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Know Your Skin: Acne Myths vs. Facts

Saturday, June 10, 2017 10:34 AM

Do you remember how you handled your last acne breakout? There are dozens of products on the market to choose from, as well as more and more home remedies that promise to make pimples disappear fast. In reality, a lot of these products and techniques are incorrect. Approximately 40 to 50 million Americans are affected by acne but knowledge about the condition still varies. There are still several misconceptions and myths about acne and treatment that many people still believe to be true.

Nisha Desai, MD, Dermatology at NorthShore, are helping to dispel these myths so that patients can focus on what’s really best when it comes to their skin:

Myth: Only teenagers get acne.
Fact: Approximately 25% of adult men and 50% of adult women suffer from some form of acne. The causes can range from fluctuating hormones (which can be related to menopause, pregnancy, menstruation or stress), medication or face and hair products. Adult acne, just like any other, can be managed with a proper skincare routine, including daily sun protection, and help from a dermatologist.

Myth: Acne is caused entirely by genetics.
Fact: While genetics does play a role in how acne develops, there are also lifestyle changes you can make to control your breakouts. Staying hydrated, maintaining a well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep and avoiding surfaces with germs are some of the ways you can avoid acne-causing bacteria, increased oil production within the skin and hormonal imbalances that can cause pimples. Newer research has also linked spikes in blood sugar to some acne outbreaks, which could indicate that lower carbohydrate diets are better to help control flares.

Myth: Tanning can clear or prevent acne breakouts, while sunscreen clogs pores.
Fact: Just the opposite. Excessive tanning of any kind is harmful to the skin, and is also particularly irritating to acne. The exposure to UV rays will really dry skin out, which can actually lead to future breakouts. On the other hand, many sunscreens (made to reflect UV rays) contain zinc oxide, which fights against the bacteria which causes acne. There are, however, some sunscreens that can irritate acne, so it’s important to do your research to find the best products for your skin. Generally, sunscreens labeled as “oil free” or “non-comedogenic” will be best. Everyone’s skin is unique, so it may be necessary to try several before finding the right one. Some companies even have products with SPF, makeup AND acne medication.

Myth: Acne is caused by dirt or grease that hasn’t been washed off properly.
Fact: Acne starts from within the skin and takes time to form; blackheads and whiteheads occur when glands within the skin produce too much oil and/or become clogged within the pore along with acne-causing bacteria and dead skin cells. When the keratin protein (from the dead skin cells) builds up in the pores and is exposed to air, it turns black, becoming a blackhead, while build up within the pore that isn’t exposed becomes a whitehead.

Myth: Washing the skin several times a day with skin products is the best way to fight acne.
Fact: Washing your face too much can rob your skin of the natural oils it’s producing, which may cause it to create more, and could potentially leading to more breakouts. The same can be said for using harsh scrubs, exfoliating agents and toners with an alcohol base. You can prevent dryness and irritation by gently washing your face no more than twice a day. A dermatologist can help you determine which skin products and treatments will work best for your skin type.

Myth: Popping pimples helps get rid of acne faster.
Fact: Popping a pimple before it’s fully formed will risk pushing the bacteria further into your skin and spreading it to other unaffected areas of your face. Along with spreading the infection, popping your pimples may also lead to permanent skin damage and scarring. It’s best to let the pimple heal, which should normally take about a week or two. In darker skin, pimple popping can also worsen discoloration, which without medication can take several months to resolve.

What's the most surprising fact about acne that you've learned?