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Myths About Acne

Do you think you already know all there is to know about acne? You may be surprised that some of the things you've heard about acne — like what causes it and how to deal with it — aren't actually true. Keep reading to find out some fast facts.

Myth #1: Tanning clears up skin.

Fact: Although a tan may temporarily mask acne, the sun can make the skin dry and irritated, leading to more breakouts in the future. In fact, there's no link between sun exposure and acne prevention, but the sun's rays can cause premature aging and skin cancer. Always protect your skin by choosing a sunscreen of at least SPF (sun protection factor) 15 that says noncomedogenic or nonacnegenic on the label, which means it won't clog pores.

Myth #2: The more you wash your face, the fewer breakouts you'll have.

Fact: Although washing your face helps to remove dirt and oil from your pores, washing too much can lead to dryness and irritation, causing more breakouts. Also, avoid scrubbing your face, which can irritate the skin. As a general rule, wash your face twice a day with mild soap and water in a circular motion and gently pat dry when you're done.

Myth #3: Popping pimples will help them go away faster.

Fact: Popping a pimple may make it seem less noticeable temporarily, but popping can cause it to stay around longer. By squeezing pimples and zits, you can actually push bacteria, dead skin cells, and oil further into the skin, causing more swelling and redness — and sometimes causing a red or brown mark or scar to form. Sometimes marks can last for many months and true scars (dents and pits) will last forever.

How do you protect your skin from the sun?

Myth #4: Don't wear makeup if you want clear skin.

Fact: As long as you choose cosmetics that are nonacnegenic or noncomedogenic, they shouldn't cause breakouts. In fact, some concealers now contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which help to fight acne. You can also try tinted benzoyl peroxide creams that hide pimples while helping treat them.

If you've had moderate to severe acne, though, talk to your doctor or dermatologist about the best cosmetics to use — he or she may recommend avoiding cosmetics altogether or only using certain brands so you're acne isn't aggravated.

How do you protect your skin from the sun?

And even if a product is labeled nonacnegenic or noncomedogenic, you should stop using it and talk to your doctor if you notice that it's irritating your skin or seems to cause breakouts.

Myth #5: If you keep getting breakouts, it helps to use more acne medication until the breakouts stop.

Fact: Because acne medication contains drying agents like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, using too much medication may cause overdrying, leading to irritation and more blemishes.

If over-the-counter acne medication doesn't seem to work on your acne, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor or dermatologist. Also, if you're taking a prescription acne medication, make sure you follow your doctor's instructions — some medications may take up to 8 weeks to make a significant difference.

Reviewed by: Patrice Hyde, MD
Date reviewed: September 2013

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T    Can I Prevent Acne?
T    Should I Pop My Pimple?
T    Tanning
T    Tips for Taking Care of Your Skin
T    Why Do I Get Acne?
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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