Thank you so much for all the messages, insta-tags and snaps I’ve received so far about thedailyglow.ie, I have truly been overwhelmed (and cried a few happy tears) – I’m so delighted you’ve enjoyed reading, and appreciate every single request for more info – keep them coming!
The most popular request I’ve had is for acne targeted treatment, and I promised here that it was coming this week. Due to my own experiences and my OCD-like appetite for information on the causes and treatments related to acne, I’ve actually broken this down into a 5 part series: skincare routine, diet, lifestyle, medications and treating the scarring that can follow acne, as otherwise your iPhone may die mid-read (seeing as it’s pretty much like having a landline again these days isn’t it?).
Acne vulgaris is the most common skin complaint in the general population and the most frequent presenting problem for dermatologists. In the USA it affects 40 million adolescents and 25 million adults – so you if you are nearing (or past) 30 and thinking you must be a freak of nature to still be plagued by breakouts, blackheads and whiteheads, you are not alone. Okay, yeah so other people have this issue too, but what good is that to me, I hear you ask? Not much really – which is why I have put together the entire list of everything I’ve used to get my skin under control. I was previously diagnosed with polycystic ovaries, advised that stress was the major reason for my skin issues, have received some blank stares from experts and then was told I’d need to cut out coffee, sugar, dairy (and clearly fun, too) to clear it up. And I have tried an array of treatments advised by all the above diagnosers (I don’t think diagnosers is a word, but anyway)with varying rates of success. First up is your daily skincare routine.
From what I can work out, the root cause of acne is a combination of “retention hyperkeratosis”, which translates (in english) to dead skin cells not exfoliating off quickly enough, and “excess sebum production” – the oil excreted from your pores that keeps your skin soft, supple and (hopefully!) wrinkle free. These work together to block your pores, which encourages bacteria to grow there (Propionibacterium acnes, if you want to get technical), and inflammation/infection results. I have found trying to target each step in this process (dead skin cells, sebum production and inflammation) the most effective as it deals with active spots, and prevents breakouts further down the line – what we are all aiming for, yes?!
“retention hyperkeratosis” really means that the natural exfoliation process of cells is not working properly – so that’s the first thing we need to correct. I do this with a combination of physical and liquid exfoliants. I explained here how big physical exfoliating particles can do more harm than help, and therefore stick to gentle ones, like Daily Microfoliant from Dermalogica. Using this and a liquid exfoliator can be enough to prevent acne and even clear up blackheads. A combination of glycolic and salicylic acids is ideal – the night-time version of Nip+Fab’s cleansing pads are perfect, and fairly easy on the pocket.
Excess sebum or oil production tends to be partly regulated by genetics and hormones, but avoiding certain comedogenic (pore-blocking) ingredients can certainly improve the situation. Hair gels and creams can be major offenders in this regard, as can any product containing cocoa butter. The oh-so-popular coconut oil can also cause issues in susceptible skin types – I know I can’t put it anywhere near my face, but some people are devoted to it. Light gel-based moisturisers tend to work well, Lancôme do a great one, and pure aloe vera gel is my favourite natural moisturiser – great for “bacne” too. Adding a comedolytic (breaks down the blockages in pores) agent to your skin routine will also help. Retinoids (vitamin A metabolite) are a popular skincare ingredient that boast this magical superpower. Some formulations are prescription only, but Roc skincare and Neutrogena both have over the counter products with quite a high amount of retinol in them. The bonus is retinols are one of the foundations of anti-ageing skincare, so you’re preventing breakouts and wrinkles in one step. They can be irritating to the skin at the start (especially those of us with sensitive skin), so it may take a bit bit of getting used to and applying it every second night may be an easier way for your skin to adjust to it. This miracle ingredient is inactivated by UV light and makes your skin more sensitive to the sun, so night time use only (and wear sunscreen, please, pretty please WEAR SUNSCREEN).
This is the step that targets the bacteria and inflammation – i.e.. the already active spot. Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are both useful here. Benzoyl peroxide is probably the best topical agent (in my experience anyway) for any active lesions, but I advise it with caution – it kills the bacteria responsible (p. acnes) by creating free radicals – and free radicals are enemy number one when it comes to ageing gracefully, so only use it exactly on the spot and nowhere else. I’ve mentioned before how to apply it and note that it oxidises retinol products (renders them useless) so I use it in the morning and then the retinol at night time.
Okay so there you have it, the basic steps to treat, and prevent, breakouts. I hope it wasn’t too technical or confusing – and please let me know how you get on, and if you have anything to add! For part 2 of this series, click here.