Close up of woman holding glass skin care bottles discussing acne myths.

9 Acne Myths You Need To Stop Believing Right Now

Acne. It just plain sucks. And dealing with it as an adult woman is even worse. Unfortunately, there are a number of common acne myths that could be sabotaging your healing. Let’s go over some of the biggest ones I hear in my clear skin community.

ACNE MYTH #1: Acne is a topical problem.

This is one of the biggest acne myths I see and hear. Acne is actually an external symptom of an internal issue. It is a signal from your body that something is going on inside and needs to be addressed. Your breakouts have underlying causes that have to be fixed in order to get the pimples to go away. Which brings me to the next myth.

ACNE MYTH #2: I just haven’t found the right products yet.

The acne treatment market in 2016 was valued at $4.9 billion with that figure expected to reach $7.3 billion by 2025. With all this money spent on acne products, the amount of people suffering with breakouts continues to rise.

Topical products, facials and treatments are symptom management. They do nothing to resolve what is causing your acne to occur in the first place no matter what the beauty industry and celebrity influencers would have you believe.

Yes — having a simple skincare routine is important for healthy skin but you shouldn’t be relying on it to fix your acne. Topicals should be used as a complement to the internal work you are doing to heal the body.

MYTH #3: Breakouts are caused by poor hygiene.

I’m going to assume something here. People struggling with acne are usually the people with the most dedicated skincare routine. They tend to have an extensive collection of products that they’ve most likely spent a small fortune on. If anything, they over cleanse which dries out the face and causes the skin to overproduce acne-triggering sebum.

Don’t get me wrong, having a simple skincare regimen is important for healthy skin. It helps to reduce the surface dirt, oil, and bacteria which can add to additional breakouts. But for those dealing with chronic acne, poor hygiene is not that case.

MYTH #4: Only teenagers get pimples.

I find this is one of the acne myths that make most adult women feel ashamed of their skin because they believe it only happens to teens. Hint: it doesn’t.

According to the Canadian Dermatology Association, 20-30% of adults aged 20-40 experience acne. Of those cases, women make up 75% of them. In my nutrition practice, I work with women in their early 20s all the way up to mid/late 40s who are dealing with adult acne.

MYTH #5: Acne will go away on its own.

Many women I talk to in my acne community tell me they figured their acne would clear up eventually but at this point they’ve been waiting years or even decades. When internal issues like poor gut health, liver toxicity and/or a hormonal imbalance are occurring, acne will not clear up until they’re addressed. These three body systems are at the root of your breakouts.

MYTH #6: Diet has nothing to do with acne.

This is one of the acne myths that saddens me the most. For decades, dermatologists have told their patients that diet and lifestyle factors do not contribute to breakouts. Poorly designed (and now outdated) studies gave birth to generations of doctors who have been taught that diet plays no role in acne. A 2006 study showed that only 30% of medical schools require a nutrition course. Only 3% of 6000 questions on the medical licensing board exam are even closely related to nutrition.

No emphasis is placed on nutrition and thus allows for a pharmaceutical-based approach to be the norm among doctors. Not to mention, the pharmaceutical industry is a massive source of medical research funding and has thus influenced the views of the medical community. 

In recent years, a number of studies have now shown a direct correlation to diet and acne. One of the first to break the silence was Dr. Loren Cordain’s 2002 study examining indigenous cultures that had not yet been infiltrated by the Western diet. He examined two communities: the Kitavan’s of Papua New Guinea and the Ache’s of Paraguay.

The Kitavans eat a diet consisting of fish, fruit, roots and coconuts. The Ache’s diet is primarily wild-game, local farmed-goods, foraged roots and nuts. The Westernized diet of processed foods, dairy, sugar, and inflammatory oils was completely absent from the Kitavan diet and less than 8% for that of the Ache. No cases of acne were observed in either community. While some could chalk that up to genetics, they also found members of the communities that had left to live in Westernized societies in fact experienced acne.

The first five links in the sources section at the bottom are studies discussing the effects of diet on acne.

MYTH #7: Acne is a bacteria so antibiotics will help.

Antibiotics are typically the first route doctors take when a patient comes in complaining about acne. The theory is that because acne is a bacteria, antibiotics will kill the “infection” and clear up the skin.

Unfortunately, antibiotics can make your skin issue worse in the long run. As I mentioned in myth five, poor gut health is one of the main factors in the development of acne. Oral antibiotics wipe out not just the bad bacteria in the digestive tract, but also the good which causes an imbalance in the microbial flora.

In turn, the protective barriers in the gut can become weakened and allow for intestinal permeability (leaky gut) to occur. This leads to systemic inflammation in the body which then triggers acne. A 2001 study found 54% of acne patients had an impaired bacterial microflora in their digestive tract. The gut-skin access is one of the foundational pieces I teach my clients and work with them to remedy.

MYTH #8: Prescriptions like the pill, spironolactone, or Accutane are the best way to stop breakouts.

Prescriptions are also a symptom management approach much like topical products. They only work for the length of time you are on them and act as a band-aid solution. Oral contraceptives, spironolactone and Accutane all work by, in the most basic terms, reducing the amount of sebum (oil linked to increased breakouts) the skin produces. They do not heal the root cause of your acne and come with a long list of very real side effects.

When it comes to Accutane, not only are there severe and dangerous side effects but most users have their acne come back. Every single one of my clients who has done any number of courses of Accutane had their acne come back within a few months to a couple years after completing it. 

This is one of the common acne myths that hold a lot of women back from figuring out what is really causing their breakouts. Remember, if you want your acne to go away for good, healing the body is the only way to do it.

MYTH #9: Acne is just a physical disease.

While acne directly affects the appearance of suffers, it also has been shown to increase mental health issues. Psychodermatology is a fairly new discipline examining the interaction between the mind and the skin.

Now, we already discussed the relationship between the gut and skin back in myth seven but the brain also has a big impact with the two aka the gut-brain-skin axis. These three systems have direct influence over each other. For example, altered microbiome has been linked to depression and anxiety. An increase in mental health issues triggers acne flare-ups but those same breakouts cause a person to become more anxious and depressed. A vicious feedback loop starts to occur.

Helping my clients reduce stress through coping mechanisms and addressing any mental health issues is a key component in my program, The Clear Skin Solution. It is just as important as a healthy diet and quality sleep.

Heal Your Body. Heal Your Skin.

I hope breaking down these acne myths has made you feel empowered to take on a healing journey. You do not have to accept acne as part of your life. I have seen first hand with both myself and clients what changing your diet and lifestyle can do for the state of your skin. It’s imperative that you work to reduce inflammation in the body through healing your gut, detoxifying your liver, and balancing hormones. That is the only way to stop your breakouts for good and get the clear skin you deserve.

Sources:

  1. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/fullarticle/479093
  2. http://thehealinggardens.org/images/PDFs/article-archives/FinalAcneArticle.pdf
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4507494/
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0923181107003635
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4884775/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11525176
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6048199/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3038963/

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