Acne Advice: Myth or Fact?

Acne Feature
(Photo: Greatist)

We have heard a lot about what causes acne and what prevents it. But how much of these old rumors actually hold true? Greatist has put the old myths to the test and compared them with modern research. Some of it may surprise you!

Old-school wisdom: Your diet causes acne.

Face facts: This one's a mixed bag. While there isn't enough research on this particular topic, the acne-and-diet connection has been a consideration since as far back as the late 1800s — and it may be a factor if your complexion is suffering. After all, acne outbreaks have been associated with dairy products, refined sugar, and high glycemic loads (think dangerfoods like white bread and cookies). Research suggests that milk contains hormones that could trigger a bout of blemishes, and noshing on high-glycemic foods leads to a spike in blood sugar and insulin levels, which may in turn cause a breakout —especially in people with problem skin to begin with. The good news? Contrary to many a rumor, there's no clear evidence that your chocolate habit will cause a spotty complexion. (Bring on the cashew bark!) Skincare experts do say the best bet for clearer, more luminous skin, however, is to stick to a healthy diet full of colorful veggies, fruits, and healthy fats, and remember to also drink lots of water.

>> Read more: 12 Best Foods for Great Skin

Old-school wisdom: Fancy or expensive face washes are most effective.

Face facts: Skip the hype here. While you get what you pay for when it comes to mattresses, watches, and blenders, that just isn't the case with face washes. Because they stay on your skin for seconds, experts believe it's really unnecessary to shell out big bucks on this cleansing cosmetic. Instead, pay more attention to a cleanser's attributes (i.e. the info that indicates that the cleanser won't aggravate acne-prone skin) than its price tag. The key terms you should look for: oil-free, non-comedogenic, and mild. You could also select a product that contains acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or, for a natural alternative, tea tree oil. Just keep in mind that cleansers containing meds may irritate your skin if you're already using a blemish-banishing medication. As for scrubbing away at your face, it can help slough off dead skin cells, paving the way for clearer pores. Just remember to scrub with care (don't be overzealous) and be choosy about what product you're using. Skincare experts recommend opting for a formula with round, non-plastic exfoliating particles and only using the scrub twice a week.

>> Do you get suffer from acne? It could be from your post-workout routine!


Old-school wisdom: It's OK to pop a pimple.

Face facts: Well, yes and no. When a big ol' zit strikes (and inevitably lingers—right before a hot date, of course), one of the hardest things to do is to avoid messing with it and ultimately popping it. But picking and prodding may just make matters worse by damaging the tissue surrounding the area. It can also lead to a skin infection and scarring, which will greet you in the mirror waaaay longer than today's red bump. The bottom line: It's really best to leave your blemishes alone.

That said, if you just can't stand the sight of your spots, there is a way to pop a zit to minimize the risk of scarring. First, determine whether the pimple is ready to be popped. (If it's raised with a white/yellow surface, it's good to go.) Press a warm compress to the area to soften your skin and bring the gunk closer to the surface. Douse a sewing needle with rubbing alcohol to disinfect it, and then gently poke the surface of the zit. Wrap two tissues around your index fingers—this helps avoid the spread of bacteria—and gently squeeze from the sides of the blemish. If you start to see blood or clear fluid coming out of the incision, stop! One thing to note: If your pimple is deep and painful, don't touch it. See a dermatologist to bring out the heavy artillery (prescriptions or other plans of attack like cortisone shots).

>> Acne isn't just for teens! Read more.

Old-school wisdom: Touching your face causes acne.


Face facts: Yup, there's truth in the look-but-don't-touch approach to skincare. Dermatologists and skincare professionals far and wide agree: Touching your face can lead to breakouts — even if your hands are clean. Basically, every time you touch your face, you're introducing whatever germs you've come in contact with directly onto your skin. Break the habit for a clearer, smoother complexion.

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