It’s time to get real about all those acne myths you’ve lived by since puberty. Chances are they’re more of a setback to your current beauty problems than you think. Before we dive into the irritating details, let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. You will not grow out of pimples and black heads. Despite what they told you to help you through high school, adult acne is an indisputable part of life that you’re just going to have to deal with. It’s awkward and frustrating, almost as awkward and frustrating as adolescence, but eventually, you’ll get used to keeping clean and fending off impending outbreaks. In fact, that’s what we’re here to help you do. Before you can build an effective anti-acne strategy, you need to know the honest facts about how adult acne affects your skin. Time to scrape away the lies and find some truth amid the myths.
1. Diets cure acne
No. Diets do not magically cure adult acne or any type of acne for that matter. However, eating dairy and foods with a high GI-index doesn’t help matters. Neither does excessive stress. So, while it won’t solve all your skin problems, a healthy lifestyle is an effective way to battle spots.
2. Makeup makes acne worse
It’s true that some products can clog your pores and ultimately cause pimples, but the right makeup can actually improve acne. Dr. Gohara suggests powder-based mineral foundations with ingredients like silica, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide. “Powder foundations absorb oils that would otherwise be clogging your pores,” she says. If you prefer a liquid foundation, make sure it’s non-comedogenic. “That means the product hasn’t been found to promote acne per the cosmetics company’s standards,” explains Dr. Gohara.
3. The sun makes acne better
Here’s the deal: Exposure to sunlight may reduce inflammation in your body, and since acne is an inflammatory process, you may see less of it initially, explains Dr. Germain. But hold on to your sun hats: Over time, the sun breaks down your skin’s collagen, the protein that keeps skin firm, tight, and young-looking. “When collagen breaks down, your pores have less support around them, and they flop open,” says Dr. Germain. “This can create blackheads, some of which may be present for life.” Plus, sun damage makes it more difficult for the skin to repair itself, so it increases your risk of acne scars, Dr. Germain adds. Let’s not forget skin cancer: “In terms of carcinogens, ultraviolet light is right up there with cigarettes,” says Dr. Gohara. You wouldn’t smoke to minimize a pimple, would you?
4. Stress can’t cause acne
The pimple that surfaced just in time for your wedding day probably wasn’t an unfortunate coincidence. “Stress creates a hormonal imbalance in the body, which can lead to acne,” says Dr. Germain. According to research conducted by the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, stressed out teenagers are 23% more likely to have severe acne. Researchers suspect stress-induced inflammation may also play a role, affecting men and women of all ages.
5. Washing your face frequently will prevent acne
It seems logical: Acne is caused by bacteria on the skin, so washing your face until it’s squeaky clean means you’ll have clear skin. But our experts all agree that this isn’t so. “Over-washing your face, or scrubbing too hard, can make existing acne worse, or trigger a breakout,” Yen says. Washing your skin too aggressively will actually make your skin create more sebum, which can cause more breakouts. Yen says that washing with a gentle cleanser (she likes pūrlisse’s 4-in-1 Soy Milk Cleanser) in the morning and at night “is sufficient cleansing for acne prone skin.”
When treating your skin, Lee advises using common sense: “Wash makeup, dirt, and sweat away before you go to bed, and if you feel your skin is greasy in the morning, wash it again! But don’t overdo it. Be gentle.”
6. Toothpaste is the ideal home remedy for getting rid of zits
Toothpaste with ingredients like menthol or mint will dry out a pimple, Lee says, and covering a pimple with something has the added benefit of reminding you to keep your hands off the bump: “If you don’t pick a pimple, it will more likely resolve without scarring,” she says.
But in some cases, toothpaste can overdry the skin—so there might be a better remedy to reach for. “Hemorrhoid cream can reduce redness and swelling associated with pimples,” Lee says, “so reach for that over your toothpaste if you’re looking for a home remedy!”
Soto had another recommendation: “I’d suggest taking a few drops of eucalyptus oil suspended into cold water and take your hand towel for some cold towel compresses,” he says. “The aroma is beautiful and we find wonderful results for eruptions.”
7. Popping makes pimples go away
Hands off! “A whitehead can heal within three days if you leave it alone, but it could take months if you pop it,” says Dr. Germain. “Plus, popping causes trauma to the skin, which can lead to inflammation or infection.” We know it’s hard to resist popping a particularly ripe whitehead, but instead of squeezing and scraping, use an overnight spot treatment of benzoyl peroxide.
8. Chocolate makes acne worse
“The role of chocolate and its effects on acne remains controversial. A recent laboratory study showed chocolate consumption in the presence of P. acnes bacteria resulted in the increased release of chemicals that cause inflammation. However, the link remains tenuous and it may be a specific constituent in chocolate itself that may have a role to play for example cow’s milk, which is known to contain hormones and sugar. Well-designed clinical studies in the future will establish the real role of diet as a causative factor for acne but currently, I recommend everything in moderation.”