4 Acne Myths Busted!

by Gio
4 acne myths

The number one reason your acne isn’t disappearing?

You’re doing something to sabotage recovery. It’s not your fault. All the acne myths out there make it impossible to figure out what works from what doesn’t. Time to bust them, don’t you think?

So, here goes 4 acne myths and the truth about them:

Want a cheap skincare routine for acne-prone skin that really works? Subscribe to the newsletter below to receive “The Ordinary Acne Skincare Routine” cheatsheet:

Acne Myth #1: Washing your face often prevents breakouts

If only it were that easy! Contract to popular opinion, dirt doesn’t give you acne.

Washing your face 10 times a day to make it squeaky clean won’t make your acne go away. It’ll just irritate your skin and inflame your acne even more. Ouch!

Here’s the deal: your skin is covered by an acid mantle that’s NOT bacteria-friendly. When you raise the ph up several notches – this happens EVERY time you wash your face with a high pH cleanser or even water alone – you’re weakening the acid mantle.

Now that’s broken down, P.Acnes (the bacteria that causes acne) proliferates. Cue acne galore. But switch to a low pH cleanser that keeps your acid mantle intact and –  studies show –  the amount of P. Acnes bacteria on your skin falls down significantly.

In other words, an acidic cleanser makes your skin inhospitable to P. Acnes and other bacteria.

What to do instead: wash your face twice a day, morning and evening, with a gentle, ph-balanced cleanser that removes all dirt and impurities without drying out your skin.

Best picks:

  • Corsx low PH Good Morning Gel Cleanser ($11.00): pH 5.5. Available at Sokoglam and YesStyle.
  • Paula’s Choice Moisture Boost Cleanser One Step Face Cleanser ($18.00): pH 5.5. Available at Paula’s Choice.
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Reducing Cleanser ($18.00): pH 5.5. Available at Nordstrom and Paula’s Choice. 

Related: Why You Should Switch To A Low pH Cleanser To Clear Your Acne

Acne Myth 2: If you have acne, you can’t wear makeup

Who came up with this nonsense? Of course, you can wear makeup! And nope, I’m not talking just about those thick, full-coverage foundations you use to cover your acne up.

You can wear any makeup product you want – as long as it does NOT contain any comedogenic ingredients. You can find the full list here.

Little disclaimer: comedogenic ingredients aren’t a problem for everyone. If you have oily skin, you can slather your face in coconut oil and not get a simple pimple.

Oily skin isn’t that lucky. Your skin is already producing way more oil than it needs. So when you’re using makeup high in oils and other occlusives, you’re clogging your pores. And clogged pores ALWAYS lead to acne.

What to do instead: use non-comedogenic makeup products. But, don’t trust the labels. Take a look at those boring ingredient lists to make sure it doesn’t contain anything bad for you.

Related: What Makeup Ingredients Give You Pimples?

Acne Myth #3: Tanning helps heal acne

Don’t use acne as an excuse to get tanned!

Sure, a tan’ll cover up the redness… ad dry out your skin, inflame it and give you wrinkles and dark spots. And don’t get me started on skin cancer.

Here’s what no one tells you about a tan: that sun kissed glow is a sign of sun damage. Your tan is your body’s self-defence mechanism.

When your skin darkens, it’s your body’s way of telling that UV rays are damaging it. Destroying your collagen. Generating free radicals. Killing cellular DNA. 

Even if tanning did help heal acne, why would you want to cause so much damage to your skin? Especially, when there are so many acne treatments that kick acne in the butt without destroying your skin. Makes no sense.

What to do instead: wear sunscreen every day. Those acne medications often make skin more susceptible to the sun, so this ain’t optional. And, if you really must, get your tan from a bottle.

Related: What Are The Best Sunscreens For Oily Skin?

Acne Myth #4: Popping pimples is the best way to get rid of them

No! No! No! Popping a pimple is NEVER a good idea.

You’re just spreading bacteria all around your skin, slowing down the healing process and possibly even causing scars. And those are way harder to treat than a pimple.

What to do instead: try a spot treatment with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. They’ll get rid of the pimple for you.

Best picks: 

  • Paula’s Choice Clear Regular Strength Daily Skin Clearing Treatment with 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide ($18.00): available at Dermstore and Paula’s Choice.
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% Bha Liquid ($29.00): salicylic acid + green tea. Available at Nordstrom and Feel Unique.

Related: Benzoyl Peroxide VS Salicylic Acid: Which One Is Best To Treat Acne?

Looking for an affordable skincare routine that can get rid of acne once and for all? Click on the image below to subscribe to my newsletter and receive The Ordinary Acne Skincare Routine Cheatsheet:

get the ordinary acne routine cheatsheet

Have you fallen for these acne myths? Share your thoughts in the comments below.



Jennifer Gibson November 22, 2011 - 4:41 pm

Hello, I am an aesthetician and have been in practice for over twenty years and as a young lady I suffered with cystic acne. I love working with people of all ages and especially with clients who have acne. I am also a very realistic aesthetician and will only inform my clients with real and accurate information am not interested in just selling a product. I have found most all people really do want the bare facts and real answers to their questions. I as an aesthetician also know people who have acne or just high amounts of comodones are going to try to extract them so instead of telling someone to never pop a pimple I would much rather teach them how to do it the correct way. I do recommend they find a aesthetician who can perform the extractions for them but we all know what happens when you wake up and look in the mirror and find a large pimple that has developed over night. So I applaud you for position myth busters which I agree are most all true .

beautifulwithbrains November 22, 2011 - 7:29 pm

Jennifer, hi and thank you for your comments. Your clients are lucky to have an aesthetician like you who gives them honest information instead than saying anything just to sell them products. You’re also right that a lot of people will try to pop their pimples even if they know it’s wrong and in that case, it’s best to teach how to do them properly or tell them to have it done professionally to limit the damage.

Stavroula @drugstoreandbargainlover November 23, 2011 - 7:16 pm

Eating chocolate will cause acne.. If that was true, I should be covered in pimples LOL! x

beautifulwithbrains November 23, 2011 - 7:30 pm

Stavroula, you and me both! So glad chocolate doesn’t acne lol.

Ningrum December 1, 2011 - 1:13 pm

Wow, so helpful! 😀 Thank you so much. 🙂

beautifulwithbrains December 1, 2011 - 7:43 pm

Ningrum, you’re welcome. I’m glad you find the post helpful. 🙂

Janessa November 7, 2012 - 3:36 am

I have one!: Acne is for adolescents.

beautifulwithbrains November 7, 2012 - 6:18 am

Janessa, I agree, that’s so not true. Unfortunately anyone, at any age, can get acne.

ADINA August 20, 2013 - 11:04 am

do you have a recommendation regarding a foundation for acne skin? i am currently on accutane and i wouldn’t want to mess my treatment up by using the wrong products. thanks

beautifulwithbrains August 24, 2013 - 7:50 pm

Adina, have you tried Clinique Stay Matte Oil-Free Makeup? That’s a good foundation for people suffering from acne.

Seppo April 4, 2014 - 12:52 pm

I’m horribly late to the party but hopefully this helps other late arrivals 🙂

I wanted to point out that comedogenic ingredients aren’t necessarily a problem for acne-prone skin. I know that sounds like a contradiction but the whole comedogenicity concept is somewhat dubious. One problem with it is that the tests use 100% concentrations whereas in products the ingredients are present in much smaller concentrations. It’s a matter of dosages.

Another point is that tests often use exaggerated conditions to increase skin penetration. This of course exaggerates also the comedogenicity of the ingredient.

Unfortunately, there’s very little actual research on this. In 2005 Greek researchers tested 10 different products containing known comedogenic ingredients in 6 people prone to back acne. They showed that the products didn’t cause anymore acne than known noncomedogenic ingredients. In comparison known comedogenic ingredients, when applied directly on the skin, caused 3 to 5 times more pimples.

In short, I wouldn’t worry too much about if your favorite product contains comedogenic ingredients.

Gio April 4, 2014 - 8:30 pm

Seppo, welcome to the party! Better late than never. 😉

Thank you for your comment. I had read something about the unreliability of comedogenic tests because they were made on animals, and so the results could not be applied to humans, but I wasn’t aware of the Greek study. Thanks for sharing that. Their findings are very interesting indeed.

You’re right, whether an ingredient causes breakouts or not depends on so many factors, and it’s possible that some of those considered comedogenic aren’t at all. But I also think that some of them could be problematic. Isopropyl Palmitate, for instance, is considered comedogenic. The studies that found it to be so may be flawed, but every time I use a cream with a high amount of it, pimples pop up everywhere on my face. And I don’t even have acne-prone skin! If it’s pretty low on the ingredient list, though, it’s usually fine, so dosage certainly matters. Thanks for pointing that out.

I agree that we shouldn’t worry too much about comedogenic ingredients, and most of them, in the way they are used in cosmetics, are probably fine and don’t cause any problems at all. But if your skin reacts badly to a product, I think it can be useful to know what ingredients have been found, even by studies that aren’t 100% reliable, comedogenic. It gives an indication of what you should avoid. Hopefully, further, better conducted studies will be done in the future, so we’ll know for certain what’s comedogenic and what’s not.

Seppo April 5, 2014 - 5:06 am

I’m not sure how much you know about comedogenicity testing but some tests are also done on humans. I think cosmetic companies are moving away from animal testing, 1) because it just sounds bad and 2) because the data from animal testing is not very applicable to humans. I recently read a paper that reviewed different acne model (like the rabbit ear test). It concluded that most of them are horribly unreliable and that the rabbit ear testing can only tell if an ingredient is NOT comedogenic.

I think I didn’t express myself properly in the earlier comment. My point was not to completely dismiss the comedogenicity concept. My rule of thumb is that if you find strongly comedogenic ingredients (4 or 5 on the scale of 1 to 5) at the beginning of the ingredients list then it’s a potential concern. And of course, if through your own experience you find that some ingredients irritate your skin, then of course those should be avoided.

Some beauty and acne gurus just take the whole comedogenicity concept to ridiculous extremes. They encourage people to play acne detectives and check all the ingredients in a product against a 3 feet long list of comedogenic ingredients. And if they find even one comedogenic ingredient then the product is dismissed. That, to me, is a fool’s errand.

Nice site, btw – even if I’m not exactly part of your target audience 🙂

Gio April 13, 2014 - 11:15 am

Seppo, I’m sorry it took me so much to reply. I’ve been very busy with work lately and I’ve fallen a bit behind with comments.

Now that you mention it, I think the article I’ve read was about the rabbit ear test. And it came to the same conclusion, that it’s not reliable. It’s good that they’re now testing these ingredients on humans, so hopefully that way we’ll know for sure what’s comedogenic, and in what doses.

I completely agree with you there. That definitely is taking things too far. When something is too low on the ingredient list, it’s unlikely to cause problems. I think I didn’t express myself too well in the article either. I guess that in my effort to summarize, I didn’t mention to avoid those ingredients only when they were at the top of the list, so thank you for pointing that out.

And thank you! 🙂

Lima August 7, 2019 - 1:47 am

Hi you guys are so helpful! I am 34 oily/combo skin, pores, and for the last 6months have been having small acne that leaves hyperpigmentation. The acne is on and off but never completely goes away. I have been trying different skincare routine but everyone has different advice. At first I was using too many products and now I narrowed it down. I would love to hear your suggestions.
Morning routine : innisfree toner with 0.6% salicylic
Lactic acid Sunday Riley good genes
Other mornings: Sunday Riley Vit CEO

Night time: youth to the people cleanser or lush herbalism gentle scrub
ordinary nicanamide zinc serum
Other nights: innisfree toner 0.6 salicylic
Lactic acid
Spot treatment Cosrx centilla cream

I use the ordinary salicylic mask twice a week. I use it on the day Iam not using the toner or the lactic acid
And use Indian healing clay mask once a week

Pls let me know if I should be adding something or taking out something!! Thank you !!!

Gio August 8, 2019 - 2:37 pm

Lima, please book a skincare consultation to discuss your skincare routine: https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/skincare-consultation/

becca August 15, 2019 - 11:31 pm

Hi, I am a 17 year old with mild to moderate acne and dry/combination skin. I have recently been using a 10% azelaic acid serum which has helped my acne but I am wanting to treat some hyperpigmentation from acne scarring. I was wondering if I was able to use a vitamin c serum alongside the azelaic acid or would it interfere and cause irritation. If I can use them both is it ok to use them in succession or when would the best time be to use these products in my routine? Thank you

Gio September 14, 2019 - 12:36 pm

Becca, use Vitamin C in the morning and azelaic acid at night.

skincareLover May 23, 2020 - 1:09 am

The acid mantle theory about the bacteria is also busted

Comments are closed.