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Acne Myths: Everything You Know About Acne Is Dead Wrong

Acne Myths: Everything You Know About Acne Is Dead Wrong

Acne. The bane of men, women, and teens for decades. The embarrassing breakouts just prior to a date, the desperate effort to hide a massive pimple under makeup, the flat-out pretending that you don’t have a small mountain range on your face. Acne is not a fun experience, and neither is prevention, especially considering all the acne myths that have been circulated.

In the battle against acne, there have been numerous tactics, products, and tips suggested. Some of these tips have been proven to be scientifically valid. Others are total lies, urban legends or the inventions of marketers who need to sell more.

In this post, we’re going to bust the top acne myths and give you the straight facts.

Acne Myth: Acne Is A Teenage Only Problem

Myth: Acne Is A Teenage Only Problem

Ah yes, the teenage years. Your body was undergoing rapid, somewhat terrifying changes, you desperately wanted to be liked, and you were convinced your parents had the intelligence of an avocado.

You probably have at least one acne-related horror story from your teenage years. Waking up on the morning of prom to discover a football-sized pimple on your forehead. Having a massive breakout on the day of the date and then desperately trying to cover it with makeup. Having a pimple burst at the worst possible time.

Thankfully, acne is only a teenager problem, right?


A recent study showed that adults experience acne on a fairly regular basis, with women experiencing it much more frequently than men. As the American Academy of Dermatology noted:

A study examining the prevalence of acne in adults over age 20 found that acne affects more than 50 percent of women between the ages of 20-29 and more than 25 percent of women between the ages of 40-49.

The study found a disproportionate number of adult women were affected by acne compared to similar-aged men.

A 2011 clinical study examining photos of women from age 10-70 for visible signs of acne found that 45 percent of women aged 21-30 had clinical acne, 26 percent of women aged 31-40 had clinical acne, and 12 percent of women aged 41-50 had clinical acne.

The cause of the rebirth of acne? Those pesky estrogen hormones. You experience a surge of them in your teens, then again later in life. More estrogen hormones often leads to more acne.

Acne Myth: Diet Does Not Affect Acne

Myth: Diet Does Not Affect Acne

You’ve probably heard it said that what you eat has no affect on your complexion. Go ahead, eat that case of Snickers. Dive into the Quintuple Pounder with cheese. Gulp down the 92 oz. soda. You may balloon up to TLC reality TV size, but it won’t change your complexion one bit.

Unfortunately, this advice is completely bogus.

The unfortunate advice originated with a study in the 1960’s which tried to determine if their was a connection between eating chocolate and breaking out. The study noted:

To test the widespread idea that chocolate is harmful in instances of acne vulgaris, 65 subjects with moderate acne ate either a bar containing ten times the amount of chocolate in a typical bar, or an identical-appearing bar which contained no chocolate. Counting of all the lesions on one side of the face before and after each ingestion period indicated no difference between the bars. Five normal subjects ingested two enriched chocolate bars daily for one month; this represented a daily addition of the diet of 1,200 calories, of which about half was vegetable fat. This excessive intake of chocolate and fat did not alter the composition or output of sebum. A review of studies purporting to show that diets high in carbohydrate or fat stimulate sebaceous secretion and adversely affect acne vulgaris indicates that these claims are unproven.

In other words, eat all the chocolate you want because you’ll still maintain that radiant complexion. And so, people took this as gospel and proceeded to gobble down chocolate, Willy Wonka style.

However, recent studies are showing that what you eat really does have a direct effect on your skin condition. A recent study showed that a variety of foods, such as dairy, foods in high in unhealthy fats, sugary foods, and more can lead to increase acne.

It turns out that what you eat has an impact on your skin condition. Don’t make out with a Whopper and expect nothing to happen.

Acne Myth: If You Use Sunscreen You’ll Get Acne

Sunscreen causes acne, right? That’s why you rarely use it, and as a result often get burnt to a medium-well crisp when you go to the beach.

Two problems here.

  • Not using sunscreen increases your risk of skin cancer.
  • Some sunscreens do NOT cause acne.

There are two types of sunscreens: physical and chemical. Physical sunscreens block the sun’s rays, while chemical sunscreens absorb the rays.

Physical sunscreens usually contain zinc oxide and titanium oxide, both of which are gentler on your skin and offer better protection from the sun. Additionally, zinc oxide may kill the bacteria which causes acne. These usually don’t clog your pores, which causes acne.

Chemical sunscreens contain…wait for it…chemicals. Sometimes these chemicals tend to cause breakouts, especially if you’re sensitive to the chemicals.

So don’t neglect sunscreen, just choose the right one. If you know that a particular chemical sunscreen doesn’t cause problems, go ahead and use it, but you’re always safer using physical sunscreens.


Acne Myth: Being Out In The Sun Clears Up Acne

Myth: Being Out In The Sun Clears Up Acne

If only it were so simple. Rather than investing in facial creams to fight your acne, all you need is a simple walk in the sunshine. If you face breaks out in an acne epidemic, take a few brisk walks and your skin will be clear as the sky.

Not so fast.

As Christie Wilcox notes:

UV rays damage the skin, weakening the natural barrier and causing it to lose moisture. While at first this means your oily zones dry up, your skin tries to fix this by producing more and more of its own oils. Instead of preventing or lessening breakouts, sun exposure worsens the root of the problem.

What initially seems like a potential plus, (dryer, less oily skin) sun exposure eventually leads to oil overload. Your body senses your dry skin and kicks your oil production into overdrive, which can increase your acne even more.

Obviously, the solution isn’t to stay out of the sun, unless you thrive on being pale and ghostly. When you go into the sun, use physical sunscreen to protect your skin.

Acne Myth: The Strongest Products Create The Clearest Skin

As you spend time perusing the 23,000 different acne products at your local pharmacy, you notice that some offer “extra strength” benefits. They have more benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, which are the chemicals which kill acne-causing bacteria and unclog your pores.

When you see this, your thought process probably goes something like this: If those are good chemicals, than more of those chemicals must be even better. More cake is always better. More Bachelorette is always better. You can’t have too much of a good thing.

Except you can.

First, a recent study showed that there is almost no difference in the effectiveness of benzoyl peroxide at 2.5%, 5.0%, and 10%. This will probably shock you, but it’s quite possible that “extra strength” acne creams may just be a ploy to get your money. Of course, that’s not possible since massive pharmaceutical companies always operate out of the goodness of their hearts.

Second, heavy doses of those chemicals may irritate your skin, which is the complete opposite of why you’re using it.

Acne Myth: The More You Wash Your Face, The Less Acne You’ll Have

Myth: The More You Wash Your Face, The Less Acne You’ll Have

If you don’t want acne, you wash your face, right? After all, washing your face clears away the oils that clog your pores, leaving your skin nicely exfoliated and radiant. Following this logic, the more you wash your face, the less acne you’ll have because you’re constantly removing the acne-causing oils.

It’s the more cake is better argument from above.

Unfortunately, this argument is totally wrong. In fact, the more you aggressively scrub your face, the higher your chance of having an acne breakout.

When you wash your face too many times, you strip the oils, which in turn causes your skin to produce more oil to compensate.

As Lauren Conrad notes:

If you have very oily skin, excessive washing throughout the day could strip your face of its moisture and in turn cause it to produce even more oil. Cleaning your skin too aggressively can also exacerbate acne and cause inflammation. So while it sounds counterintuitive, people with oily skin should generally wash their face less often than those with a drier skin type. The p.m. wash is usually still a must to remove makeup and any other debris. But after an initial adjustment period, skipping the a.m. wash could help to balance your oil production.

Should you wash your face? Of course! You don’t want to walk around looking perpetually like a glazed donut. However, be smart about it. Don’t overdo in the faulty belief that more is better. And you may also want to try out a soap-free face wash to help prevent acne.


Until science devises a way to completely eliminate acne, it will always be a battle. And until that day, people will always be coming up with strange theories about how to fight acne.

However, it doesn’t have to be a losing battle for you. You need not resign yourself to a constantly blemished face.

If you ignore the acne myths above and follow standard advice about fighting acne, you’re headed in the right direction.

The post Acne Myths: Everything You Know About Acne Is Dead Wrong appeared first on A Complete.

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