrist or taking a more conventional over-the-counter medication.
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