Men, women, young, and old… No matter who you are, you’ve dealt with acne at some point in your life.

While it’s most common in teenagers and adults, affecting 85% of people between 12 and 24 years old, breakouts are by no means a skin concern that exclusively affects young people. Adult women, in particular, are more prone to developing blemishes well into their adulthood, with 50% of women in their 20s, 33% in their 30s, and 25% in their 40s reporting continuing breakouts. Furthermore, around 15% of men still experience acne into their 40s.

Because acne is such a common condition, it’s developed its own mythology, handed down through the generations. Unfortunately, some of those “old wives’ tales” aren’t helpful at best or, worst yet, make breakouts even worse.

Today, we’re clearing up some of the most popular myths and misconceptions about breakouts so you can get on the right track to clear, smooth skin.

Myth #1: Popping Pimples Helps Them Heal Faster

Popping pimples feels like a quick fix because it gives us instant results, but there’s a good reason why dermatologists cringe when patients report that it’s a bad habit they’ve picked up. When you pop a pimple, you are rupturing the hair follicle or pore, causing more inflammation that can affect neighboring pores and potentially scarring.

Instead of popping, try a spot treatment with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, both of which can treat the blemish quickly without the risks associated with a more “hands-on” approach.

Myth #2: Sun Exposure Clears Up Acne

This myth is a popular one because, at a glance, it appears to work. When your skin is tanned, it can camouflage redness and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Ultra violet light has a mild anti-inflammatory effect that can help acne but, UV exposure has its own side effects, such as permanent darkening of acne lesions and scabs.

However, it does not address the underlying issues with bacteria, and the long-term effects of unprotected U.V. exposure aren’t worth the surface-level benefits. Spending too much time in the sun, especially without using SPF, dries out your skin, which in turn causes it to produce even more sebum to compensate for the lack of moisture. It can also worsen inflammation if you develop a sunburn.

In the long term, unprotected sun exposure leads to severe skin damage, which means the possibility of developing signs of premature aging and skin cancer. Reapplying a sunscreen made for acne-prone skin, like EltaMD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46 or EltaMD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46 Tinted will help prevent any further damage to the skin.

Myth #3: Frequent Face Washing Reduces Acne

One of the most common myths about acne is that the problem can be treated by doubling down on a face-washing routine. That idea seems logical enough because we often associate acne with oily, dirty skin, so it would appear to follow that keeping your face squeaky clean eliminates the possibility of breakouts.

In reality, over washing your face strips away the natural oils that keep our skin hydrated. As we lose moisture, our body responds by producing even more oils, which, of course, means the possibility of more blemishes. It also doesn’t help that harsh cleansers and vigorous scrubbing further irritate your skin, exacerbating any existing inflammation.

The key to good face washing is balance. Wash once in the morning and once at night with a mild anti-bacterial cleanser suited to your skin type, such as CLn Acne Cleanser or CLn BodyWash

Myth #4: Chocolate and Greasy Foods Cause Acne

Of all the acne myths we’re covering, this is the one with the strongest roots in reality, but it’s often highly oversimplified. Researchers are still digging into the data to find correlations between diet and skin health, and while they’ve made some progress, the full scope of the relationship isn’t yet fully known.

First, it’s important to understand that acne is inflammatory, meaning that it occurs when our body’s immune system triggers a response to remove a foreign invader and start the healing process. Some foods can cause trigger inflammation in some people but not others.

One example of this is glycation caused by eating sugary foods. We cover this process in more detail in our post “Glycation: Is Sugar Sabotaging Your Skin?” but to summarize:

“When you indulge in sweet treats, your insulin levels spike, causing an uptick in oil production in the skin. Increased oil means a greater chance of clogged pores and blemishes. Rapid blood sugar spikes also contributes to the production of advanced glycation end products or A.G.E.s. Studies have been well-researched on the effects of glycation and high blood sugar, showing that A.G.E.s damage connective tissue and cause chronic inflammation.”

As for greasy foods, the issue is less the grease and more the carbohydrate load we get from eating fried foods. Carbohydrates are also a trigger for glycation because our body breaks them down into sugars. To fight the inflammation, try SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF, a Salicylic Acid acne treatment with antioxidants, Vitamin C, Silymarin and Ferulic Acid. Combat glycation with Revision Skincare D.E.J. Daily Boosting Serum.

Even more complex is the relationship between dairy and acne. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “In one study, women who drank 2 or more glasses of skim milk per day were 44% more likely to have acne than the other women in this study.” The exact reason behind this effect is unknown, but the theory is that hormones present in milk cause inflammation.

So, that all said, enjoying the occasional treat certainly isn’t the only cause behind your breakouts, but your best bet for healthy skin is to have a well-balanced diet that includes vitamin-rich produce

Myth #5: Toothpaste is a Good Home Remedy for Acne

Who hasn’t tried the toothpaste trick when faced with a blemish and no spot treatment to get rid of it? The theory is that it works by pulling the fluid out of the pimple, making it a cheap, easy “hack” for banishing blemishes overnight.

While your tube of Colgate or Crest is excellent for keeping your pearly whites in tip-top shape, it shouldn’t become a part of your skincare routine. Toothpaste formulas include ingredients like hydrogen peroxide and alcohol that are very harsh and irritating to your skin. It also lacks acne bacteria-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, which means they’re still lurking beneath the surface, ready to wreak havoc on your complexion. Instead, use SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense, a salicylic acid acne treatment for aging skin prone to breakouts.

Myth #6: Makeup Makes Acne Worse

Similar to the myth regarding diet, there’s more nuance to the idea that makeup makes acne worse than meets the eye. It comes from the thought that makeup clogs up pores, which we know causes blemishes, and that many folks have used a particular cosmetic only to experience a dreadful breakout afterward.

The issue here isn’t makeup in general but rather your makeup habits.

Are you checking the ingredients list before you head home with your latest foundation pick? You definitely should! Heavy, oil-based makeup can contribute to clogged pores, but there are plenty of light, breathable options. Look for non-comedogenic products specifically designed not to clog pores, making them a safer choice for acne-prone skin. Mineral make up and powders are less likely to cause acne and may be used. jane iredale, known as The Skincare Makeup, is clean, mineral makeup that is good for the skin and won’t cause breakouts.

Makeup hygiene is also just as crucial as being thoughtful in your cosmetic selections. Dirty brushes and expired products introduce bacteria onto your skin, which can contribute to chronic breakouts that seem to be linked to wearing makeup. Keeping jane iredale Botanical Brush Cleaner on hand will make it easier to clean your makeup brushes regularly.

Final Thoughts

How many of these acne myths are you guilty of falling for? From pimple-popping to blaming a breakout on overindulgence in ice cream, it’s easy to buy into age-old advice, even when we’re inadvertently doing more harm than good. 

That’s why when it comes to dealing with stubborn acne, your best course of action is working with a board-certified dermatologist to uncover the root of the issue and find the right combination of treatment options for your skin. If you’re tired of dealing with stubborn spots, blackheads, bumps, and blemishes, schedule an appointment today!