Canada Med Stop

Common Myths about Acne

Friday 17 July 2020
Skin Conditions
5 minute(s) read

Table of Contents:

I. Overview

II. Myth: Acne Only Affects Young People

III. Myth: Acne is Caused by Stress

IV. Myth: Washing Your Face Multiple Times a Day will Improve Acne

V. Myth: If Acne Medications Don’t Work Immediately, You Should Try Another Treatment

VI. Myth: Acne is Caused by a Bad Diet

VII. Myth: Cosmetics and Make-Up Worsen Acne

VIII. Myth: You Should Only Apply Acne Medication to Blemishes


It is very normal to have acne during adolescence and young adulthood. Around 85 percent of people between 12 and 24 suffer from acne at least once during these years. Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States and affects around 50 million people every year.  [1]

Since this condition is so common, many patients do not seek medical help for their acne, including medications like Tazorac Cream. Patients may believe that it is just ‘one of those things’ and that it will go away naturally. It is easy for misinformation and myths to be spread. Keep reading to learn eight common misconceptions about acne and the truth behind them.

Myth: Acne Only Affects Young People

Fact: Acne is a lot more common in people under 24 than those over 24. However, acne can affect people of any age. A major cause of acne is an excess of oil produced by follicles. Hormones called androgens can increase the amount of oil produced. As hormone levels increase during adolescence, acne is more common.

During adulthood, Acne may also be caused by other factors that increase hormones, including menstruation, pregnancy, and steroid use. As well as an increase in hormones, there are other causes of acne, including bacteria, and clogged pores. These causes affect people of all ages. [2]

a woman looking stressed

Myth: Acne is Caused by Stress

Fact: Acne is not caused by stress. However, stress can worsen existing acne or trigger outbreaks. When you are stressed, the body can increase the production of the natural chemical CRH (corticotrophin-releasing hormone). As well as triggering a ‘fight-or-flight’ response to stress, this hormone also increases the production of sebum oil, which can worsen pimples. [3] Unfortunately, this can also cause pimples to appear at the worst possible moments, including job interviews, important presentations, and weddings.

Myth: Washing Your Face Multiple Times a Day will Improve Acne

Fact: Washing your face regularly helps to remove oil from your pores as well as removing dead skin cells, and other dirt. This can help to unclog pores and improve the appearance of acne. However, washing your face or any other acne-affected areas too violently or too often may cause dryness or irritation. [6]

Acne patients should typically wash their face twice a day with a mild soap or cleanser and pat dry gently. It is recommended that this should be when you wake up and before you go to bed. If you finish an activity that causes sweating,  you should also wash your face. [7]

Myth: If Acne Medications Don’t Work Immediately, You Should Try Another Treatment

Fact: Acne treatments require time to work. This includes both over-the-counter and prescription treatments. Acne medications usually do not just deal with a patient’s current pimples but work by reducing the production of the skin oil, fighting bacteria, and affecting skin cell growth. This can prevent the frequency and severity of future breakouts. [4] Common acne creams include Azelex Cream (azelaic acid) and Tazorac Cream (tazarotene). Both of these medications, and many others, require 4-8 weeks before there is a noticeable improvement. Even the most potent medications can take 3-4 months to completely clear acne.

As well as having patience with acne treatments, it is also important not to rapidly cycle between different medications. Changing facial products frequently can also cause skin irritation, worsening the appearance of acne. [5]

If you do not notice an improvement after 6-8 weeks, then you may consider changing your acne treatment. Different medications may target different causes of acne, including bacteria, oil, or unclogging pores.

potato chips

Myth: Acne is Caused by a Bad Diet

Fact: There is no conclusive research or studies that show a link between diet and acne.  However, there may still be a connection. Chocolate, in particular, is often cited as a food that can cause acne, and eating a diet high in sugar may increase the amount of sebum oil produced by your face.

Additionally, some foods can help to keep skin healthy. Vitamins A, D, and E are anti-inflammatories that are common in fruits, nuts, and fish.  While these foods will not prevent acne, they may limit the severity of acne. However, once again, there is no conclusive evidence for this.

Myth: Cosmetics and Make-Up Worsen Acne

Fact: For most people with mild or moderate acne, wearing cosmetics and make-up should not be a problem. However, it is important to choose cosmetics that are non-comedogenic, non-acnegenic, or specify that they “don’t clog pores.” For people with severe acne, it is important to speak with a doctor or dermatologist about the best cosmetics for you. When wearing make-up, it is always important to remove make-up before you go to bed.

Additionally, those with acne should not share make-up or cosmetics with anyone else. Sharing make-up or make-up applicators can transfer dead skin cells, bacteria, and oil, which can cause or worsen acne. [7]

makeup and makeup brushes

Myth: You Should Only Apply Acne Medication to Blemishes

Fact: Applying your medication only to pimples and other blemishes can help treat your current outbreak. However, if you are prone to breakouts on a particular area of your face such as the forehead, nose, or cheeks, then you should apply a thin layer of medication all across this area(s). This can help to prevent future breakouts in the same area. [7]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.