Celebrity Skin-Care Secrets: The Good, The Bad, and the Potentially Ugly
Mineral sunscreen? Leech facials? Infrared light? Not all celebrity skin-care tips are worth following.
Celebrities are often asked in interviews about their glowing skin, but is their advice worth following?
Celebrities always have to be ready for a high-res close-up, so keeping their skin looking sensational is always a priority. And because the Gwyneths, Jennifers, and Halles of the world have access to the top dermatologists and the best products that money can buy, it’s no wonder they all have a skin-care secret or two.
Maybe that’s why one of the first questions they’re asked in every interview is how they manage to maintain a flawless face 24/7.
But while some A-listers relish in passing on professional advice handed down by their team of experts, others aren’t shy about sharing some rather unconventional — and sometimes inadvisable — advice.
Here, three top dermatologists give us the scoop on the fact and fiction behind celebrity skin-care secrets: Nazanin Saedi, MD, department co-chair of the Laser and Aesthetics Surgery Center at Dermatology Associates of Plymouth Meeting in Pennsylvania; Debra Jaliman, MD, a New York City–based board-certified dermatologist and author of the book Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist; and Kathleen Cook Suozzi, MD, director of the Aesthetic Dermatology Program at Yale Medicine and assistant professor of Dermatology at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut.
Read on to see which A-list celebrity skin-care advice you should be following — and which advice belongs on the D-list.
Gabrielle Union Drinks a Gallon of Water a Day to Keep Her Hair, Skin, and Nails Healthy
What is the secret to Gabrielle Union’s youthful complexion? As she once told The New York Times, it may have something to do with her H2O consumption. “I try to drink a gallon of water a day, and I try to get in 32 ounces with breakfast,” she revealed. “It’s the biggest thing for hair, skin, [and] nails.”
So, can you hydrate your way to glowing skin? While the overwhelming majority of health experts support getting in your recommended daily intake of fluids, there is a lack of scientific evidence supporting this specific claim. “Water by itself will not give you glowing skin, but [it] will keep you hydrated,” Dr. Saedi says.
Dr. Suozzi also warns that overhydrating is not a good thing: “Drinking too much water can put strain on your kidneys to filtrate large volumes of fluid. Overhydration can also cause electrolyte imbalances, which could potentially be dangerous.” However, most healthy adults are unlikely to drink enough water to cause any harm, the Mayo Clinic notes.
The bottom line: Drinking water alone will not necessarily give you Union’s glow, but it’s essential to keeping your body as a whole functioning at its best — so keep your water bottle close to hand.
RELATED: The Best Times to Drink Water
Gwyneth Paltrow Avoids Sunscreens with 'Harsh Chemicals' and Applies Conservatively
In a video for Vogue, Paltrow explained her unique approach to sun protection, revealing she uses a “clean mineral sunscreen” because “there are a lot of really harsh chemicals in conventional sunscreen, so that’s a product that I really want to avoid.” She also added that she takes a less-is-more approach to application: “I’m not a head-to-toe slatherer of sunscreen, but I like to put some kind of on my nose and the area where the sun really hits.”
There are two parts to Paltrow’s statement. The first has to do with chemical ingredients in traditional sunscreens, a topic that has been somewhat controversial over the last few years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a study in January 2020 in the medical journal JAMA that found that six of the key active ingredients in sunscreen — avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate, and octinoxate — were absorbed in the bloodstream after a single use. Yet researchers emphasized that absorption does not equate to risk, and recommended further research to conclude what levels of the chemicals may be considered safe. With this information in mind, the FDA clearly stated that the findings of the study do not conclude that any of the ingredients are unsafe, and recommend their continued use. They also noted that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (two common components of mineral sunscreens) are completely safe and effective.
“I agree with the mineral sunscreen [recommendation]. Mineral sunscreens have no irritating chemicals,” Dr. Jaliman says. But when it comes to the Goop founder’s “less is more” application tactic, she couldn’t disagree more. “More is best when applying sunscreen,” she maintains. “You want all areas exposed to the sun to be covered with sunscreen.”
Saedi agrees. “Sunscreen is not a highlighter, and you need a thin layer on your skin in order to have appropriate protection,” she explains, adding that you also need to make sure to reapply every two hours.
Jennifer Lopez Gets Plenty of Sleep to Promote Cellular Regrowth
"The number one tip is to always get enough sleep,” Lopez told InStyle in June 2016, when asked how she keeps her skin so flawless. “I can’t stress this enough. Ideally I would love to get 9 or 10 hours of sleep, but either way, I always make sure I get at least 8.”
While it may seem like J.Lo’s routine involves a lot of sleep, Saedi explains that getting z's not only helps you look more rested, but promotes skin regrowth — and there is scientific evidence to support it, including a January 2020 study published in Nature Cell Biology (though researchers observed the effect in mice, so the finding is limited).
“Sleep helps with building collagen,” she says, adding that you can literally see signs of aging when people don't sleep enough. “Your skin regenerates when we sleep,” adds Jaliman, noting that you should aim for at least seven to eight hours per night.
Suozzi also points to another beautifying benefit of sleep: “The products you apply to your skin at night have more time to penetrate.”
RELATED: How to Find (and Follow) the Sleep Routine That’s Right for You
Christie Brinkley Exfoliates Every Day to Keep Her Skin Looking Younger
Supermodel Christie Brinkley believes that sloughing dead skin away keeps aging at bay. “I start every day by exfoliating my face. That’s something I’ve done for the past 40 years. I feel like it’s really contributed to my skin feeling fresh and smooth,” Brinkley told Byrdie in February 2020. “Forty years ago, I read an article that said men always look five years younger than women who are their same age. They [attributed] that to them shaving every day, and the daily exfoliating with shaving making their skin look younger. I was like, I’m not going to let them get away with that!”
The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA) explains that exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from the outer layer of your skin. There are two types of at-home exfoliation methods: mechanical (using a brush, tool, or scrub) and chemical (using acids).
The AADA also notes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach: “While some people believe that this improves the appearance of their skin, it’s not for everyone.” They point out that before choosing an exfoliating product or determining how often you need to use it, it’s wise to consider all of the skin products you are already using and what chemicals are in them.
Why? Depending on your skin type, heavy exfoliation can actually lead to increased redness or acne breakouts. Moreover, according to Saedi, exfoliating daily (as Brinkley does) “is a bit much and can be irritating on the skin depending on what you use.”
Suozzi agrees that “overexfoliation can be detrimental,” adding that “abrasive exfoliants can cause microskin tears or trauma to the skin that can cause inflammation or sensitization.” She suggests sticking with a chemical exfoliant, such as an alpha hydroxy acid.
“However, these can be overdone as well,” she adds. “It is important to note that with regular use of chemical exfoliants, other products you use will have increased penetration, which is often beneficial, but can also increase irritation, for example from retinols.”
Jennifer Aniston Indulges in Infrared Saunas to Keep Her Skin Looking Fresh
Aniston told Shape in August 2017 that regular infrared saunas, which use electromagnetic radiation to warm the body, have done wonders for her skin: “That I do a couple times a week right after I do the gym. I’ve noticed a real change in my energy, and my sleep, and my skin.”
While there is limited evidence that infrared saunas can be beneficial for skin, one small past study did find that infrared saunas may boost collagen production slightly.
Yet the MDs aren’t so sure. “There is no evidence that infrared saunas have any benefit for skin,” says Suozzi. “Red light LED therapy has some efficacy for collagen stimulation, but the evidence there is minimal as well.”
But she does point out that saunas feel great — and “minimizing stress is good for skin!”
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Cindy Crawford Maintains Injections Are the Only Way to Really Keep the Wrinkles Away
According to one of the world’s top supermodels, there is no such thing as youth in a bottle. "I’m not going to lie to myself, past a certain age, creams work on the texture of your skin but, in order to restore elasticity, all I can really count on is vitamin injections, Botox, and collagen," the supermodel reportedly told InStyle. "I have a very simple, healthy life, which works miracles. I drink a lot of water, watch what I eat, and exercise … but I owe the quality of my skin to my cosmetic surgeon.”
While taking care of your skin in other ways is important, all three MDs confirm that Crawford is calling it like it is. “I agree with this 100 percent,” says Saedi. “Living a healthy life and having the right skin care is helpful for anti-aging. But let's be honest ... it's all about injectables and lasers.”
“Injectable treatments, such as dermal fillers, can replace volume loss and make skin appear more full and supple,” says Suozzi. “Laser treatments can also help with skin quality and promote collagen synthesis.”
Olivia Culpo Maintains That Good Skin Is All About Diet
Former Miss Universe Olivia Culpo focuses more on her diet than she does skin-care products. “After working with my esthetician, I began to understand that skin health goes far beyond how well you clean your skin every day or what you put on it topically. I realized the importance of a holistic skin-care approach,” Olivia Culpo told Byrdie in June 2021. “To help with my breakouts, I started by changing my diet. I tried to incorporate more greens and cut out dairy. This made such a difference. To be honest, I have a major sweet tooth and … I love ice cream. Ice cream has both sugar and dairy, which can be really hard for your body to digest. Once I cut this out of my diet for a while and added more greens, my skin began to clear up.”
Saedi says that acne is linked to eating dairy and a high-glycemic diet, which may include anything made out of white flour or white sugar, processed foods and even some high-sugar fruits, including watermelon and pineapple.
“Sugars can be inflammatory to the skin,” says Suozzi. Her suggestion for a skin-healthy diet? “A balanced Mediterranean diet rich in antioxidants and low in processed carbohydrates.”
Jaliman agrees: “I definitely recommend these diet changes for my [patients with acne] along with a change in their topical products.”
RELATED: Here’s How to Eat and Drink Your Way to Healthier Skin
Kerry Washington Lets Her Skin ‘Breathe’
Kerry Washington told InStyle that one of her skin-care secrets is going makeup free: “Most days, I let my skin breathe, so I don't wear a ton of foundation — just a bit of concealer,” she said.
Suozzi endorses Washington’s tactic. “I agree that letting skin go makeup-free is beneficial. Makeup can be comedogenic if constantly applied,” she says. The AADA recommends choosing makeup, skin-care, and hair-care products that are labeled as “non-comedogenic,” meaning they are unlikely to clog pores or cause breakouts in most people.
Kim Kardashian Washes and Exfoliates With a Hot Washcloth
"[Kris Jenner] used to always tell me to wash my face with a really hot washcloth and then use it to exfoliate your skin," Kardashian told Bustle in June 2017. "That always stuck with me."
While washcloths can be abrasive and effectively exfoliate the skin, Suozzi doesn’t suggest following in the footsteps of the Kardashian ladies on this one. “Water that is too hot can be irritating to skin and cause reactivity of the [blood] vessels,” she explains. Jaliman adds that this is a “sure way to break blood vessels.”
Tom Brady Drinks Water Instead of Wearing Sunscreen
Tom Brady once claimed that he hydrates his way to sun protection. "When I was growing up, and playing outside in the sun, I got sunburned a lot. I was a fair-skinned Irish boy, after all. These days, even if I get an adequate amount of sun, I won't get a sunburn, which I credit to the amount of water I drink,” Brady wrote in his book, as Sports Illustrated reported in September 2017. “I always hydrate afterward, too, to keep my skin from peeling. When I once told that to my sister, she said, 'You mean I don't have to use all those moisturizers and facial products to keep my skin looking good? I should just drink as much water as you do? I think you should market your TB12 Electrolytes as a beauty product.' I just laughed.”
As exciting as these claims may sound, MDs aren’t thrilled about this recommendation. “I can’t agree with this one,” says Jaliman. “It’s funny because I just looked at photos of him and he certainly has a lot of sun damage, especially on his forehead.”
Suozzi agrees, noting that drinking water is no replacement for sunscreen. “Hydration will not prevent skin peeling,” Suozzi explains. “There is no such thing as a drinkable sunscreen. Oral antioxidants can help minimize the damage caused by UV, but it will not prevent UV from targeting skin cells.”
Miranda Kerr Gets 'Leech Facials'
Supermodel Miranda Kerr once endorsed a very unconventional beauty treatment. “I’ve had a leech facial,” Kerr revealed to Gwyneth Paltrow during a Goop Health Summit, as reported by People in June 2017. In addition to having them placed on her face, she used them on her tailbone as well. “I kept the leeches, they’re in my koi pond. You’re not allowed to reuse them and if you don’t take them home then she kills them and I didn’t like that idea.” Even Paltrow was shocked by the treatment. “It’s adventurous,” Kerr replied. “Health is wealth. They’ve been doing leech therapy for thousands of years.”
That said, all three dermatologists recommend leaving blood-sucking leeches in the pond they came from. “Leeches are sucking your blood so you can end up being anemic,” Jaliman points out.
Suozzi says the science on this piece of advice is also lacking: “There is no evidence that using leeches on your face is helpful. In fact, it is just plain gross!”
Halle Berry Keeps Her Skin-Care Routine Simple
Berry shies away from fancy new products and a complex skin-care routine, relying on only four essentials to keep her skin glowing. "My routine of taking care of my skin is always the same. I use a cleanser, toner, moisturize, then use eye cream," she told InStyle in February 2015.
While Saedi is “all about keeping it simple” she emphasizes the importance of using effective ingredients, including retinoids and SPF.
“Skin-care regimens do not need to be complicated,” adds Suozzi. “The best regimens include the following, in order of importance: daily sunscreen, retinol (unless skin is ultrasensitive), antioxidant serum (typically containing vitamin C), good moisturizer, gentle cleanser, and chemical exfoliant a few times a week.”