6 Weird Facts About Acne

Discover bizarre truths about acne and learn how to fight a bad breakout.

Medically reviewed in December 2020

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Weighed down with acne woes? You’re not alone. A whopping 40 to 50 million people in the United States are affected by this inflammatory—and often just plain embarrassing—skin condition. What’s to blame for your breakouts? Factors include stress, periods, hormones (in women and men) and genetics.

Click through to find out some weird facts about zits and what you can do to lower your chances of a breakout.

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Acne Strikes at Any Age

Think you get to be pimple-free after your teen years? Think again. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), while breakouts are most common in teens and young adults, they can still strike in your 30s, 40s and even 50s. Known as adult onset acne, these breakouts are most common in women, especially those going through menopause, thanks to your fluctuating hormone levels. The AAD offers other reasons your pimples may be coming back, including stress, family history of adult acne, hair and skin products, and medications.

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Not All Pimples are Created Equal

There are six different types of acne, and some are tougher to treat than others. Common whiteheads and blackheads, caused by blocked pores, generally go away with over-the-counter products. More difficult to treat: papules (raised, solid bumps) and pustules (papules with pus in them). Worse still are nodules and cysts, which form deep in the skin and can really hurt. Visit a dermatologist near you for treatment advice. 

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Workouts Could Make Back Acne Worse

Does your back or body ever breakout after exercising? The sweat rubbing and building up against your skin is likely to blame. Amy Kim, MD, a dermatologist affiliated with Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, offers a simple solution: “I tell my patients to buy over-the-counter anti-bacterial soap and keep it in the shower. When you see a breakout coming, just lather some on. It usually helps settle the skin down.” 

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Being Too Clean Can Backfire

Do you scrub your skin to get rid of acne? Turns out, zits may not respond well to that. In fact, excessive cleaning can aggravate skin, which can cause even more pimples.

Contrary to popular belief, acne isn’t usually caused by a dirty face. All the biological activity that leads to acne actually begins beneath the skin, so over-scrubbing does nothing but make it worse. Gently wash your skin no more than twice a day with warm water and a mild cleanser.


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Zits Love to Make You Wait

If you’re bummed out that acne treatment results aren’t great after a couple weeks, here’s the hard truth: Breakouts take an average of six to eight weeks to disappear. Be patient with your acne treatment, and if at 10 weeks you don’t see any changes, reach out to your dermatologist to discuss an alternate treatment plan. However, if you have cystic or nodular acne, reach out to your doctor sooner to get help and prevent scarring, since over-the-counter remedies won’t help these types of acne.

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Toothpaste Is for Teeth, Not Skin

Need to get rid of a zit quick? As much as you may be tempted to (and as often as you heard it growing up), don’t apply any toothpaste to the affected area. This home remedy has been around for years, claiming to dry out skin around a breakout, but there’s no scientific evidence to prove that it’s effective. “There just don’t seem to be any ingredients in toothpaste that makes sense to treat acne. I wouldn’t recommend it,” Dr. Kim says.

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