Common Myths About Acne
If you're trying to find out what's behind your acne breakout, first get the facts about acne.
Clare A. Pipkin, MD, a dermatologist and an assistant professor of medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine, clears up some of the confusion about acne.
Acne Myth No. 1: Poor Hygiene Causes Acne
A lot of people have heard this one â€” that acne is caused by dirty skin.
"Some patients believe this and end up washing their face numerous times a day, sometimes scrubbing vigorously and using harsh astringents," says Dr. Pipkin. In fact, washing your skin too frequently and too aggressively can make an acne breakout much worse.
"Ultimately, this can lead to irritated, traumatized skin that looks worse after treatment," Pipkin says.
Instead, wash your face only once or twice a day with lukewarm water, a mild cleanser, and gentle motion â€” no scrubbing or harsh abrasive products needed. Make sure one of those times youâ€™re washing your face is in the evening, to remove makeup and dirt and sweat from the day.
Acne Myth No. 2: Squeeze Those Pimples
When that pimple sprouts, you may not be able to resist the temptation to squeeze it out to try to bring it down to size.
"Some patients will squeeze pimples in an attempt to try to open up a clogged pore," says Pipkin. "However, this usually leads to further inflammation, which makes the acne look worse and last longer."
Keep your hands off â€” and leave that pimple alone. Instead, try using an over- the-counter acne treatment gel, ointment, cream, or lotion to help it shrink. Look for products that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid â€“ theyâ€™re the most effective, over-the-counter acne remedies.
Acne Myth No. 3: Junk Food Causes Acne
You may have heard that eating greasy foods and candy can cause an acne breakout. Though there are some links between diet and acne, the relationship isn't quite what you may think it is.
"Many people with acne have oily skin, so for a time people thought that greasy foods should also be avoided," says Pipkin. However, a number of studies have shown that downing foods like French fries, cheeseburgers, and chocolate doesnâ€™t have any impact at all on your skin's health. But getting that grease on your skin can make an oily complexion worse, clogging pores and leading to an acne breakout.
Greasy foods may be off the hook, but there could be other diet culprits behind your acne breakouts.
"Milk consumption has been associated with an increased risk of acne. Other studies have shown that a low glycemic index diet thatâ€™s high in fiber and fruits and vegetables is beneficial for acne," notes Pipkin. "So, if someone is suffering from acne, avoiding milk or sticking to a low glycemic index diet may actually be helpful."
Acne Myth No. 4: Acne Goes Away on Its Own
You don't have to suffer silently with acne â€” there are treatments available to clear up acne breakouts and help prevent future pimple problems.
Acne is caused by clogged pores in the skin â€” and theyâ€™re often clogged with the skin's natural oils, says Pipkin. If your pores become clogged, the skin's natural bacteria can cause inflammation â€” and worsen acne.
Don't just leave a pimple to swell and mark your skin. There are plenty of treatments â€” both over-the-counter and prescription â€” available to help unclog those pores and clear up an acne breakout.
Acne Myth No. 5: Tanning Beds Clear Up Acne
If you're looking for a reason to justify using harmful tanning beds, acne treatment isn't it. This myth started years ago, when tanning beds became a popular acne remedy, says Pipkin.
"However, studies have shown that UVA light, which is the light typically used in tanning beds, does not benefit acne," she adds.
Not only does tanning not offer a benefit for acne, but it can damage your skin. "The World Health Organization has found tanning beds to be a risk factor for the development of skin cancer. There is absolutely no reason that anyone should ever use a tanning bed for acne or any other purpose," stresses Pipkin.
There are other acne myths out there as well. Ignore them, and talk with your doctor about acne treatments that will work for you.
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