Acne Facts & Fiction With Dermatologist Dr. Ted Lain: Part 2
If you experience acne breakouts, it’s essential to know what can help acne and what can make matters worse. Unfortunately, many of the oldest acne myths continue to stick around despite advances in dermatological research. This conflicting information can make it difficult to decipher what’s acne fact and what’s acne fiction. So, to help clear up these myths once and for all, we’ve teamed up with board-certified acne dermatologist Dr. Ted Lain. Ahead, join Dr. Lain as he shares a few of these common misconceptions and sets the record straight in this two part series.
There are many persistent and misleading acne myths that can stand in the way of successful acne treatment. Luckily, with the help of dermatologists—the skin experts of the medical world—it’s possible to get to the bottom of these misconceptions. Dermatologists can help pinpoint the true causes of acne, as well as suggest the most effective acne treatments in dermatology. Below, we’re joined by Dr. Lain as he debunks these acne myths, so that those affected by acne can get on the path to visibly clearer, healthy-looking skin. Keep reading to learn what you should know when it comes to picking pimples, sun exposure, and the importance of using a consistent skincare regimen—even after you get breakouts under control.
4 Common Acne Misconceptions
- Acne Myth #1: “Sweaty workouts make my acne worse” - Sweat does not directly cause acne. If post-workout breakouts occur, they may be linked to improper skincare habits before, during, and after exercise sessions.
- Acne Myth #2: “Picking blackheads prevents more pimples” - Picking pimples and squeezing blackheads does not help acne and may do more harm than good.
- Acne Myth #3: “Tanning helps clear my acne” - Tanning is not a safe acne treatment, and may lead to long-term skin damage. Proper sun protection is essential for all skin types, including acne-prone skin.
- Acne Myth #4: “I don’t need a daily routine if my acne is cleared” - Acne cannot be cured, but it can be controlled with a consistent dermatologist-recommended skincare routine for acne.
4 Common Acne Myths
As a board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Ted Lain treats acne patients daily. And every day, he hears many of the same acne myths. These misconceptions can interfere with the effectiveness of dermatologist-recommended acne treatments, and in some cases, may even make acne worse. To help dispel these common acne myths, Dr. Lain is sharing his top acne facts and explaining what’s pure fiction below.
Myth #1: “Sweaty workouts make my acne worse.”
Exercise has many benefits for your overall health and it shouldn’t be avoided just because your skin is prone to breakouts. “Sweat does not cause acne,” affirms Dr. Lain. However, some people believe that breaking a sweat will worsen their acne. So, where does this acne myth come from? It may have to do with improper skincare habits before, during, and after your workouts.
In other words, sweating is a normal part of life, but this doesn’t mean you should leave it on your skin. Sweat itself doesn’t cause acne breakouts but a buildup of dirt, oil, and bacteria might—according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).1 That’s why it’s important to take a close look at hygiene habits surrounding your workouts if you find yourself experiencing increased acne flare-ups.
Exercise tips for acne-prone skin
- It’s important to maintain clean skin, both before and after your workout. This can help eliminate acne-causing bacteria from your skin.
- Remember to remove any makeup before exercising with a gentle, yet effective makeup remover, like CeraVe Hydrating Makeup Removing Plant-Based Wipes.
- Gym equipment can be covered in acne-causing substances, like bacteria and oil, which can be transferred to your face. Remember to wipe down machines before use and, if possible, avoid sharing equipment like helmets or shoulder pads.
- Make sure to use clean towels only, and gently pat (not wipe) away face sweat.
- Using the right skincare products after exercising is another important step for maintaining clear, healthy-looking skin. We recommend choosing a dermatologist-recommended body wash, along with a gentle facial cleanser that is fragrance-free and non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog your pores).
Myth #2: “Picking my blackheads prevents more pimples.”
The second acne myth Dr. Lain hears most is that squeezing blackheads can help prevent new blemishes. According to Dr. Lain, this is not recommended. “Picking, pulling, squeezing, scratching… none of them help,” says Dr. Lain. “All they can do is lead to more problems and possibly worsen your acne.” Aggressive or improper picking and squeezing of blackheads can potentially result in skin inflammation or scarring. It’s also possible to stretch out your pores in the process—potentially making them appear more noticeable. A board-certified acne dermatologist, like Dr. Lain, can help recommend treatment options and personalized advice for managing visible pores and blackheads.
Tips for dealing with blackheads
Dr. Lain recommends a consistent, dermatologist-recommended skincare routine when targeting blackheads. “Find a skincare regimen that you can use on a consistent basis. This will not only help improve your acne but help maintain the skin barrier,“ he advises.
- For acne-prone skin with visible blackheads, we recommend CeraVe Acne Control Cleanser. This acne face wash with 2% salicylic acid effectively removes dirt and oil while helping to clear acne, reduce blackheads, and improve the appearance of pores. It’s formulated to maintain the skin’s protective barrier and features three essential ceramides, niacinamide, and hectorite clay.
- For an acne treatment gel, try CeraVe Acne Control Gel. This hydrating daily acne treatment clears acne and helps prevent new breakouts from forming. Featuring 2% salicylic acid, it offers gentle exfoliation that can help improve the appearance of visible pores.
Myth #3: “Tanning helps clear my acne.”
The sun’s harmful rays are damaging to your skin, which is why sun protection is an essential part of any skincare routine. “Sunlight is not the treatment of choice for acne because of the damage that can occur over the longer term,“ says Dr. Lain. Plus, tanning can also dry out your skin, which may cause your body’s sebaceous glands to overcompensate by producing more oil—potentially triggering new acne breakouts.
“I think what’s more important and more effective in treating acne is utilizing a skincare regimen that’s gentle enough to be used on a daily basis, because as we know, consistent use leads to the best results,“ says Dr. Lain. “Included in that skincare regimen should be a daily facial moisturizer with at least an SPF of 30 so that you can enjoy the sun without experiencing the bad effects.“ Learn more about sun protection and the best sunscreens for acne-prone skin from board-certified dermatologist Dr. Sejal Shah in our guide to mineral vs. chemical sunscreens.
Note: Broad-spectrum sunscreen is especially important when using certain acne treatments, as some active ingredients can make your skin more sensitive to the sun’s UV rays, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.2 Examples of ingredients that may increase photosensitivity include retinol, benzoyl peroxide, and glycolic acid.
Myth #4: “My acne is cured. I don’t need a regimen anymore.”
The last acne myth that Dr. Lain hopes to debunk is that you don’t need to worry about proper skincare once your breakouts are under control. “It’s not about curing acne, it’s about controlling acne, and the best way to control acne is by using a regimen that you can use on a daily basis,” says Dr. Lain. “Once your acne is controlled, it’s important to continue using that regimen to prevent future breakouts.”
Acne and the skin barrier
A consistent skincare regimen is also essential because, according to Dr. Lain, “one of the reasons that you [may] have acne is because of an impaired skin barrier.” According to research, people with acne may have a deficiency in ceramides—the skin’s lipids that help form the protective skin barrier.3 This, in turn, may contribute to signs of acne, although early studies are still ongoing. “That’s why I recommend CeraVe’s line of products to most of my patients,” says Dr. Lain. "These products include three essential ceramides, which are so important for maintaining and restoring the skin barrier.”
CeraVe’s range of products for acne-prone skin include lightweight, fragrance-free, and non-comedogenic options with ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and three essential ceramides to help you achieve your clear skin goals. But remember: Since acne may be the result of an impaired skin barrier, it should always be assessed by a board-certified acne dermatologist, who can recommend the ideal regimen for your skin.
Next, discover more facts about acne and explore dermatologist-recommended acne products for blemish-prone skin in 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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