7 beauty myths debunked

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, there are plenty of beauty myths that are widespread and probably handed down through the generations.

The advent of the internet certainly hasn't helped, and some of these myths may even have been shared thousands of times across social media.

I am not sure how some of these came to be, but here are a few beauty myths that people should really stop following.

#1 Shaving makes the hair grow back faster and coarser

My bff (best friend forever) Herman has a teeny sprinkling of hair adorning his chest. To him, the ideal chest of hair would resemble that of Hugh Jackman. To some ladies, petting the Wolverine's chest is a sure way to increase joy and reduce stress.

Thus, Herman shaves his chest regularly, in the false belief that by doing so, the hair would grow back longer and coarser, making him more of a man.

Of course, after years of doing so, his chest hair is still as patchy and spotty as ever.

The myth came about because shaving body or facial hair gives the shaven hair a blunt tip. This tip might feel coarser and more stubbly as it grows out. Thus, the hair appears more noticeable, darker and thicker, but it's not.

So ladies, it is okay to shave if threading, waxing and permanent laser hair removal is not your thing.

#2 Oily food causes acne

I have to admit, Cadbury and Van Houten's nuts and raisins chocolate bars never fail to tempt me. Despite chomping on these goodies far too regularly, I don't have a single zit adorning my face.

How could something as delicious as chocolate or peanuts be the cause of breakouts on your face? This is one myth that is definitely not true, generally speaking.

Eat a chocolate bar right now, or some peanuts, and see if acne sprouts up overnight. If it does, there's a high chance that your lifestyle or eating habits are the cause of it, not M&Ms or Kacang Tanah Cap Tangan.

There is very little scientific proof that chocolates, peanuts, or any fatty foods for that matter, directly cause acne. However, a diet that is high in sugar or fat will increase the production of sebum, which in turn increases the chance of your body reacting to it.

Sebum can cause pimples or acne, so this is where the myth originates from.

So in short, if you're going to give up chocolate, you'll also have to give up all the other high-sugar and high-fat foods as well for it to make a difference!

#3 Toothpaste can clear up your pimples

Following on from the previous myth, here's another acne-related one that you and many others may have tried before. Did it work for you? If it did, it's definitely not for the reasons you think.

Although it is true that toothpaste contains ingredients that might help pimples dry out (such as baking soda and menthol), it also irritates the skin tremendously.

You're more likely to end up with skin redness and peeling than a pimple-free zone. At any rate, pimples will naturally clear up anyway, along with the redness.

Even though it might seem like it works, toothpaste should not be used as the main treatment for pimples. Just get some skin products containing benzoyl peroxide as these are likely to be much more effective.

For more severe acne or acne scars, get a consultation with your dermatologist or aesthetic doctor.

Interestingly, Ramli, my good friend from Indonesia, claims that it's a common belief there that applying semen on the face and leaving it on overnight dries out pimples!

#4 Facials and skincare products are for ladies only

My father still washes his face using a regular bar of Palmolive soap. Many men of his generation believe that using skincare products such as moisturisers, masks, scrubs and sunscreens, or going for facial treatments at your neighbourhood beauty salon or spa, is a girly thing.

In fact, even some ladies strongly adhere to this belief.

Ah Bok, my mum's elder sister, berated me once when I told her I had an appointment for a hydrating facial with blackhead extraction. "Haiya, only ladies go facial lah!" she exclaimed.

Professional facial sessions are helpful for all genders because more intensive treatments are carried out, compared to daily home-based regimes.

Certain procedures such as blackhead and whitehead extraction are best left to the professionals as improperly done ones can lead to infection, and even, scarring.

Another awesome thing about facials is that it gives you quality "me" time, whereby your body and mind rejuvenate under the comforting, pampering hands of your therapist.

However, facials are at most a once or twice a month affair, so both men and women would still need to have a good daily skincare regime. Cleanser, moisturiser, serums, sunscreens and several sessions of masks and scrubs a week are necessary to help our skin look its best and healthiest.

So guys, buck up and don't be lazy!

#5 You only need to apply sunscreen if you spend a lot of time outdoors

After my clients' procedures such as laser or chemical peel, I remind them to be diligent in applying sunscreen regularly for the next couple of weeks. "You should actually be using sunscreen every day, for your whole life, and not just after laser," I'll tell them before they howl in protest that they don't require sunscreen as they don't spend much time outdoors.

Everyone should apply sunscreen of at least SPF30 and above, at least twice a day, after waking up in the morning and at lunchtime, even if they only spend time in the house or office.

This is because sunlight, with its ultraviolet (UV) rays, filter in through our house and office windows throughout the day. You get sunlight exposure while commuting to work, walking out for lunch or buying vegetables at the wet market.

UVA rays reach our body even through glass windows and thick clouds. Even the light bulbs and fluorescent tubes in our house or office emit low levels of UV rays. UVA penetrates skin deeply and ages our skin. So, slather on your sunscreen lotions religiously.

#6 Higher SPF levels are more effective

Most aesthetic doctors, including myself, recommend using a sunscreen with at least a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30. Many Malaysians have this wrong idea that a SPF60 sunblock lotion will be twice as effective as SPF30.

A SPF30 sunscreen blocks 96 per cent of UVB rays, whereas SPF50 sunscreen blocks 98 per cent of the rays. About 99 per cent of UVB rays can be blocked by using a SPF75 sunscreen.

So you see, there's not much difference in the efficacy of sunscreens beyond SPF30. And there's no way you can totally block out the sun's rays with the gooey stuff.

Why would sunscreen companies make such high SPF level products if SPF30 is good enough? The answer, my friend, is that higher SPF sunscreens can be sold for higher prices and are more profitable.

#7 Aesthetic and plastic surgery procedures are for celebrities and wealthy ladies only

This is certainly the myth that irks aesthetic doctors such as myself the most. Unlike in Western countries, or countries with high awareness and acceptance of aesthetic and plastic surgery procedures such as Korea and Thailand, Malaysians seem to think that only celebrities such as singers and actresses, or rich tai-tais and datins indulge in these procedures.

Throughout the years, I've had male and female Malaysians from various races, occupations and social classes coming for beautification and youth restoration procedures.

Housewives, students, blue collar workers, and also, professionals come for treatment as almost everyone wishes to look young and attractive. People are fully aware that being physically attractive and youthful confers many advantages socially and at the workplace.

There are a variety of aesthetic procedures with prices to suit all budgets, so it is a myth that only very wealthy folks can afford these procedures.

For example, those with acne scarring have the option to undergo a RM200 subcision procedure, or a RM1,500 per session Fractional CO2 laser.

Your aesthetic doctor, dermatologist or plastic surgeon will discuss the various options available to suit your budget concerns.

Many clinics nowadays offer flexi-payment schemes by instalment for credit card holders to make aesthetic procedures within the reach of more Malaysians.

Dr Chen Tai Ho is an experienced aesthetic doctor who chills by the pool sipping espresso latte when he's not attending to his patients. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader's own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.