Common Acne Misconceptions

At Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands, we are particularly interested in the treatment of acne. Because of this, we have organized our focus on acne into the Acne Institute of Omaha.

In addition to state-of-the-art patient care and research, education of patients is the third major facet of the Acne Institute. Our care of acne patients over the last decade, we have identified many different and common acne misconceptions, both in teen and adult sufferers as well as the parents of teen acne patients. In this blog, we want to zero in on and explore some of the more common acne misconceptions.

Common Acne Misconceptions – Setting the Record Straight

Diet and Acne

Often a common acne misconceptions is that dietary factors play a major role. It is common to think that bad dietary choices causes acne, and that eating the right type of diet can make acne clear up. This is false. Though diet likely has a minor role in contributing to worsening acne in some individuals, its exact role remains under scrutiny. Based on our own clinical experience and what we have reviewed in the literature, we generally advise limiting consumption of skim milk and greasy, fried foods (such as fast food).

Sunlight and Tanning Beds

Many of our new acne patients tell us that their acne will improve with exposure to ultraviolet light. They may get the UV light naturally from the sun or via the “fake bake” method (tanning beds). Although there is plenty of evidence that acne in some people will improve with UV light, the extreme hazards of UV light exposure NEVER warrant someone intentionally being exposed to it to make their acne better. The worst immediate danger with UV light is of course sun burn. It is also notable that many over-the-counter and prescription acne treatments can make you more susceptible to sun burning.

Over the long haul, UV light damages and degrades the fibers in our skin leading to premature aging including fine or deep wrinkling and discoloration of the skin including sunspots. Of course, the greatest concern from UV light is skin cancer, which can be disfiguring, devastating, and even deadly. For all of these reasons, getting exposure to UV light is always the wrong thing to do for acne. We always recommend that our patients practice measures to protect them from the dangers of ultraviolet rays of light.

Cleaning, Rubbing, Scrubbing, Picking and Popping

To be human, it seems, is to feel compelled to pick and pop acne spots. The majority of us do this and we feel compelled to do it because we want to be our own Dr. Pimple Popper and try to make our acne spots go away more quickly. However, contrary to these notions, we are wrong. On the converse, nearly all of the time, doing those things to acne spots can make them last longer and appear more unsightly. It is also possible to cause scars or long-lasting alterations in pigment (dark spots) by picking or popping. In fact, inflammation is a key component in the process which drives acne. Anything like this which irritates the skin may worsen irritation, and therefore inflame the skin. Because of this, we recommend gently washing acne prone areas. Aggressively rubbing or scrubbing may also worsen acne in a similar way.

Herbal Treatment

Wherever in the field of medicine there is a condition for which there is no one treatment that works for every person, there tends to be those patients and medical providers who dabble in herbal therapy. This is true for acne. What is also true is that these treatments have not been subjected to rigorous testing either from the standpoint of their benefits or their safety. A quick internet search returns multiple contenders for herbs used for acne.

Some of the herbal treatments that we have heard the most about at Acne Institute of Omaha include:

  • oil of oregano
  • zinc
  • tea tree oil

Long story short, we do not recommend or support the use of these or any other herbs/supplements for the acne treatment. Some of them have well-known dangerous side effects. And above all else, we have numerous highly effective and stringently tested medications for acne. No medication is completely free of potential side effects. But in the case of these FDA approved medications, their potential side effects are very well defined. This makes us able to choose the best treatment for each acne patient based on their medical history and to educate them on potential side effects to watch out for.

Pill vs. Cream

Swallowing a simple pill is so easy and is what most people want to treat their acne. It is a common misconception that a pill can be taken to treat or cure acne. In actuality, pills have very little to do with the best treatment for acne in most cases. It is true that antibiotics taken by mouth and the pill known as isotretinoin (formerly called Accutane) may be used for more severe cases of acne. However, most patients need medicine applied to the skin to get the best improvement and control for their acne.

Antibiotics by mouth

Another associated misconception is that antibiotics by mouth can or should be used long-term to treat acne. This is wrong. In every case where we prescribe an antibiotic pill to treat acne, we also provide direction to our patients on how they need to work to reduce and stop them in time. Long term antibiotics by mouth may have several negative consequences, including altering bacteria in the gut and leading to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance means that taking antibiotics may select for bacteria in your body that do not respond as well to antibiotics in the future.

Deviation from the Flight Plan- Compliance

One of the most frequent reasons we see for patients failing to improve with a treatment plan is failure to use medicines as prescribed. Nowhere is this more the case than in some of our younger patients. As such, a common misconception of parents is that their teenager is using their medications correctly and regularly. So many times, we have seen parents quite surprised when the truth comes out at the time of the follow-up visit. Now there are some teens who are amazingly responsible and “take charge” of their acne routine. But this is more the exception than the rule.

In addition to the frequent nature of us being less responsible as teens, this lack of compliance may also be due to forgetting or misunderstanding treatment plans. Because of this, we diagram out the treatment plan for all of our patients on our Personalized Schematic Worksheet—a unique tool our patients use at home—detailing their treatment plan. We also highly recommend parents being involved with the implementation of the plan at home to the level they find is necessary to be certain their teen is using their medicines as prescribed in a responsible way.

Acne Treatments Are Too Expensive

At the Acne Institute of Omaha, we are keenly aware of the shocking cost of some prescription medications. We not only want the best treatments for each patient, but we also don’t want to “break the bank.” There are numerous factors that lead up to the ultimate cost of a medication at the pharmacy. These can vary from person to person based on:

  • prescription medication coverage
  • deductible
  • pharmacy
  • availability of a medication at any given time (supply and demand)

Though one typically expects generics to be less expensive than brand names, sometimes the opposite is true.

Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands Omaha & Council Bluffs

Even though we work to select the best and most reasonably priced medications in every case, we are committed to working with all of our patients to altering plans if they encounter unforeseen medication expenses. Though this process can be an ongoing one that requires some back and forth contact between our clinic, the patient, and the pharmacy, we have found it to be very successful at keeping down the costs of prescription medications.

Therefore, the misconception that acne treatments are too expensive is problematic. Rather, what is too expensive is the cost of not getting treatment. This cost is essentially immeasurable and can include the obvious consequences of scarring and the short- and long-term psychological consequences of acne. These may include:

  • embarrassment
  • reduced self-esteem/self-confidence
  • even more profound psychological effects

We hope this article helps explore and explode some of the common acne misconceptions. At the Acne Institute of Omaha, we are here to help you or your teen with acne at any of our clinical locations in Omaha or Council Bluffs. For any information or to make an appointment please contact us.