Acne Myths

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It’s easy to get a little desperate when your skin seems out of control. Unfortunately, most “miracle solutions” and “overnight cures” fail to deliver real results. And some can even cause permanent damage to your skin.

To help you avoid the pitfalls, here are the facts about some popular acne treatment myths:

Myth: Spot treatments work.

False! Many acne-treatment brands claim that dabbing medicine directly on your pimples is a good way to clear your acne. The truth is that the life cycle of a pimple starts 2 to 3 weeks before it ever reaches the skin’s surface—the actual blemish you see is the last stop in this process. This means that if you’re using a spot treatment, you’re really only treating the symptom of the problem. The only way to enjoy a consistently clear complexion is to stop pimples from breaking out in the first place, so it’s important to treat the entire face (or other areas where breakouts occur) on daily basis.

Myth: Tanning cures acne.

False! Tan skin might give you a so-called “healthy” glow in the short term, but it’s almost certain to wreak havoc on your skin’s health—especially if you have acne. Along with increasing your risk for skin cancer down the road, sunbathing can dry your skin out, tricking your sebaceous glands to produce more oil. Add to that the fact that sun exposure can cause skin to shed more cells, and you have the perfect environment for clogged pores and resulting breakouts.  Always wear a non-comedogenic (which means non-pore-clogging) sunscreen with at least SPF 15 before going outside.

Myth: Sweating cleans out pores.

False! Exercising is great for your health, but vigorous exercise stimulates oil production. This combined with heat, perspiration and friction, can aggravate acne on your forehead, chest, back and elsewhere on your body.  Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise, but just be sure to shower and thoroughly cleanse areas prone to breakouts. If you play a sport that requires headgear or pads, try lining your equipment with a clean, cotton cloth that can help absorb sweat, while decreasing friction and irritation.

Myth: Scrubs are great for acne.

False! Harsh over-the-counter scrubs will do more to irritate your skin than heal it. Many exfoliants sold in your local drugstore, and even in high-end shops, are made using apricot pits, walnut shells or other abrasive things, which can cause tiny tears in your skin, increasing the risk for bacterial infections, breakouts and even permanent scarring. Likewise, alcohol-based toners can be very harsh, stripping the skin of necessary oils and leaving it dry and, once again, igniting your sebaceous gland to produce more oil.  For best results, use a gentle medicated acne scrub and mild alcohol-free toner.

Myth: Acne is curable.

False! Not yet, but acne is very treatable. The best way to gain control over acne is to prevent it from happening in the first place. There are a wide range of effective acne treatments available, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find something that works for you. The key is consistency. Remember, even if you blemishes clear up, your acne is not cured—you still need to be diligent about your treatment plan, even once your skin looks better. And if you don’t see any results, it’s important to see a dermatologist.