In the past, I have rather boldly claimed that there is a product for every skin type and condition – and I still stand by that, but it’s not always so cut and dried. And this is particularly true of probably one of the most requested topics and one of the most distressing skin conditions of all – acne. Unfortunately, this skin condition is constantly on the rise and as I’m sure many women can testify, no longer exclusive to those under the age of 18.
If you believe you are suffering from acne, before you start any new regimen, remember that it’s important to be diagnosed by a real-life professional. It’s important to see a medical advisor rather than self-prescribing. Google is a great resource for many things, but misdiagnosis through Google or Web MD is a common issue and can often cause more harm than good. Not all redness or bumps on the skin are necessarily acne. Not even all acne is the same!
So, exactly what causes acne? Importantly, I must stress that it’s NOT caused by dirt and lack of washing. True, a certain element of hygiene will always play a crucial part in any skin problem or condition, but it is certainly not the sole culprit. Acne is an unfortunately common condition that is caused by the over-production of oil. To be clear, oil is not an evil thing; we are supposed to have oil both inside and on the surface of the skin – it forms part of the natural protective layer and provides a healthy bounce and appearance to the skin.
Many acne sufferers unwittingly over-exfoliate their skin, trying to strip the excess oil away – this is the opposite of what you should do. Your skin should always be treated gently to avoid further irritation. If you strip too much oil away from the surface, the skin panics and that causes an overproduction of oil, which is the exact opposite of what you need. Your skin knows it’s supposed to have oil, and by removing it, you knock the system out of sync. So to protect itself, the skin produces more and more oil (and it’s the gloopy nasty sort), and so the problem continues in a harsh cycle.
If you suffer from acne, you may be thinking ‘why me?’ Well, there are four basic root causes of acne that you may be affected by:
Hormonal: generic skincare cannot help this. Supplements, medical testing and GP recommendations are needed.
Over-production of oil: Vitamin A can help to regulate and stabilise the amount of oil the body produces. Remember, the oil in your skin is designed to flow out onto the surface of the skin to protect and moisturise it.
Lack of exfoliation: The skin does not exfoliate naturally; this is due to a lack of water, excess UV exposure and/or a fish oil deficiency. The skin cannot shed its layers at the proper rate, which means the oil is trapped in the skin and cannot get out to the surface, where it belongs. We can help this by exfoliating the surface with AHA and BHA acids (glycolic, lactic, malic, salicylic acid), rather than using physical exfoliating products, such as facial scrubs.
Bacteria: the bacteria designed to sit on the surface of your skin can creep into the follicle (pore). If anything enters into the body that doesn’t belong, the body recognises it as an enemy and fights it, causing pus/infection. The solution is products that contain antibacterial ingredients.
In many cases, skincare alone can’t solve acne-prone skin, but what can skincare do? Topically, skincare can give you some of the “tools”, also known as ingredients, that your skin needs to keep itself healthy. What you need are:
- Vitamin A to regulate oil production
- AHA and BHA acids such as salicylic acid to exfoliate the skin
- Antibacterial ingredients to help keep the surface of your skin free from harmful bacteria
Finally, my top tips to deal with acne:
- Be careful not to introduce too much too soon to the skin. Give your skin time to adjust and react to new products.
- Do not let the skin dry out by using harsh scrubs, as this will stimulate an overproduction of oil and continue the dreaded cycle.
- Deal with the acne to prevent scarring.
- Don’t squeeze spots. It spreads bacteria and causes further damage.
- Wash makeup brushes/change pillow slips regularly, as they do gather and build up excessive amounts of bacteria and oils.