Acne is one of the most common conditions we treat at Arizona Dermatology. But, despite its commonality, there’s still a large amount of misunderstanding surrounding acne. From tips and advice from peers, to tabloid articles and Facebook posts, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction.
As experts in dermatology, we’ve compiled the top ten myths we hear about acne. In this article, we’ll share the truth behind this complex skin condition.
Myth 1: Acne only affects teenagers
It’s easy to see how this myth developed—after all, approximately 85% of adolescents experience some form of acne. However, acne isn’t always something that disappears when you reach adulthood. While many people may grow out of acne as they age, others struggle with acne throughout their 20s, 30s, and beyond. Studies indicate that between 40 and 55 percent of the U.S. adult population have been diagnosed with acne.
Although dealing with adult acne can be challenging, there are many ways to treat it. Treatment modalities like acne targeting cleansers, topical medications, and in-office procedures such as chemical peels can help patients get to the root of their acne problem at any age.
Myth 2: Getting a tan helps heal acne
This dangerous myth can leave your skin more vulnerable to skin cancer and premature aging. While a tan can camouflage a breakout, it does nothing to actually heal acne. In fact, UV rays can darken existing acne scars.
Whether you have acne or not, exposure to the sun without sunscreen increases your risk of skin cancer, as the sun’s UV rays can damage the surface of the skin. Suntans and sunburns are signs of sun damage and should be avoided by applying sunscreen.
Myth 3: You should pop a pimple to make it heal faster
The truth is, popping pimples on your own can actually make acne worse. When you pop a pimple, bacteria is released within your skin, which can cause even more breakouts. Additionally, you run the risk of causing acne scars, as popping pimples interfere with the skin’s natural healing process.
To speed up the healing process of a pimple without popping it, spot treat the impacted area with a topical acne medication such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Or, try covering the pimple with a hydrocolloid bandage. This will not only help the pimple heal, but also reduce your temptation to pop or pick at the blemish.
Myth 4: Acne-prone skin doesn’t need to be moisturized
Even if your skin is prone to breakouts, you still need to moisturize. Skin that’s not moisturized is more vulnerable to irritation, which can increase breakouts, even for oily-skin types. However, it is true that heavy moisturizers often contain ingredients that can irritate acne-prone skin.
In general, acne-prone skin types should avoid moisturizers with these common ingredients:
Look for moisturizers labeled as “oil free” and “non-comedogenic” to be sure the formula is free from these potentially irritating ingredients. This will help you select a product that’ll properly moisturize your skin, without worsening your acne.
Myth 5: Acne is caused by not washing your face
Acne is a complex skin disorder that’s not simply caused by forgetting to wash your face. In fact, washing your face more than twice a day can dry out and irritate the skin further, resulting in more acne. Additionally, scrubbing your face vigorously or overusing products with harsh ingredients can make acne worse.
However, not washing your face at all can contribute to breakouts and skin irritation. As a general rule, wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser is the best way to keep your skin clean and healthy.
Myth 6: Toothpaste can cure acne
This is a myth we see very frequently as dermatologists. Patients often see toothpaste suggested online as a miracle acne cure, and a safe home remedy. The truth behind this is complicated. While toothpaste can dry out an existing pimple, it does nothing to prevent future breakouts from occurring. Additionally, the harsh ingredients in toothpaste, such as sodium lauryl sulfate, can clog pores and potentially make your acne worse.
In some cases, applying toothpaste to a pimple can result in a red, itchy reaction called contact dermatitis. This results in an irritated rash on the skin that may need to be treated with a topical steroid cream. To keep your skin safe, stick to spot treatments containing acne fighting ingredients, and leave the toothpaste for your teeth.
Myth 7: Acne happens overnight
While it may seem like breakouts appear overnight, the process of acne growth begins in the skin weeks in advance of a pimple becoming visible. That’s why it’s important to treat acne at its source, by maintaining a skincare routine and using topical or prescription acne medication as needed. Doing so will help you prevent breakouts at every stage, not just when pimples appear on the skin.
The process of acne reaching the surface of the skin typically follows these steps:
- Excess dead skin cells and bacteria clog the pore
- The pore overproduces oil, also known as sebum
- An overgrowth of the acnes bacteria occur in the pore
- Inflammation occurs as a reaction to the bacteria
Myth 8: Acne isn’t genetic
If your parents suffered from acne, it’s likely you will too. Multiple studies show a link between certain genetic characteristics and the development of acne. For example, genes can influence your skin’s inflammatory response. If you have acne, you’re more likely to have a strong inflammatory response to the bacteria that causes acne, leading to irritation. Genes can also influence how sensitive your skin is to hormones and hormonal changes, which can lead to acne.
However, keep in mind that even if you’re genetically predisposed to developing acne, you can still take steps to prevent and treat breakouts.
Myth 9: Acne always goes away on its own
Acne can be a chronic condition for many patients, lasting anywhere from a few years to a few decades. In some cases, acne can continue to get worse if no intervention is taken.
For patients with severe and chronic acne who have tried over-the-counter remedies without any success, prescription medications can target acne at its source and provide clear skin. For lingering scars and other damage to the skin, treatments such as microdermabrasion and laser resurfacing are effective.
Myth 10: You can only get acne if you have oily skin
Developing acne doesn’t just depend on your skin type. While oily skin types can be especially prone to acne, dry or combination skin can also experience breakouts. The fact is, no matter what your skin type is, you can still experience the overgrowth of bacteria that causes acne.
Treating breakouts for varying skin types can be challenging. Along with fighting acne, patients want to avoid making their skin drier or more irritated. We advise our patients with dry or combination skin to avoid products containing benzoyl peroxide, which can dry out the skin, and instead look for products containing salicylic acid. We also advise that they only use a small amount of product and follow their acne regimen with a soothing moisturizer.
Get the facts about acne at Arizona Dermatology
It’s time to counter the myths by getting the facts about acne and acne treatment. At Arizona Dermatology, we use only scientifically proven methods to diagnose and treat our patients’ acne. If you’re suffering from persistent breakouts, we’ll work with you every step of the way on your journey to clear skin. Contact us today to get started.