Acne is an extremely common problem for both adolescents and adults. It's not surprising that there are many misconceptions and myths about acne, and I'd like to take the time to address some of them here.
Myth #1: My acne is caused by my diet.
Despite fairly extensive research into the relationship between acne and diet over the last several decades, many of the conclusions remain controversial. In general, your dermatologist is likely to tell you that diet plays a very small role in your acne. There have been some data that suggest that milk intake may worsen acne (surprisingly, skim milk more so than whole milk), but the evidence to date is not strong. Furthermore, the health benefits of milk likely far outweigh any improvement in acne resulting from a lactose-free diet. Therefore, I don't recommend removing milk from one's diet for the sake of acne. That being said, there is growing research and data linking a diet with a high glycemic index – which is determined by the type and amount of carbohydrates you eat – with acne and acne flares. Making the change from a diet high in carbohydrates to a low-carb diet can be very difficult, however. I would say it might be worth considering making the change only if your acne hasn't responded adequately to treatments your dermatologist has prescribed. Even then, a change in diet is unlikely to be enough to completely clear your acne – there are many factors that affect acne, and a good treatment regimen involves addressing the different causes.
Myth #2: I should (or shouldn't) "pop" my acne.
You've probably heard that popping acne pustules cause scarring. You've probably also heard that this is only a myth. So which is it? There is nothing inherently bad about allowing pus or fluid to drain from acne lesions, and anyone who has squeezed a zit before knows how satisfying it is to remove the gunk that has accumulated within it. As a dermatologist, however, I strongly advise patients not to pick or squeeze their acne lesions. Redness, pain, and pus mean that the follicle or pore where the acne has formed has ruptured and caused an inflammatory reaction. Squeezing or manipulating skin that is already inflamed can worsen the reaction, and subsequently increase the chances of scarring.
Come back Thursday to read part 2!