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Summer beauty myths you won't believe from now on

Hautgesundheit29.09.22 13 min. read

Part 3 of the "Beauty myths? Not at This Place!" series

Does toothpaste really help with pimples? Should you rub lemon juice on your skin? And if so, how often? How can you minimize pores? Is it best to do it permanently? And are you already secretly planning your DIY for sugar peeling with olive oil when you see dry skin?

The list of modern beauty myths is long. Just as long as the forums and magazine articles, which supposedly give you helpful tips and tricks, "explain" how to put your beauty worries to rest – preferably overnight.

In our series "Beauty myths? Not at This Place!" we want to take a closer look at all kinds of "I've heard that helps with... questions" in the field of skin care and beauty rituals. 

This article is dedicated to 6 beauty myths that celebrate their comeback every year in the hottest months of the year. But here's how you'll know better in the future:

 

Summer beauty myths: an "irritating" topic 

There's no question about it: as soon as you started this article, you were reminded (or, made aware) that there's barely an end to the list of beauty myths. A large number of these myths are not seasonal. They are circulated year-round via social media, searched for on Google, or passed on as home remedy tips.

The following "tips and tricks", which come into focus every year with the onset of rising temperatures, are a little different. You should pay particular attention to your skin in summer. If you don't protect your skin or don't protect it enough in summer, you will risk skin irritation, dry, flaky skin, allergic reactions, pigment disorders, sunburn and, in the worst case, skin cancer. 

But let's take it one step at a time. 

 

A "Pffft!" full of moisture? How good are water sprays and thermal sprays for your skin?

This seasonal item can be found in drugstores as well as in well-stocked pharmacies: the water or thermal spray. The water from the can is supposed to provide quick refreshment on the go. A quick "Pffft!" and the nitrogen usually contained in the spray emits a damp mist from the aerosol canister. 

What initially feels like a quick cool-down combined with a moisture kick for your skin should be viewed critically for the following 3 reasons: 

Reason 1: Money

One of the most common size quantities is the 150 ml can. The main ingredient is purified water (INCI: Aqua). Even with the cheap versions from the drugstore, the price of about 1.50 euros (as of August 2022) per water spray can is significantly higher than the price of tap water; a food product that is particularly strictly controlled in Germany. For example, 1 litre of tap water costs well under 1 cent nationwide. Is the spray effect worth this price difference to you?

Reason 2: Environment & sustainability

Depending on the temperature and the amount of use, you empty a can of water or thermal spray quickly. What usually remains is a large aluminium can and a plastic lid. 

Ask yourself whether the duration of use and the intended purpose - the quick refreshment in between - are in proportion to the packaging and the amount of waste produced. How sustainable do you think this cooling method is?

And although the amount of nitrogen released (INCI: Nitrogen) is very small, in the end it is a contribution to the so-called nitrogen surplus. According to the Federal Environment Agency (2021) [2], this surplus pollutes groundwater, biodiversity, air and climate, among other things. 

Reason 3: Skin health

Perhaps the most exciting part may be the question of dermatological benefits: How beneficial is water or thermal spray for your skin and its health?

The answer can be found by looking at the list of ingredients. In the minimum formula you will find water and nitrogen. However, there are sprays with preservatives, alcohols with varying degrees of compatibility, perfume and fragrances that require declaration, optionally supplemented with moisturising ingredients such as glycerine. 

Minimal formulas are particularly susceptible to germ contamination. People with a weakened immune system, diabetes or chronic respiratory diseases in particular should be careful here. 

But the other sprays are not infinitely durable either. In addition, perfume or declarable ingredients can easily irritate sensitive or allergy-prone skin. Depending on the preservative used, there may also be further potential for irritation. 

But regardless of this: did you know that regular use of water sprays can dry out your skin? The pleasant cooling effect when spreading the fine water mist is caused by evaporation, among other things. As sunlight can weaken your skin barrier, the evaporation of the water spray on your skin can draw further moisture from your skin. This is noticeable by a feeling of tightness. 

In addition, water sprays and thermal waters often have a pH value that is higher than your skin's natural pH value.  This means that these sprays can

An alternative to water and thermal sprays, besides drinking enough water at room temperature, can be cooling down with a fan. 

If you don't want to give up the fresh mist and want to make your own water spray using tap water and a refillable spray bottle, please remember to change the water daily and clean the bottle thoroughly. Also, observe whether your skin tightens after use ("dehydration" and "ph-value", remember?). 

By the way, don't confuse water and thermal sprays with setting or fixing sprays that are supposed to make your make-up last longer. Water sprays can help if you've applied too much powder. But you can't expect it to last longer. If your spray also contains glycerine, for example, your make-up may look blotchy, come off more quickly or make your skin shine more quickly.

Tanning is not only beautiful, but healthy too, isn't it?

It almost seems as if the "true" summer feeling is inseparable from it: tanned skin. This ideal of beauty is so firmly anchored in Western culture in particular that compliments about the darker skin colour after a summer holiday are basically good mannered. 

Tanned, sun-kissed skin is often equated with healthy skin and a healthy body - and certainly not least because of the association with vitamin D (more on this later in this article). 

But have you ever wondered how tanning your skin actually works? And what happens in your body?

How do you get a tan?

Your skin consists of several layers. In the epidermis, the part you can see from the outside, there are pigment cells everywhere at a certain distance. As the name suggests, pigment cells are responsible for "colouring" the skin. 

These cells, also called melanocytes, store your body's own pigment, melanin. By the way: Since the skin on the inside of your hands and on the soles of your feet has significantly fewer melanocytes, the skin there is often lighter than on the rest of your body. 

But let's take a step back for a moment. In addition to the sun's rays, the colour of your skin is also determined by these factors:

  • Genes
  • Hormones (especially in women, hormones can cause dark skin)
  • Medication 
  • Strength of blood circulation (for example, during exertion or cold)
  • Diseases 
  • Scars and injuries
  • Nutrition (for example, the beta-carotene in carrots, parsley and honeydew melons, or the lycopene in tomato paste, will help your skin tan from the inside).
  • In a distant sense, the use of self-tanning products and make-up, as well as the presence of tattoos, also contribute to the colour appearance of your skin.

 

Now let's talk about melanocytes and their role in tanning. 

Sun rays are divided into a total of 3 types of ultraviolet radiation, 2 of which actually reach the earth.  UV-A and UV-B. 

Activated by the sun's rays, the pigment cells secrete melanin to absorb some of the UV radiation, thus protecting your skin and your body as a whole. This protective mechanism is at the same time a kind of defense reaction that should prevent worse damage. Because every tan represents damage that has already been done to your skin. 

UV-A rays block your body's own tumour defenses, which makes it easier for free radicals to cause damage to your genetic material. And UV-B rays can directly damage your epidermis. 

The rule of thumb applies: The darker the skin tan (to the point of burning), the deeper and more severe the damage to the skin can be. 

The crux of the matter is that the severity and effects often only become apparent decades later. The impact of increased sun consumption becomes somewhat more tangible thanks to this statement from a newspaper interview in the "Süddeutsche Zeitung": "Every sunburn ages the skin by about six months." [1]

Yes, it sounds funny at first: sun can be stressful for your skin. And to a certain degree, sun is stress for your immune system. 

It is important for you to understand that tanning is not healthy per se. Because with every little damage to your skin, the risk of developing skin cancer increases in the course of your life. After all, each body can only tolerate a certain amount of UV radiation, which, once exceeded, can no longer be compensated for by the body's own repair mechanisms. Ultimately, it is the melanocytes, for example, that form the so-called black skin cancer in the case of pathological changes. This is a diagnosis that around 23,000 people in Germany received in 2018 alone [12].

For you, this means enjoying the sun only in moderation if you want to protect your skin from premature ageing and your body from serious damage.

So remember this:

 

  • In particular, protect your face, neck and décolleté as well as your hands and arms and, if you wear open shoes, your feet with sunscreen every day from a UV index of 3.
  • As often as possible, wear long clothing made of natural materials such as cotton, which can absorb your sweat and form a textile sunscreen. This is especially true if your skin is already showing signs of sunburn!
  • Protect your head and face with hats, for example in bright colours. This is even more important if your scalp is hairless or no longer covered by hair everywhere.
  • Seek shade whenever possible. And please remember to use textile or cosmetic sunscreen, because even in the shade your skin can tan.
  • Avoid the midday sun between 11 am and 3 pm as much as possible.
  • Remember: Sun rays also enter through windows (in the office, at home, in your car). Sunscreen is also a good way to protect your skin. 

"Sunscreen? But then I'll get vitamin D deficiency!"

Now you may be facing a dilemma. You know that sunscreen is essential if you want to prevent serious skin damage and premature ageing. But at the same time, you fear a deficiency in another area: vitamin D.

Vitamin D is one of the best-known vitamins. And you are probably also familiar with the connection to its formation under sunlight. The fat-soluble vitamin is involved in maintaining the health of your bones, the normal function of your metabolism and the function of your genes. [6] 

According to the Robert Koch Institute, the natural formation of vitamin D is possible in Germany between March and October - through exposure to sunlight. Your body is able to store vitamin D, for example for the winter months [6]. 

Since sunscreen, at least applied in the right amount and with a high sun protection factor, blocks the sun's rays, many people assume that they are provoking a vitamin D deficiency by using sunscreen. But the situation is not so clear-cut. While the German Cancer Society points out that sunscreen can reduce the formation of vitamin [10], studies conclude that sunscreens have no negative effect on the formation of vitamin D, as long as no diseases such as photosensitivity are present [9; 11].

In order to form sufficient vitamin D, exposing the face, hands and arms to the sun uncovered and without sunscreen 2 to 3 times a week for about 10 to 20 minutes is enough for most skin types in Germany  [6; cf. also 7]. But of course, do not do this during the midday sun or temperatures that weaken your circulation.

This short period of sun exposure is easily exceeded during a day in the sun, a walk in the afternoon or on holiday. And please remember that your skin cells react to the sun's rays even behind windows and car windows. As soon as you do not reapply your sunscreen in sufficient quantity every 2 hours, your skin's own protection has to become active; the time window is running.

The risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency by applying and reapplying sunscreen correctly (for example, after sweating) is disproportionate to the expected skin damage from prolonged, unprotected sun exposure. 

As long as you are regularly outdoors in summer, vitamin D deficiency is less of a risk than serious skin damage when you are unprotected outdoors, even if you use sunscreen.

According to the Federal Office for Radiation Protection, the number of skin cancer diagnoses doubles every 10 to 15 years in Germany [8]. And while a vitamin D deficiency diagnosed by a doctor can be remedied well with fatty fish species such as salmon, herring tuna, the consumption of mushrooms and, last but not least, supplements, the (successful) therapy of skin cancer is immensely more difficult.

In addition, unprotected sun exposure is responsible for the majority of signs of premature skin ageing. 

So if you are worried about vitamin D deficiency, get medical advice and a check-up. A blood test will provide information about your current supply status. 

Too much of a good thing? This is why the sun protection factor in face cream and make-up does not replace your sunscreen.

A large number of skin care and decorative cosmetic products advertise a sun protection factor.  The SPF (sun protection factor) of face creams or foundations, for example, is often between 10 and 15. 

This means that if you use the product correctly, the natural sun protection of your skin is extended by a factor of ten or fifteen. 

What in theory sounds like a quick and easy solution to integrate sun protection into your daily skin care ritual, in reality (especially in summer) does not offer you the protection you expect. 

The effect of the product depends primarily on the correct amount applied. For the face alone, this amount corresponds to about 1 gram. That is about half a teaspoon or at least two fingers (or even three, depending on the amount applied) full. What might still be conceivable for a face cream (although you will quickly realise that you are used to applying a much smaller amount) is only an option for make-up if you don't mind very thick make-up edges and a "plastered" look.

In addition, sweating or bathing, for example, require reapplication of the product to maintain protection. Think about it, how often do you apply your face cream during the day? How often can you imagine "touching up" your make-up with a very large amount of product?

Regardless, any sunscreen is better than no SPF at all. So for a quick trip to the bakery or around the block, skincare or cosmetics can help support your natural sun protection. 

But please don't rely on these products alone - especially in spring and summer.

If you want to learn more about sun protection, you will be interested in our sun protection blog article.

Body lotion or after sun cream –– all body creams are the same, aren’t they?

If you have decided to sunbathe, you should pay attention to how you care for your stressed skin afterwards. Especially if you notice the first slight redness (but no sunburn) on your skin after sunbathing, which may be slightly tight or sensitive. This reaction of your skin shows you that you have not protected your skin sufficiently from the sun's rays. 

Before you reach for your favourite body lotion, check the list of ingredients. A body lotion can have a different (care) effect on your skin than after-sun products, which are specially developed for skin care after sunbathing.

After sunbathing, try to avoid perfumed products (INCI: Parfum) or products with declared fragrances (e.g. geraniol, linalool). They can irritate your skin even more.  

Some body lotions, especially in summer, contain glitter particles that are supposed to make the skin glow. Apart from the fact that these particles are made of mica - often extracted by child labour under environmentally harmful conditions - or plastic, they do not provide the much-needed skin care effect.  Skin-soothing ingredients like panthenol or cocoa butter (INCI: Theobroma Cacao Seed Butter), moisturising light formulations with glycerin or hyaluronic acid (INCI: Hyaluronic Acid) and anti-inflammatory ingredients like zinc, on the other hand, help your skin to regenerate. 

Fatty alcohols such as cetyl, stearyl and behenyl alcohol also help your skin to seal in the remaining moisture inside.

Particularly rich formulations like those in body butter can be too much for your skin after sunbathing. Pay attention to how your skin feels if you still want to try it.

Since pure oils on the skin can disrupt the skin barrier and wash out important skin lipids, applying pure raspberry oil or coconut oil, for example, for care after sunbathing is not recommended.

Do dairy products actually help relieve sunburns?

If it does happen, despite precautions and good skin-care, you will soon come across this "tip" for sunburn care: quark (curd), sometimes yoghurt or even buttermilk [see 4].

What all these home remedies have in common is that the respective food (most often quark) should be applied to the sunburn. The effect is said to range from cooling to anti-inflammation and strengthening of the skin barrier.

These statements are based, among other things, on the fact that quark positively influences the ph-value of the skin due to the lactic acid it contains [5] and at the same time cares for the injured skin.

However, you should be sceptical about this home remedy for sunburn, because

If the curd mask is left on your skin for too long, the curd dries out. This further stresses the already irritated, inflamed skin. At the same time, the drying process promotes blood circulation to the heated skin area. This in turn can increase an unpleasant feeling of warmth.

It is difficult for you to assess how strong the inflammatory reaction of your skin really is. However, especially if you have (non-obvious) injuries, open sores or even blisters - please consult a doctor if you have these two symptoms! - the lactic acid bacteria and other naturally occurring bacteria and enzymes can fuel the inflammatory process.

A sunburn needs irritation-free moisture and mild cooling. Since sunburn is always an inflammatory reaction of your skin, be careful not to cool your skin directly with cold packs or even ice. If you apply ice directly to your skin, you risk injuring your skin even more: there is a risk of frostbite!

So please always put a clean, thin cloth between your skin and a cold pack from the fridge.

A clean cloth and clean tap water can also help with initial cooling and pain relief. Experts also recommend the use of cooled black tea, which is said to be good for sun-irritated skin because of its antioxidants. Unlike curd, it should not be washed off.

However, it is questionable to what extent the evaporation of the black tea does not deprive your skin of the moisture it urgently needs at that moment and whether the aromatic substances it contains do not lead to further irritation in individual cases.

A light lotion with panthenol, allantoin or lactic acid (INCI: Lactic Acid) can help your skin to calm down. Especially if you have a known sensitivity or allergy, make sure to use a lotion without perfume and fragrances as well as silicones (INCI: dimethicone) and mineral oils (INCI: petrolatum). 

Protect your sunburned skin from further exposure to the sun. Otherwise, in addition to the formation of blisters, you risk the formation of scars and ultimately skin cancer. 

In addition, sun-damaged skin is susceptible to pigmentation disorders. As soon as the regeneration process of the burnt skin begins and fresh skin cells come to the surface, they darken faster than the surrounding skin. This process can result in permanent discolouration. And that's not exactly appealing, is it?

Bottom line

After reading this article, you can better decide what your personal summer skincare ritual should look like. Instead of relying on beauty myths, you can focus on not further weakening your skin, for example by (long) sunbathing, frequent use of water sprays or lack of sun protection.

Even though tanned skin is an ongoing beauty trend, there is no such thing as a healthy tan.

When caring for your summer skin, look for ingredients that provide moisture, keep it in your skin and soothe your skin. 

Sources:
  1. “‘Gesunde Bräune gibt es nicht’”; Violetta Simon; 20.08.2021; last accessed on11.08.2022 More Info
  2. “Stickstoff”; 20.12.2021; last accessed on 11.08.2022 More Info
  3. “Kinderarbeit für Glanz und Glitzer” Oliver Mayer; 02.01.2022; zuletzt abgerufen am 11.08.2022 More Info
  4. Sucheingabe Google “Sonnenbrand Buttermilch”; Ergebnisse rund 10.800; last accessed on 12.08.2022 More Info
  5. “Erste Hilfe für die Haut. Hilft Quark bei Sonnenbrand?”; o.A.; 30.06.2022, last accessed on 12.08.2022 More Info
  6. “Antworten des Robert Koch-Instituts auf häufig gestellte Fragen zu Vitamin D”; o.A.; 25.1.2019; last accessed on 12.08.2022 More Info
  7. “Die verschiedenen Hauttypen”; o.A.; o.A.; last accessed on 12.08.2022 More Info
  8. “Warum Schutz vor UV-Strahlung?”, last accessed on 12.08.2022 More Info
  9. “Sunscreen photoprotection and vitamin D status”; Passeron T. et al.; 08.05.2019; last accessed on 12.08.2022 More Info
  10. “Sonnenschutz – Was hilft wirklich?”; o.A.; 07.03.2018; last accessed on 12.08.2022 More Info
  11. “Prevalence and correlates of sun protections with sunburn and vitamin D deficiency in sun-sensitive individuals”; Kim. S, Carson K.A., Chien, A.L.; 26.05.2020; last accessed on12.08.2022 More Info
  12. “Malignes Melanom der Haut. ICD-10 C43”, Zentrum für Krebsregisterdaten More Info
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