person holding black and silver scissors

Do you think frequent hair washing is harmful? Do false lashes ruin your own? Can plucking cause a disaster in the brows? Our beauty columnist distinguishes fact from fiction

You probably heared the myth that that shaving your legs will make your hair thicker and darker: Anabel Kingsley, a trichologist, says:” Your hair will not grow back thicker if it is cut. You can’t cut your hair shorter, or shave your legs, and your hair won’t grow back thicker. Regular trims give your hair a false appearance of being thicker and denser. Waxing your legs, where hairs are pulled from their roots, can sometimes cause hairs to grow back less densely.”

epilator and shaver on white cloth

The myth: Taking out grey hairs makes them grow more. Many people are warned that pulling out gray hairs will cause more to show up at their funeral. Anabel Kingsley, a hairdresser who works with clients suffering from hair loss and alopecia, said that it would be a great way for them to grow thicker hair. Unfortunately, it’s not. Repetitive pulling of hairs can cause damage to the follicle and lead to hair loss.

Kingsley believes that this myth is likely to be perpetuated by the fact, Kingsley states, that one grey hair can often lead to a thorough search for more.

The myth that darker skin doesn’t need sunscreen: This is a serious problem for public health. Although melanoma rates and other skin cancers are lower among Black and Asian people, they tend to be detected later and have a lower survival rate.

Dija Ayodele is a skincare expert and the author of Black Skin: The Definitive Skincare guide. She says that people of color must be vigilant about sun protection. “Because black and dark skin tones are less susceptible to sun-induced skin carcinoma, the suncare industry doesn’t target this market. With the explanation that melanin (more prevalent in darker skin tones) provides protection, it does not mean you should give up sun protection entirely.”

Ayodele says that modern chemical skin peels are gaining popularity, and there is still a lot of demand for bleaching products. This, along with a tendency towards hyper-pigmentation, and discolouration in darker skin tones, makes it even more important to apply SPF.

Parabens are dangerous, according to the myth: A beauty expert will be furious at the idea that common preservatives pose a threat to their health. This belief is widely promoted by the “clean beauty movement”. Sam Farmer, a cosmetic scientist, is not the only one who believes that parabens can be found in fruits and vegetables every day: “They are safe, natural, skin-friendly, and an excellent preservative. Parabens can be compared to mushrooms.”

Farmer claims that, rather than protecting us from harms, the replacement of parabens could actually put consumers at risk. “The move away parabens has caused all kinds of problems with their substitutes. People have reported mould growth in cosmetics due to recent product failures in the US. This has led to product recalls.”

The myth that washing your hair too often is bad for hair. This is according to Neil Moodie (fashion hairstylist and celebrity who has worked with Kate Moss and Gemma Chan as well as Sandra Oh and Jodie Cooper). He says that haircare depends on the type of hair. Straight hair should be washed less often because the natural oil from the scalp travels further down the shaft, making it look and feel shinier. You can leave oilier hair longer if it is curlier, curlier, or more wavy. This will allow the oil to travel to the tips and prevent them from drying out. To allow natural oils to travel down the shaft, drier hair may need to be washed less often.

Moodie suggests that regular users of styling products increase their shampooing to prevent hair loss and irritation. He recommends that frequent washers use an SLS/detergent free shampoo to massage their scalp and root areas, and then apply a conditioner to the ends.

The myth sunscreen makes us deficient in vitamin D: Many have argued in recent years that our increased awareness around sun protection has led to widespread vitamin D deficiency. Many people in Britain are vitamin D deficient regardless of whether they use sunscreen. Sam Bunting, a dermatologist, says that most people don’t need to worry about vitamin D. He states that sunscreen is safe for most people because it can be applied in real-world situations (just like a regular person). “However, those who practice strict protection, such as wearing photo-protective clothing and hats, staying out of the sun, and applying sunscreen at the right dose (2mg/sq cm), have a greater risk. Oral supplementation is recommended.” Others can sit outside for a few moments with their forearms exposed to the sun, but people with darker skin tones will require more vitamin D to get the same amount.

The truth: Extensions and false lashes can damage natural lashes. Teresa Smith, founder of I Love Lash in central London, is a frequent victim to this belief and blames shoddy practitioners. She says, “A skilled lash artist works meticulously adding hand-crafted extensions one natural lash at time. I pay attention to the thickness and length of my lashes, so they don’t get too long or too short. Also, they are properly isolated to protect the natural lashes from irritation.”

She doesn’t care if you have extensions or not. She believes that lash maintenance starts at home. “Scrubbing mascara off every day is harmful to your natural lashes. Instead of scrubbing it off, use a cleanser or remover to gently stroke the lashes. Extensions can make clients’ natural lash health better, as they encourage wearers of extensions to be gentler.”

The myth: You can’t use active skin care ingredients while pregnant. This is information about skincare during pregnancy, especially those that contain vitamin C, Bs or ingredient du jour Niacinamide, which can be found in meat, poultry and fish. It’s also confusing and conflicting online.

Ahmed El Muntasar, a doctor and aesthetician, explains that actives can be used during pregnancy. “In fact, many of my clients who have received botox and filler pre-pregnancy with me switch to actives to maintain their skin’s glow and vibrancy.”

He says that there are some exceptions. Although these products are not recommended for use in pregnancy, they have been studied in laboratory studies.

The myth: Never pluck your eyebrows! Although this is not true, Shavata Singh (CEO and founder of Shavata Brows) believes that DIY brows should be about knowing your limitations. She says, “The best thing anybody can do is to get a professional to shape your brows for you. Then, follow their instructions at home by tweezing out any stray hairs.” Your brow shape will naturally change as your fine hairs grow, but you will need to visit less often. Singh recommends that you draw your design using a brow pencil. “You should not go too far below the arch and avoid straying from your natural shape before you pick up the tweezers. Don’t pluck from the top, and don’t overdo it.”

The myth that your skin becomes used to your skincare products and then it stops working. This can be disproved by looking at ingredients that have substantial and extensive long-term clinical findings (known “long-term following-up studies”).

Dr Jason Thomson, a consultant dermatologist from Skin+Me, states that tretinoin-based products are prescription-only medicines and have been the most studied of all retinoids. “There have been studies where people who have used tretinoin for a long time have seen clinical improvements. These improvements, as well as those seen under a microscope using biopsies, actually increase over time.”

The theory of “overfamiliarity”, as it is commonly known, doesn’t seem to have much weight. Thomson states that “studies provide evidence that the contrary is true” and that they are the basis of dermatologists’ advice about consistency in skincare. It is best to stick with ingredients that have been proven beneficial, and not to change your routine or products.