Acne is a very common skin condition that will affect most people at some point in their lives.
The good news is treatment options are often very effective for acne.
At our dermatology offices in Hagerstown and Martinsburg, we see many patients for this common skin disease. And we offer topical prescriptions, oral medication options, and light therapies to treat acne.
But, one of the best ways to start addressing acne is to arm yourself with the facts.
We’re addressing the common misconceptions about acne. These 10 facts will get you on the way to clearer, healthier looking skin.
1. Your chances of getting acne don’t end in the teenage years.
A common misconception is that only adolescents get acne.
And the truth is teenagers are commonly affected by the disease. In fact, a recent article in the National Library of Medicine suggests about 95% of people will get acne during adolescence.
However, adults are also prone to acne. Approximately 50% of women will experience acne as an adult. And between 25% to 40% of adult men report experiencing acne.
Acne is one of the most common skin conditions seen by dermatologists, across the lifespan. At our dermatology offices in Hagerstown and Martinsburg, we have treated thousands of cases of acne. Although treatment and presentation might be different according to a patient’s age, we treat all ages for acne.
2. Hormones can cause acne.
Acne occurs when hair follicles in the skin become clogged by sebum and dead skin cells. Sebum is the oily substance that lubricates your hair and skin.
But, what exactly triggers more sebum to be produced? Sometimes, the answer is hormones. Specifically, hormone levels can change in women during periods, pregnancy, menopause or after discontinuing birth control.
Men undergoing testosterone treatment may experience acne and men and women on a steroid medication might as well. A genetic predisposition and other metabolic conditions can be contributors too.
3. Tanning does not prevent or treat acne.
The myth that getting a tan prevents or treats acne is probably rooted in one fact: vitamin D can help prevent breakouts. And the sun does supply a dose of vitamin D.
However, most people usually get the full day’s supply of vitamin D already, without needing to lay out in the sun. You only need 20 minutes of sun throughout the day for the recommended dose of the vitamin. That amount is usually obtained just by time in the car, sitting near a window, or other daily activities.
If you get enough sunshine to actually cause a tan, you’re doing more harm than good. Because “tanning”, or darkening the skin through sun exposure, is actually your body’s effort to heal the skin from damage. This healing process involves the production of increased melanin, which makes skin darker in color.
Tanning does not make acne better, although it may mask it temporarily by camouflaging the redness associated with it.
So the bottom line? If you’re going to be outdoors, practice THESE dermatologist recommendations for protecting yourself from the sun. Doing otherwise isn’t good for your acne or your overall health.
4. What you eat does have some effect on acne… but probably not in the way you think.
It would make sense, right? An access of the oily substance known as sebum causes acne. So oily foods might cause it too.
And maybe sweet treats or desserts, like chocolate, cause it as well?
Well, chocolate lovers, the good news is there has been no direct link between chocolate (or any other specific food) and acne. Nothing you eat can be said to specifically cause acne.
However, in some studies, a high glycemic diet has been linked to more breakouts, especially for those prone to acne. Such a diet consists of foods that are broken down quickly by your body. These foods cause a rapid increase in blood sugar and are associated with more sebum production. They’re things like surgery drinks, potato chips, sweets, and even fruits like pineapple and watermelon.
So while that candy bar isn’t going to cause acne per se, it’s best to limit treats. Focus more on a balanced diet so acne doesn’t become worse.
5. Having acne doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t washing your face enough.
We know acne is caused by sebum and dead skin cells that clog hair follicles. So it is important to wash your face twice daily to remove the sebum and exfoliate dead skin cells.
This is especially important for teens and active adults who sweat and therefore further increase clogging in pores.
Yet washing alone often isn’t enough to prevent or treat acne.
In fact, washing your face or the affected too much can make acne appear worse. Skin can become irritated when washing is excessive. And red, irritated skin worsens the appearance of acne.
6. The make-up and products you use on your face do make a difference.
Using the right products on our face is important, particularly if you have acne prone skin.
Dermatologists recommend oil-free skin care products. These products are less likely to clog pores and create breakouts.
7. Popping pimples does not help them go away.
It’s tempting to try to extract the inside of a pimple. It often seems like doing so will help it go away more quickly.
But squeezing or popping a pimple can push bacteria deeper inside the skin. It can make acne more inflamed.
Gentle removing the very top of a pimple with a white pustule is probably o.k. At this point, the dead skin cells and sebum are likely close enough to the surface.
Otherwise, picking or popping pimples is best to be avoided. It is much more likely to make them worse.
8. Water, sleep, and other common ways to promote good health also help prevent and treat acne.
It just makes common sense that your lifestyle can often be reflected in your body’s largest organ – your skin.
Getting enough rest, drinking lots of water, and de-stressing are some lifestyle changes that can help tame acne.
For example, drinking water can help hydrate skin from the inside out. This helps prevent over-dryness, which in turn can lead to the body overproducing sebum.
Reducing stress can lower cortisol levels, a hormone involved in acne outbreaks.
And getting more sleep is a good idea too. Your body releases hormones that repair your body during sleep. Those hormones can help skin lesions repair more quickly.
So, following the good health habits that prevent other common conditions is a good idea for addressing acne. Just know that these efforts may need to be combined with medication or other treatments to fully treat acne.
9. Acne treatment is usually covered by insurance.
Acne is a medical problem with a physiological cause. Therefore, it is most often covered by insurance.
This is true for both diagnosis, as well as treatment options. You’ll want to check with your specific insurance carrier though. Plans can differ in terms of coverage, as well as copays amd deductibles.
10. You shouldn’t wait to get medical treatment for acne.
Because acne is so common, we often think if it as something that is “normal” or that just needs to be endured. Some acne sufferers also often want to try treating it themselves prior to seeing a dermatologist.
And establishing a skin cleansing routine with an over-the-counter treatment, like benzoyl peroxide, is a good starting place.
However, if you not see improvement in your acne fairly quickly, you should see a dermatologist.
If left untreated, acne can leave permanent scars. Receiving treatment for your acne at an early onset can prevent that.
Even if you don’t have severe acne and are not worried about scarring, you will benefit from treatment. Mild to moderate acne is treatable as well and improves with dermatologic care.