Original Article By Grace Gold for Women's Health
If you’re prone to pimples, you’ve likely heard plenty of stories about what causes zits.
But what’s really true—and what’s completely false?
We asked New York City dermatologist Hadley C. King, M.D., to clear things up.
ACNE MYTH #1: PIMPLES ARE A TEENAGE PROBLEM.
When and how severely a person will get acne is very much genetically determined.
While there are many who only experience acne during teenage years, there are tons of people who get adult acne, too.
In fact, The International Dermal Institute puts the number at between 40 to 55 percent of adults aged 20 to 40.
ACNE MYTH #2: YOU NEED TO WASH YOUR FACE MORE OFTEN.
Unfortunately, soaping up more frequently won’t cure your acne.
“The causes of acne are multifactorial, the major players being hormones, stress, and genes—and you can’t change any of those by washing your face,” says Dr. King.
Bacteria can play a role, as can heavy pore-clogging skin products that may exacerbate acne.
Face washing can be helpful to decrease these factors, but it’s usually not the only issue at play.
ACNE MYTH #3: THE SUN WILL CLEAR UP YOUR ZITS.
There’s no truth to the idea that the sun clears up acne, says Dr. King.
It decreases the immune system in our skin, which is generally not a good thing, since that immunity is needed to prevent infections and skin cancers.
Plus, we know that too much sun exposure can cause wrinkles and pigmentation issues.
“However, when there’s a skin issue present like eczema or psoriasis, the sun can decrease related inflammation and therefore temporarily improve the condition,” says Dr. King.
“We believe foods with a high glycemic index can aggravate acne because of their effects on our endocrine system and hormones—as well as the hormones in the fat component of dairy products, including chocolate,” says Dr. King.
ACNE MYTH #5: BLACKHEADS ARE DIRT STUCK IN PORES.
When sebum and skin cells build up in your follicles, you can get a blackhead or whitehead.
Blackheads are open, which leads to the oxidization of the plugged materials and the black color.
When the pore is closed—preventing oxygen from reacting to what’s inside—you instead get a whitehead.
Blackheads have nothing to do with dirt, though.
“We think the dark color comes from oxidized keratin, which is a major structural component of skin,” explains Dr. King.
ACNE MYTH #6: POPPING PIMPLES ISN’T SO BAD.
In general, this is a horrible idea.
“The trauma caused by popping a pimple can introduce more bacteria into the lesion and increase inflammation—which will make the zit worse and more likely to leave a dark mark as it heals,” says Dr. King.
She adds that the occasional instance when popping a pimple may yield good results is if it has come to a head and is very ready to pop, and that the underlying clogged pore isn’t inflamed, painful, or red.
ACNE MYTH #7: ACNE GETS WORST BEFORE IT GETS BETTER.
Have you ever been told by someone that a new skin-care regimen that’s intended to clear up your acne will actually make it look worse before it clears up?
Dr. King says overall this isn’t true, though some people may experience the phenomenon in certain prescription products—say, for instance, retinoids and Accutane.