Tackling acne mythbusting: What is fact versus fiction?

Recently I’ve come face to face with teenagers eager to ask me what is fact and fiction about their developing acne. Well let me see if I can break out with some accurate information about some common acne myths.

The first myth: Chocolate or fried foods cause acne

One common myth is that chocolate or greasy fried foods, or even stress or dirt on the face causes acne. None of these are true causes. Acne is caused by overactive oil glands in the skin. These oil glands are stimulated by your child’s overactive hormones and can cause these glands to produce more secretions. These secretions can clog a pore and allow bacteria to grow inside the pore, resulting in what we call the dreaded pimples, otherwise known as acne.

The second myth: Aggressive scrubbing will help your face

Another myth is that the more you wash your face, the less pimples you will have. In fact, aggressive scrubbing or rubbing may inflame your pimples rather than heal them. The best approach is to gently wash the face twice daily with a mild soap and pat dry.

The third myth: I can pick off my acne

Of course, there are those who think popping pimples will make them go away faster. This is just another myth! Picking and poking at pimples will only make the lesions last longer and look worse. The picking may even cause scarring.

The truth about acne

One truth about acne is that it doesn’t last forever, and can be cleared up quicker using medications like benzoyl peroxide, although it may take 6 to 8 weeks to really begin to see improvement.

Benzoyl peroxide, available over the counter, is a good first line agent for treatment for acne. This is because it helps to open the plugs and it kills bacteria trapped in the plug.

Controlling acne

A myth is to apply medication just to the pimples you can see. In actuality, you need to apply a thin layer over the whole face, not just to visible pimples. This will help to keep acne under control. To do this, an amount the size of a pea should suffice.

Remember, “the more you use, the better your acne” is not a true statement!

If benzoyl peroxide doesn’t work, then stronger prescription medications are available. They will be recommended by your teen’s health care professional and used to reduce the inflammation and growth of bacteria in pimples.

Hopefully, tips like these will clear up any concerns you have when zit, I mean it, comes to breaking down the myths and learning the truth about acne.


Lewis First, MD, is chief of pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.


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