Acne will affect about 80 percent of people at some point in their lives, so it’s no wonder there are so many myths circulating about how to handle this common skincare woe. Unfortunately, following the wrong skincare and acne treatment advice could leave you with even more severe and longer-lasting blemishes and acne scars than you started with.
In this column, I explain some of the most popular myths about acne and the real facts you need to know for clearer skin.
Myth 1: Only people with oily skin can get acne
Oily skin types produce excess oil, which can lead to clogged pores and therefore acne. However, anyone can get acne, which is caused by clogged pores and bacteria. For people with dry skin, flakes of dead skin and dirt can clog pores and trap acne-causing bacteria. Your skin type will determine the best treatment approach for your acne. Oily skin types usually tolerate acne medications better than those with dry skin, so make sure you work with a board-certified dermatologist to figure out the most appropriate treatment method for you.
Myth 2: The sun can clear acne
If your skin tans with sun exposure, pimples might appear to be less noticeable, but that doesn’t mean that they are gone. In fact, sun exposure can make acne worse, since it dries out your skin and therefore triggers increased oil production. The sun also causes hyperpigmentation, darkening acne scars and making them more noticeable.
If you suspect that your sunscreen could be contributing to clogged pores and breakouts, try switching to a physical sunscreen that contains zinc oxide instead of a chemical sunscreen, which can aggravate acne for some skin types. Make sure you wash your face thoroughly before going to bed to remove any residual sunscreen, sweat, and dirt.
Myth 3: Scrubbing your skin will get rid of pimples
No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to scrub away acne blemishes. In fact, using harsh physical exfoliants like a shower loofah or abrasive cleansing scrub upsets the exfoliation process of the pores and makes acne worse. Over-exfoliating worsens acne. Instead, use a cleanser based on your skin type. Oily acne-prone skin can usually tolerate a salicylic acid cleanser, while dry acne-prone skin tends to do better with a glycolic acid cleanser.
Myth 4: Retinoids make your skin more sensitive to the sun
Retinoids such as retinol, adapalene, tazarotene, and tretinoin are used to treat acne. Retinoids do not make your skin more sensitive to the sun. The myth occurred because retinol and tretinoin lose their efficacy when exposed to sunlight, so you need to use them at night. Retinoids regulate your skin’s natural desquamation (exfoliation) and cell renewal process. This is why retinoids are so beneficial when trying to unclog pores and get clearer skin. Retinoids are the most important ingredient used to treat acne, but without the correct cleansers and moisturizers, they can irritate the skin.
Myth 5: Acne treatments work quickly
No matter what the marketing claims say, the best approach to treat acne is prevention. The acne cycle takes eights weeks. For this reason, it can take eight weeks to see your full results from acne treatments and the right skincare routine. Correct consistent skincare is the key to treating acne — so stick with your prescribed regimen, even if you don’t see results right away.
There is a lot of misinformation out there about acne and how to get rid of it. The first step to getting clearer skin is to figure out your skin type, then work with a board-certified dermatologist to develop an acne treatment plan that is custom-tailored to your skin’s needs and unique characteristics.