Fact or fiction: acne

Posted on 7 June 2016

Acne affects an estimated 9,4% of the global population. It is most common in teens, especially males, but can occur at any life stage. Mediclinic Cape Town dermatologist Dr Dilshaad Asmal tells us whether some familiar beliefs related to the skin disease are true.

Eating chocolate and certain other foods makes your acne worse.
POSSIBLE There is a growing link between acne and foods with a high glycaemic index (GI). Conversely, a recent study mentioned in the International Journal of Dermatology said that eating 90% dark chocolate – which has a low GI – daily for four weeks increased acne severity in 25 males with acne-prone skin.

The stronger the acne treatment product the better.
NOT NECESSARILY Acne therapy is patient-dependent. A dermatologist is qualified to assess and grade acne, and to find the most appropriate treatment for the patient.

You can treat body acne in the same way you would treat face acne.
SOMETIMES Treatment of acne depends on various criteria: patient age and sex, extent and severity, length of time present, and response to previous treatments. Topical therapies that could be used to treat face acne may be impractical for body skin. However, the oral treatment options available can work with face and body acne.

Acne is stress related.
TRUE There are few studies and limited clinical research experience about the role of stress in the development of acne – it is difficult to pinpoint which stresses contribute to acne and how much. It is certain that acne causes emotional stress, however, so a dermatologist treats acne and the person behind the acne.

Washing your face won’t make acne go away.
TRUE Vigorous washing and scrubbing may, in fact, irritate the skin and make acne worse. However, certain washes containing benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can, to a degree, help with treating acne. These washes have anti-comedone properties but there have been limited high-quality studies examining their effectiveness.

You shouldn’t wear sunscreen and moisturisers if you have acne as they clog your pores.
FALSE You can get sunscreens and moisturisers that are non-acnegenic and non-comedogenic.

Makeup makes acne worse.
SOMETIMES Oily cosmetics exacerbate acne. Lighter, looser powder foundations such as mineral powders are not nearly as irritating to skin as thicker coverage, which hides acne but exacerbates it.

Blackheads are dirt in your pores.
FALSE Blackheads are caused when sebum is overproduced and forms plugs in the pores by clumping the epidermal cells that shed from the skin. The plugs are called comedones, and because blackheaded comedones are open to the air, their plugs becomes oxidised and turn black.

Actors and musicians with acne
Acne affects people far and wide, even in Hollywood. According to The Huffington Post, 43-year-old Cameron Diaz battles acne to this day. She regularly sees her dermatologist for peels, microdermabrasion and LED light treatments.

Keira Knightley has been open about her ‘really awful skin’ and, according to Glamour, Katy Perry has been quoted as saying: ‘One [of my insecurities] is that I have acne scars. I’m self-conscious about that, so sometimes I wear too much make-up to cover them up.’

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio are reported to have scarred skin from their battles with teenage acne.

So if you have acne, you’re in pretty good company!

Published in Dermatology

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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