4 acne myths

The number one reason your acne isn’t disappearing? You believe some old acne myths that are sabotaging all your efforts. It’s not your fault. Acne is a very common condition that affects pretty much everyone at some point or other. Yet, there’s so much misinformation about how to get rid of it. Everyone recommends a different solution – and most of them are harsh AF, irritating as hell, and make your skin worse instead of better (did you know that drying out skin makes acne come back with a vengeance? *sighs*)

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 6 acne myths you need to stop believing right now, so you can finally treat acne the right way and get your clear skin back:

Acne Myth #1: Washing Your Face Often Prevents Breakouts

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.


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:

  • CeraVe Foaming Cleanser ($14.99): A little stronger than all the other cleansers in this list, it effortlessly removes dirt, excess oil and makeup without drying out or irritating skin (unless it’s sensitive). Available at Beauty BayBootsSephora, and Ulta
  • Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Cleanser ($11.00): A gentle, no-frills morning cleanser that gets the job done without irritating skin. Plus, it has a skin-friendly pH that doesn’t destroy the skin’s protective barrier. Available at Beauty BayBootsSephoraStylevanaUlta, and Yes Style
  • Paula’s Choice Perfectly Balanced Foaming Cleanser ($22.00): A cream-to-foam formula that uses a mix of surfactants and a few drops of oil to remove every last trace of makeup, dirt, and excess oil from the skin. Available at DermstorePaula’s ChoiceSephora, and SpaceNK

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

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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.


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. Avoid anything high in:

  • Anything with Isopropyl in the name (like Isopropyl Palmitate)
  • Anything with Myristate in the name (like Isopropyl Myristate)
  • Natural butters
  • Natural oils

Instead, opt for mattifying and gel products over moisturising creams. They help keep the shine at bay and help you put your best face forward.

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… and 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 you 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.


Wear sunscreen every day. First off, it protects your skin from UV damage and the inflammation it causes. Inflammation is the main cause of cancer, so you need to tone that down ASAP or even the best acne medications won’t work. And while we’re on the subject, 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.

Best Picks:

  • EltaMD UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 47 ($25.00): This mineral sunscreen has a silky, lightweight texture that sinks in quickly without turning your skin into a greasy mess. Plus it’s water-resistant. The catch? It does leave a slight white cast on the skin. Available at Dermstore and Walmart
  • Paula’s Choice Super-Light Wrinkle Defense SPF 30 ($33.00): My fave sunscreen, it sinks in quickly without leaving a greasy residue behind. Plus, it’s tinted, so no white cast either. The icing on the cake? This baby is loaded with antioxidants that helps you slow down premature aging. Available at DermstoreSephoraNordstrom and Paula’s Choice
  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 60 ($19.99): The creamy texture dries down to a matte finish quickly and is enriched with oil-absorbents to soak up the excess oil on your skin. It can withstand heat and humidity better than most sunscreens and works well even in water for up to 80 minutes. Available at Blue MercuryDermstore and Ulta

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. I know you hate seeing that big zit on your face and that seeing all that gunk ooze out gives you a weird sense of satisfaction. But this is a case where instant satisfaction leads to long-term issues.

When you pop a pimple, 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. Not worth it, is it?


Try a spot treatment with benzoyl peroxide or sulfur. They have antibacterial and peeling properties that kill acne bacteria and exfoliate skin to get rid of pimples faster.

Best Picks: 

  • Epionce Purifying Spot Gel Blemish Clearing Tx ($42.00): The most effective spot treatment I’ve found, it massively reduced my pimple in one day and by day 3, it was gone. Available at Dermstore.
  • Mario Badescu Drying Mask ($18.00): A clay mask enriched with sulfur to soak up excess oil and dry out pimples. It has cucumber extract to soothe irritations too. Available at Beauty BayCult Beauty, and Ulta
  • Peter Thomas Roth Therapeutic Sulfur Masque ($52.00): A 10% sulfur mask enriched with oil-absorbing clays and soothing aloe vera to get rid of pimples fast. Available at DermstorePeter Thomas RothRevolve, and Ulta

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

Acne Myth #5: Having Acne = Bad Hygiene

This is one of those acne myths that just won’t die – and it’s NOT true. Having acne doesn’t mean that you’re dirty or have bad hygiene. Quite the opposite. According to dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto, “data shows that those who have acne tend to over-cleanse their skin to reduce oil production.” And that’s not good either. Over-cleansing dries out skin – triggering your body to produce more sebum (its natural moisturiser) to restore the balance!

Cleansing too often also won’t get rid of acne because dirt is not what causes acne! Acne forms when excess sebum gets stuck in your pores. There, it mixes with dead skin cells, forming a mixture acne bacteria love to feed on. This usually happens when your hormones go into overdrive and trigger the production of too much sebum. So addressing that and exfoliating often to keep your pores clear from clogs is what will make your acne go away.


Cleanse skin twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening. Every other night, exfoliate with salicylic acid. It gets inside your pores, removing everything that’s clogging them up and speeding up acne recovery.

Best Picks:

  • Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($90.00): Don’t let the name fool you. This exfoliant has both salicylic acid to unclog pores and glycolic acid to fade away the dark spots pimples sometimes leave behind. Available at Cult BeautySephora and SpaceNK.
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid ($29.00): The cult exfoliant from the brand, it unlclogs pores and treats blackheads and acne. The texture’s a little sticky, but if you can take that, this is one of the best salicylic acid exfoliants out there. Available at Cult BeautyDermstoreNet-A-PorterPaula’s ChoiceSephora, and SpaceNK.
  • The Inkey List Beta Hydroxy Acid (£9.99): A simple, no-frills salicylic acid exfoliant for people on a budget. Available at Cult Beauty and Sephora.

Acne Myth #6: You Need To Dry Out Your Skin To Get Rid Of Acne

This is the number one mistake I see women make. They cleanse your face three times a day, exfoliate every night, and use every spot treatment they can think of in an effort to dry out skin and make breakouts go away faster. Unfortunately, this is a recipe for MORE acne, NOT less.

“Both oil and water are important for the integrity of the skin barrier,” says Dr. Mahto. Sebum is essentially your skin’s natural moisturiser. You want to remove the excess, but when you remove too much, your skin protective barrier gets damaged. Moisture evaporates out of your skin and bacteria get in, leading to all kinds of problems – including inflammation (one of the main causes of acne!).


“Acne-prone skin absolutely does still need moisturiser — as well as sunscreen — in the same way that non acne-prone skin would,” says Dr. Mahto. The trick is to use an oil-free moisturisers with hyaluronic acid and ceramides that hydrate your skin without adding more grease. This way, your skin has all the moisture it needs and acne no extra oil to feed on. Win win.

Best Picks:

  • Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Gel ($52.00): This lightweight, oil-free serum/gel moisturiser deeply moisturizes skin without adding more oil to it. It also has a few antioxidants to keep those pesky premature wrinkles at bay. Available at Cult Beauty, Sephora and SpaceNK.
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Invisible Finish Moisture Gel ($29.00): Think of it as a one-stop shop for everything oily skin needs. Humectants (moisture magnets that attract water from the air into the skin) to hydrate skin, antioxidants to fight wrinkles and anti-irritants to soothe skin. Available at DermstoreNordstrom and Paula’s Choice.
  • The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA (£4.99): A basic, no frills moisturiser for oily skin that makes your complexion softer and smoother for hours. Plus, the texture is lightweight and doesn’t leave a sticky residue behind. Available at Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty and Feel Unique.

The Bottom Line

If you’ve been falling for these acne myths, don’t feel bad. I made some of these mistakes too. With so many misconceptions out there (anyone can write anything on the internet), it’s hard to know what to believe. But now you know the truth, you can course correct and take proper care of your skin, so you can finally give acne the boot.