Top 10 Myths About Acne

Top 10 Myths About Acne

I have been treating acne in my patients for over a decade.  And during that time many patients have asked me questions related to myths that they have heard, that simply aren’t true.  Here I will address the top 10 acne myths that I have heard over the years with detailed explanations of why they are false.

Acne Myth 1 – Washing your face more often will help clear up acne

Facial blemishes are not caused by dirt. Contrary to what you may have seen in commercials, pores do not get blocked from the top down due to “impurities”. Rather, the walls of a pore stick together deep within the skin, starting acne formation. Far from preventing acne, frequent washing may actually irritate pores and cause them to become clogged. A washcloth can add even more irritation. The best bet is to wash very gently with bare hands, and only wash twice a day.

Acne Myth 2 – Stress causes acne

Stress may have an effect on hormones and theoretically can promote acne. However, an effective acne treatment regimen is more powerful than a bout of stress any day. Some psychiatric medications may have acne as a side effect, but stress itself is no big deal. Your time is better spent determining the right course of acne treatment rather than feeling guilt about stress.

Acne Myth 3 -Masturbation or sex causes acne

This antiquated notion, originating as early as the 17th century to dissuade young people from having premarital sex, is just plain wrong. Don’t believe the hype.

Acne Myth 4 -The sun will help get rid of acne

Although a tan may temporarily mask acne, the sun can make the skin dry and irritated, leading to more breakouts in the future. In fact, there’s no link between sun exposure and acne prevention, but the sun’s rays can cause premature aging and skin cancer. Always protect your skin by choosing a sunscreen of at least SPF (sun protection factor) 15 that says noncomedogenic or nonacnegenic on the label, which means it won’t clog pores.

The sun also reddens your skin, blending your skin tone with red acne marks. However, a sun burn is actually skin damage, and sun exposure can cause irritation which will make acne worse. People will often notice their skin breaking out as it heals from sun damage. The sun is a short-term band-aid which will often bite back with more acne in the weeks following exposure. However, some sun exposure is not evil. It is actually important, and we get our vitamin D from the sun. Limiting sun exposure on acne prone areas of your body is most likely prudent, but some exposure from time to time is not only unavoidable, but is perfectly okay.

Acne Myth 5 -Diet and acne are related

The bottom line is we need more research. We do know that people in some indigenous societies do not experience acne at all. This is in contrast to the widespread presence of acne throughout all modern society. It leaves us to question whether the indigenous people’s diet contributes to their acne-free skin. Discovering a dietary way of preventing acne may be a future reality.

Although eating too many sugary, high-fat foods is never a good idea, studies show that no specific food has been proven to cause acne. Every individual is different, though. Some people notice their breakouts are worse after eating certain foods — and these foods are different depending on the person. For example, some people may notice breakouts after eating chocolate, while others are fine with chocolate but notice they get breakouts after drinking too much coffee. If that’s the case for you, it can help to cut back on that food and see if it makes a difference.

Acne Myth 6 -Popping pimples will help them go away faster

Popping a pimple may make it seem less noticeable temporarily, but popping can cause it to stay around longer. By squeezing pimples and zits, you can actually push bacteria, dead skin cells, and oil further into the skin, causing more swelling and redness — and sometimes causing a red or brown mark or scar to form. Sometimes marks can last for many months and true scars (dents and pits) will last forever.

Acne Myth 7 -Don’t wear makeup if you want clear skin.

As long as you choose cosmetics that are nonacnegenic or noncomedogenic, they shouldn’t cause breakouts. In fact, some concealers now contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which help to fight acne. You can also try tinted benzoyl peroxide creams that hide pimples while helping treat them.

If you’ve had moderate to severe acne, though, talk to your doctor or dermatologist about the best cosmetics to use — he or she may recommend avoiding cosmetics altogether or only using certain brands so you’re acne isn’t aggravated.

And even if a product is labeled nonacnegenic or noncomedogenic, you should stop using it and talk to your doctor if you notice that it’s irritating your skin or seems to cause breakouts.

Acne Myth 8 – If you keep getting breakouts, it helps to use more acne medication until the breakouts stop.

Because acne medication contains drying agents like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, using too much medication may cause overdrying, leading to irritation and more blemishes.

If over-the-counter acne medication doesn’t seem to work on your acne, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or dermatologist. Also, if you’re taking a prescription acne medication, make sure you follow your doctor’s instructions — some medications may take up to 8 weeks to make a significant difference.

Acne Myth 9 – Acne is just a cosmetic disease.

Yes, acne does affect the way people look and is not otherwise a serious threat to a person’s physical health. However, acne can result in permanent physical scars–plus, acne itself as well as its scars can affect the way people feel about themselves to the point of affecting their lives.

Acne Myth 10 – You just have to let acne run its course

The truth is, acne can be cleared up. If the acne products you have tried haven’t worked, consider seeing a dermatologist. With the products available today, there is no reason why someone has to endure acne or get acne scars.

For more information on acne, including: medication reviews and skin care tips, click here, or visit:



What acne treatments are safe during pregnancy?

In 1st trimester, and I have it worst on my chest and back. Does anyone have experience dealing with acne during pregnancy? What did your dermatologist recommend?

As long as the medication does not enter your blood they should be safe. I had a question about this with thinning hair treatments and my OB told me it was safe because a topical doesn’t enter the blood stream.

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