by Fayne Frey, M.D., Board Certified Dermatologist
People ask me all the time why they need to detox their skin. My answer? You don’t.
Where in the world did the idea that one can detox their skin originate? If you do a quick search on the web, you will find thousands of articles on the topic with titles such as:
How to Give Your Skin A Detox
Do I Need To Detox?
Home Remedies to Detox Your Skin
Summer Skin Detox
Winter Skin Detox
Can You Really Detox Your Skin?
Best Ingredients To Skin Detox
Detoxifying treatments like facial masks promise to purge skin of toxins. Sounds impressive, right? Unfortunately the reality is far from it.
Why didn’t I learn about skin detox in medical school?
The word detox, used to describe a multitude of creams, lotions, serums, and masks, is often advertised boldly on product labels. Both expensive boutique “detox” potions and less costly drugstore products are readily available these days. These products are thought to remove dreadful toxins that accumulate in your skin.
As a graduate of an Ivy League medical school who had the honor of being taught by some of the most brilliant medical minds on the planet, I’m wondering why I can’t name a single toxin known to accumulate in the skin. And exactly what is the end result of a “skin detox” and how do you confirm these poisonous toxins are eradicated?
Skin detox is a myth
The word detox (short for detoxification) means to remove unhealthy substances, such as alcohol or addictive substances like opiates and barbiturates, from the body. It’s a common expression used in medical hospitals and rehabilitation centers all over the world. However, during my four years at medical school, one year internship and three years of dermatology residency, including a year as Chief Resident, I never once heard the word “detox” used in connection with the skin. So, let’s be clear- from a medical perspective, skin “detox” is not a thing.
The human body is amazing. Your skin is a barrier. It is very difficult to for toxins to pass through healthy skin. Some people say perspiration, or sweat, serves to “detox” your body by removing trace heavy metals, but available studies do not prove this theory. The liver and kidneys have the primary responsibility for detoxifying the body, and do a pretty good job as long as they’re healthy. The bowels and urinary systems, as extensions of these organs, remove the waste from your body. If toxins build up in your body, you’ll likely know it as you will probably feel ill.
The word ‘detox’ on skincare products is used as marketing jargon, hijacked with the sole purpose of increasing sales.
Simplify your life: you don’t need to buy special products.
The word ‘detox’ is used as a replacement for the word “cleanse” by marketing professionals in the beauty industry. It doesn’t mean anything. I recommend you simply use a cleanser, such as a bar of soap, to wash instead. Cleansing your skin will also remove the most superficial layers of skin cells. If, on occasion, you like to go a step further and use a scrub or exfoliant because you like the way it feels, by all means do so. Just know that none of these treatments can be considered a “detox.
If you want healthy skin, live a healthy lifestyle.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Keep the skin hydrated by moisturizing when necessary.
- Protect yourself from the sun and wear sunscreen 365 days/year.
One last recommendation…laugh lots. Especially when you see the word “detox” on a skincare product label.
Fayne Frey, M.D., is a board-certified clinical and surgical dermatologist practicing in West Nyack, New York, where she specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. She is a nationally recognized expert in the effectiveness and formulation of over-the-counter skincare products, and, as a speaker, has captivated audiences with her wry observations regarding the skincare industry. She has consulted for numerous media outlets, including NBC, USA Today, and, the Huffington Post, and has shared her expertise on both cable and major TV outlets. Dr. Frey is the Founder of FryFace.com, an educational skincare information and product selection service website that clarifies and simplifies the overwhelming choice of effective, safe and affordable products encountered in the skincare aisles. Dr. Frey is a fellow of both the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.