There are a great many myths about acne.
"People with acne are dirty"
Not true - the blackheads are caused by dried oxidised plugs of oil mixed with dead skin cells. Washing continually doesn't affect this, and stripping off all the necessary oil may make things worse as the skin overcompensates by producing more.
"It is caused by eating chocolate and fatty foods"
Not true. The overproduction of oil is not affected by these foods. But see below:
Diet does not affect acne.
A difficult one. Your doctor might tell you that there is no link between diet and acne. However the experiments this was based on are old and poorly-designed. Many people have written to me about diet changes, and have had positive results by modifying their diet. Diets I have tried are: non-dairy (see Dr Danby's page) - this seemed to have little effect on me, others have reported improvements; a quasi-Paleo diet (raw wholefoods, like our hunter-gatherer ancestors used to eat) definitely had an effect but got boring quickly; junk food and beer diet - made my spots worse but blotted out large periods of time I would have spend worrying about them :-). There is something to be said for trying a new diet for a four week period and seeing the results. Changing your diet is cheap!
See here - a report of the diet of hunter-gatherers and their lack of acne
"Acne is harmless: after all, you're not going to die from it"
Actually, not true either: confidential surveys have shown that many young people with acne show substantial psychological damage caused by low self-esteem. This makes it imperative to go to your doctor and get treatment as soon as possible.
"You'll grow out of it"
Most people do. Even so, that's no reason for not implementing a curative programme immediately. But some unfortunates don't grow out of it at all. If you are one of these unlucky ones, as I was, you need to see your doctor. If it hasn't cleared up by the time you are 22 this is "Clinical acne": it won't go away by itself - see a doctor.
Women in their 20's and 30s sometimes get acne breakouts, often after pregnancy, usually zits and cysts rather than black/whiteheads - this is adult-onset female cystic acne. If this happens to you, see your doctor straight away. Often use of the contraceptive pill solves the hormone imbalance that causes this and relieves the problem.
Accutane/Roaccutane are dangerous and will result in depression/suicide/lifelong damage to you
This is a powerful drug with many side effects. It must be taken under the supervision of a doctor. However most of the side effects are tolerable: dry skin (this is what you want to happen!!!), chapped lips, reddish face, some aches. The more serious side effects are rare. There is a small amount of evidence linking Accutane to depression. But this is very very rare - in my eBook I discuss this comprehensively. In the years I have run this site I have received hundreds of emails from people who have taken/are taking Accutane/Roaccutane: a few gave up because of the side effects, but most found it a positive experience. I have yet to receive a mail from a user of the drug denigrating it.
ClearZitZap™ (insert name of product here) will clear your zits in days and make you instantly attractive to the opposite sex
I often see "new" anti acne products on the market boosted by large advertising campaigns. When I look at the back of the packet the "secret ingredient" usually seems to be the same old benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. If these products had a new active ingredient which worked they would have to be classified as drugs and prescribed by doctors. Don't be fooled by this rubbish - see a doctor, preferably a dermatologist. Incidentally, isn't this advertising discriminatory to gay people? I'm sure they don't want spots either.
SOS acne: save your skin
A commonsense guide to acne treatments
This is my 65 page booklet about acne, and what to do about it. Only valuable information validated by myself, fellow sufferers, or the medical profession, is included. It is regularly updated with peoples' tips and new information. It costs GB Pounds 7.50.
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This site is copyright David Collins 2004. Although every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this site, the author admits no liability for errors or omissions. All trademarks are acknowledged. This site is for your information only and is no substitute for proper medical treatment of your condition.