The Regimen

Don’t Take Acne Advice From Strangers

Woman with red lipstick and gray sweater holding her face in doubt

You’ve heard the stories. Maybe it’s even happened to you. A well-meaning stranger offers some unsolicited advice about how to clear your skin. Not only is it intrusive and unwanted, it’s often truly bad advice.


Here are the top ten worst bits of acne advice delivered by total strangers in supermarket check-out lines, in elevators, while waiting for a coffee at Starbucks, even while just walking down the street.


“Try putting toothpaste on it.” 

This idea has been around for a long time. The thinking is that it will dry pimples out, but what it really does is irritate the skin and potentially cause dark spots to form. Benzoyl peroxide is a far more effective acne eradicator. It kills bacteria and reduces inflammation below the surface to prevent future breakouts.


“You just need to wash your face more.”

The assumption here is that your acne is a result of poor hygiene. First, rude. Second, cleansing is only one component of breaking the acne cycle. It’s certainly essential, but our guess is you already know that, and you are washing your face regularly. In fact, there is such a thing as too much washing. Over-washing can dry and irritate skin. Especially if you are using a harsh or abrasive cleanser. Twice daily is plenty unless you’re getting a sweaty workout somewhere in between. Then, by all means, wash again.


“Wash your face with rubbing alcohol to kill bacteria.”

Alcohol is an excellent vehicle in skin care formulas where it cuts through oil and quickly evaporates to enhance the permeability of actives. On its own, alcohol will strip the skin of natural oils and disrupt the skin barrier, which can lead to inflammation and irritation.


The best way to kill bacteria is with benzoyl peroxide, an organic compound with antibacterial, keratolytic, comedolytic, and anti-inflammatory properties. It works by releasing oxygen into the pore to kill acne bacteria and flush out impurities. Vivant’s 3% BP Acne Wash pairs the acne gold standard benzoyl peroxide with hydrating ingredients for the perfect balance of resurfacing and replenishment. If you prefer a scrub, try 3% BP Exfoliating Cleanser.


“You should try coconut oil.”

Coconut oil ranks in the top most comedogenic ingredients for skin, and yet somehow, it has a reputation as a miracle substance. It might be good as part of your diet, but not as a topical agent for treating acne.


"Don't eat any fats."

Quite the contrary. While too much saturated fat is a problem, healthy fats (omega-6 and omega-3) are essential. Studies show that acneic skin is often low in linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid your body can’t manufacture. This deficiency is thought to contribute to excess sebum production, inflammation, and hyperkeratinization (an excess of dead skin cells), the building blocks of acne. A diet rich in healthy fats like those found in fish, nuts, seeds, and avocados has been shown to do the opposite. 


“Getting out in the sun will clear your skin.”

Sunlight can increase cellular turnover and temporarily make blemishes less visible. However, it’s a poor trade-off for the adverse effects it brings—cellular damage, hyperpigmentation, and inflammation, which aggravate acne. It’s far better to speed cell turnover and clear acne impactions with a combination of vitamin A therapy, acids, and benzoyl peroxide.


Instead of inviting damage and aggravating acne, protect skin from the sun every day with Day Treatment Lotion SPF 15. It’s lightweight, non-comedogenic, and non-greasy enough to wear under foundation or mixed with a little mineral powder.


“Have you tried scrubbing with baking soda?”

Bad idea. Baking soda is a highly alkaline chemical compound that wreaks havoc with your skin’s pH balance. A benzoyl Peroxide cleanser will oxygenate pores and kill bacteria without the irritation.


“Put some cortisone cream on it.”

Corticosteroids are good for reducing inflammation, but they are too potent for the delicate skin of the face, which is thinner than other areas of your body. Thinner skin absorbs the steroid more quickly, making it more vulnerable to side effects, including thinning of the skin, pigment changes, irritation, and worsening of rosacea or acne.


In cases of cystic acne, cortisone is sometimes injected by a dermatologist into the lesion to speed healing. Consult your dermatologist before considering any cortisone treatment on your face.


“Wash your pillowcase every day.”

If only it were that simple. Keeping sheets clean undoubtedly helps because oils from your face do get transferred to the fabric and then come back into contact with your skin. But you don’t need to wash your pillowcase daily. If you’re using a lot of product or your skin seems excessively oily, place a clean towel over your pillow each night. Keeping your skin properly cleansed, toned and treated with a corrective serum in a consistent regimen is far more critical than your laundry schedule.


"Don't eat chocolate."

The problem is not with the chocolate, but with the sugar and unhealthy fats that go along with chocolate. These can increase sebum production and promote inflammation, spurring acne breakouts. Chocolate is loaded with antioxidant flavonoids that protect cells against harmful free radicals. If you decide to treat yourself to a little chocolate, choose the dark variety, which contains higher concentrations of antioxidant flavonoids than milk or white chocolate. If you keep your diet to mostly fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats, a little chocolate is definitely not off the table.


Looking for good advice? Follow our Instagram account @vivantskincare and check our stories every Tuesday when our in-house estheticians answers all your questions.

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