9 Acne Myths That Need To Be Dismissed Immediately, According To The Experts
As someone who struggled with problem skin growing up, I am no stranger to the urban legends surrounding skincare. However, it's about time we put a stop to the hearsay, so I discovered acne myths that need to be dismissed immediately, in order to get to the bottom of what actually works when it comes to fighting your red-headed and pus-filled blighters.
There are a ton of beauty myths you may have believed as a kid, that can follow you into adulthood — such as brushing your hair a hundred strokes will leave you with Rapunzel hair — and it's easy to carry on believing them until someone tells you otherwise. Alternatively, you might feel like if you stop now after all these years, that you'll "jinx" your skin, even if your retro method wasn't actually working in the first place. There are even sensible sounding seasonal beauty myths that seem so plausible they might just be true. But, when it comes to beauty, skincare, and your health, it's always best to get your information straight from the horse's mouth.
Therefore, I spoke to a selection of experts about acne myths that need to be dismissed immediately, so you can adopt skincare habits that are actually useful and not a waste of your time, money, or resources.
1. If You Have Acne It Means That You're Dirty
“It is true that dirt deposits on the skin, but it is a myth that not washing your face is the cause of acne,” Dr. Joshua Zeichner, NYC dermatologist, tells me over email. Dr. Zeichner says, “It may cause a flare in predisposed people, but the underlying root of acne comes from your genes.”
“Your hormones stimulate oil production which block pores, that combined [with] skin cells that stick together within the pore, cause blockages which lead to inflammation.” Says Dr. Zeichner, “Acne causing bacteria known as P. acnes lives on everyone's skin. Some people react to the bacteria more than others leading to inflammation.”
2. Acne Sufferers Need To Wash Their Face With Soap & Water
Likely linked in with the idea that folks with acne are “dirty,” there’s the myth that people with acne need to wash their face with soap and water. But, certified Aesthetic Medicine Specialist, Facial Specialist, and Medical Director of Global Education at Pevonia, Dr. Christian Jurist, explains over email, “Washing the face with soap and water many times a day dries and dehydrates the skin.” So if you’re suffering with acne, stop with the incessant scrubbing, because it’s probably not helping.
3. Applying Alcohol Helps Pimples
Of course, drinking alcohol is another thing to dabbing it on your zits. However, contrary to popular belief, Dr. Jurist enlightens me by explaining that applying alcohol to acne actually dehydrates and dries out the skin, which is likely not the result you’d been hoping for.
4. Baking Soda Is A Great Exfoliator For Acne Prone Skin
Licensed esthetician and Director of Brand Development at InstaNatural, Heather Wilson, tells me over email, “DIY Beauty is a real thing — and while there are some fun recipes out there, there are many that can be really bad for your skin. Over the years, one myth that I have seen circulate is the use of baking soda for acne.”
“The concept is that baking soda acts as a gentle exfoliator because when mixed with water, it creates a mildly abrasive paste that sloughs away dead skin cells.” Wilson explains, “While this is true in theory, baking soda has an alkaline pH of around 8.3. The skin is slightly acidic — about a pH of 4.5-5.5. When you apply an ingredient that is more alkaline, you can disrupt the skin’s acid mantle which is responsible for a strong skin barrier, keeping the good stuff in and the bad stuff out.”
Consequently, Wilson says, “Continual use of this ingredient on the skin can actually worsen acne problems. In addition, the alkalinity can cause redness, irritation, and dryness in the skin — so even if your breakouts clear up, you’ll be trading one challenge for another. Instead, stick with proven acne ingredients such as salicylic acid and leverage a daily cleanser such as InstaNatural’s Acne Cleanser to slough away dead skin cells.”
5. Talc Is Great For Acne
Just like applying alcohol to pimples, Dr. Jurist tells me that applying talc powder dries and dehydrates the skin too. So if you’re a fan, keep talc to areas of your bod that aren’t suffering with acne.
6. Toothpaste Cures Acne
Dr. Jurist says, “So much has been said about acne. One must be careful to separate fact from ‘fiction’.” Dr. Jurist explains, “Applying toothpaste does not cure acne, [it] only dries the lesion on top.”
Dr. Michael Swann, board-certified dermatologist and Mohs expert, tells me over email, “With all of the crazy ingredients found in over the counter products for acne (alcohol, fragrances, and other irritants) it's no wonder people are turning to household products for remedies. When you boil it down, these natural things are still chemicals in their interaction with the skin and whether it be sodium lauryl sulfate in toothpaste or sodium bicarbonate in baking soda, these ‘naturally derived’ chemicals do interact with the skin and for the most part they are not recommended.”
“Toothpaste can work as a surfactant and the pH of baking soda is basic enough to disrupt the chemically and physically protective acid mantle, which can make you more susceptible to irritants.” Says Dr. Swann, “This drives inflammation and the inflammation is usually the enemy, whether it be in patients with acne or for anti-aging.”
7. Drying Out The Pimple Is The Best Treatment
Dr. Hadley King, dermatologist at SKINNEY Medspa, brings to my attention the myth that drying out your pimple with alcohol, witch hazel, or windex (etc.) will make it go away faster. Dr. King tells me over email, “This often will cause more harm than good because it irritates the skin without mitigating any of the inflammation. It is far more helpful to use a topical medication that will decrease the inflammation in the pimple, often without drying out the skin. ACZONE 7.5% gel is a great choice that is anti-inflammatory without being irritating to the skin.”
Haven Spa Senior Esthetician, Stalina Glot, says, “You cannot make a pimple dry; you can make your skin dry, which increases risk of penetration of bacteria which causes peeling and it slows down the healing process.”
“While oil plays a major role in the development of acne, overly washing, toning, or scrubbing the skin may cause more problems than good. You want to keep your skin barrier in as good shape as possible to protect the skin, which is already inflamed because of acne.” Says Dr. Zeichner. He recommends acne sufferers to, “Combine gentle cleansers alongside acne treatments. Or consider an oil free moisture if you are using an acne treatment cleanser with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.”
Dr. Zeichner concludes, “You can definitely treat your acne without causing significant dryness or irritation. In fact, some of the newest prescription acne medications are effective and may cause little to no skin dryness or irritation.”
8. Chocolate & Fatty Foods Cause Acne
Dr. Jurist tells me, “Eating chocolate has nothing to do with the acne condition; however excessive consumption may have repercussions on temporarily accelerating lesions’ development. Also, the sugar and body’s response with insulin play a role in affecting the skin.” When it comes to fatty foods versus acne, Dr. Jurist says, “Eating fat does not cause acne.”
9. Popping Pimples Helps The Healing Process
“Picking, squeezing, and popping acne lesions will not make acne go away. Instead, it may cause aggravation (due to contamination and inflammation), scarring, skin marks, and discoloration.” Says Dr. Jurist.
Dr. Swann explains, “Pimples can sometimes even pop themselves, so I never say never, but generally popping a pimple is going to increase inflammation in the area and therefore can further choke off the surrounding pores due to swelling. All of this can drive more pimples.” Thus, you’ve officially had doctors’ orders to leave your pimples alone and resist popping them!
So now you know the truth behind the myths and you can finally stop smearing toothpaste on your pimples!