5 Common Acne Myths, Debunked

5 Common Acne Myths, Debunked

Skincare advice you can actually trust.

There’s never been a time where we’ve had more access to skincare info than right now. With so much available at our fingertips at any given time — whether you get your intel from Instagram, TikTok, magazines, or good ol’ fashioned advice from friends — it can be hard to differentiate between what’s true and what isn’t. That’s where we come in.

We chatted with Dr. Robin Schaffran, BalmLabs' Chief Dermatologist, to learn which common acne beliefs are actually true and which are myths that have gone on for far too long.

“If my skincare products sting or burn, that means they're working.”

“This is false—good skincare products, or at least the right skincare products for you, should not burn or sting,” says Dr. Schaffran. “If they do, it likely means they’re irritating your skin and will ultimately lead to rashes.” And who wants to trade their pimples for rashy, irritated skin?

“It's important to switch up my routine every few months so my skin doesn’t ‘get used to’ certain products.”

This one is tricky but is mostly false. “While it is true that sometimes you need to switch up your routine, it’s often because your skin changes,” says Dr. Schaffran. Things like worsening acne, changes in the environment, hormonal changes and stress contribute to changing acne, of course. “But it’s not usually because your products have stopped working,” says Dr. Schaffran. “They are likely still working–just not enough to control the acne as they did before.” So, if you notice your favorite products aren’t as effective as they used to be, ask yourself what other factors in your life have changed and go from there. You may need to incorporate new products and ingredients to address the changes in your skin.

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“Acne is just a teen problem.”

We could go on and on about this until we’re blue in the face, but instead, we’ll leave you with a resounding “false!” and suggest some helpful resources instead. Not only is adult acne majorly on the rise (a BalmLabs survey revealed that 1 in 3 women will deal with acne in their adult life) due to a perfect combination of raging hormones (ugh) and chronic stress (ughhh), but it should actually be treated differently than teenage acne.

“Drinking water leads to clear skin.”

Ah, an oldie but a goodie. An all-too-common misconception is that there’s a direct correlation between drinking water and having clear skin, but it’s not that simple. Staying hydrated has been proven to be beneficial in maintaining skin’s hydration levels, which positively impacts “normal skin physiology, as expressed by its hydration,” according to one study. Still, Dr. Schaffran suggests that “while drinking water is very good for your health, it does not seem to make a difference with regards to acne. I have many patients with acne who drink tons of water and other patients with beautiful skin who hardly drink any water.” So drink that water, but not because you believe that drinking water will end your breakouts.

“If I eat chocolate, I’ll break out.”

Good news: This one’s false! Mostly. Er, probably. Okay, so the science isn’t exactly settled on this one, but most studies done on the issue don’t point to a direct link between chocolate and acne. That being said, “the connection is much more likely between sugar and acne,” says Dr. Schaffran. Oh, and stress might have something to do with it, too. “Stress is linked to worsening acne breakouts,” says Dr. Schaffran. “Many people find themselves eating more chocolate (and other junk food) during times of stress, so it’s also highly probable that the connection we think is between the chocolate and the acne is more likely related to the stress and acne.” See, we told you it’s complicated. For now, just go ahead and eat the chocolate.

“Sunlight can treat acne.”

“This is actually true,” says Dr. Schaffran. “Ultraviolet light is anti-inflammatory, so it can definitely help improve acne, which is why during summertime, many people notice that their skin clears up.” Nonetheless, we don’t recommend using UV light/sunlight as an acne treatment per se because UV light is also a known carcinogen, which increases the risk for skin cancer and accelerates skin aging. Still want to catch some rays? Read up on our tips for finding a great SPF.