Children's Health

Don’t Fall Victim To Acne Myths

Adolescent Medicine Expert Shares Insight for Teens and Parents

Nearly eight in 10 teens have acne, and in a culture where teens constantly strive to achieve “the look”, it takes more than staring into the mirror to make pimples disappear. Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital adolescent medicine specialist Lisa Lowery, MD, encourages teens and parents to separate fact from fiction when dealing with troublesome acne.

“Acne is not a fun part of growing up but can often be controlled,” said Dr. Lowery. “It affects more than a teen’s face and can appear on the neck, chest, and back. Choosing the right clothes, including loose-fitting shirts and pants that allow the skin to ‘breathe’, can help teens reduce breakouts.”

Teens and parents may be surprised that some of the things they have heard about acne-like what causes it and how to deal with it-actually are not true. Dr. Lowery clears up seven myths.

Myth: Tanning clears up skin.
Fact: Though a tan may temporarily mask acne, the sun can make the skin dry and irritated, leading to future breakouts. Always protect skin by choosing a sunscreen with at least a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 that says “noncomedogenic” or “nonacnegenic” on the label, which means it won’t clog pores.

Myth: Chocolate and greasy foods cause acne.
Fact: Though eating too many sugary, high-fat foods is not an overall healthy choice, studies have failed to show a link between diet and acne.

Myth: The more you wash your face, the fewer breakouts you’ll have.
Fact: Though washing your face helps to remove dirt and oil from your pores, washing too much can lead to dryness and irritation, causing more breakouts. As a general rule, wash your face twice a day with mild soap and water in a circular motion and gently pat dry.

Myth: Popping pimples will help them go away faster.
Fact: Though popping a pimple may make it seem less noticeable temporarily, popping can cause it to stay around longer. By squeezing a pimple, you can actually push bacteria further into the skin, causing more swelling and redness. If you are really in a panic about a “pre-date” pimple, ask your doctor or dermatologist for help. Sometimes an injection of medication directly into the pimple can reduce the redness and swelling fairly quickly.

Myth: Don’t wear makeup if you want clear skin.
Fact: As long as you choose cosmetics that are “nonacnegenic” or “noncomedogenic,” they shouldn’t cause breakouts. In fact, some concealers contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which help to fight acne.

Myth: Stress causes acne.
Fact: Studies show that though it may worsen existing acne, normal, everyday stress does not cause acne.

Myth: If you keep getting breakouts, it helps to use more acne medication until the breakouts stop.
Fact: Acne medication contains drying agents like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Using too much medication may cause overdrying, leading to irritation and more blemishes. Talk to your doctor if your present routine isn’t working.

“Teens should keep their skin clean and try to learn what works best to minimize their acne breakouts,” added Dr. Lowery. “If normal skin care and over-the-counter acne products do not seem to be controlling breakouts, teens can benefit from visiting a doctor or dermatologist for additional help. No treatment is an overnight success. Even prescribed treatments take weeks or even months to begin working.”

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is West Michigan’s largest children’s hospital, serving children and families throughout a 37-county region. A teaching hospital, it includes more than 150 pediatric specialty physicians uniquely skilled in providing medical and surgical care to children in more than 40 pediatric specialties. The hospital cares for more than 7,600 inpatients and more than 190,000 outpatients annually. Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is committed to caring for children and families with compassion, excellence and innovation. Visit for more information.