Acne Facts & Fiction With Dermatologist Dr. Ted Lain: Part 1
If you have acne-prone skin, you’re likely willing to go to great lengths to restore the appearance of a clear, healthy-looking complexion. However, in order for your efforts to be successful, it’s important to separate fact from fiction when it comes to managing acne. Here, board-certified acne dermatologist Dr. Ted Lain shares (and debunks) six of the acne myths he hears from patients most often in part one of this two part series.
There‘s a lot of conflicting information out there about acne-prone skin, including countless myths around what really causes acne. Some of these common acne myths have persisted for decades, despite any research or scientific proof—like the myth that greasy foods cause acne. There’s also a great deal of misinformation around how to best treat acne, which can be especially frustrating for anyone trying to get their breakouts under control. To help set the record straight once and for all, we’ve asked Dr. Lain to debunk some of the top acne myths below. Keep reading to discover what causes (and doesn’t cause) acne, what to look for in acne products, the importance of moisturizer, and more.
6 Common Acne Myths
As a board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Ted Lain treats acne patients every day. And each day, he hears many of the same myths from his patients. Whether it’s old wives’ tales or well-meaning advice from friends and family, this misinformation can lead to improper skincare—and potentially impact your skin’s appearance and the effectiveness of acne treatments. For this reason, it’s essential to be able to differentiate between fact and fiction when it comes to acne.
To help you get one step closer to achieving your clear skin goals, we’re sharing Dr. Lain’s expert advice below as he dispels many of the top acne myths.
Myth #1: “I need strong products to clear my face.”
Some people believe that a “stronger” product with a higher concentration of active ingredients will help clear their breakouts more quickly. However, stronger doesn’t always mean better, according to Dr. Lain. In fact, overusing acne treatments can over-dry your skin and lead to irritation or potentially more breakouts.
“You don’t need strong products to clear your face, you need the right products to clear your face,” says Dr. Lain. “Keep it simple and choose the right products. Often that means that I refer to CeraVe’s line of acne products.” For help choosing the ideal products for your specific skin type and acne concerns, use our Find My Skincare Solution tool.
Myth #2: “I’ve tried tons of acne treatments, and they’re all pretty much the same.”
Another common acne myth is that all acne treatments are the same. However, this isn’t exactly true. Skincare products for acne-prone skin are available in variations for many different skin types and concerns. They can feature different active ingredients for acne, such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, as well as a variety of other skin-supporting ingredients—like ceramides, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid. So, if you’re often asking yourself, “Why won’t my acne go away?” then you may not be using the optimal products and acne routine for your skin’s needs.
“If you believe that all the acne products you’ve used are the same, then you need the help of a dermatologist to help guide you to a regimen that will work for your skin,” says Dr. Lain. This may include options like CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser with 4% benzoyl peroxide, followed by a full-face acne treatment gel (like CeraVe Acne Control Gel), and non-comedogenic daytime and nighttime moisturizers. For post-acne marks, Dr. Lain often recommends CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum, which features microencapsulated retinol.
Myth #3: “I don’t need to moisturize. My skin is oily.”
Acne-prone skin tends to feel oily or greasy, leaving some people to wonder if they should skip moisturizer altogether. However, applying a facial moisturizer daily is an essential part of any skincare routine for acne-prone skin. It helps keep skin hydrated and can help combat dryness from acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. This is especially important for acne-prone skin since excessive dryness can cause your skin to produce more sebum and potentially trigger new breakouts.
But that’s not all. “People with acne have an impaired skin barrier,” explains Dr. Lain. This protective skin barrier is essential for healthy-looking skin, keeping moisture in and irritants out. “The oil that your skin produces does not restore the skin barrier like a moisturizer does,” says Dr. Lain. “So it’s important to use a moisturizer to help restore that skin barrier so that you can start using those acne-fighting ingredients and products to improve your skin.” We recommend choosing a non-comedogenic, oil-free moisturizer option that’s lightweight and formulated not to clog your pores. For help finding the best moisturizer for acne-prone skin, check out our guide to choosing a moisturizer for your skin type.
Myth #4: “My skin is super dry. I shouldn’t even have acne.”
Acne is most commonly associated with oily skin, which produces more sebum than other skin types. So, does this mean that people with dry skin never experience acne? Not quite. “Some people with dry skin can get acne,“ explains Dr. Lain. “And that’s why it’s so important to look at the ingredients in the acne products to make sure that they are moisturizing and hydrating.”
He advises that, “if your skin is dry, it’s even more important to use products that contain the three essential ceramides that are found in all of CeraVe’s products.” To learn more about ceramides, visit The Ceramides Difference. And remember: Dry skin can be influenced by many possible factors, from certain acne treatments to low-humidity climates, so it’s important to consult with a dermatologist to identify the root cause of your dry skin.
Myth #5: “I always keep my skin extra-clean, so I shouldn’t have acne.”
Does dirt cause acne? Not according to Dr. Lain. “Dirt is not the reason why you have acne,” explains Dr. Lain, despite what some people may believe. The idea that poor hygiene or dirt directly causes acne is actually a myth. In reality, it’s bacteria (known as P. acnes) that can trigger acne flare-ups when your pores become clogged with excess sebum.
“Over-washing or washing more than once or twice a day is not needed and in fact can actually cause more harm than good,” according to Dr. Lain. This is because, although proper cleansing is essential, scrubbing or over-washing your face can strip the skin of essential moisture. The result of this is often dryness and irritation—and in some cases, it may even worsen acne. Discover tips for finding the best face wash for oily skin and acne in this facial cleanser guide for oily skin.
Myth #6: If I change my diet, my acne will go away.”
The last myth that Dr. Lain often hears as an acne dermatologist is that a specific “acne diet” will help clear acne or prevent breakouts. “There’s no research to show that changing the diet will improve your acne,” says Dr. Lain. “What we do know, though, is whatever is good for your body is good for your skin. So following a healthy diet is important.” One exception to this, according to ongoing research, may be non-organic dairy products, such as milk—which might be linked to acne breakouts.2
When using acne treatments, it’s important to remember that patience and consistency are key. It can take approximately two to three months of daily use to see results, according to the Mayo Clinic.3 If topical acne products aren’t helping to get your breakouts under control, it’s important to visit a board-certified acne dermatologist for the best personalized guidance. They can help identify the underlying causes of your acne and recommend the optimal treatment plan for your skin’s needs.
For even more information and advice for acne-prone skin, check out our guide to understanding and treating different types of acne.
- “Is Your Workout Causing Your Acne?”American Academy of Dermatology Association, 2022.
- “Acne: Tips for Managing.” American Academy of Dermatology Association, 2022.
- Lynde CW, Andriessen A, Barankin B, Gannes GD, Gulliver W, Haber R, McCuaig C, Rajan P, Skotnicki SP, Thomas R, Toole J, Vender R. “Moisturizers and Ceramide-containing Moisturizers May Offer Concomitant Therapy with Benefits.’ J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014 Mar;7(3):18-26. PMID: 24688622; PMCID: PMC3970828.
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