Acne Myths

Scientific knowledge about acne is gradually clearing up some of the misconceptions surrounding this condition, but there are many acne myths that persist. 

Here are some common acne myths.

Myth #1 - Acne is caused by poor hygiene. This belief may have arisen because of the skin infections associated with acne.

However, lack of cleanliness is not the reason for outbreaks of acne. The mixture of sebum and dead cells which cause acne is situated beneath the surface of the skin where it is impossible to clean it away.

However, gentle cleansing with soap and water once or twice a day will keep the skin as healthy as possible. Be careful not to scrub too hard, however, as this may make acne worse.

Myth #2 - Acne is caused by certain foods. There is a long-standing belief that eating chocolate will cause the face to break out in pimples.

There is no scientific evidence for this -- studies have shown no statistically significant relationship between eating chocolate and acne. The same holds true of other foods associated like potato chips and sugar.

It is true, however, that eating too much of these foods is unhealthy, and you wish to keep as healthy as possible at all times and especially if afflicted with acne. 

Limiting chocolate and sugar consumption is always a good idea.

Even though chocolate and French fries do not cause acne, there are some foods which do seem to aggravate it.

There seems to be a relationship between milk and acne, and foods high in iodine also seem to cause pimples. Iodine is found in seafood, so those with acne may be advised not to eat too much seafood.

Myth #3 - Acne is related to sex. At various times we heard that masturbation or celibacy causes pimples. This is another widespread acne myth.

There is no evidence for this.

There is a link between sexual activity and hormone production, however, but the relationship between sex and the production of sebum (the oily substance which combines with dead skin cells to cause acne) is unclear. 

Anger and stress also affect hormone levels.

Myth #4 - Acne has to run its course. 

There are many treatments available for acne, so those who are suffering from the discomfort and embarrassment that acne causes can find relief by consulting with a dermatologist or using over-the-counter medicine.

Myth #5 - Acne is only a teenage condition. It is true that most adolescents have acne, but it also affects some adults. 

Acne will usually clear up by time one enters their early 20s, but some people experience acne for the first time when they are in their 30s or 40s.

Myth #6 - Acne only affects appearance. Acne is a skin condition which can also cause psychological distress. 

Those with severe acne are especially vulnerable to feelings of depression and low self-image. There is a strong link between severe acne conditions and social withdrawal.

Myth #7 - Popping pimples is the best way to get rid of them. In fact, popping pimples may aggravate acne by spreading the bacteria which is causing it. Popping can also lead to scarring which in severe cases can be permanent.

Myth #8 - Sunbathing is good for acne. Exposure to the sun has the effect of drying out excess oils, so it does in fact have a short-term effect of improving acne.

However, the skin quickly becomes accustomed to sun exposure so no long-term benefit is gained. Sun exposure may also damage the skin and increase the chance of skin cancer.

Myth #9 - Makeup causes acne. Some makeup can clog the pores which is bad for the health of the skin.

Cosmetics labelled "noncomedogenic" or "nonacnegenic" are safe to use and some brands may include ingredients which can treat acne.

Myth #10 - The more acne medicine the better. Some people believe that if their acne gets worse they should use more medicine.

Excess use of acne ointments, however, may irritate the skin, and oral medicines can be dangerous when taken in large quantities. Always follow the directions for the acne medications.

Read on to learn more. To return to the main Acne page, click here.

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