July 20th, 2020
June was Acne Awareness month and our mailbox was bulging with information and products. Having gone through them all we take a look at what causes the condition and how it can be treated, along with our pick of products that may help with symptoms. We also look at “mascne”, a condition that is caused by wearing a mask constantly, and how to treat it.
Acne affects almost everyone in the UK at some stage in their life, and NHS research estimates that around 95% of us will suffer with the skin condition between the ages of 11 and 30. We spoke to Dr Firas Al-Niaimi, expert dermatologist for the UK’s leading group of skin clinics, sk:n, and asked him to explain the different types of acne, the key causes and what can be done to help it.
What is acne?
Acne is a skin condition that stems from the pilosebaceous gland, an oil gland that is attached to a hair follicle and appears at the opening in the skin. When the sebaceous gland is overactive or there is an overgrowth of one type of bacteria, it can lead to inflammation and blockage of pores due to an increase in cell turnover which in turn results in the clinical manifestations of acne.
What causes acne?
There is no one single cause of acne and as it involves several factors. In some cases, hormones can be the root of the cause by triggering the sebaceous glands to be more active than usual. However, there are a number of triggers that can cause this to happen and very much depend on each individual.
A high intake of milk and dairy, or an increase in calories, can encourage certain growth hormones to stimulate the grease gland to become more active which will then in turn cause acne to form. Try to avoid ‘binge’ eating high calorie foods and reduce your dairy intake or consider switching to non-dairy alternatives such as almond and soy products.
A poor diet can also cause low level gut inflammation which leads to a build of toxins that can worsen the skin and in particular acne. Therefore, maintaining a healthy gut that is free from toxins and introducing foods that are rich in fibres and Omega-3 will help and be beneficial for not just the gut but also the skin.
These can trigger the grease gland to overproduce and increase the cell turnover at the pore openings leading to clogging which typically presents with white and blackheads. In women, this will often happen in the days building up to their period. A helpful tip to manage this is to consider using a cleanser twice daily that contains Salicylic Acid (BHA) as this will help to ensure the removal of grease on the skin surface and clear the blocked pores.
Origins Zero Oil Deep Pore Cleanser with Saw Palmetto & Mint (£17.50) – a maximum-strength, gently foaming cleanser formulated with skin-clearing Saw Palmetto, cooling Mint and pore-minimizing Salicylic Acid to help clear pores, eliminate excess oil and reduce shine. Leaves skin tingly clean and refreshed. Available from boots and lookfantastic.
Medik8 Pore Refining Scrub (£29) Salicylic and Mandelic acid dissolve deep-seated impurities and oil to decongest and tighten pores, whilst natural jojoba grains gently exfoliate away dead skin cells to help perfect the texture of the complexion. Available from sknclinics and lookfantastic.
Vichy Normaderm Phytosolution Intensive Purifying Gel (£13) A daily face cleanser formulated for oily and congested skin suitable for all skin types, including sensitive. This caring cleansing gel will remove impurities including dirt, dust and pollutant particles with ease for an altogether fresher and more mattified complexion. Available from escentual and superdrug.
Overactive grease gland
In some cases, people just have an overactive grease glad. When combined with the presence of bacteria, acne will appear. Using skincare for grease-prone skin and maintaining a healthy diet will help to minimise the over-production of grease and oil.
Murad Oil & Pore Control Mattifier SPF 45 (£35) – ideal for blemish and grease prone skin. The hydrating SPF that provides up to 10 hours of oil, pore and shine control. Available from murad, johnlewis and cultbeauty.
Avene Cleanance Comedomed Anti-Blemishes Concentrate (£18.50) – a daily moisturiser for sensitive, blemish-prone skin, to mattify shine, reduce the appearance of visible and invisible blemishes while hydrating the skin. The gel concentrate is ultra-lightweight and is made from only 11 ingredients including Comedoclastin™ a patented natural active ingredient that is derived from the plant milk thistle which helps to regulate sebum production. Available from escentual and boots.
A habit that is particularly bad for our skin is touching and picking spots. By tampering with the skin, we are allowing more bacteria, dirt and oil to make its way into the pore and effectively making it worse than it was before. What’s more, by doing this it can lead to permanent scarring on the skin’s surface which is even more challenging than acne to get rid of.
Murad Rapid Spot Relief Treatment (£20) great for a quick fix, this reduces the size and redness of blemishes in just four hours. The clear gel formula is invisible, so it’s ideal to use underneath makeup. Available from murad, johnlewis and marksandspencer.
Murad Invisiscar Resurfacing Treatment (£35) designed to tackle post-acne scarring and hyperpigmentation, it works to reduce the appearance, size, depth and pigmentation left behind by spots. Available from murad, johnlewis and cultbeauty.
What are the different types of acne and how can they be managed?
Acne can occur on various parts of the body including the back, chest and face. It also appears in numerous different forms.
Blackheads: these are small black or yellow bumps that develop on the surface of the skin. Contrary to what many people think, these aren’t filled with dirt, but are black because the inner lining of the hair follicle has produced this colour.
Whiteheads: they can have a similar appearance to blackheads but instead may be firmer and will not empty if squeezed.
Papules: these appear as small red bumps that can often feel tender and sore.
Pustules: often confused with papules as they are similar, however their difference is that they form a white tip in the centre that is caused by a build-up of pus.
Nodules: large hard lumps that have built up beneath the surface of the skin and can often become quite painful.
Cysts: this is the most severe type of spot caused by acne. They’re appearance is large pus-filled lumps that look similar to boils and can carry the greatest risk of causing permanent scarring.
Murad Clarifying Body Spray (£36) is ideal for “bacne” and any other body blemishes. Its smart 360° nozzle even works upside down so you can get to those hard-to-reach areas. Available from murad, johnlewis and marksandspencer.
Caudalie Purifying Mask (£22) a sebum regulating formulation that will deeply cleanse combination to oily skins, and is gentle enough for sensitive complexions. The non-drying, purifying mask absorbs impurities and tightens pores thanks to an effective combination of gently clarifying clay plus anti-blemish sage and zinc. Camomile soothes an inflamed complexion, cypress and lavender provide astringent control for oiliness, and natural non-comedogenic linseed ensures that pores are unclogged. Available from escentual.
How to manage your acne
Managing your acne will very much depend on not just the type but also the size of the spot and the surface of skin it is covering which will determine whether it is mild, moderate or severe.
Mild acne: This includes mostly small areas of black and white heads, as well as a very small number of papules and pustules. The main indication that you have mild acne will be that it covers only a very small area on the surface of the skin. A cleanser that contains glycolic or salicylic acid to keep the pores open and break down the oil is a must and may be all that is required. Topical nicotinamide (also called niacinamide) cream can be very helpful in addition. Chemical peels or HydraFacial are very effective maintenance treatments.
Murad Time Release Blemish Cleanser (£30) a creamy salicylic acid cleanser that helps clear blemishes and purify skin without over-drying. It provides a sustained release of salicylic acid for continuous treatment, even after rinse-off. Hyaluronic acid helps skin retain moisture for a clearer, softer complexion. Available from murad, johnlewis and lookfantastic.
Mulac Spotted SOS Anti-Spot Treatment (£13) is an intense vegan treatment that visibly reduces the appearance of blackheads, pimples, enlarged pores and other localised blemishes associated with acne-prone skin. Containing 3% Niacinamide enhanced with 3% Seboclear™ for a sebum balancing effect. Available from mulaccosmetics.
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo [+] (£17) A complete skincare solution that eliminates acne marks from the moment they start to form. The non-sticky, melt-in formula corrects and hydrates for clearer skin in 4 weeks and is clinically proven to correct the appearance of blemishes, while unclogging blocked pores, controlling shine and refining the skin’s texture. Available from escentual and boots.
Moderate acne: Similar to mild acne, it includes blackheads, whiteheads, papules and pustules, but with moderate acne, it also covers a greater area of the skin. Moderate acne will require treatments such as tablets, prescriptive creams, chemical peels or in some cases, lasers. Typically, cases of moderate acne require dermatology diagnosis and treatment.
Severe acne: This is when papules, pustules, nodules and cysts will appear a lot larger, more painful and will cover the skin on a larger scale. It is recommended to seek advice from a GP or specialist dermatologist as severe acne requires treatment with prescriptions.
Acne is a complex skin condition and varies greatly from person to person. Always seek advice from your GP or a professional dermatologist to review your individual case, causes and best treatments to achieve the best results.
Cosmetify’s Beauty Expert Ellie Child says that a lot of medical staff have reported that they are suffering from breakouts, redness and irritability around their mouths due to constantly wearing a mask at work. Essentially, the lack of air circulation combined with the tightness and friction from the mask can, in some instances cause minor abrasions and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Combine this with the sweat and oil that the mask can also trap and you’ve got a recipe for breakouts.
The best way to deal with the problem is to wash the inflicted area gently with clean water and a kind-to-skin cleanser before lightly applying a dermatologist-approved cream such as E45. Anything with hyaluronic acid is also a bonus as maintaining moisture levels within the skin is key in preventing the skin from drying out. Ensuring you get enough air to the area when you can should also help with the reduction of breakouts.
Funderm Clean Master Foam (£19) cleansers and exfoliates while removing excess sebum by unclogging pores. Contains dead sea minerals along with pre- and probiotics. Available from funderm.
Banobagi Milk Thistle Repair Cream (£26) a highly concentrated recovery cream for strengthening skin barrier of sensitive skin with skin regeneration, detox, skin soothing, moisturising, brightening, wrinkle improvement benefits. Available from glamtouch.
Click here to read our article on Rosacea.
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