Myths surrounding acne

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Acne affects most people at some point in their lives. Despite this being such a common problem, it is amazing how many acne ‘myths’ exist that are passed down from generation to generation as old wives tales, or from one friend to another. So called ‘health’ and ‘beauty’ magazines also tend to publish unproven theories behind acne. This seemingly harmless trend, can affect individuals severely afflicted with this condition, both emotionally and physically. Indeed home-based treatments based on hearsay may worsen the problem and may off set a more severe skin reaction leading to worsened scarring. It is therefore important to recognize these myths and be educated to correct facts about acne.

Myth 1: “Acne is caused by dirt”

It is true that comedones/ blemishes/ blackheads develop from hair follicles that are plugged by dead skin cells mixed with the body’s natural oily substances. Dirt unfortunately is not linked to development of acne. Hence excessive washing of your face or body more than 2-3 times/ day will not improve your condition. Indeed the excessive washing could leave your skin dehydrated, which in turn encourages peeling and the need to produce more oil.

Myth 2: “I will outgrow my acne once I am past my teenage years”

The fact that acne only occurs in teenagers is dangerous, because this leads to placidity on the part of teenagers who think that once they are older they will no longer suffer from acne. This can lead to a delay in obtaining correct treatment, which in turn can mean that multiple preventable lesions have occurred leading to scarring that could have been prevented. Furthermore when these individuals become young adults, the inherent embarrassment from the condition prevents them from seeking medical advice in a timely fashion, thus potentiating a relatively preventable situation.

Acne is not exclusive of teenagers. Acne can be found in different age groups and it varies from individual to individual and from treatment to treatment.

Myth 3: “Beauty is skin deep, as is acne”

Many people believe that acne should be ignored since it is allegedly only skin deep and not a life threatening condition. Acne in fact can cause severe physical and emotional scarring, affecting an individuals self esteem for life.

Myth 4: “Best treatment for acne is spot treatment”

This is a long standing acne myth. Since acne takes 2-3 weeks to grow, direct administration of products does not tackle the root of the problem, but just deals with the single lesion. Proper treatment of acne requires that the skin in the entire involved area be treated for acne to prevent further outbreaks. This helps prevent future spots developing.

Myth 5: “Acne is as a result of what you eat”

To date no correlation has been seen between food and acne. It is however recommended that a healthy diet by adhered to at all times. This may not cure you of the acne, but will contribute to the overall well-being.

Myth 6: “Cosmetics can cause acne”

Whilst this can be true whilst using cosmetics that plug up your follicles, especially if used frequently and excessively, cosmetics nowadays are mostly non-comedogenic. Always make sure whilst buying cosmetics to read the labels and get non-comedogenic, oil-free, water-based, hypoallergenic products with no added fragrance.

Myth 7: “Increased sexual activity can cause acne”

Although androgens are one at the most important causes of acne, and although these and other hormones trigger several energy, sexual activity has not been shown to even slightly increase the incidence of acne.

Myth 8: “Sweating cleanses your glands and reduces acne”

Sweating comes from sweat glands that are separate from sebaceous glands. Hence increased sweating cannot ‘wash away’ excess sebum and reduce acne. Exercise in fact can worsen acne by the heat and friction generated at the affected areas and by increasing sebum production. Hence it is recommended to always wear cotton outfits whilst exercising and showering immediately after exercising, in order to reduce these effect of exercising. In fact, swimming should be the exercise of choice in acne sufferers since heat and friction are not produced and excess sebum is washed away instantaneously.

Myth 9: “The more sun the better”

Sunlight darkens the skin and makes skin blemishes appear less conspicuous. However, extended sunlight exposure triggers faster exfoliation of dead skin cells, so your follicles are more susceptible to getting plugged. Furthermore, sun harms the skin after a while and may enhance the scarring that occurs from preexisting acne lesions. Hence it is recommended that you always use oil-free sun protection products that contain a sun protection factor (or SPF) of at least 30 for both UVA and UVB rays, whenever you sunbathe.

Myth 10: “Stress equals acne”

Stress does not directly produce acne. It can however precipitate an outburst, by increasing the production of cortisol – a stress hormone. Cortisol tends to make sebaceous glands generate more oils, which can precipitate acne formation. Relaxation techniques may help in these cases.

Myth 11: “Acne is curable”

Acne is not curable; it is treatable. Big difference between the two, the former completely eradicates acne; the latter prevents and suppresses the formation. Remember that the best approach to deal with acne is to prevent pimples from occurring and for that there are numerous therapies. But even if your blemishes clear, your acne is not healed and it may come back if you don't use a preventative maintenance treatment.

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