Top 10 Acne Myths

There’s a lot of information – and misinformation – out there about acne. From old wives’ tales to well-meaning advice from friends, or home remedies and natural treatments that claim to be better than over-the-counter products. Before you treat acne, it’s best to separate fact from fiction. Here are the top 10 common myths about acne, and why they are just that – myths.

Acne Myth #1: Only Teens Get Acne

Since approximately 85% of adolescents encounter some form of acne, it does seem like they “own it”. However, up to 64 percent of American men and women in their 20s, and 43 percent in their 30s, have dealt with adult acne. Adult acne affects women more than men as acne can correlate to hormonal fluctuations, which women experience throughout their lives.

Though it’s probably not much comfort for teens, it’s still a myth that they are the only ones to experience acne.

Acne Myth #2: It’s OK to Pop Pimples

Tempting as it may be, this is never a good idea. Squeezing a blemish may actually drive the p. acnes bacteria deeper into the pore. More importantly, when you pop a pimple you increase the chance of leaving a damaging, sometimes permanent, scar in its place.

We can’t stress this enough: never pick at a pimple, no matter how frustrating it is to leave it alone. It’s best to wait it out and let it run its course but there are a couple of things you can do to help it run its course. Apply an ice cube to the pimple to reduce inflammation. Then follow with a medicated spot treatment — something with benzoyl peroxide to kill bacteria or salicylic acid to help loosen dead skin cells and reduce swelling and redness. A little concealer can help cover up acne as well (that goes for the guys out there, too!). Just make sure it’s non-comedogenic so it won’t further clog your pores.

Acne Myth #3: The Sun Clears Up Acne

When it comes to acne, the sun is not your friend. It may feel like it’s drying up your pimples, but, at best, a tan or mild sunburn only camouflages the breakout.

The sun can inflame the skin, something you want to avoid when treating acne. Additionally, the sun’s ultraviolet light rays can damage the surface of the skin, causing sunburn, releasing free radicals and destroying cellular DNA, which can lead to premature aging and skin cancer.

While we recommend products with benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid to fight acne, these ingredients can make you more susceptible to sun damage so it’s crucial to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen when using these medications. Look for a sunscreen that is oil-free and non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog pores.

Acne Myth #4: Acne is Curable

Sorry to disappoint you but there is no official cure for acne. Acne is chronic and can last anywhere from a few years in teens to 20 years or more in adults. It’s a condition, which means it’s a continuous situation that exists on your skin and beneath its surface. Acne may come and go at different times in your life, but if you are acne-prone, you should always be concerned with managing it.

It’s not all bad news. You can keep acne under control with daily cleansing, exfoliating and hydration and by sticking to a consistent routine, though it may take time to find the best combination of medicines and skincare products. Also, since our bodies and skin change throughout our lives depending on many factors (hormones, lifestyles, habits, environments, etc.), what worked for you as a teenager may not do the job when you’re in your 30s. It’s important to watch your skin for any changes, most of which are quite manageable with a little patience and attention. It’s all about finding potent medicines and putting them to work in the right combination in effective skincare formulations. That’s exactly what Proactiv offers you.

Acne Myth #5: Pimples Happen Overnight

Acne always seems to appear out of nowhere but it can actually be weeks in the making before it showed up on your skin. Acne is a complicated process. It’s not just one thing gone wrong, but can be up to four interrelated steps. They are:

  • Step 1: Excess dead skin cells clog the pore
  • Step 2: Overproduction of oil (sebum)
  • Step 3: Overgrowth of p. acnes bacteria in the pore
  • Step 4: Inflammation (swelling) as a reaction to the bacteria and its byproducts

Both exfoliation and the use of salicylic acid medication remove the build up of dead skin cells on your skin; benzoyl peroxide kills the p. acnes bacteria; and sulfur reduces swelling and redness and absorbs excess oil. As you can see, it takes a while for that pimple to reach your skin’s surface. That’s why it’s important to address acne before it starts. While this can take time in the beginning, a consistent, daily acne treatment routine can help break the acne cycle.

Acne Myth #6: Spot Treating Pimples Clears Up Acne

Acne is the underlying condition that creates your present and future pimples. Pimples are the last stage of the acne process (see Myth #5) so treating one pimple at a time, is not the most effective route to take and will not help prevent new breakouts from forming.

Like all good hygiene habits, we recommend taking a preventative approach by treating all of your skin twice a day to help prevent new breakouts. This way, you’re addressing the pimples you can’t see, as well as those you can. By all means, it’s fine to treat a visible pimple with a spot treatment, but just know that it won’t prevent future breakouts.

Acne Myth #7: Pores Can Open and Close

You’ve probably heard that you can steam open your pores with hot water, and close them with cold water but this is not true. Pores are passageways that house hair follicles and sebaceous glands. They allow sweat to cool you and sebum (aka oil) to condition your skin but they do not have a muscle to allow them to open and close at will.

Pores are a physical trait and thus, mostly determined by your genetics. However, oily pores appear larger and dryer, clearer pores appear smaller. The most you can do is change the appearance of the size of your pores. While steam cannot technically open a pore, it can help loosen the sebum that builds up in the pore, allowing it to exit more easily.

Exfoliating with a physical scrub and daily cleansing with glycolic acid and salicylic acid can loosen dead skin cells, decreasing the crater-like build up around a pore. These actions can help make your pores look smaller.

Acne Myth #8: Dirty Skin Causes Acne

The good news is that acne is not caused by dirt or uncleanliness. The bad news is that the bacteria that cause acne (p. acnes) are already on your skin and feeding on excess oil. Washing your face twice a day will help reduce bacteria, remove surface oil and help exfoliate dead skin cells. It’s only when the bacteria gets trapped in the pore that you need to take the extra step and target it with benzoyl peroxide.

On the flip side is another myth: that you can never wash your face too often. But excessive washing can in fact make your acne worse.

Overzealous scrubbing can cause irritation, even tiny scratches and micro-tears in the skin, which open the gates to more infection and inflammation. And stay away from rubbing alcohol as it will only cause dryness and irritation.

Acne Myth #9: All Exfoliators are the Same

Absolutely false! A physical exfoliator, or scrub, uses mechanics like beads to remove dead skin cells from your skin’s surface. Other exfoliators contain glycolic acid and salicylic acid to help cause dead skin cells to shed chemically.

Acne Myth #10: French Fries Cause Acne

This is one of the oldest myths out there. While you should probably keep the French fry consumption to moderate amounts for other health reasons, greasy foods have little to no effect on acne. Eating foods high in oil doesn’t mean that oil can make its way from your intestines to your pores.

Another diet myth is that drinking more water will somehow flush your acne from the inside out. While you should definitely drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day, there is no evidence proving that more water will reduce your acne.