Six Acne Myths
Searching online, you’ll discover all kinds of theories about why people get acne, weird acne triggers, and of course advice on what to do when acne makes an unwelcome appearance on your skin. It’s time to pull the curtain back on some of the most popular acne myths, because knowledge is the best way to start having the beautiful, clear skin you want.
Myth: You Can Dry Up Acne
Water is the only thing you can "dry up," and acne breakouts have nothing to do with skin being wet. Drying up the water and other moisture-binding substances on skin’s surface actually hurts its ability to fight acne, and encourages breakouts and the marks they leave behind to last longer. Absorbing oil that's on the skin's surface or in the pore is radically different from "drying up" skin with harsh ingredients like denatured alcohol.
What you can do instead: Treat acne-affected skin gently by using carefully formulated anti-acne products that contain ingredients research has shown to control acne and help get skin back in the clear, faster.
Myth: Acne Is Caused by Dirty Skin
This mistaken belief often leads to over-cleaning or scrubbing with soaps and abrasive scrubs or rough bristled cleansing brushes, which only increases the risk of creating dry, flaky, aggravated skin that also increases oil production in the pore. It's also the perfect recipe for skin that feels dry and tight underneath, but is oily on top. Acne has nothing to do with skin being dirty, but it does have everything to do with clogged pores which is why a leave-on BHA exfoliant that contains salicylic acid is so vitally important.
Myth: You Can Spot-Treat Acne
Although you can reduce the redness, swelling, and aftermath of an existing breakout with a salicylic acid (BHA) exfoliant or with a benzoyl peroxide product, that doesn't deal with the breakouts that are starting to develop. Dealing with only the breakouts you see means you’re ignoring those that are forming but not visible yet. This leads to a cycle of chasing acne around your face. Spot-treating is an OK option for those who rarely breakout, but if that isn’t you, then full face application is essential for getting and maintain the best results.
Myth: Tingling Means It's Working
This is a common myth that way too many people believe. Here’s the truth: Ingredients that make your skin tingle, such as menthol, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon, and alcohol show up in countless anti-acne products but are a serious, sensitizing problem for skin. Research showing these ingredients have any benefit for acne or oily skin is lacking but there is research showing how these ingredients aggravate skin, making acne and oily skin worse.
Myth: Acne is Caused Chocolate or Greasy Food
While it’s absolutely true that eating healthy food is good for you and your overall well-being, research on chocolate consumption and acne has been mixed. Several of the earlier studies proclaiming it not to be a problem were flawed or poorly done. Greasy, fatty foods don’t seem to be acne triggers for most people but foods (especially sources of refined sugar) that cause a spike in the hormone insulin have been linked to increased incidences of acne—and chocolate is often found in sugar-laden foods. Try curbing your sugar intake for a few weeks to see if doing so improves your skin.
Myth: You Can Get Rid of Acne With a Scrub
If only it were that easy! First, abrasive scrubs are harsh on skin, disrupting its healthy-looking, vital surface and defeating its ability to fight off acne. The harshness can also increase oil production, which we’re betting isn’t what you want. As stated above, acne isn’t caused by skin being dirty and therefore needing a "deep" clean. You can use a gentle washcloth with your water soluble cleanser or a soft-bristled cleansing brush for a bit of extra cleansing, but it has to be gentle. Not being gentle will make your skin mad, and the reaction won’t be good.
References for this information:
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, July 2016, pages 220-221
Australian Family Physician, August 2006, pages 613-616 and November 2001, pages 1,039-1,044
Family Practice, February 2005, pages 62-70
About the Experts
Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:
The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!