Acne Myths and Misconceptions
Acne Myths & Claims - Acne is caused by dirt.
Wrong! Acne is caused a number of things, but dirt isn’t
one of them. Blemishes form when dead skin cells mix with
your body’s natural oil, forming a plug in the tiny
hair follicles commonly called pores. This has nothing
to do with dirt, so overwashing your face or body (more
than 2–3 times per day) will not make your acne
better. In fact, too much washing or the over-use of harsh
scrubs and “pore strips” can actually strip
the skin of the oil it needs to stay soft and pliable.
The result? Dry, flaky skin that may actually produce
more oil. More about causes and hygiene.
Acne Myths & Claims - Acne is for teenagers —
you’ll grow out of it.
This myth is harmful in several ways. First, it can lead
teenagers to “wait it out” instead of seeking
treatment for their acne; this can result in plummeting
self-esteem and in severe cases of acne, scarring. Second,
this myth can cause further alienation in adults who suffer
from acne. They may feel too embarrassed to seek treatment,
wondering “Why do I still have acne? What am I doing
wrong?” The truth is, acne can strike at any age;
it’s not your fault. And while it is treatable,
the course and duration of treatment differ dramatically
for each person. More about teen and adult acne.
Acne Myths & Claims - Acne is just a cosmetic condition.
Yes, acne does affect the way people look — it’s
not a serious threat to a person’s physical health.
But it can also affect the way you feel about yourself
and the world around you, causing low self-esteem and
even depression. And after it’s gone, acne can leave
permanent physical and emotional scars. Don’t let
anyone discourage you from seeking treatment because your
acne’s just “a little problem.” The
sooner you consult with a professional, the sooner you’ll
get on the path to clear skin. More about the emotional
effects of acne.
Acne Myths & Claims - Spot treatment works.
Unfortunately, this just isn’t true. For more than
30 years, over-the-counter products have been making the
claim that a dab of medicine directly on the pimple will
clear up acne. Since blemishes take 2–3 weeks to
develop, you’re treating an old symptom of the problem
rather than the problem itself. The best way to treat
acne is to stop the blemishes from developing in the first
place — which means treating the whole face or area
every day, even when you don’t have blemishes.
Acne Myths & Claims - Certain foods cause acne.
No, those french fries you had yesterday didn’t
give you new zits today. In fact, scientists have been
unable to find ANY substantial connection between diet
and acne. So all the foods you’ve been afraid of
— pizza, french fries, chocolate — are fine.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should binge on
your favorites whenever you want — a healthy diet
will help your body have the strength to help you in your
fight against acne. So use your common sense, but don’t
be afraid to indulge now and then. More about diet.
Acne Myths & Claims - Make-up causes acne.
Most make-ups today are non-comedogenic, which means
they won’t clog your pores. When shopping for cosmetics,
look for products that are non-comedogenic, oil-free (water-based)
and hypoallergenic (no added fragrance). Please note that
strenuous exercise can cause any make-up, even the right
kinds, to migrate across the skin and into the pores —
so forego heavy cosmetics when you work out. More about
Acne Myths & Claims - Acne is caused by too much
It’s true that androgens, the hormones all of us
begin producing during puberty, are one of acne’s
main contributing factors. While these and other hormones
may initiate sex drive, your sexual habits have no effect
on acne. More about hormones.
Acne Myths & Claims - Antibiotics reduce the effects
of oral contraceptives.
For many years, doctors believed that combining oral
contraceptives with certain antibiotics reduced the effectiveness
of birth control pills, increasing the risk of pregnancy.
A review of a large number of dermatology patients failed
to find a increased rate of pregnancy in women who were
being treated with a combination of oral contraceptives
and oral antibiotics. So while you should always consult
with your doctor(s) before combining drugs, don't let
this medical "old wives' tale" prevent you from
finding the right balance of acne medications. For more
detailed information on oral contraceptives, see A Clinical
Guide for Contraception; Third Edition, Leon Speroff,
MD, and Philip, Darney, MD. Published by Lippincott Williams
Acne Myths & Claims - Sweating cleans out your pores.
While working out is an important part of a healthy lifestyle,
it can cause flare-ups for some people. Vigorous exercise
stimulates oil production, which combines with heat, perspiration
and friction to aggravate acne on the forehead, chest
and back. You can minimize irritation by wearing loose
cotton clothing and by showering immediately after exercising.
Swimming is probably the best form of exercise for acne
sufferers; in water, perspiration, heat and friction are
largely out of the picture. Just make sure you don’t
sit around in a wet swimsuit, as this can cause breakouts
on your behind. More about exercise.
Acne Myths & Claims - Sun exposure helps acne.
Wrong! The “Bronze Age” is over! Minimal
amounts of sun exposure may initially improve the appearance
of acne — as the skin darkens, blemishes may be
less noticeable. But prolonged exposure promotes more
rapid exfoliation of dead skin cells, so you’re
more likely to get clogged pores. In addition, acne’s
unsightly souvenirs, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
and macules, will actually get darker if you spend time
in the sun. Over time, sun damages the skin and increases
the likelihood that your acne will leave scars. And of
course, sun exposure dramatically increases your chances
of getting some form of skin cancer. So play it safe and
use sun protection products that are oil-free and have
a “sun protection factor” (or SPF) of at least
15 for both UVA and UVB rays.
Acne Myths & Claims - Scrubbing and toning the skin
Since acne is not caused by dirt, excessive washing won’t
make it go away. Harsh over-the-counter exfoliants using
apricot pits or walnut shells can actually irritate or
tear the skin, increasing the chances of infection and
more breakouts. Likewise, alcohol-based toners can strip
the skin of necessary oils, leaving it dry and irritated
— and more likely to start producing more oil. For
best results, use a gentle medicated scrub and a mild
alcohol-free toner; witch hazel is a gentle alternative.
More about hygiene.
Acne Myths & Claims - Stress causes acne.
This claim is exaggerated, but based in reality. While
stress does not cause acne, it can trigger flare-ups.
When the body encounters stress, it steps up production
of cortisol, which causes the sebaceous glands to produce
more oil. Individual stress response varies dramatically,
so it’s difficult to gauge “typical”
effects on the skin. Remember, even "good" stress
— the excitement of planning a wedding or anticipation
of moving away from home for the first time — can
trigger a stress response. The best course of action is
to keep tabs on your own personal response, and to try
to make time every day for the things that make you feel
relaxed and happy. More about stress.
Acne Myths & Claims - Acne is curable.
Not yet. But don’t lose hope — it is highly
treatable. The best way to treat acne is to prevent blemishes
from happening, so if your breakouts seem to be sticking
around, see a dermatologist right away. There are a wide
range of treatments available, so there’s a good
chance that you’ll be able to find one that works
for you. Just remember this: Even if your blemishes go
away, your acne is not cured. It’s important to
be diligent about your treatment plan, even after your
skin is clear. More about acne treatments.