Acne clearing theories debunked

Everyone has dealt with acne at some capacity. Whether it’s a constant problem or an occasional unwelcome visit, there’s never a convenient time for breakouts. 

The process of clearing up the skin condition can be both slow and overwhelming. With numerous lotions and spot treatments in stores, it’s difficult to know which is right for you. Which may be why many of us are turning to the web to find that natural and affordable solution. 

Dr. Lisa Kellett, a dermatologist at DLK on Avenue in Toronto, has seen plenty of questionable treatments over the course of her career. She says just because it’s on the Internet, doesn’t mean it’ll be effective. 

“It’s important to filter out where you are getting your information from and when it comes to anything to do with your health or medicine you should make sure that whatever you’re using has evidence-based medicine that works.” 

When it comes to at home remedies for those pesky pimples, we let the professional dictate what works and what is in fact a myth. 

Toothpaste: Myth 

Toothpaste is made up of ingredients like baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and alcohol. This combination leads many people to believe toothpaste will dry out the acne and make it disappear. While it may have the drying effect, Dr. Kellett says toothpaste will irritate your skin. 

“Not a good idea. It could be an irritant to the skin and can cause a contact dermatitis, which is an irritating eruption in the skin. “ 

Sterilized Needle: Myth 

Actress and author Mindy Kaling has admitted to sterilizing a needle to pop a pimple. At first this actually sounds like it could do the trick. However, Dr. Kellett says “the heat doesn’t kill all the germs” and overall extracting or popping is a bad idea. Popping the blemish can prolong the healing process and can cause scarring. 

Banana Peel: Myth 

The banana peel facial involves rubbing the peel on the affected areas for a few minutes before rinsing off. The peel contains lutein, which is an antioxidant that reduces inflammation and swelling. Nonetheless, Dr. Kellett says using a peel to help acne is a myth as there’s no “evidence behind it.” 

Raw Potato: Myth 

Potatoes are rich in sulfur, chloride, potassium and phosphorus and they’re also an antioxidant. Many websites hail the vegetable as being great for clear skin and helping with many skin problems. According to Dr. Kellett, “potatoes are a common cause of contact dermatitis,” which means they will irritate your skin rather than clear it up. 

Aspirin Face Mask: Myth 

Crushing aspirin with some water into a paste is another well-known technique. Various websites claim your skin will absorb the aspirin into the bloodstream. The opposite is actually true because “the molecule is too big to be absorbed so it doesn’t do anything, it has no way of getting into the skin.” 

Poop Facial: Myth 

The nightingale poop facial is offered at certain luxury spas. The traditional Japanese treatment, also known as the Geisha facial, is allegedly popular among celebrities like Victoria Beckham, Tom Cruise and Oprah. 

The spa treatment may promise glowing skin, but from a medical standpoint excrement can cause psittacosis, an infectious disease caused by bacteria, as well as histoplasmosis, which is an infection caused by fungus. 

“Bird excrement can actually transfer a rare kind of infection. In general, excrement is usually not a good thing to put on the face.” 

Urine: Myth 

Using urine to clear up acne has reportedly become a new beauty trend in the U.K. Urine is 95 per cent water and the remaining five per cent is made up of nutrients and proteins. Urine also contains ammonia, which fights bacteria. Even with these natural components, Kellett says there is no scientific proof that urine will help retain a flawless complexion. 

The Facts

People try these remedies because they think they’ll be helpful, but they may in fact do more harm than good. 

“They can actually cause infections that are much worse than acne. You can get lung infections, you can get very sick with it. It’s not just the fact that they might not work, it’s that they actually might be harmful to your health.” 

What then is the answer to dealing with breakouts? Dr. Kellett says seeing a dermatologist is the first step because a treatment has to be individualized for it to work. 

“Everyone that I see, you have to make sure that you’re tailoring the treatments to their individual needs and everybody is different in terms of how they respond to things as well.” 

A specialist will take the time to go over all the products and cosmetics you use on your skin. Taking a look at someone’s regimen and tailoring it could be the key to preventing future skin problems. 

“See a dermatologist, get a proper management plan, get a right diagnosis first of all. Rule out if you have acne - get a specific management program that’s designed for specifically you.” 

Unfortunately acne may not be 100 per cent curable, but Dr. Kellett says you can control it.