Acne Myths

Acne Myths

Lots of kids and teens have to cope with acne. It's a common part of puberty, but adults and preteens get it too. Because it's so common, acne is the subject of much discussion — and many myths. By clearing up some of the common tales about acne, you can help your son or daughter get through it!

Myth: Getting a Tan Helps Clear Up Skin.

Fact: Even though a tan may temporarily cover the redness of acne, there's no evidence that having tanned skin helps to clear up acne. People who tan in the sun or in tanning booths or beds run the risk of developing dry, irritated, or even burned skin. They're also at increased risk of premature aging and developing skin cancer.

Encourage kids to keep skin safe by wearing protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses when outdoors. They should also wear a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (or SPF) of at least 30 that's labeled "noncomedogenic" or "nonacnegenic," which means the product won't clog pores. Discourage the use of tanning beds or booths, even for special occasions such as proms or vacations. Ask your doctor whether a sunless tanning product would be a better alternative.

It's especially important for kids who use prescription acne medications (including oral contraceptives, which are often prescribed to help clear up acne) to stay out of the sun and away from tanning beds. These drugs can make skin extremely sensitive to sunlight and the rays from ultraviolet tanning booths.

Myth: Washing Your Face Often Prevents Breakouts.

Fact: Hygiene isn't related to the development of acne, either. Washing the face each day gets rid of dead skin cells, excess oil, and surface dirt, but too much cleansing or washing too vigorously can lead to dryness and irritation — which can actually make acne worse.

Dermatologists usually recommend gently washing — not scrubbing or rubbing — the face no more than twice a day with a mild cleanser and patting the skin dry. Kids should steer clear of harsh exfoliants or scrubs, which can actually irritate blemishes. In addition, toners containing high concentrations of alcohol can dry out the skin and should be avoided.

Myth: Popping Pimples Makes Them Go Away Faster.

Fact: Though popping a pimple may make it seem less noticeable temporarily, popping can cause the zit to stay around longer. Popping a pimple pushes bacteria from the zit further into the skin, making the area around the acne even more reddened and inflamed. Pimple-popping devices — such as "blackhead extractors" advertised in magazines — aren't any safer. Sometimes, popping a pimple will cause a brown or red mark to form that could last months. Scars, in the form of dents and pits, can last forever.

If your child is bummed because a huge zit arrived just in time for a special event, apply a dab of benzoyl peroxide gel to dry it. A dermatologist may also be able to recommend treatments for a teen with severe scarring.

Myth: For Clear Skin, Don't Wear Makeup or Shave.

Fact: Kids don't have to forego cosmetics as long the products used are labeled noncomedogenic or nonacnegenic, which means they won't cause breakouts. Some concealers now contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which help to fight acne. Tinted acne-fighting creams may also help to fight pimples while hiding them.

However, if any product seems to be irritating the skin or causing breakouts, have your child stop using the product and call your dermatologist.

Cosmetics labeled "organic," "all natural," or those containing herbs have gained popularity, but they may contribute to clogged pores and acne, so it's best for kids who are prone to breakouts to steer clear of them.

Teen boys who have acne and shave can use either safety or electric razors, but should shave lightly around blemishes to avoid nicking the skin and causing irritation and infection.

Myth: Use More Acne Medication to Prevent Breakouts.

Fact: When it comes to over-the-counter acne medication containing active ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, more isn't better. Using too much medication can actually worsen acne because it leads to dryness, irritation, and more blemishes.

But kids can get help for acne. A dermatologist can suggest acne treatments if your child:

Prescription acne medication may take up to 8 weeks to have a noticeable effect, so remind kids to use the medication exactly as directed. If the acne doesn't improve within 6 to 8 weeks, talk to the dermatologist.

Reviewed by: Patrice Hyde, MD
Date reviewed: September 2013





Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.





Bookmark and Share

Related Resources
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Dermatology Provides up-to-date information on the treatment and management of disorders of the skin, hair, and nails.
Related Articles
Word! Acne Acne is the name for those red bumps called pimples that a lot of kids and teens get on their skin.
Acne Myths Acne - also called pimples or zits - is a perfectly normal part of growing up. Learn more in this article for kids.
Myths About Acne You may be surprised that some of the things you've heard about acne - like what causes it and how to deal with it - aren't true.
Taking Care of Your Skin What does your skin ask for in return for all the wonderful things it does? Just a little care and consideration, so learn more about taking care of your skin by reading our article for kids.
Why Do I Get Acne? Almost every teen gets acne at some point. This article addresses common questions and concerns about acne and tells you what you can do about it.
Can I Prevent Acne? Although there is no surefire way to prevent acne, there are several ways to help reduce the number and severity of your breakouts. Read this article to find out more.
Acne If you're almost a teen, chances are pretty good that you have some acne. About 8 in 10 preteens and teens have acne, along with many adults.
Tips for Taking Care of Your Skin Sometimes it may seem like your skin is impossible to manage, especially when you find a huge zit on your nose or a cold sore at the corner of your mouth. Here are ways to prevent and treat common skin problems.
Everything You Wanted to Know About Puberty Voice cracking? Clothes don't fit? Puberty can be a confusing time, but learning about it doesn't have to be. Read all about it.
Talking to Your Child About Puberty Talking to kids about puberty is an important job for parents, especially because kids often hear about sex and relationships from unreliable sources. Here are some tips.
How Can I Get Rid of My Acne Marks? Find out what the experts have to say.
Can Acne Scars Be Removed? Scars from acne can seem like double punishment - first you had to suffer through the pimples, now you have marks to remind you. Is there anything you can do?
All About Puberty Voice cracking? Clothes don't fit? Puberty can be a confusing time, but learning about it doesn't have to be. Read all about it in this article for kids.
Skin, Hair, and Nails Our skin protects the network of tissues, muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels, and everything else inside our bodies. Hair and nails are actually modified types of skin.
Hygiene Basics Puberty causes all kinds of changes in your body - and some may not make you feel very desirable. Read this article for information on dealing with greasy hair, perspiration, and body hair.
Will Toothpaste Make a Pimple Go Away? Some people say toothpaste will clear up a pimple. Does it work or will it make the pimple worse? Let's find out.
Understanding Puberty Puberty was awkward enough when you were the one going through it. So how can you help your kids through all the changes?
iGrow iGrow
Sign up for our parent enewsletter