Tuesday, August 31, 2010

6 Myths and Facts about Acne and Skincare

My super amazing "blog twin" Carly posted a great article on adult acne. I suggest you read it here.

Carly and I are both in our late 20s, both got married in June 2009, and have (in my opinion) very similar personalities and opinions. In spite of the fact we've never met! We've heard it all. (Or at least I have!) We're supposed to be over acne by now. Acne's caused by poor eating. Just wash your wash more often. Use more expensive products. Get facials regualarly.

Hmm ...

When it comes to skin care, I defer to Paula Begoun. She's the
Cosmetics Cop. I discovered one of her books about 6 years ago when I got Don't Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me. This book talks about common ingredients in skin care and make-up, what works, what to avoid, and then proceeds to review every. single. product. on the market at the time of printing of the book. She reviews Dove, Olay, Revlon, St. Ives, Perricone MD, Boots, Clinique, Neutrogena, Lancome, Occitane, Quo, brands I've never heard of and brands I can't afford. On her website, she posts just some of the reviews, but basically everything is reviewed in her book.

I love her website and I subscribe to her free emails. Yes, she sells her own products, which she admits can appear as a conflict of interest. But she also reviews other products, citing peer-reviewed scientific literature for the basis of the reviews. (We science, university types start to drool and get excited when we hear "peer-reviewed".) She has pages devoted to topics (like
acne and sun exposure) where she talks about that concern, how to treat it, and good products (from the drug store!) to use.

In response to Carly's post on acne, I wrote two very long comments. I thought I'd add more here. This is taken (without permission - sorry Ms. Begoun) from Paula Begoun's website.

6 Myths about Acne

Myth #1: You should choose skin-care products based on your age.

Fact: Many products on the market claim to be designed for a specific age group, especially for "mature" women; mature usually refers to women over 50. Before you buy into any of these arbitrary age divisions, ask yourself why the over-50 group is always lumped together? According to this logic, someone who is 45 shouldn't be using the same products as someone who is 50 (only 5 years older), but someone who is 80 should be using the same products as someone who is 50? To clear up the confusion what you need to know is that skin has different needs based on skin type, not based on age. Your skin-care routine depends on how dry, sun-damaged, oily, sensitive, thin, blemished, or normal your skin is, all of which have nothing to do with age. Then there are the issues of skin conditions such as rosacea, psoriasis, allergies, and other skin disorders, which again, have nothing to do with age. What everyone needs to do is protect the outer barrier of their skin in exactly the same way: avoid unnecessary direct sun exposure (sun protection!), don't smoke, don't irritate your skin, and do use state-of-the-art skin-care products loaded with antioxidants and skin-identical ingredients (Sources: International Journal of Cosmetic Science, October 2007, pages 409-410; and Cutaneous and Ocular Toxicology, April 2007, pages 343-357).

Myth #2: Products labeled as "hypoallergenic" are better for sensitive skin. And “Dermatologist tested” means it’s safe.

Fact: "Hypoallergenic" is little more than a nonsense word. It is nothing more than an advertising contrivance in the world of cosmetics meant to imply that a product is unlikely or less likely to cause allergic reactions and therefore is better for sensitive or problem skin. (Sources: www.fda.gov; and Ostomy and Wound Management, March 2003, pages 20 -21).

Fact: You absolutely should not rely on the "dermatologist tested" claim any more than you should rely on the appearance of a doctor's name on a product's label to indicate you are getting a superior (or "medical-grade") formulation.

Myth #3: Women outgrow acne; you're not supposed to break out once you reach your 20s and beyond!

Fact: If only that were true, my skin-care struggles in life would have been very different. In fact, women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and even 50s can have acne just like teenagers, and the treatment principles remain the same. Not everyone who has acne as a teenager will grow out of it, and even if you had clear skin as a teenager, there's no guarantee that you won't get acne later in life, perhaps during menopause. You can blame this often-maddening inconsistency on hormones! What is true is that men can outgrow acne, because after puberty men's hormone levels level out, while women's hormone levels fluctuate throughout their lifetime, which is why many women experience breakouts around their menstrual cycle (Sources: International Journal of Cosmetic Science, June 2004, pages 129-138; American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, May 2006, pages 281-290; International Journal of Dermatology, November 2007, pages 1188-1191).

Myth #4: Acne is caused by eating the wrong foods.

Fact: This is both true and false. The traditional foods thought to cause acne, such as chocolate and greasy foods, have no effect on acne, and there is no research indicating otherwise. However, there is the potential that individual dietary allergic reactions can trigger acne, such as eating foods that contain iodine, like shellfish, although there is an ongoing controversy about that. A bit more conclusive is new research showing that milk, especially skim milk, can increase the risk of acne. The same may be true for a diet high in carbohydrates; a high glycemic load can increase breakouts, while a low glycemic load can reduce their occurrence. Experimenting for a few months to see which of these food groups either hurt or help your skin is worth the effort (Sources: Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, June 2008, pages 718-726; Dermatologic Therapy, March-April 2008, pages 86-95; Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, May 2008, pages 787-793; and Dermatology Online Journal, May 30, 2006).

Myth #5: If you clean your face better you can clear up your acne.

Over-cleaning your face can actually make matters worse. Acne is caused primarily by hormonal fluctuations that affect the oil gland, creating an environment where acne-causing bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes) can flourish. Don't confuse scrubbing or "deep cleaning" with helping acne, because it absolutely doesn't. Over-cleansing your face triggers inflammation that actually makes acne worse. What really helps breakouts is using a gentle cleanser so you don't damage your skin's outer barrier or create inflammation (both of which hinder your skin's ability to heal and fight bacteria) and using gentle exfoliation. An effective exfoliating product that contains salicylic acid or glycolic acid can make all the difference in reducing acne (Sources: Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology Venereology, May 2008, pages 629 -631; Expert Opinion in Pharmacotherapy, April 2008, pages 955-971; Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, March 2007, pages 59-65; Cutis, July 2006, Supplemental, pages 34-40; and Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, June 2006, pages 296-302).

Myth #6: Stress causes acne

Generally, it is believed that stress can trigger acne, but no one is exactly sure how that works, and there is conflicting research. While it never hurts to reduce angst and worry in your life, stress as a causative factor for acne is hard to pinpoint. Plus, the way to treat acne doesn't change because of the stressors in your life (Sources: European Journal of Dermatology, July-August, pages 412-415; International Journal of Cosmetic Science, June 2004, pages 129-138; Archives of Dermatologic Research, July 2008, pages 311-316; and American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, May 2006, pages 281-290).

On Friday, I will post what I use as well as discuss some of Paula Begoun's most highly recommended products. Just for fun.

Oh, and I don't use Paula Begoun's products. Over the border shipping from the U.S. is a hastle. But that's okay because she reviews other products. Typically, I try to choose products that get her "happy face" along with a "check mark", indicating the product is the best you can get.


  1. swallow's nest in an edible gel form is supposed be good for the skin too. it gives that clear and pasty skin that we all love.

    it's mad expensive. my brother and i bought some for my mom for mother's day. it was like 400 bucks for like a 6-8 oz jar. Luckily we finally found the one of popular brand online (hongkong-bird-nest.50webs.com/index_e.htm and http://www.euyansang.com/)

    dad said it's really popular in indonesia. that a guy has to climb a high mountain to get the nest. that's why it's so expensive.

    i mean why doesn't the dude just look for the fabled korean swallow king, capture it and let it lay eggs full of gold! then, he wouldn't have to work so hard and climb them high mountains.

  2. Thanks for this. I never had acne as a teen, I started having it on this one spot (my chin) in my mid-twenties. I still have it. It's largely hormonal in my case. For instance, at the beginning of my pregnancy, I had crazy breakouts! Now that my hormones have somewhat stabilized, I have gorgeous skin, which I never do usually. We'll see after I give birth (that's another crazy hormonal phase).

    What worked best for me is starting to use the Clinique 3-step program twice a day. I really saw a difference. Still do 10 years later.

  3. Rachel - that product is way too expensive for me to even look up those links, plus I couldn't find any literature on it (other than sales websites). But I like your idea of captured the bird and letting it lay its eggs. You should go into business with that idea. (But sorry, I won't be buying that product from you - too expensive!)

    Marie-Eve, I'm going to have to look into something new. I might look into Clinique. :) I'm getting painful pimples beneath the skin so what had been working for me is clearly not working anymore.

  4. Thanks for sharing this! I'll be off to check out her site. Cuz yeah, I have some "age spots" - which I knew were sun related. So I avoid the sun now and wear my SPF.
    I am also having acne issues now. It all started when I went off the pill. My skin was perfect before, and now it's like I'm 13. Then, I tried that Miracle Bar, and that was really terrible on my skin. Went to a dermatologist who gave me this cream, and it definitely helps a lot, but I still have some issues. I'm thinking I may try that Proactiv.