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quality posts: 17 Private Messages WootBot


Dispelling misinformation is tough when you’re up against the biggest liars of all: Mom and Dad. In his new book Because I Said So!: The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids, Ken Jennings takes on generations of dubious parental wisdom. And this month on Woot, Ken will debunk four bonus parenting myths not found in his book, proving that Mother and Father don’t always know best.

Parental Myth #2: Dirt Causes Acne. Go Wash Your Face!

I’m turning forty in just over a year, which hopefully means my face will finally be clearing up soon. Eighty percent of young Americans have pimple problems, and their well-meaning parents often recommend all kinds of home remedies, from lemon juice to aloe vera to baking soda. But the one thing we can all agree on is the important of hygiene. Everyone knows you get acne from not washing your face, right?


Actually, this isn’t all that true, which explains the frustration of generations of zitty high school sophomores carefully washing their faces many times a day to no avail. Common acne (acne vulgaris) is caused by blocked pores, but bits of dirt aren’t usually the problem. The bacterial free-for-all that causes acne begins below the skin, and it’s caused by oil and discarded cells. “Blackheads and pimples are not caused by dirt,” says that National Institutes of Health. (It’s melanin in the blocked follicle that makes blackheads darker, not dirt.)

It seems reasonable that regular face-washing could flush away the problem oil and flakes of dead skin, but in practice, there’s no evidence that it helps much. “Surprisingly little evidence exists for the efficacy or lack of efficacy of… face-washing,” found a 2005 Australian review. “Much of the available evidence has methodological limitations.” A six-week study at Harvard in 2006 lent “slight support” to a normal, twice-a-day washing routine, but admitted that “no statistically significant differences were noted between groups” who washed their faces with different frequencies. Dermatologists today believe that acne is best addressed on a case-by-case basis, and some have even had success with a “caveman” regimen: curing acne by abandoning face-washing altogether. It’s true, the Flintstones always had great skin. So don’t be bullied into hourly scrubbings by the memories of a nagging Mom! When it comes to acne and facial hygiene, the decision may actually be a wash.

Quick Quiz: On what TV show did Joey Jeremiah’s band Zit Remedy repeatedly perform their only song, “Everybody Wants Something”?

Ken Jennings is the author of Because I Said So!, Brainiac, Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac, and Maphead. He's also the proud owner of an underwhelming Bag o' Crap. Follow him at or on Twitter as @KenJennings.


quality posts: 0 Private Messages Tadd

Answer to the quiz question:
Degrassi Junior High.


quality posts: 4 Private Messages amoraluv

rubbing alcohol works. Hurts like the devil but it works


quality posts: 9 Private Messages hamjudo

Invert the question, and analyze that. When I hit puberty, long, long ago, I would get vast quantities of pimples if I didn't wash my face often enough. Before puberty, I took a bath or shower once a week. Post puberty, it had to be every day. Two days was definitely too long, perhaps every 36 hours would have been often enough.

My hair would turn into a greasy mess at about the same rate, so I had to go the full shower route.

I still had some pimples, just not nearly the quantity that skipping a daily shower produced. In my case, washing more often didn't seem to provide any additional benefit.

What was the minimum washing frequency that Harvard studied?


quality posts: 0 Private Messages dogrun81

Actually most skin problems are diet/digestion related. Bad intestines allow more bad stuff to leak through the skin. Probiotics and less toxic foods will likely be helpful.


quality posts: 83 Private Messages mossygreen

You know, the Zit Remedy was every bit as much Snake's and Wheels' band as it was Joey's. And Wheels needed it most of all because of the tragic death of his parents.

I'm sorry, I just still really hate fictional character Joey Jeremiah.


quality posts: 0 Private Messages laurieglomski

REALLY! This is the kind of crap that people think is fact and start spreading. I'd like to see the details of this study and what they had them wash their face with (makes a huge difference) and the Flintstone's ...REALLY? Hello...they are not real people. Some people will believe anything they read on the internet. I seriously want to see the specifics of this study because I don't think it would hold a drop of water. You are doing a disservice to tell people not to wash their faces and yes it is caused by dirt....Outlanders! Mutants! Guns!


quality posts: 29 Private Messages cleverett

I can personally vouch for the caveman regimen. Back in the day when I had my big problems with acne, I would scrub my face multiple times a day with no relief. However, when I would go out camping in the woods for a couple of weeks and never bothered to wash my face (that creek water is *cold*), my acne would clear up remarkably.

The explanation that my dermatologist provided was something like this: Your face has bacteria all over it, all the time, just like there is bacteria all over the rest of your body. When you wash your face, especially when you scrub hard (as people with acne are prone to do), you end up forcing some of those bacteria down inside your pores where they would not normally be. When one of your pores clogs (which is normal and happens often), now you have a confined space where bacteria are reproducing with no means of escape. The body senses this and rushes white blood cells to the location to quell the infection, and the end result is a pimple. If you don't wash your face, the bacteria are more than happy to stay on the surface where they are harmless.

Of course, when you're a teenager you're exuding oil out of your pores at an alarming rate, and not washing your face is really not an option. Probably the best thing to do is to use an antibacterial solution with little-to-no pressure...try to avoid pushing the bacteria down into your pores. Ideally, splash your face liberally with alcohol or another antibacterial to kill the bacteria prior to washing with soap to get rid of the oils. Using the alcohol-saturated pads is sort of the right idea, except that the pressure forces the few bacteria that survive down into your pores.

Or at least that's how I recall him explaining's been a long time ago.