ACNE AT ALL AGES - How to Identify and How to Deal...
Acne. We’ve all experienced it, some worse than others. We’ve all had pimples pop up before important events. As adults, we hope our acne days are long behind us, yet it can surprise us and pop up at any age. It can cause dread, pain, and embarrassment. Feeling insecure about your acne is normal, but acne is also completely normal.
A skin acceptance movement has emerged lately, with some influencers and celebrities showing off their textured skin. Certain magazines and beauty companies have changed their policies on retouching photos, and American drugstore giant CVS has pledged to show unaltered beauty in their displays. Seeing images of real skin and learning to accept the normal function of your own skin is essential to feeling confident and beautiful.
That being said, we all want to look and feel our best. We can accept acne as normal, but still want our skin to be clear and healthy. Trying to treat your acne at home on your own can be frustrating. Different types of acne require different treatment, and sorting out what you need can be overwhelming. At The Spa Curator we gear our at-home spa experiences and treatments to the unique skin persona’s of our customers, including acne-prone skin. We also offer a variety of products for acneic skin to make finding a routine easy.
To prepare you to deal with current and future acne, let’s get into the details.
What Causes Acne…
Before we get into the most common causes, I want to first say that the science behind what causes or contributes to acne and what we can do to treat it, is ever changing (which is is partly why it's so frustrating to deal with), and will likely keep on evolving (hopefully for the better) over time. Knowing the basics though, can help tremendously in your pursuit to manage and understand the acne that you are experiencing.
There is traditional or "regular" acne, which can appear anywhere on your face or body and hormonal acne that primarily appears in the same recurring spots, such as your chin and jaw, cheeks or forehead over and over. You most likely know the ones we're talking about!
All types of acne are primarily caused by one or more of the following: excess sebum production, clogged hair follicles, bacteria, and inflammation. Many of these causes can be triggered or aggravated by hormones and stress.
Does junk food cause acne?
We've heard this time and time again, likely as teenagers that we had to steer clear of the junk food because it would make us get zits and break out. So is there some truth to this? Does junk food really make you break out?
You might be thinking... if yes, then why am I still breaking out when I don't really eat junk food?
There is no question that we have to be mindful of what we put into our bodies because what we consume is our fuel and whether we choose "regular" or "premium" fuel just like our cars, will make a difference in how we function, our skin is no exception here, it is our largest organ after all.
The answer here, is that it's less about junk food as a general whole and more about the refined carbohydrates, which tend to be higher in refined sugars and with a higher glycemic index, as well as foods that cause inflammation. So yes, so much of this is present in "junk food" but don't fool yourself into thinking that it's the only culprit, these are also present other foods we might deem as healthy.
Check out this article by Dr. Cynthia Bailey and this article by Sam Wood of Good Glow that do an amazing job explaining the connection between carbohydrates, sugar and acne even further... certainly worth the read.
Hormones also play a major role in acne and do, to the various points in our lives, where hormones can go on a rampage, such as puberty, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, even menopause can cause and inflame acne which sheds some light on why we can experience it at almost any age.
While the root causes may differ, it's the end result of excess oil, clogged pores, bacteria and inflamed skin leading to breakouts that are the result.
Considering that there is often no clear cut reason why acne happens especially when it varies from person to person, looking at preventing and correcting acne with a holistic approach is the way to go... and only good can come from it.
Keeping a healthy skin barrier can help reduce acne breakouts. Be sure to cleanse twice a day, and always, always remove your makeup before bed (it’s hard, I know!) You don't want the build up of products and makeup for the day clogging up those pores even further.
Sometimes, people with oily or acneic skin can tend to avoid moisturizer in hopes of drying their skin out and getting less oily. This is actually counterproductive! Our skin produces oil to protect itself, and when we dry it out, it will produce extra oil to overcompensate. If your skin is oily and/or acne prone, you can benefit from using a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer. Make sure that when you purchase products they are non-comedogenic aka non-clogging products.
There are many great ingredients out there for treating and preventing acne, but be careful not to overdo it. Too many powerful ingredients and harsh scrubs can damage your skin barrier, so be sure to follow directions, and when in doubt, seek advice from a professional.
Try to minimize stress in your life, especially when dealing with acne. I know this is easier said than done, but it’s a good excuse to practice self care. Know what calms you down and makes you feel good, and try to make time in your schedule each day. A good at home skincare routine can be relaxing and stress relieving, while also keeping your skin healthy and youthful. Win win!
Eat clean. We talked about this earlier and it's worth mentioning again. If you are at a loss of what might be causing your acne, try reducing your refined carb and sugar intake to see if it makes a difference. You can also try to eliminate individual food groups one at a time to see what your skin does or doesn't respond to.
In addition to keeping all of the tips above in mind when it comes to your skin and self care routine, if you truly are struggling with breakouts and acne, the #1 thing we can suggest us to speak to a dermatologist or a licensed esthetician specializing in acne. That is what they are there for, so why not take advantage?
Acne Correction - The Best Treatments for Each Type of Acne
Blackheads & Whiteheads: Both are caused by clogged pores, and both are treated in the same way. The difference between the two is reflected in their names: whiteheads are pores that are clogged all the way through with a little white head at the surface, while blackheads are clogged pores with no head at the surface - which is why they appear as black or gray gunk and are so easy to squeeze out. However, I would not recommend attempting to extract blackheads or whiteheads at home because it can lead to scarring and the spread of bacteria. While you can absolutely get amazing results at home on the regular with an at-home treatment from The Spa Curator, when extractions are in order (which is less than you think), then going to a highly recommended pro is the best option.
Salicylic acid can be used to treat and prevent both types. Important note: salicylic acid is derived from aspirin, so if you have an allergy you should steer clear. Look for products with sulfur as an alternative. Salicylic acid can be incorporated into your routine as a cleanser, toner, or spot treatment. SA is a chemical exfoliant that helps to shed dead skin cells and reduce inflammation, and it penetrates the pore to reduce excess sebum. Be sure to only use one salicylic acid product in your routine, as overdoing it can lead to further irritation. Potentially drying your skin out. Less is more here!
Papules & Pustules: These are what are commonly known as pimples. Papules are formed when oil and bacteria combine to form a red bump beneath the surface of the skin. Pustules form in the same way, but unlike papules, they are filled with pus, resulting in a red bump with a bulging white head at the top. I know it can be tempting, but I promise, you do not want to try to pop these. In addition to spreading bacteria and causing scars, it can be very painful.
Treat these types of acne with benzoyl peroxide for the best results. You may also consider incorporating a topical retinol into your routine to increase cell turnover and reduce acne flare ups. (Bonus: retinol is also a powerful anti-aging ingredient!)
Nodules & Cysts: These types of acne are the most painful, noticeable, and hard to get rid of. Both are infections deep in the pore resulting in large, painful bumps on the skin. Nodules can be flesh colored or red, while cysts are filled with pus and inflamed. While you can follow the advice above to treat these types, if these are a recurring problem for you, then your best bet is to see a doctor. Over the counter products treat the top layers of skin, while these infections run deep. You may need a prescription topical or oral medication to find full relief.
Rosacea, and Why It Can Be Mistaken for Acne
We wanted to address this here, because confusing acne with rosacea is more common that you might think. Rosacea is an inflammatory skin condition that can cause redness covering the middle part of the face, including cheeks, center forehead, nose, and chin. Pimples can form over the redness, leading some to believe their rosacea is acne. Expansive redness as opposed to solely around the pimple is a sign that it may be rosacea. You may also see broken capillaries and your skin may feel warm to the touch. If you have frequent, persistent redness on your face, it’s best to see a dermatologist for an evaluation. Your doctor will help you come up with a treatment plan. This will involve identifying your triggers, creating a gentle skincare routine, and potentially implementing a prescription oral or topical medication.
Healthy skin requires a delicate balance of treating and preventing; active ingredients and nourishing ingredients. Knowing how to care for your skin at home can save you a trip to an esthetician, and The Spa Curator can help you choose products that are right for your skin as well. If you have any skin condition that persists, be sure to see a doctor. If you are properly using your over the counter products and they still aren’t cutting it, you may need a prescription to see improvements. Often understanding what is happening with your skin is half the battle so hopefully we have shed some light on this after a frustrating subject. If you want to find out your skin persona, go ahead and take our skin quiz here to get even more in the know when it comes to your skin!
Disclaimer: We are not medical professionals and this article is intended to help you get a general understanding of what causes acne, how you can possibly prevent and treat it, it is not a substitute for medical advice.