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Debunking Acne Myths

In M-Teen Tips on September 7, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Debunking Acne Myths

By Paula Begoun


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  • Most of us are familiar with the most common myths surrounding acne, whether we know they’re myths or not (and many people genuinely believe them, often as a result of coincidental personal experience). ALL of the statements below are false; see how many of them you thought were true, either presently or in the past:

    Acne is caused by poor hygiene. (There is no evidence showing this to be true, but proper skin care can reduce the problem once you have it.)

    Acne is something you will eventually outgrow. (Generally, this is true for men, but not for women. While men’s hor-mones calm down after the age of 20, women’s continue to fluctuate, and that can perpetuate or even trigger acne where no problem existed before.)

    Acne is caused by a reaction to certain foods, such as chocolate or fried foods. (There are no specific foods that cause acne for everyone. The only time diet plays a role is if you are allergic to certain foods, such as nuts, iodine, gluten, milk, etc.)

    Acne is caused by stress. (A great deal of research has shown how emotionally upsetting acne can be for people, but there is no link between stress and acne. Stress levels for those people without acne have not been shown to be different than for those with acne.)
    Acne is caused by psychological problems. (Please see comments about stress.)

    Acne is caused by masturbation or impure thoughts. (I know people used to believe that one, but to say the least it doesn’t have a modicum of fact behind it, and is a complete fallacy.)

    Getting or maintaining a suntan clears acne. (Getting tan may help skin look better for a short time, but it doesn’t heal acne, prevent bacteria growth, or inhibit oil production. And keep in mind that down the road, unprotected sun exposure and getting a tan is a major cause of wrinkles, discoloration, and skin cancer.)

    Drinking sugar-rich carbonated beverages causes acne. (Please see the comments about diet.)

    Acne is contagious. (Not in the least. The kind of bacterium that causes acne, P. Acnes, is anaerobic—meaning it doesn’t like air or sunlight, lives far below the skin’s surface, and doesn’t ever leave or it would die—therefore, it can’t be transferred. And you certainly can’t catch someone else’s hormone development.)

    Cleansing the face several times per day helps clear acne. (Too much cleansing can actually cause more acne by breaking down the skin’s external barrier, increasing bacteria growth, and inflaming the skin, causing an irritant response and triggering breakouts.)

    You can dry up a blemish to help it go away quickly. (Blemishes aren’t wet, and drying skin causes irritation and can make matters worse. Absorbing oil is helpful, but this is a different process from “drying up” skin.)

    Steaming the skin helps clear clogged pores. (Heating up the skin can cause inflammation, break surface capillaries, and make skin look redder; none of that is helpful for any skin type.)

    Now that you have a greater understanding of what is fact and fiction, as well as an outline of various treatment proto-cols, you will be able to take charge of determining how to treat your teen’s acne and help them manage it. Remember, compliance with a routine that is producing good results is fundamental to its success. Encourage your teen not to be-come discouraged when something isn’t working, or may not be working as well as it once did. It stands to reason that as acne comes under control, the results will seem less impressive than at the onset. And remind your teen that there is no single “best” anti-acne routine. Rather, educated experimentation is necessary, and in almost every case, a combination of therapies produces the most gratifying results. With perseverance and knowledge based on substantiated proof, you can help make acne a minor blip on the radar of teen life—an accomplishment that will make life easier for all concerned, most importantly your teen!