Acne Myths Exposed – The truth about acne, causes and treatments

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions in the world, and has made millions of people miserable, frustrated and self-conscious for centuries. It’s no surprise then that myths about acne abound, and really only serve to confuse acne sufferers about what’s causing their acne and what they can do about it. Let us clear the air, and hopefully help you clear up some of your acne as well!

We’ve compiled our ‘Top 10 Acne Myths’ to set the record straight.

Top 10 Acne Myths – busted!

Acne Myth #1 Dirt causes acne

Not true! Acne is not caused by dirt, or poor hygiene. Acne actually develops when follicles under the surface of your skin become blocked by dead skin cells and oil from the oil gland. The follicle becomes blocked, but the oil gland continues to produce oil, causing the follicle to expand and rupture. When this happens, oil and dead skin are released into the top layer of your skin, and it reacts by becoming red and inflamed. When bacteria get in the follicle, it creates infections, leading to nasty pimples.

Acne Myth #2 Clean more to combat acne

More cleaning is not the answer. In fact, excessive cleaning can actually make your acne worse, not better. There are a few issues to be aware of here. Firstly, over-cleaning your skin can make it dry out more, leading to more dead skin cells that can go on to block your skin follicles and pores. More rubbing, and using unsuitable cleansers or harsh exfoliants is not good for skin with acne and will only irritate existing acne and spread the infection more. You need to use a gentle face wash, applied using only your hands, no more than twice a day to keep your skin clean. Look for cleansers either with salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide or antibacterial agents to help.

Acne Myth #3 Chocolate and greasy foods cause acne

Debate about the link between diet and acne has been ongoing for decades, but studies show that diet does not cause acne (remember, acne is caused by blocked follicles). The warnings about chocolate, fries, pizza or other foods might help your figure, but they aren’t necessarily going to have any impact on your acne. The proviso here is that some people find that they have various reactions to some types of foods, which can trigger acne breakouts (including people who are insulin resistant, whose bodies react to sugar). If you suspect that certain foods do make your acne worse, try keeping a detailed food journal recording everything you eat, and any changes in your skin.

Acne Myth #4 Sunlight helps clear up acne

It’s true that sunlight can help ‘dry out’ skin and oily pimples. But sunlight is not going to stop you getting acne or make it any better. Sun burn or ‘tanning’ may darken or redden your skin and help mask some blemishes, but that’s only a temporary answer, and meanwhile that sun burn is actually going to do more harm to your skin. Of course, limited sun exposure is fine and is unavoidable. Just don’t try and use it to address your acne – it’s not going to help.

Acne Myth #5 Using moisturisers – Yes or no?

It’s understandable for acne suffers to be confused about using moisturisers. Should I use less moisturiser because my skin is oily, or should I use more moisturiser to combat dry skin and dead skin cells? The answer, like many things, is moderation – and using the right type of moisturiser. Keeping your skin lightly moisturised will help it heal and stay healthy. Be sure to use an oil-free moisturiser. If you can, find one that contains salicylic acid, or one that states it will help prevent acne breakouts.

Acne myth #6 Acne is a teenage problem

It’s true that acne is a problem many teenagers battle, as hormone levels change dramatically around puberty. But did you know that about 1 in 4 people aged 25-44 also have active acne? Many adult women continue to deal with acne as their hormones fluctuate during their monthly menstrual cycle.

Acne myth #7 A quick fix? Give it a squeeze!

However tempting it may be, squeezing pimples will only make the situation worse. When you squeeze a pimple you damage the structures under the skin, causing the area to become inflamed, which can even lead to a permanent scar. There’s really no ‘safe’ way to squeeze a pimple. If the situation is just too dire (you have a big date and that big juicy pimple feels more obvious than your nose!) then either conceal it with make up, or if you have to squeeze it, use sterile gauze pads and apply a hot compress for five minutes before squeezing. Follow with an anti bacterial treatment on the area, and apply some ice to minimize inflammation.

Acne myth #8 Oral contraceptives as an acne treatment

So what’s the link between oral contraceptives and acne? Basically, oral contraceptives are hormone pills, so some people find that, if their acne is driven by hormones (which can affect oil production), taking oral contraceptives can help reduce acne problems. This is actually true, however it does not mean you should simply start taking these pills. First and foremost, remember that oral contraceptive pills are designed to prevent pregnancy – they are not designed as acne pills. And, they can have a number of side effects. If you are considering this as a way to deal with acne you must discuss this with a doctor and thoroughly consider the issues and risks.

Acne myth #9 Sex makes acne worse

Not true – although adults trying to steer young people away from having sex may like to tell them this! However, it is known that high levels of androgens (male sex hormones) can be related to more severe cases of acne. Androgens can also cause increased sex drive. So, while there is a relationship between hormone levels and acne, the act of having sex does not cause acne.

Acne myth #10 You’ll just have to let acne run its course…

No, no and no. Don’t let people tell you that you’ll just have to wait it out, or that acne is ‘just’ a cosmetic problem. We know as well as you do that when you are confident in your appearance you feel better about yourself, and that severe acne can have a big impact on people personally and socially. There are in fact many effective ways to treat acne, from specially designed cleansers to sophisticated clinical treatments. Our next blog discusses a number of these acne treatments in detail. For more help you can even contact the experts at The Me Clinic directly. Or try talking to your pharmacist or doctor, or seeing a local skin treatment clinic or dermatologist.

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