It is difficult to determine where some medical myths originate from, but many are old wives’ tales passed on from generation to generation (Don’t touch that toad, you’ll get a wart!!). Here are some more common, often believed medical myths.
Truth: It seems obvious that water would help to hydrate the skin. However, if you wash your hands frequently they become dry and rough. Water helps to hydrate and keep internal organs functioning, while application of moisturizer helps keep the external organ, skin, moisturized. Avoiding such things as hot showers, harsh deodorant soaps, and rubbing skin dry after bathing also helps to improve dry skin.
Truth: Unfortunately for bald men, this is just an urban legend. Hair may appear to grow back faster, but it is just an illusion. New hair growth on clean-shaven skin is more noticeable than on a hairy surface. When hair first grows in after being shaved, it has a blunt edge, which makes it seem thicker than it really is. This blunt edge gets worn after time. Emerging hair may look darker because it has not been bleached by the sun. There are alternatives to shaving, such as waxing or using depilatories, which lasts longer than shaving. Laser hair removal is a more permanent solution.
Truth: Many people think reading in dim lighting is dangerous because it causes temporary eye strain. While reading in dim light can cause stress in the eye, it is unlikely to cause permanent damage. Reading in dim light decreases the rate of blinking, which leads to drying; however, the effects do not persist. Using a bright book light can help reduce eye stress.
Truth: The size of our pores often depends on hereditary factors and does not change, so quit splashing cold water on your face in hopes of smaller pores. Pores may appear larger than usual due to dead skin cells that have built up in the pore, not because they have opened up. A good skin care regimen that includes exfoliation can help reduce the appearance of pores.
Truth: You might not get sun burnt with a tan, but your tan does not protect against dangerous ultraviolet rays. Tanned skin is damaged skin, so further tanning injures the skin and increases the risk of skin cancer. It is well known that excessive sun exposure can promote the development of many skin cancers, including melanoma. Limiting sun exposure, wearing sunscreen, and performing monthly skin cancer self-exams can help prevent skin damage. If you must have a tan, use a sunless tanning lotion or spray.
Truth: The body does some weird things after death, like making noise (which is just gas escaping), but it does not continue to grow. After dying, our bodies dehydrate, drying our flesh, which pulls away from the hair and nails. Nails remain the same length while the skin shrinks, making it appear as if the nail has actually grown. Funeral parlors hide this “growth” by putting moisturizer on bodies.
Truth: Most people are afraid to come into contact with someone who has any kind of illness or condition, but someone with poison ivy cannot infect you with a cough or hug. Any skin that comes in contact with the oil of the poison ivy plant can cause an itchy rash to develop. Skin-to-skin contact, without the presence of the oil, cannot spread the rash. However, any traces of oil on clothing or other objects can continue to spread the rash. If you come into contact with poison ivy, it is important to use soap and water to wash all potentially exposed areas and garments. Wearing protective clothing and barrier cream can help to protect against potential exposure when outside.
Truth: Several women claimed to be addicted to Carmex in 1995. Thankfully none of them ended up in lip balm rehab, or on a street corner begging for spare change for their next “fix.” There are no addictive chemicals in lip balm. People may become addicted to the feeling of wearing lip balm but not the actual lip balm itself. There are a few things you can do to break the habit of lip balm overuse. Try to not lick your lips. The discomfort returns after the saliva is dry and makes lips feel more chapped. You may also want to try a humidifier, which will hydrate the air and bring moisture to your lips.
Truth: It makes sense that grease would cause oily skin and pimples, right? If you were rubbing pizza and potato chips directly onto your face, then yes, but if you’re just eating it, then no. Acne is the term used for plugged pores and even deeper lumps that occur on the face, neck, shoulders, chest, and upper arms. Overproduction of the normal skin oil, sebum, coupled with insufficient shedding of exfoliated dead skin cells, causes acne. Between 85–100% of people are affected by acne at some point in their life. Benzoyl peroxide is most effective at treating acne and is available in a variety of forms and strengths.
Truth: While people with darker skin do not burn as easily or frequently as lighter skinned individuals, they are still not safe from harmful ultraviolet light from the sun. People with darker skin are actually more likely to die from skin cancer than those with fairer skin. This is due to the common belief that darker skin protects against sun damage. Those with darker skin are likely to develop skin cancer on their hands or feet. It is recommended that everyone wear an SPF of at least 15 and perform a self-exam monthly to check for signs of skin cancer.