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8 Acne Myths, Busted by Experts

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No matter your gender or how old you are, you’ve experienced some form of acne—and there’s a lot of misinformation out there about the condition. In honor of Acne Awareness Month, Mental Floss reached out to experts—Dr. Sandra Lee, a.k.a. Dr. Pimple Popper, creator of the SLMD Skincare Line; Vance Soto, President of Ole Henriksen Face/Body Spa; and Jennifer Yen, natural beauty expert and founder of pūrlisse—to separate fact from fiction.

1. MYTH: GREASY FOOD CAUSES ACNE.

"I tell my patients 'The only way greasy foods like pizza give you acne is if you rub it all over your face,'" Lee says. "Not many foods trigger acne, apart from in certain circumstances when food products contain hormones, such as cow's milk and cheese. In short: Be mindful of dairy if you are breakout prone, but other than that—this is a big myth!"

That said, the health of your body's largest organ is tied to your diet, according to Soto. "It’s so important to maintain a balanced diet of leafy green vegetables and drink plenty of water each day," he says. "Everything in life is about a healthy balance. Beauty starts on the inside, so what you eat and drink definitely plays a major role in the health of your skin."

2. MYTH: TANNING GETS RID OF ACNE.

It’s widely believed that tanning can dry out acne, and, says Yen, "exposure to sunlight can kill bad bacteria." But according to Lee, sun exposure makes acne worse, not better: "Sun exposure actually darkens pigmentation, making brown spots that appear after acne breakouts darker and more persistent," Lee says. "Exposing the skin to infrared heat from the sun can actually flare up acne." And, as Yen points out, that there are other potential consequences of tanning: Sun damage and skin cancer.

3. MYTH: WASHING YOUR FACE FREQUENTLY WILL PREVENT ACNE.

It seems logical: Acne is caused by bacteria on the skin, so washing your face until it's squeaky clean means you'll have clear skin. But our experts all agree that this isn’t so. "Over-washing your face, or scrubbing too hard, can make existing acne worse, or trigger a breakout," Yen says. Washing your skin too aggressively will actually make your skin create more sebum, which can cause more breakouts. Yen says that washing with a gentle cleanser (she likes pūrlisse's 4-in-1 Soy Milk Cleanser) in the morning and at night "is sufficient cleansing for acne prone skin."

When treating your skin, Lee advises using common sense: "Wash makeup, dirt, and sweat away before you go to bed, and if you feel your skin is greasy in the morning, wash it again! But don’t overdo it. Be gentle."

4. MYTH: SKIN IS OILIER IN THE SUMMER.

Even though your skin might look and feel like it's producing acne-creating oil on overtime during the summer months, that's not what’s actually happening: Yen says that being exposed to humidity and sweating is what's making your skin appear greasier.

"Our skin doesn't create more oil during the hotter months of the year, but we are likely to sweat more, which may make our skin feel more greasy and oily," Lee says. To keep oily skin under control, Lee recommends using salicylic acid-based cleaners. "Chemical peel ingredients such as this will encourage exfoliation of the skin, remove skin debris from within our pores, and help to clear up acne as well as prevent new acne from forming," she says. Her favorite is the Acne Cleanser from her SLMD line, which helps to tame acne and also minimizes brown spots.

And just because your skin is sweatier doesn't mean you shouldn't moisturize; Soto advises using lighter moisturizers like OLEHENRIKSEN's Sheer Transformation Perfecting Moisturizer.

5. MYTH: TOOTHPASTE IS THE IDEAL HOME REMEDY FOR GETTING RID OF ZITS.

Toothpaste with ingredients like menthol or mint will dry out a pimple, Lee says, and covering a pimple with something has the added benefit of reminding you to keep your hands off the bump: "If you don't pick a pimple, it will more likely resolve without scarring," she says.

But in some cases, toothpaste can overdry the skin—so there might be a better remedy to reach for. "Hemorrhoid cream can reduce redness and swelling associated with pimples," Lee says, "so reach for that over your toothpaste if you're looking for a home remedy!"

Soto had another recommendation: "I'd suggest taking a few drops of eucalyptus oil suspended into cold water and take your hand towel for some cold towel compresses,” he says. "The aroma is beautiful and we find wonderful results for eruptions."

6. MYTH: SUNSCREEN CLOGS YOUR PORES.

"The wrong kind of sunscreen can cause a chemical reaction on the skin, which can lead to acne," Lee says. So provided you pick the right sunscreen, you should be A-OK. "Look for ingredients that will not clog your pores, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide." Sunscreens marked "noncomedogenic"—which mean they're specially formulated not to block pores—will work best for acne-prone skin.

7. MYTH: ALL MAKEUP MAKES ACNE WORSE.

As with sunscreen, choosing the right kind of makeup makes all the difference. "Products that you put on your skin that are more 'occlusive' are thicker, and can clog your pores," Lee says. "Be ingredient savvy when it comes to anything you're putting on your skin, including makeup. Look for ingredients such as titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, mica, bismuth oxychloride, and iron oxides (normally found in mineral makeup) which will offer coverage and won't clog pores—which in turn, will not aggravate acne." If you're acne-prone, Lee recommends avoiding creams and using lotions or serums instead, "because lotions and serums are water- or alcohol-based, whereas creams are oil-based and can more likely make acne worse."

8. MYTH: ACNE IS YOUR FAULT.

Lee says she hears this a lot, and she wants people know that "in general, acne is not your fault, and it's not really under your control. It is largely dependent upon hormones and genetics, which is why most of us have it the worst during our puberty years."

But just because you're not to blame for acne doesn’t mean you can't gain control over it: "In my opinion, the best way to do this is to understand it: What type of acne you have, what type of skin you have, what makes your acne better and what makes it worse," Lee says. "Learn why certain products are recommended by dermatologists. Know that retinoids like retinol help prevent blackheads and whiteheads and be able to recognize that you have this type of acne and therefore this specifically is a great treatment option for you. You can take control and learn how to treat your own acne."

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15 Must-See Holiday Horror Movies
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment

Families often use the holidays as an excuse to indulge in repeat viewings of Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Elf. But for a certain section of the population, the yuletide is all about horror. Although it didn’t truly emerge until the mid-1970s, “holiday horror” is a thriving subgenre that often combines comedy to tell stories of demented Saint Nicks and lethal gingerbread men. If you’ve never seen Santa slash someone, here are 15 movies to get you started.

1. THANKSKILLING (2009)

Most holiday horror movies concern Christmas, so ThanksKilling is a bit of an anomaly. Another reason it’s an anomaly? It opens in 1621, with an axe-wielding turkey murdering a topless pilgrim woman. The movie continues on to the present-day, where a group of college friends are terrorized by that same demon bird during Thanksgiving break. It’s pretty schlocky, but if Turkey Day-themed terror is your bag, make sure to check out the sequel: ThanksKilling 3. (No one really knows what happened to ThanksKilling 2.)

2. BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)

Fittingly, the same man who brought us A Christmas Story also brought us its twisted cousin. Before Bob Clark co-wrote and directed the 1983 saga of Ralphie Parker, he helmed Black Christmas. It concerns a group of sorority sisters who are systematically picked off by a man who keeps making threatening phone calls to their house. Oh, and it all happens during the holidays. Black Christmas is often considered the godfather of holiday horror, but it was also pretty early on the slasher scene, too. It opened the same year as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and beat Halloween by a full four years.

3. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

This movie isn’t about Santa Claus himself going berserk and slaughtering a bunch of people. But it is about a troubled teen who does just that in a Santa suit. Billy Chapman starts Silent Night, Deadly Night as a happy little kid, only to witness a man dressed as St. Nick murder his parents in cold blood. Years later, after he has grown up and gotten a job at a toy store, he conducts a killing spree in his own red-and-white suit. The PTA and plenty of critics condemned the film for demonizing a kiddie icon, but it turned into a bona fide franchise with four sequels and a 2012 remake.

4. RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE (2010)

This Finnish flick dismantles Santa lore in truly bizarre fashion, and it’s not easy to explain in a quick plot summary. But Rare Exports involves a small community living at the base of Korvatunturi mountain, a major excavation project, a bunch of dead reindeer, and a creepy old naked dude who may or may not be Santa Claus. Thanks to its snowy backdrop, the movie scored some comparisons to The Thing, but the hero here isn’t some Kurt Russell clone with equally feathered hair. It’s a bunch of earnest kids and their skeptical dads, who all want to survive the holidays in one piece.

5. TO ALL A GOODNIGHT (1980)

To All a Goodnight follows a by-now familiar recipe: Add a bunch of young women to one psycho dressed as Santa Claus and you get a healthy dose of murder and this 1980 slasher flick. Only this one takes place at a finishing school. So it’s fancier.

6. KRAMPUS (2015)

Although many Americans are blissfully unaware of him, Krampus has terrorized German-speaking kids for centuries. According to folklore, he’s a yuletide demon who punishes naughty children. (He’s also part-goat.) That’s some solid horror movie material, so naturally Krampus earned his own feature film. In the movie, he’s summoned because a large suburban family loses its Christmas cheer. That family has an Austrian grandma who had encounters with Krampus as a kid, so he returns to punish her descendants. He also animates one truly awful Jack-in-the-Box.

7. THE GINGERDEAD MAN (2005)

“Eat me, you punk b*tch!” That’s one of the many corny catchphrases spouted by the Gingerdead Man, an evil cookie possessed by the spirit of a convicted killer (played by Gary Busey). The lesson here, obviously, is to never bake.

8. JACK FROST (1997)

No, this isn’t the Michael Keaton snowman movie. It’s actually a holiday horror movie that beat that family film by a year. In this version, Jack Frost is a serial killer on death row who escapes prison and then, through a freak accident, becomes a snowman. He embarks on a murder spree that’s often played for laughs—for instance, the cops threaten him with hairdryers. But the comedy is pretty questionable in the infamous, and quite controversial, Shannon Elizabeth shower scene.

9. ELVES (1989)

Based on the tagline—“They’re not working for Santa anymore”—you’d assume this is your standard evil elves movie. But Elves weaves Nazis, bathtub electrocutions, and a solitary, super grotesque elf into its utterly absurd plot. Watch at your own risk.

10. SINT (2010)

The Dutch have their own take on Santa, and his name is Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas travels to the Netherlands via steamship each year with his racist sidekick Zwarte Piet. But otherwise, he’s pretty similar to Santa. And if Santa can be evil, so can Sinterklaas. According to the backstory in Sint (or Saint), the townspeople burned their malevolent bishop alive on December 5, 1492. But Sinterklaas returns from the grave on that date whenever there’s a full moon to continue dropping bodies. In keeping with his olden origins, he rides around on a white horse wielding a golden staff … that he can use to murder you.

11. SANTA’S SLAY (2005)

Ever wonder where Santa came from? This horror-comedy claims he comes from the worst possible person: Satan. The devil’s kid lost a bet many years ago and had to pretend to be a jolly gift-giver. But now the terms of the bet are up and he’s out to act like a true demon. That includes killing Fran Drescher and James Caan, obviously.

12. ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE (2015)

Another Santa slasher is on the loose in All Through the House, but the big mystery here is who it is. This villain dons a mask during his/her streak through suburbia—and, as the genre dictates, offs a bunch of promiscuous young couples along the way. The riddle is all tied up in the disappearance of a little girl, who vanished several years earlier.

13. CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)

Several years before Silent Night, Deadly Night garnered protests for its anti-Kringle stance, Christmas Evil put a radicalized Santa at the center of its story. The movie’s protagonist, Harry Stadling, first starts to get weird thoughts in his head as a kid when he sees “Santa” (really his dad in the costume) groping his mom. Then, he becomes unhealthily obsessed with the holiday season, deludes himself into thinking he’s Santa, and goes on a rampage. The movie is mostly notable for its superfan John Waters, who lent commentary to the DVD and gave Christmas Evil some serious cult cred.

14. SANTA CLAWS (1996)

If you thought this was the holiday version of Pet Sematary, guess again. The culprit here isn’t a demon cat in a Santa hat, but a creepy next-door neighbor. Santa Claws stars B-movie icon Debbie Rochon as Raven Quinn, an actress going through a divorce right in the middle of the holidays. She needs some help caring for her two girls, so she seeks out Wayne, her neighbor who has an obsessive crush on her. He eventually snaps and dresses up as Santa Claus in a ski mask. Mayhem ensues.

15. NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1980)

Because the holidays aren’t over until everyone’s sung “Auld Lang Syne,” we can’t count out New Year’s Eve horror. In New Year’s Evil, lady rocker Blaze is hosting a live NYE show. Everything is going well, until a man calls in promising to kill at midnight. The cops write it off as a prank call, but soon, Blaze’s friends start dropping like flies. Just to tie it all together, the mysterious murderer refers to himself as … “EVIL.”

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10 Surprising Ways Senses Shape Perception
The American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History

Every bit of information we know about the world we gathered with one of our five senses. But even with perfect pitch or 20/20 vision, our perceptions don’t always reflect an accurate picture of our surroundings. Our brain is constantly filling in gaps and taking shortcuts, which can result in some pretty wild illusions.

That’s the subject of “Our Senses: An Immersive Experience,” a new exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Mental Floss recently took a tour of the sensory funhouse to learn more about how the brain and the senses interact.

1. LIGHTING REVEALS HIDDEN IMAGES.

Woman and child looking at pictures on a wall

Under normal lighting, the walls of the first room of “Our Senses” look like abstract art. But when the lights change color, hidden illustrations are revealed. The three lights—blue, red, and green—used in the room activate the three cone cells in our eyes, and each color highlights a different set of animal illustrations, giving the viewers the impression of switching between three separate rooms while standing still.

2. CERTAIN SOUNDS TAKE PRIORITY ...

We can “hear” many different sounds at once, but we can only listen to a couple at a time. The AMNH exhibit demonstrates this with an audio collage of competing recordings. Our ears automatically pick out noises we’re conditioned to react to, like an ambulance siren or a baby’s cry. Other sounds, like individual voices and musical instruments, require more effort to detect.

3. ... AS DO CERTAIN IMAGES.

When looking at a painting, most people’s eyes are drawn to the same spots. The first things we look for in an image are human faces. So after staring at an artwork for five seconds, you may be able to say how many people are in it and what they look like, but would likely come up short when asked to list the inanimate object in the scene.

4. PAST IMAGES AFFECT PRESENT PERCEPTION.

Our senses often are more suggestible than we would like. Check out the video above. After seeing the first sequence of animal drawings, do you see a rat or a man’s face in the last image? The answer is likely a rat. Now watch the next round—after being shown pictures of faces, you might see a man’s face instead even though the final image hasn’t changed.

5. COLOR INFLUENCES TASTE ...

Every cooking show you’ve watched is right—presentation really is important. One look at something can dictate your expectations for how it should taste. Researchers have found that we perceive red food and drinks to taste sweeter and green food and drinks to taste less sweet regardless of chemical composition. Even the color of the cup we drink from can influence our perception of taste.

6. ... AND SO DOES SOUND

Sight isn’t the only sense that plays a part in how we taste. According to one study, listening to crunching noises while snacking on chips makes them taste fresher. Remember that trick before tossing out a bag of stale junk food.

7. BEING HYPER-FOCUSED HAS DRAWBACKS.

Have you ever been so focused on something that the world around you seemed to disappear? If you can’t recall the feeling, watch the video above. The instructions say to keep track of every time a ball is passed. If you’re totally absorbed, you may not notice anything peculiar, but watch it a second time without paying attention to anything in particular and you’ll see a person in a gorilla suit walk into the middle of the screen. The phenomenon that allows us to tune out big details like this is called selective attention. If you devote all your mental energy to one task, your brain puts up blinders that block out irrelevant information without you realizing it.

8. THINGS GET WEIRD WHEN SENSES CONTRADICT EACH OTHER.

Girl standing in optical illusion room.

The most mind-bending room in the "Our Senses" exhibit is practically empty. The illusion comes from the black grid pattern painted onto the white wall in such a way that straight planes appear to curve. The shapes tell our eyes we’re walking on uneven ground while our inner ear tells us the floor is stable. It’s like getting seasick in reverse: This conflicting sensory information can make us feel dizzy and even nauseous.

9. WE SEE SHADOWS THAT AREN’T THERE.

If our brains didn’t know how to adjust for lighting, we’d see every shadow as part of the object it falls on. But we can recognize that the half of a street that’s covered in shade isn’t actually darker in color than the half that sits in the sun. It’s a pretty useful adaptation—except when it’s hijacked for optical illusions. Look at the image above: The squares marked A and B are actually the same shade of gray. Because the pillar appears to cast a shadow over square B, our brain assumes it’s really lighter in color than what we’re shown.

10. WE SEE FACES EVERYWHERE.

The human brain is really good at recognizing human faces—so good it can make us see things that aren’t there. This is apparent in the Einstein hollow head illusion. When looking at the mold of Albert Einstein’s face straight on, the features appear to pop out rather than sink in. Our brain knows we’re looking at something similar to a human face, and it knows what human faces are shaped like, so it automatically corrects the image that it’s given.

All images courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History unless otherwise noted.

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