There is no magical ‘cure’ for acne. There are different types, yes, but no one-dose-fits-all cure. So do read the below – but bear in mind that acne is different for everyone. You may have one type – or 3 types.
You need to know your skin, your body, your state of mind, your ‘system’ inside out to truly see results.
Types/causes of acne:
● Hormones – just starting periods, just finishing periods, perimenopause, menopause, for boys – raging androgen can cause over-production of oil, slow shedding of dead skin cells, increases in the mount of androgen in your system – all creating the perfect breeding ground for acne.
● Bacteria – Propionibacterium Acnes is the bacteria that gives our friend its name – all it needs is the perfect environment to spread.
● Inflammation – illness, foods, stress – a system fighting illness is inflamed on its own, add medication and you are doubling your potential problems, foods can cause inflammation (especially food allergies) and stress always causes inflammation – again, all breeding grounds for acne.
● Sensitivities – allergies, reactions to products, reactions to foods/environment.
Myths and Old Wives Tales:
● Acne is caused by dirty skin. Not true. There is a massive difference between bacteria and dirt. Over-washing your face destroys the acid mantle that protects your skin, makes an alkaline environment, makes your acne worse and your skin a dry, dull, sore breeding ground.
● You can ‘dry up’ spots. Not true. A spot is a mixture of oil, inflammation, bacteria and dead skin cells. No water in that list. All you are doing is drying the surrounding area in the hope that it will make the spot look smaller. What it actually does it put the spot on its own ‘look at ME’ platform.
● You can use toothpaste or nappy cream to spot-treat acne. A one-off spot may have its redness taken down – temporarily – by applying one of the above. If acne could be fixed by Oral-B or Sudocrem all of our problems would be solved. Stop putting toothpaste and bum cream on your face.
These may not work for you; they may work brilliantly – unfortunately there is no perfect recipe. If you are on serious medication speak to your consultant before supplementing.
● Avoid too much alcohol in products. A ‘tingle’ is ok. A ‘burning’ is not. Products where the main ingredient listed is alcohol will dry out the surface of your skin, destroy the acid mantle and make the perfect breeding ground. However: alcohol is sometimes a necessary evil for suspending things like glycolic acid in a solution – where they would normally not work as well. Acids are the exception.
● Avoid soaps and traditional stripping foaming washes. These break down the acid mantle of your skin (think armour) and make your skin a 10 on the 1-10 acid/alkaline scale. Remember litmus paper from science classes? Again – the perfect breeding ground.
● Don’t pick red cysts. A whitehead can be popped in the correct manner, a cyst is going nowhere and will always, always prevail if you battle it. And then it will scar, just to teach you who is boss.
● Don’t completely strip your skin of oil and moisture. An acne skin that sticks solely to harsh foaming cleansers and oil-free products is nearly always – always – reddened with inflammation and sensitivity. Thus, making more work for yourself.
● Treat your skin gently and with respect. You know what I mean. Abusing it with harsh products and getting angry with it – like it’s a different person – will make it worse. Your skin belongs to you. Don’t try and disown it when it needs you.
● Cleanse with good quality oils and balm cleansers. There is absolutely no reason to avoid oil when you have acne. They don’t clog pores; they nourish the skin you are now pledging to take care of, and they do not break you out.
● Use topical exfoliants. Acids used topically help alleviate blocked pores, dead skin cells, trapped hair follicles and reduce your acid mantle to the lower end of the scale – usually around a 3/4 – which is in layman’s terms, strengthening your first line of defence to the acne. Think glycolic, lactic and salicylic.
● You can use products like benzoyl peroxide, found in spot treatments, to topically treat bad acne spots. It can penetrate the pore and kill off the bacteria specific to acne, but I prefer the acids in the step above. Sulfur is more commonly used, but a word of warning – in my experience, both can be drying to the skin in high %s. Go easy.
● Hydrate your skin and consider that it might need oil in places. You can have acne in areas and be really dry/dehydrated in others.
● Consider supplementation. Probiotics are a must. Especially if youare on anti-biotics. Your skin is the first place to show anything going on in the gut. Keep your stomach/intestines as strong as possible. Go for the highest dosage you can find – and remember with probiotics – they degrade very quickly so if it says 2 billion on the packet – by the time it gets through processing, packaging, delivery and shelf it could have gone down to 1 billion – literally halved.
●Avoid moisturisers with good quality, heavy shea butter. Yes, it’s natural but it’s harder than most oils for the skin to break down and thus tends to clogs pores and give you nice whiteheads. Buy moisturisers with water as the main ingredient for day. You can use appropriate oils and balms at night.