We debunk the biggest acne myths once and for all so you can separate the facts from fiction.
Getting to the bottom of the biggest acne myths
There are many misconceptions about acne that just won’t go away—despite scientific evidence to the contrary. From old wives’ tales to invalid research, the sources of these myths are far from reliable and in some cases their roots can’t even be traced. Today’s acne advice is driven by science and decades of dermatologist experience, and there’s no disputing that the sure-fire way to achieve clear skin is consistent use of acne treatment products. Acne-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and sulfur have all been extensively studied—and proven to reduce and prevent acne breakouts. Here, the truth about the biggest acne myths so we can all move on.
Myth: Acne is caused by dirt.
Our skin is designed to act like a shield that protects our bodies from chemicals, microorganisms and other potentially dangerous aggressors that we encounter as we go through the day. A look under the microscope would reveal countless kinds of “dirt” invisible to the naked eye, yet all of us aren’t covered in acne, are we? It’s a fact that acne occurs when a pore becomes clogged with oil and dead skin cells, which allow P. acnes bacteria to grow and thrive. If you think extra face-washing to eliminate dirt is going to get rid of breakouts, guess again. Over-washing will just leave your skin dry, irritated and uncomfortable. Forget about the dirt, and turn to effective acne treatment products that target P. acnes bacteria and prevent clogged pores to get clear skin. Our Acne Kits take the guesswork out of choosing products.
Myth: Chocolate causes acne.
This stubborn acne myth can be traced back to one scientific study that was published in 1965. But what most people don’t know is that this study was extremely flawed. First, there were only eight subjects. This study also failed to include statistical analysis, a control group and follow-up. To make matters worse, two additional studies about the effects of chocolate on acne were published in 1969 and 1971. These, too, had major problems with their design and reporting, so there’s absolutely no valid scientific evidence connecting chocolate and acne. There is a BUT here, though… A diet high in sugar has been linked to breakouts, however indulging your chocolate craving in moderation will not make your skin break out.
Myth: Greasy food causes acne.
French fries get a bad rap when it comes to acne, but there’s no proven connection between eating greasy or high-fat foods and breakouts. Sure, there are plenty of other healthier food choices, but if you’re more worried about acne than your waistline, go ahead and treat yourself.
Myth: The sun gets rid of acne
This isn’t 100 percent false, but the sun is not an effective acne treatment. You may have noticed at some point that a day in the sun improved your acne—but it was definitely temporary. UV rays do minimize P. acnes bacteria temporarily, but the sun does a lot more harm than good. A sunburn causes inflammation that can make breakouts worse, and UV rays can cause permanent discoloration of recently-healed pimples. This is all in addition to increasing your risk of skin cancer. This animal-based research found that exposure to UV rays may make natural facial oils more likely to clog pores, which means your acne can come back even worse after your tan fades.
Myth: Toothpaste is an effective acne spot treatment.
Again, this one wasn’t 100 percent false, but it dates back to a time when toothpastes were formulated with zinc—which has been proven to improve acne breakouts. (That’s why it’s in the AcneFree Therapeutic Sulfur Mask.) Today, you’re unlikely to find zinc in your toothpaste, and you’re very likely to experience dryness and irritation if you put it on your skin—so use our Terminator 10 spot treatment with benzoyl peroxide instead.
Myth: Adults don’t get acne.
False. False. False. Acne can begin around the time puberty kicks in and continue well into adulthood—or acne can appear for the first-time when you’re an adult. Acne knows no age, and hormonal fluctuations associated with menstrual cycles, pregnancy and even menopause can trigger adult acne.
Myth: Touching your face causes acne.
Unless you’re a compulsive hand-washer, we all have an average of 150 different species of bacteria on our hands at any given moment, and these are not responsible for breakouts. Reminder: Acne forms when clogged pores become overrun with P. acnes bacteria, which is present on everyone’s skin to some degree. Touching your face may not cause acne, but bacteria on your hands can cause an infection if you try to pop a pimple or pick a scab—so it’s still a good idea to keep your hands off (and wash them often).
Myth: Scrubbing my skin will get rid of acne.
Mild daily exfoliation with a salicylic acid product and using a gentle scrub a few times a week can greatly improve acne, but more is not more when it comes to exfoliating. Over-doing it with harsh, abrasive products will leave skin red, irritated and very unhappy. Our Blackhead Removing Scrub with Charcoal is a gentle yet effective alternative.
Myth: Shaving causes acne.
If you see what you think are pimples after shaving, you’re more likely experiencing ingrown hairs than acne. The good news is, an acne wash can help minimize this potential side effect by mildly exfoliating the uppermost layers of the skin so hairs don’t get trapped. Our Oil Free Acne Cleanser can be used in and out of the shower.
Myth: Blackheads are caused by dirt in your pores.
Contrary to popular belief, the color of blackheads isn’t due to dirt at all. Blackheads form when oil and debris in the pore darken as they react with oxygen in the air. The technical name for a blackhead is an open comedone, and this is actually a pore that has become clogged with oil, dead skin cells and bacteria. Cleansing in an effort to remove dirt won’t prevent blackheads, and the best way to minimize them is to keep pores clear by using salicylic acid products that help exfoliate dead skin cells. You can also try a charcoal scrub (such as our Blackhead Removing Scrub with Charcoal to help draw impurities out of the pores and clear blackheads as well.
Myth: Acne is contagious.
At some point, someone may have told you that you can “catch” acne. Not true. As mentioned earlier, everyone has the P. acnes bacteria on their skin—so it’s impossible to “give” it to someone. The reason why you have acne and your best friend or the person sitting next to you does not has to do with the amount of oil your skin produces and the number of dead skin cells hanging around that can potentially clog your pores.
Myth: If you have acne, you should skip the moisturizer.
Acne-prone skin needs moisture, too, especially when you’re using acne-targeting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide. You don’t have to worry about a moisturizer causing breakouts if you’re using a product designed for acne, and skipping the moisturizer altogether can actually make your skin produce more oil that can lead to clogged pores and more pimples. (All of our acne kits include a moisturizer that provides hydration without making breakouts worse.)
Myth: Sunscreen makes acne worse.
You know what’s a lot worse than acne? Skin cancer. There are so many sunscreens formulated for oily and acne-prone skin, and as long as you choose an SPF that says “non-comedogenic” on the bottle, you’re in the clear. Many dermatologists recommend a physical sunscreen with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide for those with acne, because these UV-blocking ingredients sit on the skin’s surface and act like a mirror to reflect the sun’s rays. These UV filters are less likely to cause irritation as well, making them ideal for those who are fighting acne.
Myth: If it looks like a pimple, it’s definitely acne.
If you have acne, you likely have blackheads and at least the occasional bigger pimple. Over time you get to know your unique skin, as well as what’s “normal” for you. There are so many skin conditions out there that can look like acne, but if you’re not experiencing excess oil and something unusual pops up, it’s probably not. A few examples include the aforementioned ingrown hairs after shaving, or a flare-up around your mouth than can actually be contact dermatitis caused by your toothpaste (which is more common than you think). A cold sore can also be mistaken for acne as well, so the bottom line is, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist if you’re experiencing a flare-up that seems strange..
Myth: Sweat causes acne.
Sweat doesn’t directly cause breakouts, but what you don’t do after you sweat can. Exercise has actually been shown to reduce stress levels, which in turn prevents your body from producing a hormone called cortisol that kicks oil glands into overdrive—and excess oil increases your chances of breaking out. Yet, not cleansing your skin after breaking a sweat can bring on blemishes, so it’s important to shower after working out. Your best bet is to use an acne wash with benzoyl peroxide both on your face and body (especially if you struggle with body acne) to minimize bacteria and help you achieve your clear skin goals. Our Oil Free Acne Wash is perfect for head to toe cleansing (and acne-fighting) in the shower.