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9 Of The Biggest Acne Mistakes

About 80% of the population aged 11 to 30 deal with acne. Unfortunately, dealing with chronic blemishes and breakouts can be both counterintuitive and confusing, as there are a huge number of myths and misconceptions about acne circulating in online forums and among teens. 

Because separating effective treatments from downright harmful ones requires a little background knowledge, those of us dealing with acne often go through repeat trial and error to correct dubious practices. 

Here are some of the most common acne mistakes made by acne patients of all ages.

1. Touching Your Face

When you’re dealing with acne, it can be tempting to itch or scratch at dry or irritated areas on your face. This can make things worse. Just like any other surface, your hands contain an array of oils, bacterias, and foreign pathogens. When you touch your face, you’re transferring whatever was on your hands to your face. This can undo much of the careful washing, cleansing, and moisturizing you've done throughout the day and/or lead to new blemishes. Worse yet? Picking and scratching can open new sores, letting in pathogens and leading to scarring in the worst cases.

2. Scrubbing or Exfoliating Too Much

Both scrubbing while washing and over-exfoliating can put stress on your delicate facial skin. Both processes remove skin cells, and while a moderate exfoliation routine removes only dry, dead skin, leaving your face feeling refreshed, overzealous exfoliating can disturb living cells, causing the following symptoms:

  • Irritation
  • Peeling
  • Burning
  • Sensitivity
  • Breakouts
  • Redness
  • Inflammation

So, how much exfoliation is appropriate? In most cases, one to two sessions per week should be sufficient - and gently! To avoid damaging your skin when washing your face, avoid intense scrubbing. Never use a towel to wipe or scrub your face; instead, simply apply a cleanser and wash with lukewarm water. Pad your skin afterward with a clean towel.

3. Skipping Sunscreen

There’s a common myth, both online and off, that insufficient sun exposure is a major cause of acne. "More sun!" they cry.

This idea probably comes from the fact that certain types of acne are easier to see in individuals with pale skin than in those with naturally darker skin. Additionally, the belief goes, UV rays can kill bacteria that cause acne. 

You shouldn't take this as an indication that sun exposure is a cure for acne. Exposure to sunlight can worsen breakouts in the long run, as UV rays result in inflammation and dark spots. Since UV exposure is the primary cause of both aging skin and even skin cancer, it’s best to use sun protection. 

Some good SPF is one of the simplest pathways to better skin in the long-run according to most dermatologists.

4. Picking or Popping Pimples

Popping pimples can seem like an ideal solution when whiteheads start to grow out of control. They look terrible and you want them goneUnfortunately, it’s only a short-term solution, and it can cause more problems than it solves. 

Any time you break the skin's natural barrier, you allow bacteria into the body that can cause infection. Not only that, but popping pimples can lead to scarring that lasts much longer than your pimple might have.

The best course of action for dealing with whiteheads is to resist the urge to pop and use a non-comedogenic acne medication. Apply a warm compress and let your skin’s healing abilities do their thing!

5. Neglecting To Wash Your Face

There is surprisingly little research on the effects of face washing, but it does seem clear that washing once or twice daily can help you remove potential blockage-causing and excess dirt while avoiding irritation caused by constant scrubbing. When pores become clogged, papules and pustules are the result. While you shouldn't wash your face overly often, you should make a practice of gently cleansing once or twice daily. Do this with a mild cleanser that isn't likely to exacerbate extant issues. 

6. Using Cleanser Without Using a Moisturizer

When you wash your face, your intent is to sweep away acne-causing bacteria and dirt, but you’re unwittingly invoking a new physical process, in which a scant layer of water evaporates, causing your skin to dry. This is why licking your lips or drinking water can worsen chapped lips.

One of the most common acne mistakes is neglecting to use a moisturizer after using a cleanser. A quality moisturizer restores the natural barrier between your skin and the outside world, sealing moisture in and offering some natural protection from pathogens. Of course, choosing the right moisturizer is important. For the best results, choose one that is:

  • Appropriate for your skin type
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Non-irritating to an allergic condition
  • Contains SPF

While relatively few products contain sunscreen, it can be helpful for sensitive individuals. Generally, these moisturizers contain a low SPF that minimizes sun damage from chronic exposure.

Any time you choose a new moisturizer, carefully assess your skin type. Most people fall into one of four or five categories: dry, oily, normal, combination, or sensitive. You should also make sure that a particular formula isn't likely to aggravate a personal allergy. Because it can be difficult to figure out which moisturizer is best for you, relying on a Nava MD skincare professional can help.

7. Using Products That Clog Pores

Many products are marketed as non-comedogenic that may still cause issues. The term non-comedogenic means it’s intended not to form comedones, or black/white heads. But this term is not regulated or tested, and there is no list of ingredients that are universally considered to be non-comedogenic. This can make it hard for consumers to find products that work for their unique circumstances.

For acne-prone users, products that contain oils should be researched before use. There are a large number of oils that are frequently used in skincare, despite that they cannot be absorbed by the skin. When you use a product that leaves a film over your face, your pores can more easily become clogged. The best oils for skincare usually have high linoleic acid to oleic acid ratios, as in rosehip, safflower, and grapeseed oils. Finding products that contain the right oils can be difficult and require some trial and error -- or the help of a professional.

8. Using Harsh Products

Many substances should probably be avoided if you have acne-prone skin, including:

  • Alcohols
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Sea salt
  • Strong acids

Many acids, alcohols, and salts are potentially hazardous for the skin. This is often confusing for skincare users, as many products advertise ingredients like lemon and coconut alcohol as helpful components. In the right formulations, these and many other ingredients are highly beneficial. Especially avoid using home remedies, such as lemon applied directly to the face, as these can react with sunlight and result in nasty burns.

9. Winging It

A lot of the most common acne mistakes are simply a result of insufficient research or looking for a fast-fix to blemishes. The reality is that good things take time; skincare requires some practice, trialing, and understanding. 

Doing skincare right isn't intuitive. Many of the most commonly held beliefs regarding acne and skin health have been entirely debunked in recent years. 

That’s why we launched Nava MD: to help patients get dermatologists’ help -- and prescription medications -- from the comfort of home (if prescribed). Get started yourself and see what prescription skincare can do for your acne by clicking here.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency