What is acne?

Acne is a common skin condition that affects 75% of the population to some degree at some point in their lives, usually between the ages of 11 – 30 years.

In a nutshell, acne is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that can cause spots, blackheads, whiteheads, pustules and cysts. Pores contain hair follicles which also produce sebum, when there is an overproduction of oil (sebum), dead skin cells lining the pores are not shed properly, the hair follicles become plugged and form bacteria acne which then attacks the skin causing inflammation and redness along with spreading infection. Blemishes, blackheads, pustules & inflammation result and can affect any area of the body, but most commonly the face, neck, chest & back.

Inflammatory acne lesions are more likely to cause scarring of the skin than whitehead or blackheads, these include:

  • Papules – Small, red, raised bumps caused by inflamed or infected hair follicles.
  • Pustules – Small red pimples that have pus at their tips.
  • Nodules – Solid, often painful lumps beneath the surface of the skin.
  • Cysts – Large lumps found beneath tje skin that contain pus and are usually painful.

 

What causes acne?

There are any factors that can cause acne including hormones, menstrual, diet, skincare, stress, medication, lifestyle. However, there are various steps we can take to try to avoid or prevent the onset of acne, so all is not lost.

 

Hormones

Hormones are the main cause of acne during puberty, particularly in women.

The sebum levels in the sebaceous glands increase during puberty due to hormones such as androgen, progesterone and oestrogen.

Oil glands are controlled by the sex hormones in the body, but when the hormone changes or levels drop, they are unable to perform correctly, which can then cause bacteria which stick and thrive in the hair follicles spreading infection.

This occurs when:

  • There is a fluctuation of hormones when girls hit puberty and monthly cycle
  • Hormonal imbalance in women when menopause occurs
  • Hormonal fluctuation due to pregnancy
  • Hormonal fluctuation after birth of baby
  • Dysfunction of the sex hormone secretion due to using birth control

If you want to prevent hormonal acne breakouts at certain times of the month, we recommend introducing skincare products containing salicylic acid, glycolic acid, benzyl peroxide, niacinamide a week before your period to aid in preparing your skin to fight the symptoms and bacteria.

 

Stress

One of the main factors causing acne is stress. The amount of sebum (oil) in your skin is influenced by stress, the more stress that you feel the higher the cortisol levels in the body and the more active the sebaceous glands become. Anything you can do to decrease stress levels will aid in decreasing levels of cortisol, lower stress and reduce acne.

Try some of these methods to relieve stress:

  • Regular exercise
  • Meditation/yoga/tai-chi
  • Have some ‘me time’

 

Sleep

A good night’s sleep is one of the natural keys to reducing acne. During the deep sleep stage each night your body secretes several hormones which help the body to repair and rebuild tissues, including the skin. Deep sleep also reduces protein degradation. Proteins are needed for skin cells to be able to repair itself. It has also been found that skin cells recover more quickly at night. It also helps to balance the stress hormone cortisol, which in overproduction aggravate acne as mentioned above.

 

Diet

Continuing from the above information on hormones, certain foods can affect your hormones and their levels which then can also lead to a flare up of acne.

Below is some more information of specific foods that have a negative impact on your hormones.

Refined grains and sugars

If your diet contains a high level of refined carbs, you will be more prone to acne. Foods high in refined carbs include refined grains such as; bread, crackers, pasta, white flour, white rice and cereals.

Foods high in sugar include; fizzy drinks, sweeteners and food containing refined sugars.

Refined grains and sugars can cause inflammation and as a reaction blemishes may appear. Your body is trying to fight the inflammation, and the production of more hormones which can then result in acne.

According to some studies, consuming sugar increases the risk of acne by 30%, consuming refined grains increases the risk by 20%.

Dairy

There is no scientific evidence why dairy products cause acne. Some theories suggest milk also increases sugar levels which contribute to acne breakouts and also worsen acne severity.

If you have to drink milk, try to avoid cow’s milk as this stimulates your liver to increase hormone levels and as stated above this can cause acne flare ups.

Fast Food

When food has been labelled as unhealthy it is clear you need to avoid it, and this applies even more if you want to prevent acne breakouts.

Fast food is high in fat, refined carbs, and calories. And that is not the healthy fat your body needs. No! Fast food usually raises cholesterol and triglycerides levels.

Consuming fast food regularly can also alter the way hormones work in your body and as we noted before, hormone imbalance often results in acne breakouts.

Chocolate

Chocolate has been labelled as an acne trigger for many years. There is no clear connection to why chocolate increases the risk of acne, however one reason will be the high amount of sugar and dairy it contains.

With that in mind, try to limit chocolate, even dark chocolate, during your puberty years. And if you are sensitive and prone to acne, chocolate might not be your friend.

Whey protein powder

Whey protein may help you build muscle, but it isn’t all good news, the bad news, whey protein contains amino acids that make skin cells grow and divide more quickly. That is the reason your muscles grow.

But these amino acids can also stimulate the production of insulin, causing acne breakouts on your face.

Food allergy/intolerances

This is specific to each individual. If you are sensitive to certain foods, it will show on your skin. When you are sensitive to certain foods, eating them causes inflammation in your gut as we explained before, an inflamed state is a perfect breeding ground for acne.

Prevent food acne inflammation

Just small changes to your lifestyle can help to prevent and treat acne.

You will need the determination to avoid foods that cause acne, especially that sweet tasty chocolate. But it is possible. Here are some tips to achieve your goal, acne free skin!

  • Add fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, they are rich in vitamins and fibre, making you feel full and preventing cravings for sugary foods
  • Drink plenty of water and unsweetened tea to flush out toxins from your body
  • Drink a glass of water and lemon juice in the morning to stimulate toxins flushing
  • Consume foods high in vitamin A, including carrots, papaya, spinach and sweet potatoes, as vitamin A balances sebum production
  • Consume foods that are high in vitamin C, including citrus fruits, leafy greens, and more that help your skin produce collagen
  • Last, but not least, consume fatty fish and other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids that keep your skin supple

 

Skincare

Are you consistent with your daily skincare routine but still getting breakouts? Your skincare routine could be to blame. Below you can find a list skincare habits that can worsen acne:

Do you try new products every week or so?

This approach can irritate your skin which can cause breakouts. You should give a product 6-8 weeks, it takes that long to see some improvement, if you still don’t see any improvements, then it is advised to try another product range. Complete clearing usually takes 3-4months.

Apply acne products only to your blemishes?

It may make sense to treat what you see, but this approach fails to prevent new breakouts. To prevent new blemishes, apply the treatment to all areas of the face.

Use makeup, skincare & haircare that can cause acne?

Some makeup along with many skin and hair care products contain oil or other ingredients that can cause acne breakouts. Use only makeup, skincare & haircare product that are labelled ‘non-comedogenic’ & paraben free. 

Share/reuse makeup, makeup brushes, or makeup applicators?

Even if you use only non-comedogenic products, sharing makeup can lead to blemishes.

Acne isn’t contagious, but when you share makeup, makeup brushes, or applicators, the acne-causing bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells on other people’s skin can wind up in your makeup. When you use that makeup, you can transfer their bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells to your skin. These can clog your pores, leading to breakouts.

Make sure you’re the only person who uses your makeup, makeup brushes, and makeup applicators and makeup brushes and applicators and cleaned after every use.

Wash your face throughout the day?

Washing your face several times a day can further irritate your skin, leading to more breakouts.

Wash your face twice a day am & pm. You’ll also want to wash your face when you finish an activity that makes you sweat.

Use products that contain a drying agent?

Skin with acne is oily, so it can be tempting to apply astringent and acne treatments until your face feels dry. Don’t! Dry skin is irritated skin, the skin then produces more oil to deal with the dryness.
Use acne treatments as directed. If your skin feels dry, apply a moisturiser made for acne-prone skin. You’ll want to apply the moisturiser twice a day, after washing your face. You also want to avoid using astringents, rubbing alcohol, and anything else that can dry out your skin.

Scrub your skin clean?

To get rid of acne, you may be tempted to scrub your skin clean. Don’t! Scrubbing can irritate your skin, causing acne to flare.

Be gentle when washing your face and other skin with acne. You want to use a mild, non-comedogenic cleanser. Apply the cleanser lightly with your fingertips, using a circular motion. Gently rinse it off with warm water, using only your fingers or cotton pads. Then pat your skin dry with a clean towel.

 

Solutions

Alongside making the changes required to your lifestyle and daily routine as mentioned above, there are many products & treatments on the market to help treat and prevent acne. We have noted below our top recommendations.

Skincare recommendations

Salicylic acid– This ingredient exfoliates inside hair follicles to unclog pores, reduce redness and inflammation. In simple terms, it prevents pores from becoming clogged.

Benzoyl peroxide – Products that contain this ingredient assist in removing excess oil and dead skin cells which are responsible for clogging pores.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) – These are simply artificial types of acids made from fruits-containing sugar. The most common ones used in non-prescription acne products include glycolic- and lactic acid. Products containing this ingredient helps to remove dead cells, reduce inflammation, stimulate skin regeneration and typically, improve the appearance of acne scars.

Glycolic acid – This acid is derived from sugar cane and is usually combined with benzoyl peroxide to treat acne. The acid penetrates deep into the skin due to its small molecules thus making a very effective product to treat inflammatory acne.

Niacinamide– Also known as vitamin B3 is an anti-inflammatory and great treatment for acne.

Ranges we recommend:

  1. Clinicare Pure range
  2. La Roche Posay Effaclar
  3. Vichy Normaderm

Treatment recommendations

Chemical Peels

Chemical peel is a skin rejuvenation treatments. CliniCare superficial peels contain a mixture of glycolic, lactic and salicylic acids to remove the upper layer of the epidermis encouraging regeneration and rejuvenation of new skin cells. The result is the improved clinical appearance of the skin, brighter complexion, improved skin tone and treats acne blemished prone skin.

LED Light Therapy

LED light therapy is a revolutionary, non-invasive and effective method for providing popular and results-driven skin treatments. It can be integrated into a number of treatments or used on its own and has no known side effects.

The LED penetrates the skin at different levels, providing effective acne treatment and combating hyperpigmentation. The LED can also be used for increasing oxygen levels. This helps to improve blood circulation, preventing skin breakouts.

LED Light Therapy is a gentle, heat-free treatment that does not contain harmful ultraviolet wavelengths so it cannot damage skin tissue. It is clinically proven to be safe for all skin types, colours and conditions, with no downtime or risk of unwanted side effects.

Chemical Peel & LED Light Therapy treatments work very effectively together. View combined treatment packages here