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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Busting Acne Myths

'Eminem interlude.' photo (c) 2008, Caitlin Regan - license:

Don’t eat chocolate. Wash your face three times a day. Don’t wear makeup. You’ll grow out of it.

We’ve all heard the countless pieces of advice offered by our grandmothers for treating and avoiding acne breakouts in our teens. Unfortunately, most of these wise words are just myths that have been repeated so often they’re disguised as truth!

In this blog post, I’ll address and debunk some of the most common myths and replace them with truths about how to manage or avoid breakouts.

Myth #1: Chocolate and other junk foods cause acne.

If you’re a chocoholic, cutting back on the sweets or greasy foods can only help your overall health. But if you’re hoping it will clear up your acne, you’ll find yourself craving a piece of candy and still dealing with those pimples.

Although this is one of the longest-running acne myths, no one is really sure where it started. Rest assured, though, that study after study has failed to find a connection between diet and acne.

Myth #2: You’ll grow out of it. Acne is a teenage thing.

Not to burst your bubble, but someone who is prone to acne will, most likely, always be prone to acne. Although acne tends to be worse in teenagers with ever-changing hormone levels, it won’t just go away completely without proper treatment.

Acne is caused by clogged pores, and is often the result of naturally oily skin. That’s why many of the acne medications out there work by drying out the skin to help reduce the breakouts. If your skin is oily, you’ll probably always deal with some form of acne.

But remember that it doesn’t have to be that way! There are lots of treatments out there – both over-the-counter and prescription medications – that can help quell those breakouts and get your acne under control.

Myth #3: “Popping” a pimple makes it go away.

Sorry, pimple popping posse. Despite what your mother may have told you, popping a pimple is not good! While it might make it a little smaller or less noticeable temporarily, popping a pimple actually causes it to be around longer. It forces the bacteria deeper into the skin, resulting in a return (with a vengeance) later or, worse, a scar when you get older.

While it may be tempting to go for the temporary relief before a big event, avoid the temptation by considering that broken skin is more difficult to cover up than any pimple. If you’re looking for a quick fix, try a benzoyl peroxide-based wash, cream or other drying agent to help take away the oil – the cause of the pimple.

Myth #4: Wash your face several times a day – good hygiene prevents acne!

Oops, wrong again. While washing your face is necessary and helpful to clear up or prevent acne, washing it too much can actually aggravate the problem. I always recommend washing twice a day with a mild, non-irritating wash. Make sure to gently rub, not scrub, your skin.

Washing your face will remove dirt, excess oil and dead skin cells. However, washing too much or using an irritating agent can dry out the skin and cause it to produce more oil to get back to its natural state. Kind of negates all that washing, don’t you think?

Myth #5: Sun exposure or getting a tan will help clear up a breakout.

Absolutely not! As I’ll say to anyone who will listen – too much sun exposure is never a good idea for healthy skin. Yes, some exposure is necessary for Vitamin D, but any change in skin color is a sign that some damage has occurred. No matter what, never visit a tanning bed, and never expose your skin to the sun without wearing sunscreen of at least 30 SPF.

Although technically not a myth – UV light does kill the p.acnes bacteria and can decrease breakouts, the risk is not worth the minor benefit. Aside from UV light, other reasons for this rumor likely resulted from the temporary skin dryness associated with sun exposure, as well as redness or darker skin that may make pimples less noticeable. These effects are not long-lasting, nor are they a cure for acne. In fact, the risk for melanoma and other skin cancers essentially counteracts any “benefit” you may see to your acne.

Did I miss any common myths you’ve encountered? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll address them!

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