Acne FAQs and common misconceptions

Separating fact from fiction


Acne is a skin condition characterised by outbreaks of spots or pimples, usually on the face, chest or back. Though acne is not physically dangerous, it can cause embarrassment and even scarring if dealt with incorrectly. Dr Felix can help you find out what is causing your acne and recommend the best treatment for you. In the meantime, we’re here to answer your questions and to set the record straight on some common misconceptions about acne.


Is acne caused by bad personal hygiene?

You might have heard that acne is a sign of dirty or unwashed skin, but this rumour is untrue. Acne is caused by a buildup of sebum, an oily substance produced by sebaceous glands at the base of hairs. Sebum is produced naturally to moisturise the skin and hair, but when produced in excess can become trapped at the pores by dead skin cells, resulting in acne. Excess sebum changes the behaviour of the bacteria P. acne, which normally lives harmlessly on the skin, causing it to become more aggressive and cause inflammation and pus.

Although cleansing is important for helping remove excess sebum and dead skin, it can also strip the skin of its natural protective oils and make it more prone to acne. Excessive washing is unlikely to clear-up acne and may even irritate the spots even more.

You can read more about the causes of acne here.

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Does acne only occur in teenagers?

Acne is more common among teenagers because changing hormonal levels during puberty result in excess oil production on the skin, often causing pores to become blocked. However, it can occur in adults as a result of other hormonal changes, including pregnancy, contraceptive medication, high testosterone levels and menopause. Around 25% of adults in the UK have experienced acne during their adult life.

You can find out more about acne in adults here.


Is acne hereditary?

A family history of acne does increase the chance that you will also experience it. However, because of its link to hormonal fluctuations, acne can break out at any time and often without an obvious cause.


Does eating chocolate cause acne?

Recent research has suggested a tentative link between chocolate consumption and acne, but the answer remains uncertain. However, a diet that is rich in fat and sugar can cause skin to become more oily, which may result in acne. Doctors recommend you maintain a healthy diet and stay well-hydrated to keep your skin healthy and clear.

Does sunbathing help to heal acne?

Some people find that their acne improves in the sun. However, excessive exposure to UV puts you at risk of skin damage, which is a leading cause of skin cancer. As with all skin conditions, acne makes your skin sensitive and more prone to burning or sun damage. You should, therefore, avoid exposing the affected area to excess sun.


Is acne caused by stress?

There is little evidence to support the theory that acne is caused by stress. Your body’s response to stress does include hormonal changes, which may contribute to an outbreak of acne, and decreasing stress where possible is always recommended for improving your overall wellbeing. Acne itself can be a cause of distress and anxiety, so it is important to seek medical advice on how to manage it.


Should I squeeze my spots?

You should avoid squeezing spots or pimples at all costs, as it increases the risk of inflammation, damage and scarring. Scarring is much easier to prevent than to treat, so it is best to avoid touching acne and instead seek treatment from your doctor.



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