Acne Myths

Busting the Myths Surrounding Acne

Acne Myths

Article Summary

Pimples aren't caused by dirt. Masturbation and/or sex doesn't cause acne. A sunburn won't clear up your skin. Eating perfectly won't cure your acne. It's not only teens who get acne. Popping a pimple responsibly is OK. Bacteria on the surface of your skin doesn't cause acne. Most dermatologists do not specialize in acne.



Myth: Washing or scrubbing your face will help clear up acne


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 actually irritates pores, which can cause them to become clogged. A washcloth or any other cleansing device can add even more irritation. The best bet is to wash very gently with bare hands and only wash twice a day.2

 

Myth: masturbation or sex causes acne


This antiquated notion, originating as early as the 17th century to discourage young people from having premarital sex, is not based on scientific evidence.

 

Myth: the sun will help get rid of acne


10-20 minutes per day of sun exposure for people with lighter skin and 20-30 minutes per day for people with darker skin may prove beneficial for acne symptoms, especially body acne. However, overly exposing your skin to the sun creates skin damage, which leaves the skin irritated. This irritation can result in more acne in the weeks following overexposure as the skin heals itself. If you notice a breakout "out of the blue," ask yourself if you got sunburnt about two weeks ago. That may be the cause.1-3

 

Myth: diet and acne are related


The bottom line is we need more research. We do know that people in some hunter/gatherer societies do not experience acne whatsoever across the entire population. This is in stark contrast to the widespread presence of acne throughout all modern society. It leaves us to ponder whether the indigenous people's unprocessed diet contributes to their acne-free skin or whether their clear skin is a result of genetics or some other factor. Discovering a dietary way of preventing acne may be a future reality. However, we may live so differently from our ancestors that it has become close to impossible to replicate our ancestral diet.1-2,4-6 

Note: If you feel that you have cleared your acne using a particular diet or if you are planning on attempting a diet of some kind, please post your method on the Nutrition & holistic health forum. Keep in mind that almost any diet will appear to work in the short term because as your body loses weight, insulin and other hormones react and acne tends to recede. Then, as body weight levels out or increases, acne symptoms tend to return. Any legitimately effective anti-acne diet should continue working after the initial weight loss period.
 

Myth: only teens get acne


Exactly why this occurs is unknown but 50% of adult men and 25% of adult women now experience adult acne at some point.7-9The good news is that it is treated the same way in an adult as in a teen.

 

Myth: you should never pop a pimple


If you search online, the vast majority of medical sources specifically warn against popping a pimple. However, this advice is never based on scientific evidence. While it is commonly agreed that attempting to pop pimples which are not yet ready and do not have a white or yellow center can cause the pimple to become more severe and potentially scar more severely, popping a zit which is ready and does in fact have a white or yellow center can actually eliminate the infection and initiate healing. Popping must be performed correctly to achieve the best result. Also, it is vital that popping never be combined with picking of the skin. Countless plastic surgeons who specialize in acne scar correction will tell you that picking the skin causes as much or more scarring than the initial acne lesion itself.
 

Myth: bacteria on the surface of your skin causes acne


It is the bacteria deep within your pores (Propionibacterium acnes) that are part of the acne formation process and not the bacteria on the surface of your skin. The reason it is important to leave your skin relatively untouched is because physically irritating the skin can cause breakouts and not because you are moving bacteria around.14
 

Myth: dermatologists know everything there is to know about acne


Even though acne is the #1 reason people see dermatologists, this does not mean that a dermatologist is a specialist in acne unless she specifically decided to focus her practice on this area. Becoming a dermatologist requires a person to study and understand a huge list of skin diseases, and acne is simply one of many. It is important that an acne sufferer be his own advocate when it comes to acne and learn everything he can about available treatments before speaking with a dermatologist to prevent a revolving door of prescriptions which very often do not provide adequate clearing of the skin.

The Experts at Acne.org

Our team of medical doctors, biology & chemistry PhDs, and acne experts work hand-in-hand with Dan (Acne.org founder) to provide the most complete information on all things acne. If you find any errors in this article, kindly use this Feedback Form and let us know.

References:

  1. "Questions and Answers About Acne." National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Jan. 2006. National Institutes of Health. 2001.
  2. Magin, P., D. Pond, W. Smith, and A. Watson. "A Systematic Review of the Evidence For 'Myths and Misconceptions' in Acne Management: Diet, Face-Washing and Sunlight." Family Practice 22, 62-70 (2005).
  3. Gfesser, M., and W.I. Worret. "Seasonal Variations in the Severity of Acne Vulgaris." International Journal of Dermatology 35, 116-17 (1996). Abstract. PubMed. 15 Apr. 2002.
  4. "Diet best medicine for pimply problem - study". RMIT.edu. 2 Apr. 2007.
  5. Brand-Miller, Jennie, Loren Cordain, S. Boyd Eaton, Kim Hill, Magdalena Hurtado, and Staffan Lindeberg, "AcneVularis: A Disease of Western Civilization." Archives of Dermatology 138, 1584-90 (2002).
  6. Cordain, Loren. "Implications for the Role of Diet in Acne." Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery 24, 84-91 (2005).
  7. Cunliffe WJ, Goulden V and Stables GI. "Prevalence of Facial Acne in Adults." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 41, 577-80 (1999).
  8. Knaggs HE, et al. "Post-adolescent acne." International Journal of Cosmetic Science 26, 129-38 (2004).
  9. Collier CN, et al. "The prevalence of acne in adults 20 years and older." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 58, 56-59 (2008).
  10. Dhir R, et al. "Oral isotretinoin is as effective as a combination of oral isotretinoin and topical anti-acne agents in nodulocystic acne." Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology 74, 187 (2008).
  11. Ng PP and Goh CL. "Treatment outcome of acne vulgaris with oral isotretinoin in 89 patients." International Journal of Dermatology 38, 213-6 (1999).
  12. Quereux G, et al. "Prospective study of risk factors of relapse after treatment of acne with oral isotretinoin." Dermatology 212, 168-76 (2006).
  13. Akman A, et al. "Treatment of acne vulgaris with intermittent and conventional isotretinoin: a randomized, controlled multicenter study." Archives of Dermatological Research 299, 467-73 (2007).
  14. Kwon HH, et al. "Analysis of distribution patterns of Propionibacterium acnes phylotypes and Peptostrepococcus species from acne lesions." British Journal of Dermatology. 169, 1152-5 (2013).


Further Reading

  1. Adebamowo CA et al. "High school dietary dairy intake and teenage acne." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 52, 207-14 (2005). Abstract. PubMed. Feb. 2005.
  2. Fulton, James E. Acne Rx. James E. Fulton Jr., M.D., PhD: 2001.
  3. Kligman, Albert M., and Gerd Plewig. Acne and Rosacea Berlin: Springer, 2000.
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