The Truth About Acne The Cochrane Collaboration Consumer Network -- an offshoot of the esteemed British nonprofit group devoted to gathering and disseminating scientific evidence about medical practices -- has just released a thorough report on acne (available at www.cochraneconsumer.com). The report dispassionately analyzes the hundreds of studies done on all sorts of acne treatments and lays them out free of the commercial entanglements that often color research on a problem that generates annual sales of $100 million in the United States.

Highlights: Overscrubbing (particularly with exfoliating washes) can do more harm than good. Diet does not cause or worsen acne. Products using benzoyl peroxide (and about a dozen other chemicals) have done well in clinical trails. Pomade hair products, used most often by African Americans, can contribute to acne on the forehead.

And then there's this fascinating observation: "While squeezing a blackhead can get the contents of the blocked pore to come out, squeezing a red pimple that has no pus in the centre just pushes the inflammation even deeper into the skin causing an even bigger spot, the possibility of infection and the danger of scarring."

So: Squeeze the blackheads and leave the pus-free red ones alone. Who knew?

-- Craig Stoltz