5 Surprising Skincare Facts You Didn’t Know (Until Now!)

By Nicki Zevola, Pennsylvania, Skincare Expert

Nicki Zevola is a beauty expert and the founder of FutureDerm.com, where she provides clear, well-researched information about beauty+skincare, fashion+style, nutrition+fitness, and personal development from a different perspective from most in the blogosphere. Named one of the top beauty bloggers since 2009, Nicki is also a medical student (M.D.) with an estimated graduation date of May 2013. Continue reading her full bio

5 Surprising Skincare Facts You Didn’t Know (Until Now!)

1. Mixing certain skin care ingredients inactivates them.

Even if you hated science classes, you have to keep in mind that skin care is the product of somewhat advanced chemistry, subject to pH imbalance, unexpected reactions, and the like. For instance, many cosmetic chemists do not recommend using products with alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid, and retinol together. This is because retinol is most active at a pH of 5.5-6.0 (Journal of Investigative Dermatology), while glycolic acid has an optimized pH at 3.83 (Cosmetic Dermatology). Another problem is using a heavier skin care product under a lighter one. High concentrations of certain occlusive agents like petrolatum and mineral oil prevent the ingredients in the lighter serum from reaching your skin as effectively. Most dermatologists thereby recommend applying the lighter product first.

2. You should never apply self-tanner before going out into the sun, unless you use a sunscreen first.

Most self-tanners work by using dihydroxyacetone (DHA) as the main ingredient. According to a 2007 study published in Germany, DHA causes the skin to release 180% more free radicals once exposed to the sun. Therefore sun protection is extremely important when you have used self-tanners containing DHA within the past 24 hours.

3. There is no such thing as 100% SPF protection from a sunscreen.

According to dermatologist Dr. Rachel Herschenfeld, M.D., the percentage of protection you get is 100 – (1/SPF number)*100. I know that looks complicated, but let’s take SPF 30 for example:

Percentage of protection = 100 – (1/SPF number)*100
Percentage of protection = 100 – (1/30)*100 = 100 – 3.3
Percentage of protection = 96.6

Using that same principle, SPF 50 provides only 98% protection, and SPF 100 provides 99.9%!  Keep in mind this is the amount of protection provided when you apply a whole shot-glass full of sunscreen for your entire body and reapply religiously every 2-3 hours. As such, it’s safe to say there is no such thing as 100% sun protection from a sunscreen.

Check out two more facts you didn’t know! 

4. Try to avoid apricot scrub.

Apricot granules tend to have rough, almost triangular, edges. When apricot scrub is applied roughly, it can actually rip or stretch the pores. For this reason, it is best to stick with dermatologist-administered microdermabrasion or a different scrub, like my personal favorite, NIA 24 Physical Cleansing Scrub.

5. “Hypoallergenic” doesn’t mean anything.

“Hypoallergenic” by the dictionary definition means “below normal” or “slightly” allergenic, but there is no standard in any country that provides an official certification process that a skin care product or cosmetic must undergo before being labeled as hypoallergenic. While most companies would never release a product with a high risk of allergy as “hypoallergenic”, it is still possible for the rare individual to have a reaction. I’ve fallen victim to getting hives from chamomile, limonene, and several other extracts on products marked as “hypoallergenic.” So trust your own knowledge!

Bottom Line

Within the past twenty years, dermatological science has made incredible strides in developing ingredients and products to make a dramatic difference on your skin. Ingredients like retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids, antioxidants, niacinamide, and peptides all help us have clearer, brighter skin – and for many more years of life than previously thought possible. As we move from the tween to the teen years of the 21st century, I’m anticipating even more sensational breakouts in the skin care industry! For now, though, it is important to keep in mind that not all claims are created equal, and that it is just as vital to check a scientific or medical journal as the label when it comes to knowing what is really going on with your skin care!