Top 10 Acne Myths

There’s a lot of information out there regarding acne, but much of it isn’t very good. Before you start your search for a treatment, it’s best to separate the myths from the facts. These are the top 10 most common misconceptions about acne, any why they’re nothing more than myths:

1. Only teens get acne

Since around 90% of teenagers develop acne, it can seem like it’s a burden they alone must bear. But in reality, adult acne is quite common, with up to 30-50% of adults experiencing it in some form.

2. It’s okay to pop your pimples

As tempting and satisfying as it may be, it’s never a good idea to pop your pimples. The most common idea behind this myth is that popping releases the bacteria from the follicle, allowing the pimple to heal.

Unfortunately, this is simply wrong, on many different levels. First and foremost, squeezing can actually drive the bacteria deeper into the follicle, and since it’s so abundant and microscopic, some will always be left behind. Secondly, popping can cause unnecessary damage and lead to scarring.

While there is a right way to pop a pimple to minimize scarring and inflammation, even the most skilled at the task can do it wrong. For that reason, it’s better to just leave your pimples alone.

3. The sun can clear up acne

As far as acne goes, the sun is not your friend. It might feel like it’s helping to dry out your skin, or covering up breakouts and redness with a nice tan, but it’s only an illusion. In fact, the sun may be helping your acne spread by adding inflammation to the surrounding tissues.

What’s more, some acne medications, like benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, salicylic acid and doxycycline, can make you more susceptible to the sun’s damaging effects – increasing your risk of sun burns (and ultimately increasing your risk of skin cancer).

4. Acne can be cured

Unfortunately, acne is a chronic condition that can’t be cured. Since it can last between 6 and 7 years in teens, and sometimes over 20 years in adults, it’s considered a “condition,” which means it’s a continuous, on-going issue. However, it can be controlled.

5. Pimples appear overnight

Some mornings it might seem like an irritatingly large pimple has developed overnight, right in time for that big event. But while it might have come to the surface while you slumbered, it was formed by a process that took weeks.

6. You can “spot treat” pimples to clear up acne

Acne is a chronic condition, and pimples are the result. Treating one pimple at a time takes care of the inflammation and discomfort of each pimple, but it will not do anything to prevent future breakouts from happening.

7. Pores open and close

We’ve all heard this at one time or another: cold water “closes” pores, while hot water or steam “opens” them. This idea is just plain wrong. Your pores, those tiny little holes all over your skin, don’t have muscles so they can’t open and close.

However, there are certain things that can make them seem smaller. Oily pores appear larger, and steam can help loosen the excess sebum that builds up, allowing it to leave the pores more easily. Exfoliating scrubs loosen dead skin and help lessen the “crater-like” shape that builds up around a pore. Even just simply washing your face can remove dead skin cells and leftover makeup that gets stuck in your pores.

The key is to keep your pores clean if you don’t want them to look bigger.

People with fairer skin tend to have less visible pores, while those with darker, oilier skin usually have more prominent pores. Age can also change the appearance of your pores. Over the years your skin starts to lose collagen, which gives it its elasticity, causing your pores to slacken and stretch. But remember — they do not open or close.

8. Acne is caused by dirty skin

Acne isn’t caused by dirt or uncleanliness. Period. The bacteria that causes acne is naturally found in and on your skin, and grows in number as it feeds on extra sebum.

Simply washing your face twice a day should be enough to keep the bacteria in check, remove extra surface oils, and get rid of any loose dead skin cells still hanging around.

9. All exfoliators are the same

As a matter of fact, exfoliators are all very different, and knowing the differences is extremely important.

A physical exfoliator, commonly called a “scrub,” uses a physical grit to remove dead cells from your skin. Chemical exfoliators, like glycolic acid and salicylic acid, create a reaction in the skin that causes dead cells to be shed. Always be sure of the percentages and strengths of these solutions, as incorrect use can be very irritating and/or drying.

10. Greasy foods cause acne

Probably the longest running and most known acne myth is that greasy foods, like french fries, chocolate, or pizza can clog up your pores. This has been clinically proven as untrue. It doesn’t make any sense once you think about it: how can oil in the food you eat make its way from your intestines to your pores?

That being said, what you eat can have an impact on your skin. There has been some research that links processed foods, and simple sugars and carbohydrates, likes bread and chips, to breakouts. Similarly, foods that contain hormones and antibiotics, like dairy (for example soy-based foods) and some meats, can trigger breakouts in certain people.

Similarly,  foods with high levels of iodine, like seafood or iodized salt, can increase breakouts in light of their impact on hormones.