Acne is one of the most common skin conditions, where approximately 85% of people between the ages of 12 to 25 have experienced it. If you have acne-prone skin, it can feel helpless trying to figure out solutions to manage it. You might not know everything there is to know about acne, but if your breakouts bother you, that’s reason enough to address them.
We will be covering some tips and routines to treating superficial breakouts and combatting oiliness. These are good to know if you’ve got mild acne issues or have acne-prone skin. It’s important to keep in mind that more often than not, acne – particularly severe cases – needs to be treated internally rather than topically with skincare products. It’s always best to consult with a professional when dealing with severe and long-term cases.
What is Acne?
Acne occurs when sebum (the oil we produce naturally) mixes with dead skin cells and bacteria, clogging the pores. Those with acne-prone skin often produce too much sebum that can lead to congestion of the pores.
Acne is generally broken down into 2 main categories: inflammatory and non-inflammatory. Inflammatory acne is often caused by an overgrowth of bacteria that lives on the skin that causes inflammation. This can appear as pustules (red bumps with white pus) or papule (red bumps). These tend to be deeper, and more painful pimples than non-inflammatory breakouts. Non-inflammatory acne – aka comedonal acne – occurs when excess oil and dead skin cells are trapped in the pores. These appear as whiteheads and blackheads.
While there are different types of acne, the main thing is to figure out what is causing them. You can get a sense of what’s causing your acne by looking at where you’re breaking out on your face.
If you’re struggling with body acne, check out our guide to dealing with body acne for more info and some helpful tips!
What Causes Acne?
It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of acne as there are many factors in play: genetics, bacteria, hormones, environment, and diet all play a role to varying degrees. While some of these underlying causes may not be within your control, there are a few things you can address:
- Diet: Studies have found that dairy and high glycemic index foods (such as white bread, potatoes and white rice) are linked to acne. When consuming foods that spike your blood sugar, it causes inflammation throughout your body. These spikes cause your body to produce more sebum, and ultimately can worsen your condition. It’s best to stay away from sugary, processed carbs and dairy when trying to improve acne.
- Stress: Stress does not directly cause acne. It can cause hormonal surges and imbalances that leads to breakouts. It has also been found that stress slows the healing of wounds (including acne). When your acne takes longer to heal, that means the breakout stays longer and is more susceptible to increasing in severity.
- Lifestyle habits: Poor lifestyle habits such as smoking and alcohol consumption can also contribute to the worsening of acne. Other bad habits such as not washing your face after a workout or in the evenings can also result in breakouts. A balanced, healthy lifestyle is key to keeping your skin in good condition.
How to Treat Acne
When it comes to treating acne-prone skin, routine and consistency are key. Not all acne require prescribed treatment – a solid, home skincare routine may be all you need to get milder cases under control.
The most important thing here is to remember not to pick at your pimples. This can spread the bacteria from the infected pore to surrounding pores and cause the acne to spread. If done incorrectly, you could unknowingly make it worse by pushing further bacteria into the infected area and cause inflammation and a worse outbreak. Instead, find products that contain acne-treating ingredients to clear up your skin.
Best Ingredients for Treatment
- Salicylic acid (BHA): Beta-Hydroxy acids penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin, breaking down dirt and oil in the pores. Not only do BHAs directly treat existing breakouts by cleaning out clogged pores, but they also prevent them from returning. As an exfoliating acid, BHAs soften, separate and shed the top layer of dead skin cells. By sloughing off the dead skin, it encourages cellular turnover to improve skin dullness and texture.
- Zinc: Zinc has anti-inflammatory properties that helps relieve the redness and irritation associated with breakouts. This ingredients also clears acne-causing bacteria to reduce the spread, and helps balance oil production in the skin.
- Benzoyl Peroxide: This anti-bacterial ingredient stops breakouts in their tracks by killing the bacteria that causes them. It also reduces the build-up of dead skin cells, allow your other anti-acne products to work better.
How to Prevent Acne
In skincare, one of the golden rules is to prevent rather than correct. It’s best to consistently look after your skin to prevent issues from occurring, rather than trying to correct the issues. Once you’ve got the treatment of your acne down, find a routine that helps you to prevent future breakouts.
Best Ingredients for Prevention
- Alpha-Hydroxy acids (AHAs): AHAs exfoliate the surface of the skin by splitting the bonds between dead skin cells. Once cut loose, the cells fall off and encourage the regeneration of new cells. The healthy skin underneath is able to shine through, improving the skin’s overall appearance and radiance. While AHAs won’t treat inflamed blemishes, it will help dislodge blackheads and whiteheads.
- Niacinamide: This ingredient is a form of vitamin B3 that fights acne while keeping inflammation and dark spots at bay. One of its main benefits is its ability to help regulate the production of oil, preventing any blockages in the pores.
- Retinol: Retinol has anti-ageing, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-microbial properties, making it an absolute powerhouse ingredient for acne-prone skin. It reduces inflammation and redness from existing blemishes, while also increasing cell turnover to prevent dead skin cells from clogging the pores in the first place.