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Dermatologists debunk 7 myths about how diet affects skin

Dermatologists debunk 7 myths about how diet affects skin

Your breakout may not be due to your diet.

Your breakout may not be due to your diet.

If you wake up with a pimple, it’s easy to blame last night’s pizza. You may even reach for a collagen smoothie in the hopes of clearing it up. But not all widespread beliefs about the diet-skin link are true, dermatologists say. Here are seven myths you can stop believing now.

Myth: Coffee is good for your skin

Coffee is not dangerous in and of itself; however, it’s a diuretic, which can lead to dehydration and dry, thirsty skin, dermatologist Dr. Rhonda Klein, partner at Modern Dermatology in Westport, Connecticut, told INSIDER. Keep enjoying your morning brew, Klein said, just in moderation.

Myth: Collagen powders will improve skin

From pills and potions to drinks and topical treatments, we can’t seem to get enough collagen right now. And while it may have other benefits, ingesting it won’t directly affect your skin, Klein said. “It will be digested by the gastrointestinal system and not make it to the skin,” she said.

Read more: Collagen supplements may not be as effective as you think, but there are other ways to incorporate this important protein into your diet

Myth: Chocolate makes your skin break out

In truth, chocolate’s effect on your skin “depends on the source, ingredients, and type of chocolate,” said board-certified dermatologist Dr. Melanie Palm, owner of the Art of Skin in Solana Beach, California.

Dark chocolate, for one, can have a positive impact on your skin and general health. “Dark chocolate with more than 70% cacao is an excellent source of antioxidants, which has a protective role for the skin and other organs,” Palm explained.

The myth that chocolate makes your skin break out likely comes from some confections’ dairy content, Palm said. “For a minority of acne patients, dairy may actually worsen acne breakouts,” she said.

Myth: Greasy food causes breakouts

Eating greasy foods doesn’t necessarily cause breakouts, Palm said. However, working around grease could clog up your pores and lead to acne. Additionally, greasy foods may have ingredients used in frying that promote inflammation, which is not good for the skin or other organ systems, Palm said.

Myth: Avocado is a fool-proof face mask ingredient

Although avocados, citrus fruits, and even different nuts are frequently suggested as key ingredients in at-home DIY masks or exfoliants, Palm said that advice doesn’t apply to everyone.

“Individuals with latex allergies can cross-react with avocado masks, as well as anything containing chestnuts, bananas, passion fruit, celery, potato, tomato, kiwi, or peach,” she explained. People who’ve had poison ivy reactions, meanwhile, will cross-react with mangoes, cashews, and pistachios due to a toxic protein substance called urushiol. For both of these scenarios, reactions become worse over time, Palm said.

“At the very least, topical application will cause a pesky rash, and at the worst, blisters, or systemic symptoms such as shortness of breath, airway swelling, and anaphylaxis,” she said.

Just because a product has cumin in it doesn't mean it's going to benefit your skin.

Just because a product has cumin in it doesn’t mean it’s going to benefit your skin.

Myth: Kale, turmeric, vitamin C, vitamin E, cumin, and other natural-based products can improve skin appearance

Sure, products with these ingredients and nutrients can be great to include in your diet for better health. However, Dr. Richard Torbeck, a board-certified dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology PC, said the scientific literature lacks studies showing that they are absorbed in the skin enough to exert an effect.

“It is even trickier to say that they will exact skin changes with topical applications due to their inability to penetrate the top layers of the skin,” he explained. Additionally, Torbeck pointed out that some products may have unwanted side effects, like yellow-tinted skin from cumin.

Myth: You’re wasting money buying organic produce

While eating conventional produce is far healthier than not eating any, there’s evidence that certain fruits and vegetables, like those in the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, are best bought from the organic section of the grocery store. That’s because organic produce not only has fewer herbicide residues, but it actually seems to be more nutritious than conventionally grown produce.

Why? It might be because organic produce isn’t sprayed with herbicides like conventional produce and must create its own natural protectants, said Dr. Anthony Youn, a plastic surgeon and author of “The Age Fix.” Those benefits can extend to your skin since having more antioxidants in your food means less oxidation and more youthful skin.

Dr. Pimple Popper treated a man with an ear cyst that spurted out a thick white substance

Dr. Pimple Popper treated a man with an ear cyst that spurted out a thick white substance

Dr. Lee cut open a man's ear lobe area where he had a cyst.

Dr. Lee cut open a man’s ear lobe area where he had a cyst.
  • On Tuesday, Dr. Pimple Popper shared an Instagram video where she treated a man’s ear cyst.
  • In the video, she cut open his ear lobe area, and blood and liquid came spurting out of the incision.
  • After Dr. Pimple Popper squeezed the cyst, a large amount of thick white liquid came out too. One fan called the growth “the gift that keeps on giving.”
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

On Tuesday, dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee (aka Dr. Pimple Popper) shared a graphic video that showed just how much liquid a cyst can hold, even if it looks small.

In the video, Dr. Lee cut open a man’s ear lobe area where he had a cyst. At first, blood came out of the incisio. Then it spurted a clear liquid.

Dr. Lee pressed and squeezed the cyst more, releasing more blood and a thick white substance that was likely keratin, the protein that fills cysts, although Dr. Lee didn’t specify.

It didn’t appear like the cyst could hold that much liquid, and fans were shocked to see how much came out of the small area. “Wow !!!! Wasn’t expecting it to be that good,” one person commented. Another called the cyst “the gift that keeps on giving” because the thick white liquid seemed neverending.

“There’s no prize like a #surprise! And this hidden #cyst had a few of them!” Dr. Lee wrote in the caption of her video.

A man gave his vegan girlfriend acne by secretly replacing her soy coffee creamer with a regular dairy one

A man gave his vegan girlfriend acne by secretly replacing her soy coffee creamer with a regular dairy one

A man messed with his girlfriend's diet and it caused a flare-up of acne.

A man messed with his girlfriend’s diet and it caused a flare-up of acne.
Image Source / Getty
  • A 24-year-old man told Reddit that he secretly changed his vegan girlfriend’s soy coffee creamer to a regular dairy one, and it gave her acne.
  • He said she became vegan before they met, and it cleared up her skin, but he thought it was probably hormonal.
  • His plan backfired, his theory was proven wrong, and he said he would throw out the dairy creamer so her skin would hopefully return to normal.
  • People on the Reddit thread “TIFU (Today I F—– Up)” had many problems with his actions – some even called him abusive and manipulative.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

There’s always going to be someone who thinks they know better, and will challenge the beliefs of everyone around them. Take one man on Reddit, for example, who asked the subreddit “TIFU (Today I F—– Up)” if he was in the wrong for accidentally causing his girlfriend’s acne.

The user posted that he’d been with his girlfriend for three years, and she had been vegan since before they got together for health reasons.

“Mostly she swears that it cleared up her skin,” he wrote. “From pictures, it seems she went from really gnarly acne to very clear skin.”

Rather than take her word for it, the man, who is 24, decided to take the fate of his girlfriend’s skin into his own hands.

He thought it might have been age-related, because your skin usually clears up when you get older. So, to test out his theory – and because he was “tired of all the vegan food” – he emptied out her soy coffee creamer container and filled it up with dairy creamer.

“She’s a great cook but sometimes a man just needs some mac and cheese with cut up hot dogs,” the man wrote. “So I thought I would prove to her that the whole ‘dairy gives me acne’ thing is in her head.”

However, his plan backfired. He never got to do his “big reveal” about what he had done, because he realized that since the change, his girlfriend’s skin had been flaring up with acne.

“She’s been wearing makeup both in and out of the house lately … and last night I saw her barefaced for the first time in a while and it is BAD,” he wrote. “Like insects about to hatch out of her face bad.”

He said he planned to throw out the dairy and hoped her skin would go back to normal. He added that even though he “was doing it for her own good,” he feels bad for being responsible for causing the problem.

Read more: Asos had the best response after a man randomly insulted a woman wearing the company’s dress on Tinder

It’s fair to say others on the thread had more than a few problems with the man’s actions.

One said the problem wasn’t the acne, per say, but the fact the man betrayed his girlfriend’s trust.

“You think you know what is good for her better than she does,” they said “You’re not just an a——, you’re actually a bit of a monster since you still haven’t realised this.”

Others pointed out the change could have made her physically ill, because eating animal products after many years of a plant-based diet can be difficult for your system.

“You knew dairy f—s with her, which SHE told you, and you think you know better than she does and that you fed her dairy anyway FOR HER GOOD? Are you f—— serious?” said another commenter.

A few people on the thread said this kind of behaviour could be abusive and manipulative. For example, it could be a sign of gaslighting, which is where someone knowingly toys with your sense of reality as a means to keep you under control.

As the girlfriend may be stressed out about her skin, and searching for another possible reason her acne could be flaring up again, messing with her diet in secret could also be having a negative impact on her mental health.

“If you’re TRULY sorry and TRULY care about your girlfriend, you’ll come clean and let her make the decision of whether you deserve forgiveness and whether she wants to stay with you,” one person said. “If you don’t, then you’re just a selfish POS who once again has decided what he wants is more important than her.”

“You have NO right whatsoever to decide you know what’s better for her health than she does,” said another.

“If you want Mac & cheese with cut up hot dogs in it, make it your own damn self.”

The doctor who helped create a skin-care line for Amazon just started a new website to take on drug companies that charge $2,000 for common creams

The doctor who helped create a skin-care line for Amazon just started a new website to take on drug companies that charge $2,000 for common creams

A dermatologist recently started his own platform for cheaper skin medications.

A dermatologist recently started his own platform for cheaper skin medications.

A year or two ago, dermatologist Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali had an experience that he can’t forget.

He had prescribed a patient an anti-fungal cream, a common medication for conditions like athlete’s foot and ringworm.

She reported back that the treatment had worked, but still seemed unhappy. When Bhanusali pushed further, he found out why: A drug that should have been $6 or $7 had instead cost her $1,200.

In this case, the patient used her drug. But increasingly patients aren’t taking their drugs because they can’t afford them. That can let their already-severe skin conditions worsen, he said.

“I have drugs that I used to prescribe to patients that were $4. And now they’re $800 to $2,000. The same drug,” he said. “It’s getting unsustainable.”

Rising drug prices have increasingly flared up as a problem in the US, keeping needed products out of patients’ hands.

Prices for skin drugs have also surged. One study found that 19 common brand-name dermatologic medications had an average price increase of 401% over six years, with generic drugs also seeing large price increases.

Last year, at the prodding of fellow dermatologists whose patients were having the same price problems, Bhanusali founded a new online platform called Skin Medicinals, selling products for common conditions like acne, rosacea and scars for just $24 to $60.

For instance, corticosteroids creams used for skin itching and redness typically have retail prices of between $75 and $400, according to GoodRx, a price comparison website for prescriptions. They’re available on Skin Medicinals for $35.

Those prices are possible because the products are cheaper generics, mixed specially for the platform by compounding pharmacies in Florida and California. Skin Medicinals doesn’t take insurance, so patients pay cash and then have the drugs shipped to their homes.

Since Skin Medicinals launched in August, more than 15,600 patients across the country have used it, and more than 1,100 doctors have signed up. Skin Medicinals sells skincare prescriptions for just $24 to $60.

Skin Medicinals sells skincare prescriptions for just $24 to $60.
Skin Medicinals

Affordable products for rosacea, precancers and more

In the great American drug pricing debate, doctors have remained mostly on the sidelines.

Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali.

Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali.
Dhaval Bhanusali

Though they write prescriptions, most don’t know what drugs will cost their patient. That is, unless they hear back about issues.

Bhanusali, who just started his own practice in New York City and is also an instructor at Mount Sinai Health System, wants to change that.

The 34-year-old physician has had an entrepreneurial bent ever since his days as a medical resident, launching projects like a platform to compare prices between different local pharmacies and one for patients to participate in new drug research virtually, from their homes.

Skin Medicinals came out of that, and exploits a capability dermatologists have long had, to mix up their own custom products like moisturizers and cleansers for patients.

Bhanusali himself learned how to do it in medical school. Recently, the dermatologist even helped formulate a new Amazon private label skin-care line.

Dr. Susan Bard, a practicing dermatologist in Manhattan, learned about Skin Medicinals by word of mouth about four months ago.

Since then, she’s prescribed treatments to at least 100 patients through the platform. The new platform has been especially helpful for those with rosacea and who struggle with skin discoloration after, say, a rash, she says.

It’s also provided affordable products to treat precancerous growths, which can in rare cases turn into cancer. Some patients may have hundreds of these “precancers,” but Bard said she’s heard of the drugs costing as much as $1,000.

“These are conditions that must be treated,” Bard told Business Insider. She understands why health insurers don’t want to pay for overly expensive products, “but who gets left holding the bag? Me and my patient.”

Hopes of sparking a ‘revolution’ about drug prices among doctors

Crucially, though, Skin Medicinals can only sell generic medications, which no longer have patent protection.

To get a prescription through it, one’s doctor must first sign up, as Bard did. Once they do so, a patient can create an online account and order their medication. The drug is then shipped to their house.

Bhanusali built the platform with support from other dermatologists. He used his own money to do it and took no funds from investors. Any profits will go to nonprofits or to building new features for the Skin Medicinals site, including potentially allowing patients to get virtual dermatology visits, he told Business Insider.

But he hopes the implications will go far beyond dermatology, calling it a “revolution” that he hopes will empower other types of doctors to do something about high drug prices, too.

“We hope other fields can join us,” he said.

16 subtle ways you could be damaging your skin without realizing it

16 subtle ways you could be damaging your skin without realizing it

Some skin-care habits aren't helping.

Some skin-care habits aren’t helping.

Your skin goes through a lot. On any given day it’s exposed to a slew of products, pollutants, and – depending on where you live – harsh weather.

That means skin needs good care to function and look its best. But a lot of us may be inadvertently engaging in skin-care practices that do more harm than good.

INSIDER spoke with dermatologists about skin-care habits and behaviors we’re better off dropping. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Assuming natural products are better

Natural products can be great, but they’re not for everyone.
CityTree עץבעיר/Flickr

Just because a product is natural, doesn’t mean it’s better for your skin.

In fact, natural products can even harm the skin. Earlier this year, for instance, a group of doctors reported on a woman who got second-degree burns on her foot because she tried to treat a fungal infection with garlic.

And that’s not the only example.

“Poison ivy is natural but it can also cause a bad skin rash,” dermatologist Dr. Allison Arthur told INSIDER. “Another natural product I see being used a lot is coconut oil. Using that as a moisturizer in areas like the arms and the legs is typically fine, but I don’t recommend using it on the face because it can clog pores and make acne worse.”

She added that essential oils, used on their own or mixed into products, can also cause allergic reactions in some people.

2. Self-treating skin conditions

Don’t unleash your whole medicine cabinet on every skin issue.

“Sometimes when patients come to see me they have [been using] hydrocortisone cream, antifungal cream, diaper cream, calamine lotion, honey, Listerine, vitamin E, [antibacterial ointment] – and sometimes those products are actually aggravating the condition,” Arthur said.

If a rash is severely itchy, interfering with your life, and not getting better within a few days, don’t slather it with every cream in your medicine cabinet. Make an appointment with a dermatologist in your area.

3. Assuming baby products are better for sensitive skin

Baby products are often marketed as “gentle” on skin.

“Don’t assume baby products are the most gentle,” Arthur said. “A lot of those popular [baby] products actually contain things like fragrance, which can cause irritation or allergic [reactions].”

4. Thinking hypoallergenic products are better for sensitive skin

You can’t believe everything you see on product labels.
Caroline Praderio/INSIDER

A product labeled “hypoallergenic” can still cause allergic reactions – even the Food and Drug Administration says so.

“There are no federal standards or definitions that govern the use of the term ‘hypoallergenic,’” the agency writes on its website. “The term means whatever a particular company wants it to mean.”

And it may not mean much. A few years back, a group of researchers tested 135 children’s skin-care products labeled “hypoallergenic” and found almost 90% of them contained at least one known skin allergen.

Arthur said you should also be skeptical of unregulated claims like “dermatologist-tested” and “dermatologist-recommended,” neither of which have standardized definitions.

The best way to find out if you’ll react to a product is to read the ingredients list. And if you’re not sure what you’re allergic to, ask a dermatologist about patch testing, which can help you identify specific problem ingredients, Arthur explained.

5. Laying in the sun to get your vitamin D

There are safer ways to get vitamin D.
Flickr / Elvert Barnes

Sun exposure does prompt our bodies to create the essential nutrient vitamin D, but it can also lead to skin cancer. For that reason, Arthur explained, sun exposure shouldn’t be anyone’s primary source of vitamin D.

“If cigarette smoking caused your body to produce vitamin D, would you start smoking cigarettes to raise your vitamin D levels? That’s how dermatologists feel about getting unprotected sun exposure as a source for vitamin D,” she said.

Instead, Arthur recommends getting an adequate supply from foods or oral supplements.

6. Trying to scrub away acne

Acne doesn’t happen because someone’s face is dirty.

Avoid over-washing, scrubbing, or exfoliating acne blemishes – it’ll likely backfire.

“A lot of times people have the false impression that acne is related to a hygiene issue and they think that they can just wash it away,” Arthur said. “And while we do encourage patients to wash their face twice a day, if you over-wash it can lead to increased oil production and cause a lot of irritation.”

7. Popping pimples

Don’t try this at home.
Orapin Joonkhajohn/Shutterstock

Whenever you can, resist the urge to pop your own pimples.

“While it may be satisfying, we do know it can lead to scarring,” dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick told INSIDER. “And ultimately the scarring can actually be a lot harder to treat.”

Plus, picking at your skin can lead to nasty and dangerous infections. (Don’t believe it? There are plenty of horrifying stories on the internet to convince you.)

If you do get a pimple that you just can’t stand, a dermatologist or aesthetician can treat it in a way that minimizes damage and inflammation, Garshick said. Or you could always satisfy the urge to pop by watching other people do it on YouTube.

8. Never changing your pillowcase

When’s the last time your changed your pillowcase?

A seldom-replaced pillowcase can accumulate lots of rubbed-off hair and skin products. That can be a recipe for clogged pores, Garshick said. Make sure to replace and wash yours regularly.

9. Exfoliating too hard and too often

Exfoliating doesn’t have to be harsh.
Volodymyr Nik/Shutterstock

“A lot of the time people hear that exfoliating is good for the skin, and certainly to a degree it is,” Garshick said. “But there is such a thing as over-exfoliating, which can be problematic. It can cause irritation and it can cause dryness […] that actually makes your body to want to produce more oil.”

She recommended exfoliating only once or twice per week – and being careful about the type of product you use.

“Sometimes products have a lot of those beads in them, and even though they feel really good, they can actually be pretty harsh on the skin,” she added. “Exfoliants don’t necessarily need to feel harsh on the skin in order to get the job done.”

Garshick suggested trying out chemical exfoliants like glycolic or salicylic acid, which slough off dead skin cells without any scrubbing at all.

10. Taking hot showers

Limit the time and temperature of your showers.

“As good as it feels, [a long, hot shower] is not great for the skin,” Garshick said. “The water is stripping your body of its natural oils.”

But there’s a way to combat the drying effects of hot water: moisturizer.

“If you are going to take a long hot shower, or if you’re going to take multiple showers in a day, the most important thing that you can do for your skin is immediately when you get out of the shower, pat your body dry and then apply a thick moisturizer,” she said.

11. Using makeup remover wipes

Makeup wipes might cause allergic reactions in some people.
Panupong Thammachai/Shutterstock

Arthur advised against using wet wipes and makeup remover wipes on a regular basis.

“Those are just another source of potential allergens,” she said. “We see a lot of cases of people who get rashes from wet toilet wipes.”

Instead, she recommends removing makeup with a gentle face wash.

12. Sleeping in makeup

It’s best to go to sleep with a clean face.

“If it happens just once in a while, it’s probably not going to cause any issues, but it’s not recommended,” Arthur said.

Sleeping in makeup can clog pores, first and foremost. But if you fail to wash off your makeup at the end of the day, you’re also leaving your skin covered in accumulated sweat, oil, and environmental pollutants, she explained.

13. Using too many products — or too much of a product

Go easy on the skin products.

When it comes to using new skin products, Garshick says less is more.

“Generally speaking, if you are going to introduce new products to the skin, try to do it one at a time, and give your body a chance to see how it works before adding too many things all at once,” she said.

That same rule also applies to the quantity of product you use. A tiny pimple doesn’t require a whole finger full of topical acne medicine, Garschick explained.

14. Relying too heavily on your sunscreen

Sunscreen alone isn’t always enough.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Strange but true: Wearing sunscreen might backfire if you use it as justification to spend more time in the sun. In fact, some research shows that people who report using sunscreen don’t actually get fewer sunburns.

“Another bad habit is believing that just because you are wearing sunscreen, you can sit out in the sun all day,” Garshick said. “We still recommend avoiding peak sun hours between 10 a.m and 2 p.m., finding shade, and wearing a hat and clothing when possible to protect the skin.”

If you are relying on sunscreen alone, make sure to reapply every two hours, and after swimming, toweling off, or excessive sweating.

15. Using toner

Toner can be drying.

Toner is sometimes touted as a way to improve acne-prone skin, but it may not help with blemishes at all.

“Many patients feel alcohol-based toners give their skin a clean freshness when in actuality it can be very drying and irritating to the skin,” dermatologist Dr. Ritu Saini previously told INSIDER. “Some use it for acne control because these products are drying. However, the result is often excess oil production to compensate.”

That, in turn, could lead to even more breakouts. To keep skin clean without over-drying it, the AAD recommends washing the face with a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser that contains no alcohol.

Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

16. Cleaning cuts with peroxide or antibacterial ointments

Peroxide can actually irritate your skin.
Aggie 11/Shutterstock

Dermatologist Dr. Holly Hanson previously explained to INSIDER that cleaning cuts with peroxide won’t actually make them heal faster.

“People think that cleaning a wound with peroxide … prevents infection and helps with healing,” she said. “However, peroxide is irritating to an open wound.”

Instead, she recommended covering wounds with a plain ointment like petroleum jelly.

Petroleum jelly keeps wounds from scabbing over, which speeds up healing, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). As long as you’re cleaning the wound every day with mild soap and water, there’s also no need to use antibacterial ointments, the AAD adds.

Plus, some people can end up allergic to the ingredients in antibacterial ointments – that’s another good reason to stick with plain ones.

“Plain ointments also help avoid the unnecessary risk of creating an allergy to antibacterial creams and ointments,” Hanson said.

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