Six Acne Myths

Apr 20, 2020 | Acne

If you google “acne treatment”, you’ll find a smorgasbord of theories about why people get acne, weird acne triggers, and tips on what to do when acne makes an unwelcome appearance on your skin. Today, I will share with you some of the most popular acne myths I hear from my patients, because knowledge is the best way to start having the beautiful, clear skin you want.

Myth: You Can “Dry Up” Acne

Water is the only thing you can “dry up,” and acne breakouts have nothing to do with skin being wet. While the treatment may dry up your skin, it is doing little, if anything for the actual acne. Drying up the water and other moisture-binding substances on skin’s surface can even hurt its ability to fight acne, and encourages breakouts and the marks they leave behind to last longer. Absorbing oil that’s on the skin’s surface or in the pore is radically different from “drying up” skin with harsh ingredients like denatured alcohol.

Do this instead: Treat acne-affected skin gently by using carefully formulated anti acne products that contain ingredients research has shown to control acne and help get skin back in the clear, faster. Examples include benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and retinoid. 

Myth: Acne Is Caused by Dirty Skin

Oh, if I had a dollar for every time a Mom asked me to tell her child that they have acne because they are not clean. This mistaken belief often leads to over-cleaning or scrubbing with soaps and abrasive scrubs or rough bristled cleansing brushes, which only increases the risk of creating dry, flaky, aggravated skin that also increases oil production in the pore. It’s also the perfect recipe for skin that feels dry and tight underneath, but is oily on top. Acne has nothing to do with skin being dirty, but it does have everything to do with clogged pores which is why a chemical exfoliate that contains salicylic acid is so vitally important.

Myth: You Can Spot-Treat Acne

This is somewhat true, but not exactly.  You can reduce the redness and swelling with a salicylic acid (BHA) exfoliates or with a benzoyl peroxide product, but that does not treat the acne that is under the surface just waiting to pop up overnight.  Dealing with only the breakouts you see means you’re ignoring those that are forming but not visible yet. This leads to a cycle of chasing acne around your face. Spot-treating is an OK option for those who rarely breakout, but if that isn’t you, then full face application is essential for getting and maintain the best results.

Myth: Tingling Means It’s Working

Here’s the truth: Ingredients that make your skin tingle, such as menthol, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon, and alcohol show up in countless anti-acne products but are a serious, sensitizing problem for skin. Research showing these ingredients have any benefit for acne or oily skin is lacking but there IS research showing how these ingredients aggravate skin, making acne and oily skin worse.  Look, I used to be that person who loved her thick, white cream that gave me that tingle. When you know better, you do better ☺ . 

Myth: Acne is Caused Chocolate or Greasy Food

While eating healthy is always a good idea for overall health, research on chocolate consumption and acne has been mixed. Several of the earlier studies proclaiming it not to be a problem were flawed or poorly done. Greasy, fatty foods don’t seem to be acne triggers for most people. However,  foods (especially sources of refined sugar) that cause a spike in the hormone insulin have been linked to increased incidences of acne—and chocolate is often found in sugar-laden foods. If you suspect a certain food is linked to your acne flares, try avoiding it (and foods like it) for 30 days and see if it helps. 

Myth: You Can Get Rid of Acne with a Scrub

Sorry, but no.  Abrasive scrubs are harsh on skin, disrupting its vital surface and defeating its ability to fight off acne. They can mess up the natural barrier on skin and alter the pH . The harshness can also increase oil production, which we’re betting isn’t what you want. As stated above, acne isn’t caused by skin being dirty and therefore needing a “deep” clean. You can use a gentle washcloth or your hands with your water soluble cleanser or a soft-bristled cleansing brush for a bit of extra cleansing, but it has to be gentle otherwise you will just cause further irritation.  I find that when patients complain that a cleansing product made their acne worse, it is really the misuse of that product that caused the flare. 

Schedule a 20 min video consultation and we can discuss science proven ways to improve your acne from home.  I hope to chat with you soon!


Creator & CEO of Perfect Skin Code
Photo of Perfect Skin Code owner Kimberly Brown
Kimberly Brown

Perfect Skin Code was created by Kimberly Brown, a Physician Assistant in Dermatology, when she decided to create products for her patients who had trouble finding effective yet gentle skin care products.

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