Acne Myths: Fact or Fiction? And where do they come from?
Acne is by far the most common skin problem, and affects more than 95% of us at some point in our lives. Acne primarily (but not exclusively) affects teenagers most often and most severely, as they have a high level of testosterone production, and is often thought to be a teenager's condition. For being a near universal condition, many myths still abound, some from several generations ago.
Most myths have their origin in well intentioned advice or limited circumstantial evidence that was available at the time, but are often lacking in factual accuracy. While most myths are relatively innocuous, some are outright dangerous; it's important to understand acne as you would any other disease, and to arm yourself with accurate facts. Here are some of the truths and untruths that are important in properly treating and managing acne.
Acne is caused by masturbation
While very few people in this day and age would take this myth seriously, it was a very popular myth in the past. It isn't hard to see why this myth was created, but this myth has no basis in reality. Puberty, when sexual interest is extremely high, is also a time where important hormonal changes occur in the body.
The hormonal changes are responsible for causing or aggravating acne; not masturbation or sexual activity.
Acne is caused by dirty skin
Blackheads, one of the most common symptoms of acne, can closely resemble dirt on the skin, which is where this myth originates. While this is an understandable mistake, at the schoolyard, it can be cause for teasing. At home, it can cause over-cleansing if a person believes that their blackheads are embedded dirt in the skin.
While cleansing is important for general hygiene as well as controlling acne, over-cleansing will almost certainly backfire. Excessive cleansing dries causes the skin to become dry and inflamed which will aggravate existing acne. The skin can also produce even more oil to compensate for the cleansing which will make the acne situation worse. Remember that acne is not caused by dirty skin.
Squeezing pimples will fix the problem
If correctly performed, pimples can be ruptured to clear fluid away and speed up healing. We recommend that this be left to professionals however, as the drawbacks of incorrectly squeezing a pimple are simply not worth the trouble. Picking at or squeezing pimples can cause the infection to burst deeper into the skin, and significantly increase the chance of permanent scarring. Pimples are best left alone to heal.
Acne is just a phase; you'll get over it in time
This myth has some credibility. Acne is most common and severe during one's teenage years due to increased hormone levels, and in many cases, acne either clears with age, or becomes less severe as hormone levels stabilize in a person's adult years. In many cases, acne will naturally subside. This myth is based in part, on truth.
Unfortunately, for many people, adult acne is a serious and persistent problem. While for some people, acne may just be a phase, this myth is particularly harmful because it implies that acne isn't a serious problem, and that it isn't worthy of treatment. Even if acne does subside, acne can have serious effects on the sufferer's skin if left untreated. Permanent acne scars can occur from moderate acne and even mild acne if pimples are incorrectly popped.
Acne can also cause significant psychological damage, and can contribute to clinical depression. While acne may acne may eventually clear, this is far from guaranteed, and it shouldn't be a reason to forgo available and effective treatment.
There is no treatment for acne
This source of this myth is unknown, but may come from unsatisfied patient's experiences struggling with acne. This is simply untrue, and an extremely harmful myth.
The truth is that dermatology has made truly remarkable advances in the last 20 years, and almost any kind of acne is treatable, even the most severe cases will have effective treatment options available today. It is important that patients seek help.
Acne is a common, but legitimate and potentially serious skin disease, but it can and should be treated like any other disease. If left untreated, permanent scarring can occur, and links between acne and depression have been established.