One of the most common skincare issues that we’re constantly asked about is acne. Sometimes it can seem like a never-ending battle, but we promise, with the right information and guidance, you can learn to curb your breakouts and reduce the signs of a flare-up. Just remember, knowledge is power when it comes to acne, so understanding what causes acne and what triggers acne is essential. So, we’ve created a guide containing the most useful information, acne treatments, and acne skincare tips that we’ve learned over the years.
Here’s everything you need to know:
What Causes Acne:
Acne occurs when your hair follicles (pores) become blocked with a combination of dead skin cells and sebum (the natural oil your skin produces). This then causes whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples to form. If your acne is severe, you could also have cystic acne, which means the infection has gone deeper into your skin and the pore has become inflamed causing a bump of pus to form. It’s really important to be able to identify the type of pimple you’re experiencing because different treatment is necessary for each.
Types of Pimples:
Whitehead: This is a hair follicle that’s blocked by dead skin cells piling up once the follicle opening is blocked. This is smaller and less inflamed than a Cyst. You should never pop a white head but instead, apply a topical spot cream. You can also use a retinoid cream as a way of preventing more whiteheads, as they stop dead skin cells from clogging pores and allow the skin to absorb treatments better.
Blackhead: This is essentially a whitehead that becomes exposed to oxygen, which oxidizes the contents making it turn black. Salicylic acid is great for both preventing and treating blackheads, as its oil-soluble and its small molecular structure means it can penetrate deep into the pore, where the acid then breaks down the ‘glue’ that binds the blockage. You can also use nose strips(which you can bi-weekly), or a blackhead extractor to remove blackheads, but the latter needs to be done very carefully (find out how here).
Pimple: This is an overgrowth of bacteria called p.acnes, which stimulate an immune response that creates redness, swelling, pain and sometimes pus. For a quick and easy DIY, lightly press a hot (not too hot) flannel onto your skin to open your pores, then dab tea tree oil or a piece of fresh ginger onto the blemish, which both have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Cyst: Cysts tend to be more painful, larger, redder and more raised than a whitehead. You should never try to pop a cyst, as these can lead to a spread of bacteria and more inflammation, which only means it will take longer to go away. For our full dermatologist’s guide to treating cystic acne, check out our guide here.
Nodule: This is another severe type of acne, similar to a cyst. A nodule, like a cyst, is a solid, large and painful lump below the surface of the skin. Unlike a cyst, it doesn’t have a head and the lump of dead skin and sebum will remain intact and could be there for weeks or even months. Retinoids and salicylic acid can be used to help unclog the trapped debris, but it’s best to have this treated with prescription ointments or antibiotics from your doctor.
Daily Skincare Regime for Acne-Prone Skin
If you have acne-prone skin, a consistent regime with products specifically made to soothe and regulate oil production can help rebalance the skin, reduce flare-ups, and boost skin regeneration. Alternatively, using the wrong formulas and ingredients can wreak havoc, which is why it’s super important to tailor your regime with care. To help, we consulted the experts for their advice on how to treat acne-prone skin like a pro. Here’s our derm-approved guide, including all of our fave products – obvs!
Step 1: Cleanse
Dr.Friedmann a leading dermatologist at The Harley Street Dermatology Clinic insists that the first step to a good regime is “gentle cleansing, both in the morning and evening, as it’ll relieve oiliness.” This will also help decongest your pores and lower the chances of breakouts. Using the right cleanser is extra important; a gel or foam cleanser is ideal for oily and acne-prone skin as they’ll clean deep into pores without leaving any residue.
LANEIGE WHITE DEW MILKY CLEANSER 150ML
Morning: Use a foam or gel cleanser and look for products with antibacterial ingredients like tea tree or honey as they’ll help reduce acne bacteria in the skin.
Evening: Always double cleanse to ensure you’ve removed all traces of makeup as well as any dirt, bacteria or pollution from your skin. As a first step, cleansing oils are a good option, as the oil will mix with any excess sebum sitting on the surface of your skin and will be washed away with the cleanser. Plus, as they’re typically antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, they can help soothe your skin.
Source: Mario Badescu, Tatcha, Neutrogena
Step 2: Tone
A good toner is essential for acne-prone skin as it’ll help minimize the appearance of pores, balance oil production and brighten and even out skin tone. Look for a toner that contains chemical exfoliants to help shed any dead skin and decongest your pores, lessening the chance of breakouts. Ingredients like salicylic acid and glycolic acid are your skincare holy grail, so keep an eye out for these. Natural ingredients like ginseng, chamomile, and rose are also amazing as they’re packed with antioxidants that’ll reduce inflammation and soothe skin.
INNISFREE JEJU VOLCANIC PORE TONER 250ML
Morning: Start your day with a soothing toner, that contains hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, aloe vera or ginseng as it’s really gentle on the skin and doesn’t leave it feeling tight, and the super soothing.
Evening: At night it’s time to amp up your formula; look for potent ingredients that will wipe away any last traces of makeup and tighten your pores. Use a toner that contains AHA’s, which is infused with glycolic acid which contain willow bark extract and tea tree leaf oil to fight acne bacteria and reduce inflammation and swelling.