A look at what causes acne and the treatments that actually work when trying to get rid of those annoying pimples.
PIMPLES. They can be something that pop up once a month, or they can take over your face (and your life!) for years.
And sometimes, they don’t go away once you reach adulthood. One survey found that 40% adults still deal with zits in their 30s.
But what can you do to get rid of them? Our team at Science Vs dived into the science to find out.
We started our research by heading to a high-end skin store in Brooklyn, New York. There were dream catchers and it smelled great.
Jill, a buyer for the store, told us their products could “definitely” improve someone’s acne. But when I asked the rather simple question: Do you have evidence? She looked befuddled. “When you say evidence, I’m not sure what you mean,” said Jill.
“It’s like not that scientific here. It’s, like, girlfriend vibes”.
Americans fork out $US2.5 billion each year buying products to treat acne. Are all of them running off “girlfriend vibes”?
While it might look like there are a lot of different products out there — when you head to a standard chemist — most acne treatments have two active ingredients in them: either Benzoyl peroxide or Salicylic acid.
Salicylic acid is an exfoliant, so it’s supposed to work by unplugging hair follicles, which is where pimples form. Despite its popularity, it hasn’t been well studied.
The American Academy of Dermatology Guidelines called clinical trials into salicylic acid “limited” and another paper published in Nature Reviews noted that we don’t have enough evidence to say that salicylic acid can help people with acne, and “future studies are needed”.
“Salicylic acid has not absolutely been tested,” says Dr Jonathan Weiss, a dermatologist who helped write the AAD Guidelines. He says it might be helpful for some people with mild acne but “It’s relatively weak”.
What about Benzoyl peroxide? If you’ve ever used it, you know you can put bleach stains all over your clothes, towel and sheets. That’s because benzoyl peroxide is a bleach. It’s supposed to kill pimples, by killing the bacteria on your skin, which might encourage pimples to form. “We like to think of it as dropping a little bomb on them,” says Dr Weiss.
Here, there’s some good news. A review paper found that, Benzoyl Peroxide “may be beneficial for acne”, but also noted that…