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If you have acne, you’ve probably gotten your fair share of advice about how to clear your skin. The question is, can you trust your friend’s suggestion that you should stop eating dairy, or should you just do as your Grandma says and wait until you outgrow your acne? This month, we sat down with Dr. San Filippo to learn which of the following statements are acne myths and which, if any, are true.
Acne Myth 1: Chocolate, dairy, and greasy foods cause acne
According to Dr. San Filippo, acne is an inflammatory condition, so foods that increase inflammation can make acne worse. Diets high in carbohydrates, especially sugar, tend to increase whole-body inflammation, which includes acne. Greasy foods themselves do not promote acne, but they’re often eaten in conjunction with higher carbohydrate loads, which is more likely the cause of the breakouts.
Dairy is a little more complicated. Some people experience inflammation from dairy, especially nonfat or lowfat milk, but other people do not. If you suspect that dairy makes your acne worse, try taking a break from it and see if your acne improves.
Interestingly, the cocoa in chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine that has been shown to increase acne if consumed in very large quantities. However, most chocolate is combined with sugar, so if your acne flares seem to correlate with eating a little chocolate, it’s more likely because of the sugar than the cocoa.
Acne Myth 2: Only teens get acne
This is one of the most common acne myths. Despite what many people believe, acne can happen at most any age. Dr. San Filippo has seen acne patients in their preteens, in their 70s, and everywhere in between. Many women in their 20s and 30s experience acne, often for the first time, because of fluctuating hormones.
The only age group that should not have acne is children under age 7. If a young child has acne, it’s a sign of a possible hormonal issue that needs to be investigated.
Acne Myth 3: Acne means that your face is dirty, so you need to wash it more
While excessive dirt and oil left on the face can aggravate acne, even a properly cleaned face can develop acne. Often, imbalanced hormones are a major contributor to acne, and washing the skin won’t affect hormones.
Acne Myth 4: To get rid of acne, you should wash your face several times with a strong cleanser to “dry it out”
This is one of the oldest acne myths and has led many an acne sufferer to take extreme measures to treat their skin. Excessive washing will irritate the skin, and according to Dr. San Filippo, it can actually make acne worse. He recommends washing just twice a day with a gentle cleanser.
Acne Myth 5: People with acne do not need to moisturize their skin because they’re oily enough
Topical products used to treat acne often irritate the skin. Using an oil-free moisturizer is helpful to avoid irritation and actually improves acne. Some individuals, often men, are naturally oilier and may feel they do not need to use a moisturizer, but this is a situation specific to a subset of individuals.
Acne Myth 6: Spending time in the sun is a good acne treatment
Dr. San Filippo says that sun exposure can, indeed, reduce inflammation in the skin. This makes acne less apparent temporarily, but the lasting UV damage to the skin is not worth the brief benefit. It’s best to protect yourself from skin cancer by limiting sun exposure and using other strategies to manage your acne.
Acne Myth 7: High stress causes breakouts
Stress can “add fuel to the fire” in an individual who is acne-prone because it causes widespread inflammation in the body, which can contribute to breakouts. However, it’s unlikely that stress will cause breakouts in people who don’t usually suffer from acne.
Acne Myth 8: You can cure your acne overnight with the right spot treatment
This is one of the acne myths that has duped many people who are hoping for a quick acne cure. However, resolving inflammation in the skin is a slow process. A typical red blemish will take a couple of weeks to calm down. The process can be sped up with proper acne treatment, but don’t buy into “miracle cures” that promise overnight results.
Acne Myth 9: A blackhead happens when a pore is clogged by dirt
When dead skin cells and oil get compacted inside a pore and it’s then exposed to air, the oil inside tends to turn grey or black, thus the name blackhead. It is not, however, dirt in your skin or a sign that you aren’t cleansing properly.
Acne Myth 10: Popping a blemish will help it heal faster
If you go to the dermatologist for a professional extraction, then it can help your blemish heal faster. However, popping a blemish yourself, especially with your fingers, can rupture the hair follicle under the surface of the skin and introduce more bacteria to the area. If the follicle ruptures, it prolongs healing and, in some people, can lead to scarring.
If you have a big event coming up, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist for a professional extraction rather than trying to do it yourself.
Acne Myth 11: You’ll grow out of your acne
Many people suffer from persistent acne from their preteens well into their 20s because their acne doesn’t clear up on its own. Acne is not a condition that you have to “just deal with.” The longer you suffer from acne, the more likely it is that you’ll develop scars that can persist for years after your skin clears. Plus, acne can be very damaging to your self-esteem.
The acne experts at The Center for Surgical Dermatology would love to help you find the right treatment regimen to treat your acne. Clear skin IS possible. If you’re ready to finally say goodbye to your acne, schedule an appointment with us today.