What are some of the main causes of acne?
Although acne ranges in severity from mild to severe, with everything from the odd blackhead or superficial pimple, through to large inflamed nodules and scarring, the underlying process is the same.
- A shedding dysfunction – skin cells get sticky and don’t shed off as easily as they should, and build up in your pores.
- An increase in oil production – extra oil or sebum mixes with the dead skin cells and blocks your pores.
- An overgrowth of a bacteria called p.acnes (hence the term acne).
Acne can strike at any age, however usually begins at puberty and worsens in adolescence due to the surge of hormones, which cause the enlargement and over stimulation of oil glands.
Other factors such as diet and stress can contribute to acne.
I tend to think of acne as either genetic/hormonal acne or cosmetic acne (acne cosmetica). With genetic acne, you can control and manage it to the degree that people may not even know you suffer from acne, but you can’t cure it as such.
Cosmetic acne, tends to be non-inflammatory with blackheads and bumps under the skin, and is caused by what you are using on your skin and hair with key culprits being talc based make-up, heavy moisturisers and hair oils, which block pores and harbour bacteria.
What steps can be taken to help prevent acne?
If your skin is prone to only mild breakouts, a simple home care regime will help keep your skin clear.
Never sleep with make-up on, and use an exfoliating cleanser twice a day (or three times if exercising during the day) to help keep pores clear. Avoid “beady” or “grainy” cleansers and don’t over scrub as this can irritate and actually stimulate oil production, making things worse. Often people think their skin is clean in the morning and therefore don’t cleanse. As your skin has been repairing itself overnight, those dead cells on the skin’s surface are just waiting to block your pores if you don’t wash them off.
Avoid heavy moisturizers and make –ups which will only clog your skin, and instead opt for a light oil free sunscreen formulated for oily or acne prone skin such as elta MD UV clear spf 46 during the day, and either a hydrating vitamin B or vitamin A serum at night depending on your skin type.
You don’t have to use a lot of products – simple but regular is the key.
If in doubt…. Make an appointment with a skin care specialist. At Prescription Skin Care we see lots of people who are seeking advice on what products to use to keep their skin looking its best. Prevention is easier than cure.
What is your advice on how to treat acne once it has been formed?
An appointment with a skin care specialist is no longer optional, it is essential. You will be given a skin care programme specifically for acne which will include an exfoliating cleanser, along with products containing ingredients such as vitamin A ( to regulate oil and cell function), AHA’s and salicylic acid to speed up your natural exfoliating process and anti-inflammatory ingredients to calm and soothe. “Bacteria fighting” ingredients are also included.
Don’t be put off, by thinking this sounds like a lot to use. Today we have products that are what I call multi-taskers, combining several of the required ingredients into one or two products.
However for severe acne, topically applied products and treatments may not be enough and I would refer you to a dermatologist to look at other treatment options such as roaccutane.
One of the most effective acne treatments are peels. Think of these as medical facials that trigger changes in the follicles, regulate oil and have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects on your skin. Although peels offer faster and more dramatic improvements in your skin, you can not escape your twice a day home care. Compare it to brushing your teeth and going to the dentist. If you visit your dentist twice a year, but never brush your teeth, do you think your gums and teeth will be healthy and look great? No.
If you have a couple of peels but don’t use your products you won’t have great skin.
Again it can be kept simple, and with acne cosmetica, it may not be what we advise you to put on your skin, but rather what not to put on!
What are the main do’s and don’t where acne is concerned?
- Seek professional advice and use skin care designed for an acne prone skin.
- Eat a healthy well balanced diet.
- Wherever possible reduce stress.
- Wear a good quality mineral make-up as they are oil free, help to calm acne lesions and cover well, without clogging your pores. Even guys can cover spots with this and no one will know.
- Give up and think nothing can be done. We have fantastic products and treatments to not only prevent, but treat acne.
- Get slack with your prescribed skin care programme. Stick to it!
- PICK! Popping pimples spreads bacteria and you will get more, not to mention scarring.
- Wear talc based or heavy make-up, or very rich, perfumed moisturisers.
- Share prescription acne products with friends – what suits one person may not be appropriate for another.
Are there any misconceptions and myths about acne that need to be busted?
- Acne is only a problem for teenagers.
- Acne will go away on its own, and you will grow out of it.
- Chocolate causes acne.
- The sun will dry up and clear acne.
- Acne is contagious.
- The more you cleanse the less breakouts you will get.