Beauty myths are like gossip: irresistible. (My favourite: Preparation H alleviates puffy eyes – hey, Christina Ricci and Gabrielle Union reportedly swear by it!) But while most rumours are harmless, following bad beauty advice can sometimes lead to unhealthy habits. ELLE examines the most popular beauty lore and separates fact from fiction.

1. You should never wax before or during your period. TRUE. Hormonal changes just before and during ovulation may heighten the sensitivity of nerve endings, which means that waxing may be more painful, says Nicolette Oakwell-Morgan, a hair-removal expert at OMI Medical Inc. in Toronto. The best time for waxing is just after your period.

2. You should never rub your wrists together when you apply fragrance. TRUE.
According to Marian Bendeth, a fragrance expert and the owner of Sixth Scents in Toronto, this can “bruise” the oils contained in the blend, chemically altering the scent. “Leave it alone and let the air [dry] it,” she says.

3. Shaving makes your hair grow thicker. FALSE. However, it can appear that way, says Oakwell-Morgan. “When you shave, you’re cutting hair off at its largest diameter, so you’re left with the blunt end, which often feels coarser and thicker,” she says.

4. Filing your nails in one direction – instead of back and forth – will prevent shredding. TRUE. According to Carla Kay, a celebrity manicurist and pedicurist in Los Angeles, you should file from each corner of the nail toward the middle to avoid breakage and splitting. Find out your nail polish personality here!

5. The aluminum in antiperspirants can cause breast cancer. FALSE. The Canadian Cancer Society states that there is no proven link between antiperspirants and breast cancer. While Internet scuttlebutt breathes new life into the fear that aluminum salts and other chemicals in antiperspirants mess with breast cells via your armpits’ lymph nodes (think of them as conduits in the body), there’s no need to sweat it – literally.

6. Plucking your eyebrows will stop them from growing back. TRUE. Sustained tweezing over many years (decades, really) may fatigue the hair follicle to the point where it may not grow back, says Oakwell-Morgan.

More myths solved on the next page …7. Applying petroleum jelly to your eyelashes makes them grow faster. FALSE. “It’s just genetics: either you have thick gorgeous eyelashes or you don’t,” says Dr. Monica Furniss, an optometrist in Waterloo, Ont. In fact, the viscous jelly could actually plug glands on the inner rims of your eyelids that produce tears, flush out debris and fend off infections.

8. You ingest pounds of lipstick every year, and it’s harmful to your health. FALSE. The average woman is estimated to consume four milligrams of lipstick daily. To reach even half a pound, it would take four lifetimes (assuming lipstick is worn from age 16 to 80). Even then there are no health risks, according to Health Canada.

9. Toothpaste makes the best spot treatment for acne. FALSE. Although some toothpastes contain benzoyl peroxide (an acne-zapping ingredient that is also used as a whitening agent), there are many more-effective products that specifically target acne, says Vignjevic. Look for products with at least five percent benzoyl peroxide, like Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 5 ($7)

10. Trimming your cuticles will make them grow back thicker. TRUE. Pushing your cuticles back is okay, but trimming them breaks the seal with the nail bed, triggering them to grow back thicker to protect the nail from infection, explains Kay. If you’ve already trimmed them, apply a cuticle oil, like OPI Avoplex Cuticle Oil to Go ($10), to restore elasticity.

11. Tooth-whitening products and procedures can damage your teeth. WE DON’T KNOW. The only documented side effect of tooth-bleaching products, including blue-light whitening, is short-term tooth sensitivity. As the Canadian Dental Association points out, the tools haven’t been around long enough to documents purported long-term risks, such as enamel corrosion and oral cancer.

12. Sleep debt is real – you can’t make up for lost zzzs. TRUE. Most women need between 7.5 and 8.5 hours of sleep every night. The hours we lose to stress, overwork and late-night partying are gone forever, says Dr. Rachel Morehouse, a psychiatrist and medical director of the Atlantic Health Sciences Sleep Centre in Satin John, N.B.

13. Storing fragrances in the fridge will make them last longer. FALSE. The oils in the scents will permeate all fats – such as butter and milk – in your fridge, causing contamination. Instead, keep scents in a cool, dark place, preferably at or just below room temperature, says Bendeth.

Read more
7 skin myths solved!

Skin care myths: Skin treatments
Hair myths solved!