Health & Wellness

8 surprising myths about acne

Acne is something that only happens to high schoolers -- but if it does pop up later in life, just scrub your face a little harder, or pop a pimple or two to clear it up. Right?

Absolutely wrong, actually. These may be the things we tell ourselves about the skin condition -- but they're just not true. This morning on TODAY, New York dermatologist Dr. Jeannie Downie busts eight commonly-believed myths about all things acne.

1. Acne is something that only happens to teenagers. Teens definitely do suffer from acne, but some people develop acne for the first time in their 20s or 30s. In fact, in Manhattan's business districts, most patients treated for acne vulgaris are women between the ages of 20 and 45

2. Acne occurs because your face is dirty. Many people feel like acne means their face is somehow unclean -- but that's just not true. The truth is, acne is a complex skin disorder that can't be boiled down to simply "dirt." It's likely that the connection between the skin condition and dirt was made because blackheads are, well, black -- but blackheads aren't caused by dirt, either.

3. To relieve acne, scrub your face really hard. Remember, acne isn't caused by dirt -- so you can't just wash it away. A cleanser with ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicyclic acid and sulfur compounds will help clear the skin, but it won't clear it any faster if you scrub harder. Scrubbing acne too hard can actually inflame blackheads, so be sure to be nice to your skin.

4. Popping your pimples makes everything better. Will you people please stop picking at your faces? Popping pimples spills inflammatory gunk into surrounding tissues, which can cause scarring. 

5. Acne will go away on its own, so it doesn't need to be treated. Sorry, this condition can't be ignored. Doing nothing can even cause the condition to get worse. Mild, topical treatments -- such as over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide -- are best, and they're especially effective if started early.

6. Tanning will help clear acne. Tanning does help hide acne, but the UV rays ultimately dry the skin, and can make the skin condition worse. And do we really need to remind you that tanning causes premature aging, not to mention skin cancer? 

7. Acne is unrelated to what we eat. It's not clear whether acne is caused by diet or genetics, but recent research links the skin condition to dairy. Ask your doctor if he or she recommends limiting dairy to help clear your skin. 

8. Sweating helps get rid of acne. Some believe you can sweat out your acne, by going to a steam room or using hot towels. But in fact, some studies suggest that high temperatures and humidity can worsen the condition, so you might do best to keep it cool. 

Let's crowd-source this: Have you struggled with acne, as a teenager or as an adult? How did it affect your life? And what worked to help clear your skin? 

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