Don’t Trust These Beauty Treatment Scams, Experts Say

Every year, a new beauty fad comes out–a new product, skincare regimen, or exercise routine. Often, these fads will catch on before people figure out whether they work. By the time experts discover that these treatments don’t work, people have already wasted their money on them.

Some of these scams waste your money but are otherwise harmless. Others can raise your risk of cancer or other illnesses without you knowing. Don’t fall for these beauty treatment scams–learn why they don’t work.

The Secret Dangers Of Tanning Beds

Tanning beds may improve your looks, but they will damage your skin health. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one indoor tanning session increases your risk of cancer by 75%. Plus, indoor tanning does not give you more vitamin D, says UnityPoint Health.

An indoor tanning bed is open.
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Tanning beds cause more cases of skin cancer than lung cancer cases from substance abuse. Don’t believe the “benefits” of indoor tans. Your healthiest bet is to avoid indoor (and outdoor) tanning entirely.

No Serum Can Repair Split Ends

Some beauty brands sell serums and oils that “repair” split ends. But these products only provide temporary relief, if anything. According to SELF, these products glue the hair strands together to “repair” them. But the glue only lasts until your next shampoo session.

A woman shows pictures of split ends before and after a haircut.

Save your money. The only way to relieve split ends is to cut them off, says hairstylist Jordan Garret. If you pull apart split ends, you could damage the rest of your hair.

Your Nail Polish Doesn’t Need SPF

Believe it or not, the skin under your nails can get cancer. Subungual melanoma, as it’s known, appears as a dark stripe under the nail. This is why some nail polishes come with SPF. But you don’t need that added protection, says the American Academy of Dermatology.

A nail technician applies red polish onto a woman's thumb nail.
Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you get a manicure, you don’t need a fancy polish to protect your nails. An ordinary opaque polish is enough. Otherwise, a regular layer of sunscreen can guard against cancer.

Designer Makeup Isn’t Better Than Drugstore Brands

When people pay more for a product, they expect better quality. But is expensive makeup better than drugstore brands? Most makeup artists say no. Jeanne Vos, a clinical esthetician from Penn Medicine, claims that “there is generally no difference in the quality of high-end brands; you’re just paying for the name.”

Zara Phillips shows off her makeup.
Karwai Tang/WireImage
Karwai Tang/WireImage

Many drugstore brands can achieve a similar look and have the same ingredients as high-end brands. Dermatologist Debra Jaliman says that if the product doesn’t have sulfates, synthetic dyes, or parabens, it’s worth it.

“All-Natural” Skin Products Aren’t Necessarily Safer

“All-natural” skin products can’t hurt you, right? Wrong. Makeup artist Samantha Jozic says that people can still have an adverse reaction to natural ingredients. A product from your dermatologist is likely safer than “natural” ingredients that the FDA doesn’t even regulate.

Organic skincare products line the shelves of a supermarket.
K. Y. Cheng/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
K. Y. Cheng/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Plus, the USDA does not define the terms “all-natural,” “eco-friendly,” “green,” or “pure.” Companies can use these words to mean different things. Don’t trust products based on these labels alone; trust your dermatologist instead.

Why Sheet Masks Are The Same As Every Other Lotion

Sheet masks are supposed to hydrate your skin more than facial cream by trapping in the moisture. Paula Begoun, the founder of the skincare brand Paula’s Choice, doesn’t think that sheets moisturize your skin more. If anything, they work the same as a serum.

Two girls pose for a picture while wearing hydrating sheet masks.
Tonya Michelle/Pinterest
Tonya Michelle/Pinterest

Dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal agrees that sheet masks only provide temporary relief. But that’s why they became so popular; people can immediately feel better. If you want to save money, you can replace the face masks with a face cream.

Makeup With SPF? Just Buy Sunscreen

Some concealers and powders now come with SPF so that people don’t have to apply sunscreen. But few of these are enough for your skin. Dermatologist Leslie Baumann says that you need at least 30 SPF for daily protection, which would require several layers of concealer.

A woman rubs sunscreen on her face.
Nora Tam/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
Nora Tam/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Dermatologist Lily Talakoub adds that most sunscreen makeup only protects against UVB rays. UVA is more likely to age and harm your skin, making SPF makeup practically useless. To save money, apply a thin layer of sunscreen before your makeup.

There Is No Such Thing As “Spot Training”

It seems logical: if you exercise one area of your body, that area will lose fat. This is called “spot training,” and science does not back it. In 2011, researchers did not see less abdominal fat when participants only did ab exercises. A similar study showed that working out one leg did not shed more fat than the other leg.

Two bodybuilders work out outside.
HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images
HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images

In short, you can’t tell your body where to lose weight. Ignore any “spot training” regimens or workout gear, and exercise your entire body.

Many Lip Balms Keep You Chapped

Have you ever applied lip balm and still felt chapped later? That’s because many lip balms make you feel dryer. Dermatologist Leslie Baumann says that humectants, such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid, actually remove moisture from your lips.

A close-up shows a model's lips.
Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images

When the balm evaporates, your lips have less moisture than they did before. Dermatologists recommend getting a balm with SPF and staying hydrated. If your chapstick isn’t working, buy a doctor-approved brand such as Burt’s Bees or Vaseline.

You Don’t Need To Swap Skin And Hair Products

A popular beauty myth states that your skin will eventually “get used” to your products. This mindset encourages people to buy new products continually. According to dermatologic surgeon Dendy Engelman, skin does get used to products, but not in the way most people think.

A woman uses a skincare device to remove makeup.
Michael Bezjian/Getty Images for The Artists Project
Michael Bezjian/Getty Images for The Artists Project

Skin will replace oils that after being cleaned. If the product is too harsh, your skin will over-compensate. But if it’s just right, your skin will enjoy it. Esthetician Sarah Akram says that if a product works, stick with it.

Crystal Derma Rollers Are Inefficient

Derma rollers are an at-home treatment for micro-needling. Most derma rollers have tiny needles that dig into the skin, which can increase skin collagen by 400%, according to a 2008 study. Crystal derma rollers don’t have enough texture to recreate this effect.

A woman receives a facial treatment with jade rollers.
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Medical aesthetician Cynthia Rivas says that, at most, crystal rollers can lower puffiness and fine lines. But most people don’t use them correctly, and many don’t come with instructions. You’re better off buying an authentic derma roller.

Don’t Buy Eye Cream In A Jar

Because skin around the eyes is thinner than the rest of the face, it needs special cream. But make sure that cream doesn’t come in a jar. Dr. Jacqueline Schaffer says that these jars let oxygen in, which makes the cream far less effective.

Rows of cosmetic jars are seen with or without lids.

Cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson adds that jars guarantee contamination. Because you’re sticking your finger in it repeatedly, the cream quickly gets dirty. Instead of buying expensive jars, get an airtight squeeze bottle for your eye lotion.

The Truth About Hypoallergenic Products

Many people look for hypoallergenic products to tame sensitive skin. But that’s not technically what it means. According to cosmetic chemist Randy Schueller, hypoallergenic means that the product is unlikely to have ingredients that trigger common allergies.

Men's hygiene products are hypoallergenic.
Gary Ng, Common Studio/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
Gary Ng, Common Studio/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

The term “hypoallergenic” is not regulated by the FDA. In other words, one hypoallergenic product may contain irritants that another one doesn’t. Most dermatologists don’t recommend products based on the term alone, so don’t waste your money.

Do Stretch Mark Creams Work? Spoiler: No

Nobody likes getting stretch marks, which is why anti-mark creams sell. But these creams don’t work, according to a 2017 study. Researchers from the University of Michigan assert that there are no current creams or medications that can cure stretch marks.

A woman spreads lotion over her arm.

Dermatologist Tara Rao adds that some people can prevent stretch marks by moisturizing their skin. But one moisturizer isn’t guaranteed to work. Plus, some people are genetically prone to getting stretch marks. So don’t waste your money on anti-stretch creams.

Don’t Exfoliate With Walnut Scrub

Walnuts have many nutritional benefits, so some companies have ground walnut shells into exfoliators. Although they’re healthy for the body, they aren’t healthy for the skin. Many dermatologists caution people to stay away.

Walnut scrub is poured out of a pink tube.

Dermatologist Janelle Vega told Well+Good that walnut scrubs damage the skin. The pieces are too rough and cause microscopic abrasions. In other words, it’s far too harsh for the sensitive skin on your face. There are plenty of other scrubs to spend your money on.

Corset Waist Trainers Could Hurt You

Waist trainers are designed to shape your midsection while you exercise. In other words, they are exercise corsets. Garrett Van Auken, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, says that they aren’t realistic. Waist trainers restrict breathing and can hinder your workout.

A diagram shows the dangers of waist trainers.
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In the worst-case scenario, waist trainers could hurt your bones and internal organs. Plastic surgeon Dr. Matthew Schulman says that the squeezing could cause indigestion, bruising, and pain. Don’t throw away money on these trainers.

Never Set Your Makeup With Hairspray

Using hairspray to set your makeup may seem like a money-saving hack, but it comes with a price. According to skincare expert Amanda Von Dem Hagen, most hairsprays contain alcohol and lacquers that will dry out your skin.

A woman sprays her hair with product.
DAVID BREWSTER/Star Tribune via Getty Images
DAVID BREWSTER/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Hairspray also has chemicals that may leave your skin red, itchy, and irritated. Although a real setting spray may cost more, it’s far more effective than a hairspray hack. In short, don’t put any hair product on your face.

Bee Pollen Weight Loss Products Are Dangerous

Recently, many weight loss products have added bee pollen as a “natural remedy.” But the FDA warns against these products. Some of the products contained toxic ingredients not listed on the label, sibutramine and phenolphthalein. They have caused cardiac issues, seizures, and at least one death.

A bee is covered in pollen.
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A few of the bee pollen products that the FDA called out include Ultimate Formula, Fat Zero, and Zi Xiu Tang. If you take anything away from this, don’t try a weight loss formula just because it seems “natural.”

Don’t Exfoliate Every Day

In 2014, Beyonce’s dermatologist said that she exfoliates her face every day, causing many fans to rush to the drugstore. But most dermatologists argue that daily exfoliation is way too much. Dr. Clay J. Cockerell, a dermatologist and medical director of Dermpath Diagnostics, recommends exfoliating once or twice a week.

A woman receives a massage with an exfoliating body scrub.
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What’s the harm? In short, daily exfoliation does not allow your skin to regrow. If you rub off too much skin, your face may become red, dry, and irritated.

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Caffeine-Infused Underwear

In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged two companies for making deceptive claims about caffeinated underwear. According to the companies, caffeine-infused shapewear can reshape peoples’ cellulite to make them seem slimmer.

Pairs of underwear lie on a table.
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The FTC asserts that these weight-loss claims are lies. Caffeine can slightly improve weight loss if it is ingested, but external application does nothing for your body. If you take anything away from this, know that wearing certain clothes will not “reshape” your body in any capacity.

A Magic Eraser Does Not Remove A Tan

In 2019, one Twitter user claimed that she removed her fake tan with Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser. Others tried it because the label said “non-toxic,” but they suffered from chemical burns. Magic erasers can remove a tan because they also rip off a layer of skin.

A woman rubs a wall with Mr. Clean's magic eraser.

Like most cleaners, magic erasers are incredibly abrasive. If you rub them, they break down the elastin and collagen in your skin. Unless you want to destroy your skin, don’t try this hack.

Don’t Place Preparation H Under Your Eyes

Preparation H relieves hemorrhoids by restricting blood vessels. Recently, some beauty gurus have used the cream to soothe puffy eyes. In theory, it can work. But it is not designed for puffy eyes and shouldn’t be used for it.

A package of preparation h lies on a table.

Dermatologist Jeff Benabio says that Preparation H could harm blood vessels over time. Because of its ingredient, phenylephrine, it can dilate blood vessels or irritate the eyes. Why spend money on Preparation H when you can get a nice eye cream?

Beware Of Lobster Shrinking Creams

In 2014, “shrinking creams” raised peoples’ eyebrows for claiming to “simulate a lobster’s ability to shrink its body.” These creams, called Photodynamic Therapy, supposedly converted UV rays to tighten skin around the face and body. The FTC argued that the science didn’t add up.

A testosterone weight loss cream is pictured.
BRUCE BISPING/Star Tribune via Getty Images
BRUCE BISPING/Star Tribune via Getty Images

The studies backing Photodynamic Therapy are not reliable, to say the least. The company, DERMAdoctor, received many complaints about its false claims. If you see these creams on the market, don’t buy them.

No, Cutting Your Hair Does Not Make It Grow Faster

One of the most popular beauty myths states that cutting your hair helps it grow faster. Whoever invented this myth probably needed people to pay for more haircuts. This simply isn’t true, says Dr. Paradi Mirmirani, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco.

A model gets her hair cut.
Arthur Elgort/Conde Nast via Getty Images
Arthur Elgort/Conde Nast via Getty Images

Hair grows from follicles in the scalp, so cutting the tips will not speed up growth. On average, hair grows a quarter of an inch each month, whether or not you cut it. If you want longer hair, let it grow out!

You’ll Need More Than A Hair Growth Shampoo

Hair growth shampoos may not deliver what they promise, says hair-restoration surgeon and aesthetic dermatologist Max Malik. According to him, over-the-counter hair growth shampoos have very little evidence to back up their claims. The truth behind hair loss is far more complicated.

A woman presses a shampoo bottle.
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Hair loss and growth can be influenced by many things: your diet, how you brush your hair, stress, and more. If used correctly, hair-growth formulas can strengthen hair to prevent it from flaking and breaking. But they won’t make it grow faster.

Why Lip Plumpers Don’t Work

Lip plumpers–whether they be gels, gloss, sticks, or devices–promise to give you fuller lips. But they always fail. Patricia Farris, a dermatologist at Tulane University, says that lip plumpers only give you results for a couple of hours.

A beauty pageant model applies lipstick.
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Dermatologist Paul Friedman adds that lip plumpers can irritate or damage your lips. If you want plump lips, you’ll have to be born with them. Don’t waste your money on products that fail; focus on enhancing the lips you have.

Deep Conditioners Are The Same As Normal Conditioners

Some people rub deep conditioner through their hair, leave it on for a certain amount of time, and hope for a more “natural” look. In truth, deep conditioners aren’t that different from normal conditioners. Cosmetic chemist Randy Schueller says that companies thicken regular conditioner and add higher concentrations of the same ingredients. That’s it.

A photo shows a container of Kiehl's deep conditioner.
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If you want to, you can achieve the same effect with normal conditioner. Apply it, leave it on for 30 or 40 minutes, and rinse it out. Don’t waste your money on “deep conditioning.”

Eating Gelatin Won’t Strengthen Your Nails

In the 1890s, Charles Knox advertised that his gelatin product could strengthen peoples’ nails. Although the myth has been debunked, it still persists. Dermatologist Dana Stern highly doubts that consuming gelatin will strengthen your nails.

Containers of jello and cream are served as dessert.
Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images
Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images

Despite the gelatin hack being around for centuries, science has yet to prove that calcium or amino acids can improve nails. Soaking your nails in gelatin can soften instead of harden them. If you want an effective supplement, try biotin instead.

Nonsurgical Nose Jobs Are Not A Nose Job

People who don’t want surgery can get a non-surgical nose job, also known as liquid rhinoplasty. According to plastic surgeon Michelle Yagoda, the procedure injects fillers into the nose to temporarily change the shape. Yes, liquid rhinoplasty only lasts for six months.

A woman receives a nose job.
Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The procedure also has some risks that many social media users don’t discuss. In 2018, nose-specialist plastic surgeon Rod J. Rohrich says that the risks have not been calculated yet. Save your money; a non-surgical nose job won’t last and could go wrong.

There’s Only One Approved Eyelash Serum

People who want thicker, darker eyelashes can pick up a serum. Will it work? In most cases, probably not. Dr. Michelle Calder-Cardwell of Urban Optiques Vision says that the only proven, FDA-backed eyelash serum (so far) is Latisse.

A model applies mascara.
Monika Skolimowska/picture alliance via Getty Images
Monika Skolimowska/picture alliance via Getty Images

Why does Latisse work? Dermatologist Linda Honet says that experts don’t understand how Latisse works yet. But it has some drawbacks, such as the possibility to turn blue irises brown. Talk to your doctor before using it.

There Is No Data Saying Cellulite Creams Work

While cellulite cream might sound like an effective way to get rid of unwanted stretch marks, there is little to no data saying they are actually effective.

For the Healthy Skeptic column, a tube of Nivea Body Good–bye Cellulite cream.
Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

According to Consultant dermatologist Dr. Anjali Mahto, “There is little to no data to suggest they work effectively. Even expensive, clinic-based interventional treatments (for example, micro-needling, laser, and radio-frequency) produce moderate results at best, depending on extent and severity.”

Collagen Cream Doesn’t Actually Help Depleating Collagen Levels

As people get older, the collagen levels in their skin begin to decrease, resulting in many people purchasing creams to help the depleting levels. Sadly, the creams do little more than moisturize the skin.

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Juriel Majeed/Unsplash
Juriel Majeed/Unsplash

According to Dr. Parisha Acharya, “Skincare containing collagen may help hydrate and moisturize the surface but will not impact depleting collagen levels deeper inside the skin.” Instead, dermatologists recommend using Vitamin C and retinol serum in the mornings and evenings, respectively.

Blue Light Creams Are A Gimmick

Considering so much of life is spent in front of screens, people might want to protect their skin against the blue light emitted from computers, phones, and televisions. The thing is, blue light creams are nothing more than a scam and money grab.

Poko Skincare/Unsplash
Poko Skincare/Unsplash

According to aesthetician Alicia Lartey, “There is no evidence that supports the need for specific products to protect against blue light at all. As a professional, I want people to have fun with skincare, but I want the skin care to make sense. In a market that is oversaturated, I want to try products that, at the bare minimum, are not a gimmick.”

Deep Cleansing Devices Can Irritate The Skin

Deep cleaning devices, such as brushes, actually cause skin more harm than good. While people might think they are getting into their pores, they are actually causing skin irritation that might result in over-sensitive skin.

Facial massage with brushes. Published in
Karl Schenker/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Karl Schenker/ullstein bild via Getty Images

According to Dr. Acharya, “Harsh brushes can be harmful to the skin, particularly if used overzealously, as they can damage surface layers resulting in leaks and an impaired barrier function. Most experts agree that using your hands is more than enough and [devices] are a waste of money.”

Peel-Off Face Masks Can Leave Skin Feeling Raw

While face masks are great, peel-off face masks containing charcoal can cause more harm than good. According to Nurse Lucy Phillips, skin specialist and founder of Kaizen Medical, “Even though peel-off charcoal masks may help remove dirt and buildup from your pores, they also remove precious skin cells and even vellus hair [fine hair on your face], which can leave skin feeling raw and ripe for irritation.”

Elsa Olofssonn/Unsplash
Elsa Olofssonn/Unsplash

“Charcoal doesn’t discriminate when it comes to ‘detoxifying’ skin.”

Stem Cells In Skincare Don’t Work

There are many products on the market containing plant-based stem cells in their formulas, saying it will result in plumper and smoother skin. With such a hefty price tag, one would hope this would be true. It isn’t.

Mathilde Langevin/Unsplash
Mathilde Langevin/Unsplash

According to Dr. Mahto, “stem cells need a controlled environment, which is hard to replicate and leave on a shelf in a skincare product. Even if the formula is stable, penetration into the skin is unlikely.”

Face Wipes Don’t Actually Remove Dirt

While face wipes sound like a good idea in the general sense, they really do nothing more than more dirt around the skin rather than lift it all the way off. There are better ways to actually cleanse the skin.

Johnson & Johnson Products Ahead Of Earning Figures
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Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images

According to Dr. Acharya, “These [facial wipes] are functionless in reality, as all they do is move dirt and debris around your skin rather than actually lifting it off physically.” The doctor recommends using a micellar water cleanser instead.

SPF Serums Make No Sense

Serums are one of the first products people put on during their morning skincare routines. So, having serums that are SPF-based really makes no sense, considering sunscreen is the last thing people should be putting on their skin.

Superdrug Offers £225 Anti-Ageing Serum For under £10
Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Oli Scarff/Getty Images

According to aesthetician Alicia Lartey, “products which contain sunscreen but are serums (and are advised to be used as such) do not make any sense. Sunscreen needs to be the last step of your routine to form a film.”

Sounds Too Good To Be True? It Probably Is.

Dermatologists say that if any product is marketing towards immediate or overnight results, it is most likely a scam. Anything that is “too good to be true” most likely is.

Boots skin cream relaunch
Anthony Upton – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images
Anthony Upton – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

According to Dr. Zeichner, “Products that promise immediate improvements are often too good to be true. It takes several weeks for a product to exert its effects on the skin.” Pretty much, don’t let “miracle products” promising quick fixes and immediate results fool you and your wallet!

Save Your Money And Don’t Buy Lip Scrubs

The thing about lip scrubs is that, more often than not, they’re nothing more than body scrub in a tinier vessel. These scrubs are also not entirely effective, as people can do something as simple as gloss over their lips with a damp washcloth.

Rafael Rocha/Unsplash
Rafael Rocha/Unsplash

According to Lesa Hannah, beauty director at Fashion Canada, “Lip scrubs are definitely one of the biggest scams going. They’re often just body scrub in a tiny pot and I have never found them to be any more effective than using a slightly damp face cloth and gently sloughing off the offending dead flakes.”