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13 Acne Myths

Good decision making is an important part of curing acne. That means that you have to avoid the following common acne myths.
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In order to effectively treat acne, it's crucial that you make good decisions regarding your skin care.

Acne is the type of issue that can get worse when it's treated incorrectly. Controlling acne requires a delicate balance of good decision making and proper care in order to effectively reduce acne breakouts and minimize the appearance of acne.

With that in mind, it's important for your skincare needs that you recognize acne myths.

Within the acne world, there are hundreds of myths about acne that people strongly believe – myths that have been propagated through generations, and now through the Internet.

The following are some of the more common myth about acne, to help you avoid making mistakes with your acne solutions.

Common Acne Myths

Acne is Caused By Hormones

In some ways this acne myth is true – acne is related to hormone function within your body.

But acne is actually caused by bacteria – bacteria that lives on your skin all of the time – even when you are not suffering from acne.

Hormones affect both pore size and facial oils. When your pores grow and your facial oils increase, you’re the bacteria start to grow more quickly, eventually clogging and irritating pores, ultimately becoming acne.

Obviously if you can control your hormones you can generally reduce this acne buildup. However, controlling your hormones in a safe and effective way is difficult.

That’s why most treatment options need to focus on the specific issues as they relate to acne. Namely, reducing the amount of bacteria, fighting inflammation (the damage that turns acne into red bumps), keeping dirt and oil out of pores, preventing the spread of bacteria, and helping acne heal faster.

Any treatments that focus on hormones are less likely to be effective, and based on these acne myths.

You Only Need to Worry About Acne

Acne is only one issue that causes what most people refer to as "acne breakouts."

Another very common issue is acne scarring. Acne scarring occurs when your skin either heals incorrectly or struggles to heal. It's incredibly common when your skin breaks for any reason, or if the skin is irritated after the acne "head" (whitehead or blackhead) falls off.

A great deal of the redness seen on skin – redness that often looks like acne – is actually acne scarring. By reducing the appearance of acne scars and improving healing time, you can reduce the appearance of acne without your acne getting any lighter.

Popping Acne is Okay

Most people are actually aware that popping whiteheads and blackheads is bad for your acne. But still, most people think it's not that bad or the effects are overblown. They base this off the idea that when pus leaves the acne, the acne generally looks like it goes away.

This is one of the most common myths about acne, and is wildly incorrect. Popping acne causes a host fo reactions that can be seen in the following table:

Reactions to Popping Acne

Irritation – The act of popping acne, especially with pressure from your fingers, causes a great deal of irritation on the pore. This irritation leads to a flare up of dark redness that can last longer than the acne would have lasted if the acne had been left untouched. 

Scabbing – While a whitehead tends to have more stigma, acne scabbing is not much better. When acne is popped, it scabs to prevent it from bleeding. That scab can also last longer than any whitehead or blackhead would have lasted had the acne not been popped, and the dark red or brown tone of the scab is often just as visible as the acne itself. 

Scarring – Popping acne is also far more likely to lead to scarring, because the wound is larger and therefore less likely to heal correctly. Popped acne lesions then create the appearance of more acne even when the acne has disappeared. Those with a great deal of acne scarring are far more likely to be those that pop their whiteheads.

Spreading Bacteria – Those that pop their acne are also more likely to spread bacteria. Recall that bacteria buildup causes acne. When the acne pops, the bacteria often finds itself in order pores, causing more acne in the future.

Creating Cysts – In addition, it's possible for acne to create cysts within the skin that cause permanent bumps without medical assistance. These cysts aren't dangerous, but they contribute to what appears to be visible acne.


There is also the question of whether or not popping acne is removing it at all. While the pus does shrink the acne temporarily, it doesn't reduce the amount of bacteria. Thus in many cases your acne will grow back in the exact spot that it disappeared from.

The idea that popping pimples is worthwhile is an acne myth that needs to end, as it causes far more harm than good in both the short and long term.

Natural Products Are Always Better

Prescription medications for acne are often (although not always) fraught with issues. Many of the oral antibiotics have some fairly pronounced side effects, and bacteria often learns to adapt and resist these antibiotics over time, losing their overall effectiveness.

There's a reason that natural options are considered better acne cures. But this has gone a bit too far – now people believe that natural options are always better and/or side effect free for acne. This is another one of the myths about acne that is simply not the case.

Each acne treatment should be evaluated on a case by case bases, but the reality is that there are several issues standing in the way of natural options being "always better."

For starters, many do not work – or at least, they don't do more than one basic and unremarkable function. For example, many people claim that salt treatments can improve your acne, and indeed some do, but all salt really does is dry the oils – it can be replaced by a number of other options that are more effective and more likely to deliver real results.

Furthermore, several acne treatments can irritate the skin just as much (or more) than prescription medications. Raw lemon juice or inadequately diluted tea tree oil can all cause severe skin redness and may not have any benefits on your acne.

In addition, some acne claims are simply not possible. For example, if you use a natural topical acne cleanser that is believed to have antibiotic properties, then it is likely to suffer from the same issue of prescription antibiotics – namely, that the bacteria can become resistant to its effects. There is no such thing as an antibiotic that bacteria cannot adapt to.

So while it is highly recommended to try natural acne solutions first (since prescription antibiotics are controversial), the idea that all natural treatments are better is an acne myth. It's important to carefully consider each one, watch for any reactions, and avoid any carefully choreographed marketing tactics without any real evidence.

Prescription Medications Are Always Better

Many people believe the flipside of this as well – namely, that natural options don't work, and that prescription medications are the only way to successfully treat acne.

This is also an acne myth. Prescription medications are almost always antibiotics, and in some cases benzoyl peroxide and similar face creams.

These can have problems as well. Beyond some of the side effects (gastrointestinal problems can be pretty severe with prescription antibiotics), many lose their effectiveness or fail to work at all for many acne sufferers, depending on whether or not their acne has already adapted to the medication.

Medications also need to be taken directly as prescribed. Any deviation from the dose increases the risk of developing resistant bacteria.

Benzoyl peroxide can also irritate acne more, or damage skin to create the appearance of skin problems depending on your skin type. Like with natural products, there's no such thing as an acne treatment that works the same for everyone, and that includes prescription medications.

Acne Cures Quickly

Most of the myths about acne are about what works or what doesn't. But one of the other popular acne myths is that if a cure is to work, it will work quickly enough to prevent future breakouts.

The vast majority of safe acne treatments take quite a while to work. In fact, it's estimated that acne treatments can take anywhere from 12 weeks or more before noticeable, long lasting results occur. You may see a reduction in your acne much sooner, but a lack of reduction doesn't necessarily mean that the acne treatment isn't working. Many of the most successful treatments take as long as 3 months or more, and if you give up sooner than that you may be giving up on a solution that was working successfully.

Diet Has a Profound Effect on Acne

This is another acne myth that is somewhat true, but widely overblown.

There are numerous dietary acne myths that people still believe even today, despite no evidence that they have any link to acne. For example, many people believe that chocolate causes acne, or that sodium intake leads to acne, or that sugar leads to acne.

Many people believe that oily foods lead to acne breakouts as well.

None of these are supported by evidence.

That does not mean that diet has no effect on acne whatsoever. There is some evidence – albeit small and not yet "proven" – that high glycemic carbs and dairy may increase acne breakouts slightly. It's not the only cause of acne, and it may not cause acne at all, but there is some evidence it contributes.

Good diets may also have a positive effect on acne. There are several vitamins that have known, scientifically verified benefits for relieving acne.

Also, living healthy in general may reduce acne breakouts, because the healthier your body is the more it can deal with hormones. However, this is not specific to any type of food. Rather, the goal is to simply live healthier in general, which includes eating healthier, exercising, and so on.

Overall, however, the belief that most foods contribute to acne is just one of many myths about acne. Bacteria and hormones still play the most important roles.

Acne Can Be Cured

This myth about acne is likely due to the phrase "acne cure." When talking about acne cures, most people are talking about treatments that will cause acne to clear up.

However, the hormones and bacteria are still present. As soon as you stop taking any acne treatments, the acne will always come back.

Unfortunately, a large number of people stop taking acne treatments as soon as they are free of acne, and this only prevents all of the benefits of the acne treatment and causes the acne to return again. You may be able reduce the number of acne products you use when your acne clears if you want to avoid putting as many chemicals and treatments on your skin, but stopping all treatments will simply allow acne to come back.

Poor Hygiene Leads to Acne

As with many of these acne myths, there is some truth to this. It is important to keep your face clean with an acne-friendly cleanser, since dirt can get into pores and exacerbate acne.

But good hygiene alone cannot cure acne because acne is caused by bacteria, not dirt. Scrubbing your face harder or more often is only going to irritate your acne, skin, and pores, and will have no effect on your overall acne breakouts.

Good hygiene is important, but bad hygiene is not the cause of acne.

Tanning and Sun Reduce Acne

Maybe it's because people think the sun burns off face oils, or maybe it's because people believe tan skin itself is more appealing, but whatever the origin, many people belief that tan skin is better for acne.

This is also untrue.

Tan skin may, in some cases, hide acne a bit better than un-tan skin, simply because darker skin makes it harder to see red spots and scars. But tan skin is nothing but sun damage and won't reduce your acne.

There is even evidence that sun exposure can worsen acne symptoms, and create more breakouts. So even if tan skin makes your current acne less visible, it will likely lead to more prolific acne breakouts in the future, and ultimately make your acne more visible in the end.

You Only Need to Treat Visible Acne

Another acne myth is the idea that you only need to treat visible acne, and can ignore the rest of your face.

Acne does not appear as quickly as people believe. In fact, acne can take as long as 2 weeks to appear or more (which is one of the reasons treatments often take so long). If you're only spot-treating acne, then you're not preventing acne from occurring all over your face.

Always make sure you're treating your entire face, not just the visible acne, because beneath the skin there is often additional acne that is waiting to appear.

All Skincare is the Same

Clogged pores do increase the likelihood of a breakout. That's why some small degree of good hygiene is still important.

Many of the world's leading non-acne skincare treatment options, including soaps, creams, lotions, and even sunscreen, can actually create more acne.

That is because they're not designed for people that have problems with clogged pores. When you suffer from acne, any and all products you use on your skin must be designed for acne use, or labeled noncomedogenic or nonacnegenic.

You can still use products on your face, like makeup or sunscreen or shaving cream. You simply have to be certain that they are labeled for people suffering from acne. As long as they are, you don't have to change your daily life for your acne.

More Treatments is Better

Finally, the last acne myth is that more treatments is better.

There are certainly combination treatments that are effective. Often oral supplements are combined with topical treatments, or a moisturizing cleanser is used after a drying agent, and so on.

But you should only use treatment options that are considered compliments to each other. Using multiple treatments that either interact, provide the same benefits, or otherwise harm your skin will only lead to either more breakouts or visible skin damage.

Recognizing the Difference Between Acne Myths and Reality

The key thing to remember is that acne is not some magic disease that has special cures. It's a well understood skin issue with very real, researched treatment options.

There are many acne myths in existence. But it's important to remember that if there were any one thing that could magically cure acne, or one thing that caused acne, it would have been discovered already and everyone would be using it.

Since all skin is different, all treatments are different. Rather than trust in any of the above myths, focus on treatment options that have been verified in research, try them for a long enough time to see results, and monitor your acne's progress. Making smart decisions is the key to keeping acne at bay. 

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