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Acne myths debunked: What really causes breakouts?

Acne myths debunked: What really causes breakouts?

For countless individuals, acne is more than just an occasional pimple. It’s a daily challenge and understanding what causes acne? can be just as perplexing. Popular culture bombards us with numerous myths, so let’s sift through the fiction and uncover the truths.

Myth vs. Reality: The true story behind acne

The chocolate and pizza blame game

"Eat less chocolate, and you’ll have clear skin." Most of us have heard this. But is that chocolate bar really the villain? Scientifically, no direct link connects your favourite treats like chocolates or pizza to acne. However, maintaining a balanced diet is always a smart choice for overall health.

Cleanliness overdrive

It’s a common belief: the more you wash your face, the clearer it will be. Unfortunately, this isn’t entirely accurate. Over-cleansing can strip your skin of essential oils, causing it to produce even more oil to compensate. This can result in – you guessed it – more acne. Twice a day, with a gentle cleanser, is your best bet.

Sun as a remedy?

Many think a good tan can mask or even cure acne. While a sun-kissed glow might make pimples less visible for a time, UV rays can damage your skin, causing redness, sensitivity, and, over time, signs of premature aging. Using a good sunscreen is always recommended.
Protecting your skin from the sun is crucial, especially if you’re using acne medications or treatments that can make your skin more sensitive to UV radiation. Sun exposure can worsen acne scars and hyperpigmentation.

Makeup: friend or foe?

Blaming breakouts on makeup is common. But not all makeup causes acne. The secret? Choose wisely. Opt for "non-comedogenic" products that won’t clog pores. And regardless of how tired you are, remove makeup before sleeping. Your skin needs to breathe.

Adults don’t get pimples

Not true. Surveys have found that significant numbers of adults are still getting acne into their 30s, 40s, and even 50s.

Is it safe to pop your pimples?

Popping pimples is generally not recommended. When you squeeze a pimple, it can lead to inflammation and potentially introduce more bacteria to the affected area. Moreover, this practice can result in acne scars, which may be permanent and challenging to fade."

Toothpaste can clear acne

Toothpaste can contain ingredients like menthol, fluoride, and other chemicals that are meant for cleaning teeth and can be harsh on the skin. Applying toothpaste to your skin can lead to irritation, redness, and potentially make the acne worse.

Exfoliate as much as possible

While exfoliation can be beneficial in managing acne, it should be done in moderation and with the right products. Over-exfoliating or using harsh products can do more harm than good.

Only those with oily skin get acne

No, it is not true that only people with oily skin will get acne. Acne is a common skin condition that can affect people with various skin types, including those with oily, combination, dry, or sensitive skin.

Acne will go away; no need for treatment?

Acne can vary in severity, and while some cases of mild acne may resolve on their own without treatment, it is not always true that acne will naturally go away without any need for treatment. The outcome depends on several factors, including the type and severity of acne, an individual’s skin type, genetics, and lifestyle factors.

Don’t wear sunscreen

Wearing sunscreen should not cause acne. In fact, sunscreen is an essential part of skincare and sun protection. However, there are some factors to consider when it comes to sunscreen and acne:

  • Use a non-comedogenic sunscreen that can minimise the risk of clogging pores and causing acne or blackheads.
  • Some individuals may be sensitive to certain sunscreen ingredients. Avoid sunscreens containing those ingredients.
  • Properly remove the sunscreen at the end of the day failing which can lead to the accumulation of sunscreen and other impurities on the skin, potentially contributing to acne.

Getting to the root: What truly causes acne?


Whether you’re a teenager or an adult, hormonal changes can be a primary acne trigger. For women, periods, pregnancy, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can result in breakouts.


Ever noticed pimples popping up during exam time or before a significant event? There’s a connection between stress and acne. Even though stress can’t directly cause acne studies have shown that if you already have acne, stress does make it worse. Relaxation techniques, from meditation to exercise, can help.


While foods like chocolate might not be the direct cause, some studies suggest dairy and high glycaemic foods might worsen acne. It’s always good to monitor how your diet affects your skin.


Some drugs, especially those affecting hormones (drugs containing corticosteroids, testosterone or lithium), can lead to breakouts.  If you’re concerned, consult with your healthcare provider.

How to prevent acne

Skincare ― Use gentle, non-comedogenic products. Cleanse, exfoliate (mildly), moisturise, and use sunscreen.
Avoid touching ― Don’t pop pimples or touch your face often.
Diet ― Limit dairy, sugary, and processed foods. Drink water.
Hair care ― Wash oily hair regularly and be cautious with hair products.
Makeup ― Use non-comedogenic makeup, remove it before bed, and clean brushes.
Manage stress ― Engage in relaxation techniques.
Exercise ― Work out regularly but shower afterward to clear sweat.
Hormones ― Consider birth control or medical treatments if acne is hormonally driven.
Seek medical advice ― If persistent, see a dermatologist.

Acne’s origins are multifaceted. While we’ve debunked some myths, it’s essential to remember that everyone’s skin is unique. What works for one person might not work for another. Being informed and seeking guidance, when necessary, especially from dermatologists, can pave the way to healthier skin. Need help? Get in touch with one of our dermatologists at Acne Express.

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