Old Wives Tales can be helpful sometimes in identifying and treating minor ailments through passed down knowledge. But when it comes to acne-prone skin, that’s just not true.
There is so much misinformation floating around about hormonal pimples and how to treat it, that it can be difficult to know what to listen to. Can you really break out from eating too much pizza and chocolate? Are hormonal breakouts only a teenage ailment? And should you go sunbathing to dry up those pesky blemishes?
Well we’re here to clear things up for you. Here are 4 myths to stop listening to.
MYTH #1: When you have a breakout, it’s because your skin is dirty.
This myth is just blatantly untrue, especially when it comes to hormonal breakouts. A hormonal breakout is just what it sounds like: caused by hormones. (For more on hormonal acne and its causes, find our article about it here.)
These hormones encourage the production of sebum (or skin oils). Sebum is made to help lubricate the skin, but during puberty or other hormonal changes, too much sebum can be produced, clogs pores, and along with dead skin and the bacteria P. acnes produces acne. This excess of sebum is why teenagers seem to suffer from acne more, and why you tend to break out around your period, pregnancy, or even menopause.
So while blemishes are seen as a teenage ailment, the hard and sometimes unfortunate truth is that they can be an everyone ailment.
Included in this is the myth of greasy foods. Rest assured, eating greasy foods will not contribute to excess pimples, although it’s always a good idea to treat your body right from the inside out by eating healthily (though a slice of pizza here and there is good for the soul).
While it’s true that if you never wash your skin, your risk of breaking out would increase, the fact that you have pimples does not mean that it’s because of dirty skin.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT: When it comes to skin, it’s important to have a routine. Follow your daily cleansing routine with products that you have found that work for you. Everyone is different, after all! Cleansing your skin once in the morning and once at night is the perfect amount, as you want to make sure not to overdo it, as that can only make the problem worse.
It’s also important to NOT exfoliate with scrubs containing sharp particles, as these can cause microtears in the skin which can then invite attack from microbes like Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes. Also, DON’T use alcohol or other harsh toners on your skin, as these will dry out your skin and compromise the lipid barrier, which protects your skin from pathogens.
MYTH #2: Sunbathing can dry up blemishes.
This myth is twofold; half right and half wrong.
The last time you were at the beach, did you notice that your breakout cleared up afterwards? Well, catching some rays can clear up acne-prone skin, however it’s only temporary. The blue light wavelength in visible light can improve your breakout, but it’s not a permanent solution.
In the long run, this is definitely not a solution at all, because as we all know, getting too much sun can cause your skin to wrinkle and damage your skin.
Here's an interesting video that went viral a few years ago to show you just how bad the damage can be.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT: Getting a good amount of Vitamin D is important to keep your skin looking young and healthy, but too much will damage it. If you’re going to be outside for 30 minutes or longer, slather on some SPF (30 or higher). For example, my grandma uses sunscreen every day, even in winter, and has some of the nicest, softest skin I’ve ever seen, and she’s well into her 80s! Don’t you want that to be you?
MYTH #3: Blackheads are dirt in your pores.
Blackheads are acne just like cystic acne, whiteheads, and pustules. While you may look at your blackheads and think your pores are just full of dirt and you can rid of them with a good scrub, they’re actually a mix of dirt, sebum, and dead skin. Just like other forms of acne typical to acne-prone skin, scrubbing them too much will only make it worse, so try not to over-cleanse your skin.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT: Exfoliation can help your blackheads, as long as it’s gentle. As we mentioned above, using exfoliants with rough or sharp pieces in it can cause tiny tears in your skin and expose you to other, more serious infections.
An acid exfoliant would be a great place to start! Just make sure to read the instructions first, and not to leave it on too long.
Pro tip: While those blackhead removing nasal strips can be fun in a gross out kind of way, be very careful using them. Pore strips don’t actually remove blackheads from the skin, but instead remove some skin oil and the pore lining, which can damage the skin over time. Your blackheads will remain happily in place, instead of on the back of your pore strip. Gentle exfoliation is the way to go!
MYTH #4: Pores open and close.
Sorry to break it to you, but pores don’t open and close. Don’t let that stop you from some rejuvenation in the sauna, though! Spending some time in the steam room can loosen up some of the oil and dirt stuck in your pores, making it easier to extract. It’s imperative, though, that you don’t squeeze your pimples, no matter how tempting it might be!
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT: After a schwitz, make sure to spend some extra time with your skin. Gentle exfoliation, cleaning, and moisturization can help remove any dirt that’s been trapped in your skin, which in turn can make your pores less noticeable and “smaller.” If you take care of your skin, it will take care of you and stay looking great!