Subscribe by phone
There's a lot of information out there about acne. And misinformation. Before you consider any treatment, it's best to know what is true and most importantly, what's not. Here are the top 10 common myths about acne, and why they are just that – myths.
Since 95% of adolescents encounter some form of acne, it does seem like they "own it". However, adult acne in both women and men is a common occurrence with up to 30-40% of adults experiencing it. And sometimes acne starts in adulthood, with grown men and women wondering where all the bumps are coming from. More adult women will get acne as it directly correlates to hormonal fluctuations, of which women have more than men.
Though it's little compensation for teens that they are not alone, it's still a myth that only teens get acne.
Tempting as it may be, this is never a good idea. People mistakenly think that popping a pimple releases the bacteria from the pore, allowing the pimple to go away. This is untrue on many levels. First of all, squeezing may drive the p. acnes bacteria deeper into the pore, and since it's microscopic and plentiful, some of the bacteria will be left behind in the pore. The bacteria triggers an inflammatory response, meaning the immune system detects trapped bacteria and secretes chemicals called cytokines to destroy it. The pimple becomes red, swollen and painful in fighting the bacteria. But certain cytokines have been associated with a scarring type of healing response. What this means is that the surrounding skin tissue can be damaged, eventually leading to a scar.
Acne scars can mark you for life, emotionally and physically, which is why it's important to avoid scarring by treating your acne preventively. One way to do this is to never pick at a pimple, no matter how enticing it may be.Instead, apply an ice cube to the pimple to reduce inflammation. Then follow with a medicated spot treatment – something with benzoyl peroxide to kill bacteria, salicylic acid to help loosen dead skin cells, and sulfur to reduce swelling and redness. A little concealer can help cover it up. That goes for the guys out there, too. If it's really painful and deep, a dermatologist can inject cortisone to reduce the inflammation and shrink the tissue. In severe cases, a dermatologist can perform "acne surgery" to drain cysts and decrease pain and scarring. Do not attempt this at home.
When it comes to acne, the sun is not your friend. It may feel like it's drying your skin, or it may look like it's camouflaging breakouts or redness with a mild burn or tan, but don't get fooled. Be very clear, the sun is not helpful in clearing acne and may be very helpful in spreading your acne.
The sun can inflame the skin, something you want to control in treating acne. The sun's ultraviolet light and UVB rays in particular "cook" the surface of the skin, causing sunburn, releasing free radicals and destroying cellular DNA, which can lead to skin cancer. Sunlight also increases cell turnover; an excess of dead skin cells can clog pores, setting skin up for acne. UVA rays hasten signs of aging, like wrinkles and dark spots.
Some acne medications like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can make you even more susceptible to the sun's damaging rays. So it's crucial to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect skin and make sure sun exposure doesn't exacerbate acne. Look for a sunscreen that is oil-free and noncomedogenic, meaning it won't clog pores. Sun exposure can also cause acne marks (postinflammatory hyperpigmentation) to become darker and persist longer, another reason to protect skin from the sun.
It's also a fallacy that people with dark skin don't need to wear sunscreen. They do. They are susceptible to skin aging, skin cancer and especially to the darkening of post-acne marks.
Is there any advantage to being in the sun if you have acne? The blue light in the visible light spectrum may help tame the p. acnes bacteria, but only temporarily. This works best in a series of controlled treatments performed in a doctor's office. As for the "tan" that camouflages acne, it also causes skin to shed more dead cells, which clogs pores and triggers more breakouts down the road. And remember, a "tan" is never a healthy look; it's your body's way of protecting your skin.
Acne is chronic; it can last a very long time, perhaps six or seven years in a teen and sometimes 20 years or more in an adult. It's a condition, which means it's a continuous situation that exists on your skin and beneath its surface. Acne may come and go at different times in your life, but if you are acne-prone, you should always be concerned with managing it.
Controlling acne breakouts, however, is possible, and your skin can look clear, healthy and radiant. But you can't "cure" acne, not by prescription pills, not by the best topical treatments. You may outgrow acne, and you may not. It's all about finding potent medicines and putting them to work in the right combination in effective skincare formulations. That's exactly what Proactiv+ offers you.
And remember, acne can get worse. Blackheads and whiteheads can turn into pustules and papules, and even nodules and cysts. Acne scars can last a lifetime, which is why you need to control your acne early and consistently. Your acne may be different at various times in your life depending on hormonal fluctuations, age, stress, medications and diet. How you care for your skin is your best defense and offense in keeping your acne as quiet as possible.
Some days you wake up and wonder how that pesky new pimple appeared overnight. It may have surfaced while you slept, but it was weeks in the making. Acne is a complicated process. It's not just one thing gone "wrong," but four distinct events that eventually produce a breakout. They are:
Step 1: Excess dead skin cells clog the pore
Step 2: Overproduction of oil (sebum)
Step 3: Overgrowth of p. acnes bacteria in the pore
Step 4: Inflammation (swelling) as a reaction to the bacteria and its byproducts
It appears one morning as a pimple on your face. But now you can understand it took a while for that pimple to get there.
You can also see why it's so important to address each step to halt breakouts from surfacing, as well as prevent future breakouts from forming. Both exfoliation and the use of salicylic acid medication remove the build up of dead skin cells on your skin; benzoyl peroxide kills the p. acnes bacteria and sulfur reduces swelling and redness as well as absorbs excess oil.
You can't control how much oil your body produces or that it responds to an infection with inflammation. But you can control the dead skin cells that clog pores, the amount of bacteria in your pores and how red and swollen your outbreaks can appear.
Acne is the underlying condition that creates your present – and future – pimples. Pimples are the end result of the acne process. What you see on the surface of your skin takes weeks to create, which means there are other pimples-in-formation at various stages lurking on and beneath your skin, on their way to showing up. Treating one pimple at a time will not help prevent new breakouts from forming.
It's similar to brushing all of your teeth twice a day to prevent decay; you need to treat all of your skin twice a day to help prevent new breakouts. This way, you're addressing the different stages of pimples that you can't even see – an overabundance of dead skin cells that were not properly sloughed off, excess oil and p. acnes bacteria in your pores – as well as those you can, like swelling and redness.
It's OK to help dry up a newly visible pimple with a spot treatment, but just know that won't prevent other breakouts.
This is a common misconception – cold water "closes" pores and hot water or steam "opens" pores. Forget it. Pores, the little holes all over your face that are passageways that allow sweat to cool you and sebum to condition your skin, do not have muscles and therefore cannot open and close.
There are certain things you can do to make your pores appear smaller. Oily pores appear larger, and steam can help loosen the sebum that builds up in the pore, allowing it to exit more easily. Exfoliating with a physical scrub as well as with glycolic acid and salicylic acid to loosen dead skin cells will decrease the crater-like build up around a pore. Even washing your face helps makes pores look smaller as it too helps eliminate dead skin cells and removes leftover makeup that can lodge inside pores making them appear larger.
It's not just about pores' appearance either. Too much oil and a build up of dead cells can cause pores to swell and lead to blackheads and whiteheads. Fair-skinned people tend to have less visible pores, and those with darker, oilier skin have more prominent pores. And as we age, with less collagen to support your skin, pores slacken and years of clogging sebum and dirt can actually stretch them out.
But they never open and close. Case shut.
Acne is not caused by dirt or uncleanliness, so you can stop blaming yourself. The bacteria that causes acne, p. acnes, is already on your skin, and proliferates in your pores when it feeds on excess oil. Washing your face twice a day is more than enough to reduce bacteria, remove surface oil and help exfoliate dead skin cells. To kill the acne-causing bacteria you need to target it in the pore with benzoyl peroxide.
An accompanying myth is that you can never wash your face too often. That's not true either. Excessive washing can in fact worsen your acne in a variety of ways. If skin is harshly stripped of its oil, your skin may compensate and produce more oil. Overzealous scrubbing can cause irritation, even tiny scratches and micro-tears in the skin, which open the gates to more infection and inflammation. And rubbing alcohol – don't try it – damages your moisture barrier, causing dryness and irritation.
In fact, all exfoliators are definitely NOT created equal, and it's crucial to understand the difference. A physical exfoliator, or scrub, uses mechanics to remove dead skin cells from your skin's surface. But often, facial scrubs use ground-up walnut or apricot pits to do the work, which can cause micro-tears in your skin, leaving it raw, irritated and open to infection. Proactiv+ uses smooth, small round beads to gently exfoliate acne impurities away from the skin.
Chemical exfoliators including glycolic acid and salicylic acid, cause dead skin cells to shed. But always be careful of the percentages they are used in, as they may be too irritating if not used in the appropriate amount in the formulation.
Proactiv+ uses a combination of gentle physical and chemical exfoliators to loosen and help slough off dead skin cells. The small round, physical exfoliating beads are built into the Proactiv+ facial cleanser. Chemical exfoliators such as glycolic acid and salicylic acid are in the facial cleanser and Complexion Perfecting Hydrator.
Exfoliation is such a vital step in controlling acne, which is why it's important not to assume all exfoliators do the same job in the same way. They don't.
This is probably the longest running acne myth out there. The fact is, greasy foods have little to no effect on acne. Think about it, just because you eat foods high in oil doesn't mean that oil can make its way from your intestines to your pores.
What you eat can affect your skin, however. There is research that links a high glycemic diet - meaning processed foods and simple sugars and carbohydrates like breads, chips that increase blood sugar and ultimately create insulin resistance – to breakouts. Hormones and antibiotics in dairy and meat can also trigger acne in some people as can high amounts of iodine found in seafood, seaweed or iodized salt.
Oh, and don't try to "flush" acne from the inside out by drinking more than the recommended eight glasses of water a day. There is no evidence linking water consumption to a reduction in acne.
Achieve your best results with a variety of Proactiv® options.