If you’re dealing with skin-related issues, it makes sense to bring your woes to a dermatologist who can provide tips and guidance for taking care of your skin. But have you ever wondered what they do to protect their own skin?
Dermatologists are professionals, after all, and in case you haven’t noticed, they often tend to have the clear, glowing skin we’re in constant search of for ourselves.
So, what exactly do they use? Or perhaps more importantly, what don’t they use? Below, four dermatologists revealed the products and ingredients they actively avoid.
As with anything skin care-related, don’t make any drastic changes without consulting a dermatologist to speak about your individual needs and concerns.
Keep scrolling to find out the seven things dermatologists stay away from:
1. Spray-On Sunscreens
Spray-on sunscreens may seem like a godsend to those who hate applying lotions, but they’re not universally loved by the professionals.
Dr. Rachel Nazarian of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York said she would never use a spray-on sunscreen on her face or body, because in her professional opinion, the sprays don’t provide a thick enough layer to ensure the full SPF level noted on the bottle.
“Half of it goes into the air, barely any of it gets onto your skin, you’re breathing in half of it. It’s just not the right way to get good coverage,” she said, noting that she does allow some exceptions. “If you have a kid that will not sit still and you’re just desperate for something and you can get a fraction of a spray or nothing otherwise, OK, fine, you spray. But no self-respecting dermatologist would ever use a spray sunscreen.”
Dr. Kenneth Mark, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist, said that some people may find spray-on sunscreen convenient for covering arms, legs, chest and back, but he agreed that he wouldn’t use them on the face, “because even with your eyes closed, it can really sting and burn the eyes.”
2. Tanning Oils
For those who love slathering on the oil and baking in the sun (please don’t do this), we have bad news. Mark also said he would never use tanning oils, which often contain low levels of SPF. (SPF 4 is not sufficient for protecting you from the sun’s rays!)
“Number one, it’s not a good enough sunscreen, but also, the oils can clog your pores,” he said. “Just when you’re in the sun alone, that causes your pores to clog, because your skin cells produce a little quicker and don’t necessarily shed quicker.”
3. Chemical Sunscreens
On the topic of sunscreen, both Nazarian and Dr. Samer Jaber of Washington Square Dermatology in New York said they prefer to use physical sunscreens over chemical sunscreens. For Jaber, it’s personal preference, while Nazarian said she likes the gentler formulations of physical blockers.
“I don’t really like chemical sunscreens,” Nazarian said. “I know they’re safe, I know they’re fine, I just feel like sometimes they can irritate more and I don’t need things absorbing into my skin. Also, physical blockers, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are so much gentler and they’re good at reflecting ultraviolet radiation. I am much less likely to use a chemical sunscreen when I have the option of a physical sunscreen.”
Cleanse, tone, moisturize ― those three steps have long been ingrained in our minds as the basis of a skin care routine. Despite that, three of the dermatologists we spoke to revealed they don’t actually use toner themselves.
“Some people like to use toners, if they feel like their skin’s really oily, but I don’t find it super necessary,” Jaber said.
“Many toners contain alcohol which is drying (which may be fine if you have oilier, acne-prone skin),” Dr. Jennifer Chwalek, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology, told HuffPost by email. “Instead, I spritz my face with rose water in the morning before applying vitamin C and SPF. I find the rose water helps to hydrate my skin and it can also calm down any inflammation since it contains various vitamins and antioxidants. Once it dries, I apply a vitamin C serum and then sunscreen.”
“I don’t use a toner and I don’t see any need for a toner, because toners are classically alcohol-based, and I don’t think they add anything to skin care,” Nazarian said. “They certainly don’t enhance my skin care. These days, a lot of the toners are different ― they’re not alcohol-based, but they’re more the Korean sense of a toner, where they’ll prep the skin for better absorption. They’re basically wetting the skin, so when you wet skin, things absorb better. I just put a lot of products on after the shower after I wash my face, so I don’t feel the need to ever pay for a toner.”
Parabens are essentially preservatives used in beauty products that help limit the development of bacteria, mold and yeast. The most commonly used parabens are methyl, ethyl, propyl and butyl parabens, and they’re often found in moisturizers, foundations and anti-aging creams.
Over the years, parabens have gotten a pretty bad reputation, and while there still isn’t strong enough evidence that proves they’re extremely harmful to our health, the dermatologists we spoke to stay away from them.
“It certainly is a taboo ingredient, so for me it’s like, why take the risk?” Mark told HuffPost.
Nazarian explained that her reason for avoiding parabens isn’t simply health-related.
“I read a journal article about some bench research that was done in the past few years, and it showed there to be potential acceleration of skin aging,” she said. “I just know that, in terms of how much I’m putting on, and it’s in so many different products, that I wouldn’t even risk it for the slightest amount. I won’t do parabens.”
Jaber’s view was slightly more relaxed, but still, he said he avoids parabens and believes “it’s better to avoid them if you can find something that’s paraben-free.”
6. Hotel Soaps
You may not think twice about using the soaps you find on the counter in your hotel bathroom, but they may not be great for your skin. Especially when it comes to using them on your face.
“I’m really careful at hotels,” Jaber said. “I never use the hotel soaps because they really dry me out, because they’re heavily fragranced. I always bring soap with me.”
The dermatologists agreed that scented products in general can irritate the skin, and said they avoid using products with added fragrances.
“No perfume; it has to be unscented, because that does nothing but irritate,” Nazarian said. “There’s nothing good that comes from adding fragrance to your cleanser.”
7. Exfoliating Scrubs
Any products that contain microbeads, which have been banned in the United States since 2015, or any scrubbing particles are “an absolute no-no” for Nazarian. Chwalek, too, said she doesn’t use any harsh scrubs.
“That’s because physically or mechanically exfoliating the skin is really bad for your skin,” she said. “I like the [products] that gently chemically exfoliate, like glycolic, or something that will gently break down dead skin as opposed to a mechanical, physical scrubbing of the dead skin off, which nobody needs to do.”
She also said she’s not a fan of scrubbing brushes like the Clarisonic, and if she had her way, nobody would use them.
Jaber, too, avoids exfoliating scrubs in favor of other products and saving time.
“I never use any exfoliating scrubs,” he said. “I use a retinoid at night, and I think it’s a natural exfoliant. So, I could use a [scrub], but I just try to keep my life simple. I’m busy, so I try to focus on what’s important. They can be somewhat drying for my skin.”