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The Most Common Acne Questions, Answered!
Some of the most common questions I get are about how to treat acne, blemishes and breakouts.
Ladies, you’re not alone. Almost all of us have dealt with acne at some point in our lives. Even as a skincare professional, I’ve had the occasional breakout occur. Studies have found that the majority of us are in the Great Battle of the Blemish.
And even more shocking is that 40% of people who suffer with acne will do nothing to treat it! We get exasperated and frustrated, or we think there’s nothing we can do, so we give up and just accept that this is life now.
It does not have to be so, dear friends!
Today, I’m going to uncover some facts and misconceptions about acne, and hopefully help you find a way to treat those pesky pimples!
How Acne Forms
Our skin, especially on our face, neck, back, chest and shoulders is covered in tiny hair follicles or pores. Within each pore is a sebaceous gland which produces oil (sebum) that normally flows up to the surface of our skin to keep it moisturized.
When our pores get blocked by dirt or dead skin cells, the sebum (oil) gets trapped in there and bacteria begins to grow. The surrounding skin can get inflamed as your immune system goes into action to fight the bacteria. Thus, a pimple is born!
There Are Two Different Types of Acne
- Non-Inflammatory Acne
This type of acne is typically small, non-painful and doesn’t exhibit red, inflamed skin. It includes whiteheads which occur when oil and bacteria are trapped under skin. It also includes blackheads which, contrary to popular belief are not dark because of dirt trapped in pores, but because the sebum inside oxidizes and turns black or brown.
- Inflammatory Acne
If too much bacteria gets trapped in the sebum in your pores, the surrounding skin flares up as your immune system kicks in to fight it off, and spots become swollen, red and filled with pus. In some cases, these can develop into larger nodules or cysts.
Common Causes of Acne
A lot of people want to know what they’re doing to cause their acne. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of finding the right product that works for their needs, or changing a habit (Always wash off your makeup before bed. ALWAYS.). But, in some cases, it’s just hormonal or genetic and beyond our control.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of pimples and blemishes.
Hormones - Hormonal changes cause the sebaceous glands to produce more oil. Ladies, this is why acne can seem worse during our teenage years, at certain times in our cycles, during pregnancy, or during menopause.
Diet - It’s been suggested that eating an antioxidant and vitamin-rich diet can help support healthy skin and its ability to heal. Studies have also specifically linked sugar and dairy as a stimulant of acne. I know my skin looks better when I cut back on sugar!
Genetics - That’s right, you might be able to blame your parents for your acne! Our genes play a large role in how much oil our pores produce and our skin’s ability to fight off bacteria. One study found that first degree relatives of people with acne were 4 times more likely to develop it than those with parents who didn’t have acne. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
Wrong Products - It is so important to use skincare products that are tailored to your specific skin type. If you have dry skin, use an item made for dry skin. This is especially important if you have sensitive skin or easily-inflamed skin.
Hard Water - The mineral deposits in hard water can cause soap residue to remain on your skin and clog pores. Have you ever had a bad breakout while traveling or after moving somewhere new? This could be the culprit. Read more about how to combat the effects of hard water on skin here.
Skin Contact - There are habits in our daily lives that we don’t even realize are pore cloggers. Your cell phone, hands, hair and pillowcase can all transfer dirt, makeup, oil and bacteria to your face that can cause breakouts. Tight clothing that doesn’t allow your skin to breathe can also trap dirt and sweat that can clog pores (Hello, bacne!).
Do you always break out on certain areas of your face and can’t figure out why? Face mapping might help you! It studies the correlation between your internal organs and how they might affect different locations on your face and cause skin issues.
Visit my in depth look at Face Mapping to find out more about changes you can make on the inside that will help support healthy skin on the outside!
What Can I Do to Treat Acne?
Practice Good Skincare
Effective treatment starts with a good skincare routine! As I mentioned, make sure you’re using a cleanser and moisturizer formulated for your skin type. If you have oily, combination, dry, sensitive or acne-prone skin, look for products that target those issues to get the maximum benefits out of your skincare!
Also, follow the directions on your products to make sure you’re not irritating skin by overusing them. I know it can be tempting to do some extra cleansing or exfoliating (more is more, right?), but using items as directed will be better for your skin.
If you have questions, contact an esthetician to find out which products would be best to treat your skin!
Make the Switch
If you keep battling breakouts, it might be time to switch up something in your daily habits that could be affecting your skin.
Switch up your products - Perhaps a different product would be better suited to treat your skin. Or, check to make sure you’ve been using them correctly.
Switch up your diet - Maybe your diet includes foods that are irritating or aren’t supporting your skin’s health. Incorporate yummy, vitamin-rich foods into your daily nosh sessions for healthy, glowing skin!
Switch up your stress - It could be a matter of reducing stress. There’s a definite link between the body’s response to stress and how it affects your skin. As Acne.com explains, “Stress causes an inflammatory response in the body and can cause the walls of
Switch up your water - If you suspect hard water might be the cause of your skin issues, try washing your face with bottled or distilled water for a few weeks and see if anything changes. Yes, this might make you look like a princess, but it’s worth a try!
Switch up your habits - Little everyday things can transfer pore-blocking oil and bacteria to our face such as hands, cellphones and hair touching our skin. Try pulling your hair up in a loose bun or pony while you sleep. Keep your phone clean with sanitary wipes. And, start paying attention to how much you touch your face. I have to practice not leaning on my hand whenever I’m working at my desk!
Look for Active Ingredients
These ingredients pack a powerful punch in the fight against acne!
- Salicylic Acid - Helps unplug pores and prevents future blockage. It is especially effective at treating blackheads and whiteheads. Because it also calms inflammation and is less irritating, it’s a better choice for those with dry or sensitive skin.
- Benzoyl Peroxide - Kills bacteria and slows down oil production. It also helps reduce inflammation and unblock pores by removing dead skin cells. Benzoyl can dry out skin, so make sure you apply a moisturizer before using it and follow product use instructions. Also, it can remove or fade color from hair, clothing and towels, so apply carefully!
- Retinoids - Unblocks pores and reduces oil, therefore also reducing bacteria growth. Retinoids can cause some skin redness or irritation, so follow application directions and consider using it every couple days at first. They can also make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. It’s recommended that you use products containing Retinoids at night, and definitely wear sunscreen during the day! Also, as a precaution, I personally don’t recommend retinol products during pregnancy or while breast-feeding.
If you prefer to go the natural route when it comes to your skin, these ingredients help clear up blemishes, calm inflammation and restore balance to your skin.
- Acidophilus Probiotic - A buildup of harmful bacteria in your gut can cause issues to erupt elsewhere throughout your body, including your face, in the form of dry skin, rosacea, inflammation and, yes, acne. Studies show that using a probiotic, such as acidophilus, can restore balance to your skin. Look for skincare products that contain acidophilus to help neutralize pore-blocking bacteria.
- Aloe Vera Gel - Aloe vera includes a compound called saponin, which has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties and may offer relief for acne-prone skin. It’s also a wonderful moisturizer for dry skin.
- Propolis - That’s right, honey, bee glue could help you. Propolis is a resin-like substance that bees use to seal their hives, and it includes all kinds of skin benefits. It’s a natural antiseptic and antimicrobial that removes pore-clogging bacteria from skin. It also reduces inflammation, includes antioxidants and boosts skin’s healing ability. You can try an at-home honey facial mask, or look for products that include propolis as an ingredient.
- Hyaluronic Acid - When skin is dry, it can overproduce pore-clogging oil to try to protect itself, and keeping moisture balanced is essential for healthy skin. The hyaluronic acid molecule has an amazing ability to hold moisture and bind it to skin for boosted and long-lasting hydration. It also reduces inflammation and encourages skin to heal.
Talk to Your Doc
If nothing else seems to be working, chat with your doctor or a licensed skincare professional about different treatment options. There are medications or oral antibiotics that can offer relief for people with more severe cases of acne.
The bottom line: You have to find what works best for you to care for your skin!
My Favorite Products For Acne-Prone Skin
This foaming cleanser can be part of your morning and evening skincare routine! It neutralizes acne-causing bacteria while removing excess oil, and Salicylic Acid unblocks congested pores. It also includes super soothing balm mint, tea tree and eucalyptus to further fight breakouts and calm inflammation. This delightful cleanser will leave your face feeling clean (not dry) and your skin refreshed and balanced!
This fast-acting spot treatment vanquishes blemishes like an anti-acne superhero! The powerful formula uses Benzoyl Peroxide to kill acne bacteria and dry out excess oil so blemishes disappear quickly. This lotion is non-irritating and is suited for all skin types. It can even be used to prevent acne from forming if used at the first sign of a breakout!
Are you one of the lucky winners of the adult acne lottery? This serum is for you! Not only does it harness the power of Salicylic Acid to kill acne bacteria and reduce flare ups, it also provides a multitude of anti-aging benefits! It softens fine lines and wrinkles, boosts collagen production, minimizes pores AND moisturizes skin. That’s a lot of power packed into one serum!
These toner pads are so convenient and easy to use! They offer gentle exfoliation to buff away dead skin cells and clear pores while regulating oil production and neutralizing acne-causing bacteria. They also provide soothing relief by calming and healing cystic breakouts and encouraging healthy skin. You get all that packed into each skin-beautifying pad!
Not only is this kit a great way to maintain good skincare while you’re traveling, it’s also good if you want to try these amazing formulas before committing to the full sized version (which I bet you will, this set is excellent!)
This collection features skincare to target acne-causing bacteria and cleanse clogged pores. While it’s tough on acne, it’s gentle on skin offering nutrient-rich moisturizers and antioxidants to encourage healing of damaged skin.
This awesome set includes:
- One Tube Salicylic Gel Cleanser which deep cleans and removes excess oil.
- One Tube Medicated Acne Lotion to replenish moisture while dealing with problem acne.
- One Tube Medicated Acne Masque which exfoliates the skin, removing dead skin cells as it clears acne lesions and blemishes.
- One Tube Daily Defense Matte Moisturizer SPF 30 protects skin from damaging UV rays, while moisturizing without clogging pores.
- One Tube Anti-Aging Serum replenishes skin with key nutrients that revitalize acne prone skin.
My Favorite Products That Contain Natural Acne-Fighting Ingredients
This rich moisturizer features the Acidophilus Probiotic to restore skin’s balance by fighting bad, acne-causing bacteria with the good ones that support skin’s health. Keep your skin luxuriously hydrated and blemish-free!
This mask harnesses the power to probiotics to balance skin by fighting pore-blocking bacteria. It also deep cleans pores and removes excess oil so you can control future breakouts and have the glowing, clear skin you’ve always wanted.
This soothing gel contains 100% pure whole leaf aloe vera gel to provide relief for inflamed and irritated skin. It also makes a delightfully cooling and calming moisturizer for acne-prone skin.
Healthy skin is just a spray away with this amazing mist. It combats issues like redness, dryness and inflammation by soothing and hydrating. And, bioflavonoids and antioxidants work to fight blemish bacteria, promote healing and restore skin’s pH balance. As a precaution, because this mist features propolis, it is not recommended for users with a known sensitivity or allergy to bees or honey products.
My wonderfully lightweight serum is heavy on hydration because it includes hyaluronic acid, and mighty powerful humectant. It binds moisture to skin and boosts hydration by 10x!! And, it’s formulated so that all skin types can use it, so you can rest assured your skin will stay happy and hydrated!
While acne can be a pain - sometimes literally! - it’s not a life sentence. It’s just a matter of finding the right treatment, skincare routine, and lifestyle the best suits your skin.
I’ve never known anyone who loves pimples, but you can still love your skin everyday by caring for it from the inside and outside!
Do you have tips for battling blemishes? What’s worked for you? Share with us in the comments section!
Hey Alana, great post! What worked for me was reducing my stress levels and drinking a lot more water. It’s crazy sometimes how little changes make such a big difference.
Thanks for sharing!
Hormonal acne sufferer with PCOS. Trying to fall pregnant and using pro and prebiotic containing beauty drink but am trying to fall pregnant, is it safe for me even though it contains fermented products and some ingredients turn to some form of vit A? My doctors doesnt want me to treat my acne whilst trying, during and after pregnancy (if i decide to breastfeed).