Mom’s Best (and Worst) Skin Advice

Whether she’s mama, mommy or just plain ma, mothers are special creatures deserving of respect. From the endearingly practical “never pay retail” to the slow-burning wisdom of “never change who you are for someone else” to the truly terrifying “I brought you into this world, I can take you out of it,” they’re also a seemingly endless well of knowledge and advice. In honor of Mother’s Day, we’ve compiled some of our favorite skin care mom-isms and home remedies. Some are spot on and other are – well, let’s just say they’re dubious at best.   “You’ll eventually outgrow acne.” On a long enough timeline, everyone outgrows acne – I mean, you don’t see many septuagenarians walking around with a face full of blemishes, right? And, yes, it’s true that the vast majority of acne occurs during adolescence – between the ages of 9 to 20 – when sex hormones are all over the place, but, for most, they eventually level off. However, for some individuals, acne may last well past adolescence and persist for decades. In others, acne may rear its ugly head later in life, especially women in their late 20s to 40s. Just imagine going through life feeling lucky for dodging the teenage acne bullet and – BAM – acne just took a decades long detour. Verdict: Some truth, but not quite that simple.   “Put toothpaste on a zit and it’ll be gone by morning.” On the surface, this may sound legit. Most toothpaste, after all, contains hydrogen peroxide – which sounds similar enough to the benzoyl peroxide found in over-the-counter acne treatments. However, toothpaste is made for teeth, not skin (otherwise it would be called “skinpaste”, and “skinpaste” sounds super-creepy) and employing it outside of its intended use is generally a bad idea. Toothpaste left on the skin is highly irritating. You may feel “drying out” a zit is winning the battle against acne, but it’s doing more harm than good. “I remember hearing this when I was a teenager,” says Dr. Kate Garvey, dermatologist at the Oconomowoc (as of May 25th) and Beaver Dam clinics. “You’re much better off buying an over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide product that specifically formulated for skin. Even then, if you have numerous acne lesions, you may need to see a dermatologist for a prescription approach.” Verdict: In this case, mother does not know best.   “You’re never too young to start moisturizing.” Your skin requires moisture to keep it supple and healthy. While it does produce its own moisturizing oils, much of it is wicked away by the environment and hygienic habits like showering and washing your hands. Moisturizers work by replenishing and trapping hydration in your skin, providing an extra layer of protection between you and your environment. “You can’t really over-moisturize your skin,” says Dr. Garvey. “It’ll absorb what it can (and what it needs). However, some ingredients may cause irritant or allergic reactions in some individuals over time. So, yes, do moisturize, but stick with a moisturizer that’s labeled ‘fragrance-free’ – which is not the same as ‘unscented’.” Verdict: The world it your moisturizer-filled oyster.   “A white vinegar cold compress will keep that sunburn from peeling.” Once you’re sunburned, there’s not a whole lot you can do. The damage is done. While vinegar does have some antibacterial properties and cold can be soothing, it can’t counteract the effects of inflammation ­– including peeling. By far, the best way to keep your skin from peeling is to not get sunburned at all. Verdict: Old wives tales are not sound medical advice.   “You get back here and put on sunscreen!” Between the neighborhood pool and trips to the beach, this was my mother’s summertime war cry. And, as it turns out, some darn good advice. “Even when we, as dermatologists, can get patients to use sunscreen, the sad truth is that most people don’t use them correctly,” says Dr. Garvey. “You should apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before you go outdoors so that it is absorbed into your skin and, importantly, reapply every couple of hours after. Many of my patients will say, ‘I used sunscreen but I still burned!’ But eventually fess up to applying it in the morning but completely forgetting to reapply after, despite being outside all day. And if you’re swimming or sweating heavily, you should be reapplying sunscreen even more often.” Verdict: Dermatologist-approved motherly advice.   Even though I spent a good chunk of young adulthood virulently ignoring my mother’s advice, I can now appreciate that, for the most part, she knew what’s up – especially when she said, “Taking care of yourself is never selfish.” For skin care advice that’s always on the money, see the skin care experts at Forefront Dermatology. To find the Forefront dermatologist nearest you, visit the Locations page today.