It seems like there was a new viral skin care product or hack every day this year. But not everything on #skintok is as good as it seems — or good for you at all.
Dermatologists tell TODAY.com that they’re tired of seeing their patients fall for these same traps and trends over and over again — especially when healthy, science-backed skin care habits can be so simple and inexpensive to maintain.
The new year is a great time to reevaluate your relationship with your skin and figure out what really works for you. Here’s what dermatologists want you to keep in mind in 2023 and to leave behind in 2022.
Don’t jump on every new skin care trend on social media
“Many people tend to trust what they are seeing on social media if they see a lot of people doing it, but this doesn’t always mean that it is safe or efficacious,” Dr. Nada Elbuluk, associate professor of clinical dermatology at USC Keck School of Medicine, tells TODAY.com via email.
Elbuluk’s one recommendation for the public in the new year is “to not immediately jump on doing or trying whatever is trending on social media,” she says.
For example, not everyone needs to try skin cycling, where you rotate through your products (retinol, exfoliant and moisturizer) on specific days of the week. Although it might work for some people, the one-size-fits-all routine may be too harsh or not intense enough for some skin types, experts told TODAY.com previously.
“You should have a stable routine most days of the week,” Dr. Mary L. Stevenson, associate professor in the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, tells TODAY.com over email. But you should also be rotating products in and out based on what your skin needs due to changing weather, she says.
The other issue with skin cycling? “This is not a new concept,” Stevenson says. “It’s a brilliant term for something we have all been talking about forever,” Dr. Shari Marchbein, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City, tells TODAY.com.
Marchbein urges people not to try something else just because it feels new. “If you’re doing well, it’s just not necessary to do the newest thing or the thing that’s trending or to change things out,” she says. “Retinoids still work, and they build collagen even if you’ve been using the same one for the past 10 years.”
Your routine doesn’t need to be overcomplicated — or overpriced
“Complicated and expensive does not necessarily mean better,” Dr. Joyce Park, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Refinery Clinic, tells TODAY.com over email. “Oftentimes, using too many products with harsh actives can damage your skin barrier and aggravate your skin.”
Instead, Park urges people to regularly follow a “bare-bones” regimen made up of products with science-backed ingredients, like vitamin C, retinol and SPF.
“It’s unbelievable how much money people are spending on cleansers and moisturizers,” says Marchbein, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine. “Those are never things that you need to spend money on. It’s just absolutely unnecessary,” she says.
If you’re in the mood to splurge, spend your money on a well-stabilized vitamin C serum or retinoid instead, Marchbein adds.
Avoid potentially dangerous at-home treatments
If a skin care trend seems too wacky to be worth it, it probably is.
Dr. Fatima Fahs, board-certified dermatologist in Michigan and founder of Dermy Doc Box, points to two particularly egregious examples: menstrual masking (which involves putting menstrual blood on the face) and sunning the perineum (the area between the genitals and anus).
Menstrual masking may be an attempt to DIY the so-called “vampire facial,” in which platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is applied to a patient’s face, Fahs tells TODAY.com via email. But, as is hopefully obvious, your “menstrual blood is not the same as PRP,” Fahs says.
“Let’s be clear, (the perineum) skin does not need any sun exposure,” Fahs explains. Some types of skin cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma, can develop in this area, Fahs says, “and adding UV exposure can only increase that risk.”
Experimenting with at-home procedures can also cause problems for people with pigmentation issues, Elbuluk says. Those practices can cause irritation, discoloration or even hair loss.
Just focus on yourself
Don’t worry about Instagram trends or assume that what your best friend is using will work for you, too.
“Just because someone is telling you about their skin care routine, that does not mean that you have their skin,” Marchbein says. “Each of us has individual skin care needs,” she adds. And if you’re someone with a skin condition like eczema, rosacea or acne, you should be getting guidance from a dermatologist — not TikTok.
Even trends that seem harmless can have unintended consequences for certain people. Slugging, for instance, involves coating the face overnight in an occlusive ointment (which creates a barrier to prevent moisture loss), Stevenson explains. “Generally this is not what most people need,” she says, because the practice can lead to clogged pores for some.
And to use the skin cycling example again, Marchbein says, “What it’s done, unfortunately, is to try to convince everyone that you fit in this bubble, and you don’t.”
If you’re ever unsure, ask an actual expert
The running theme here is that, while it can be fun to experiment with skin care products, the best advice on what products to use for your individual skin situation will come from a dermatologist who knows you well.
Relying on influencers or other voices on social media to help with conditions like acne or rosacea “ultimately delays treatment for people,” Marchbein says.
Rather than getting a routine tailored to them or, perhaps, a prescription treatment, “they’ll try things over the counter, or they’ll try a routine that somebody else was talking about,” she explains. “And that’s not going to work for you because that’s not really getting to the cause or the root of what’s going on.”
But whatever skin mistakes you may have made in 2022, the new year is the perfect time to get back on track by visiting your dermatologist or taking the time to find one, Ebluluk says.
Some dermatologists are still doing telehealth visits, Marchbein adds, which may be a good option if you can’t find somebody local to you. “Lean into the people who have the expertise,” she says. “Go and talk to a dermatologist sooner rather than later.”