I talked about my struggle with acne in a previous post. You can still find some good information there!
Acneic skin has plagued me for years, so I know how frustrating it can be-and how stubborn! The American Academy of Dermatology says it’s the most common skin condition in the United States, so at least those of us who have it know that we’re not alone. Treating it, though, can be really difficult.
This week, I’m giving you some more information on acne-why it shows up, how you can prevent it, and how you can treat a flare-up. Stay tuned for more tips and tricks for sensitive skin in the coming weeks!
What Causes Acne?
The answers to this question are many, and it varies depending on the person. Whereas a teenager may suffer acne because of hormonal changes, an adult male may suffer it because of his diet or skin care habits. Adult women can also get it because of hormonal changes, diet, skin care habits, stress, and changes associated with aging.
Excess skin oil or slow exfoliation (or both) cause dead skin cells that normally rise to the surface of skin to become trapped inside the pore. If bacteria are also trapped along with these cells, the environment is ripe for infection, which then creates the red, swollen, and inflamed pimples.
Symptoms may include:
To Prevent It
There are a number of ways to prevent acne, but we can whittle them down to two basic categories: skin care and diet.
You may wonder what diet has to do with acne? Though some people have always suspected that certain foods could trigger a breakout, it’s only been recently that scientific studies have added evidence to that theory.
A 2007 study, for instance, found that people who regularly consumed a low-glycemic diet had far greater reductions in skin lesions and other symptoms of acne than a control group. An earlier 2006 study found that participants who ate a lot of sugar also had higher levels of internal inflammation, which can encourage breakouts.
How you take care of your skin (or not!) can also make a huge difference in its condition and appearance. Here are several tips to help you prevent another breakout:
- Sugar: Cut back on sugar intake.
- Low-glycemic index: Eat foods that take longer to digest-those that have a lot of fiber, for instance. These low-glycemic foods are less likely to spike inflammation levels.
- Water: Drink plenty of water to regularly flush out your system. Better yet, add a lemon for its hydrating and anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Dairy: Cut back on dairy foods and watch your skin-a 2010 study found that cow’s milk increased the prevalence and severity of acne.
- Fast food: Eliminate fast food-studies have already linked fast food to childhood asthma because of its ability to raise inflammation in the body. Inflammation increases risk of acne.
- Cleanse: We’re tempted when we have acne to use harsh products to cleanse, but this actually increases irritation and inflammation. Use instead a cleanser that gently cleans with active enzymes and other natural ingredients that dig deep into pores. Some options: Organic Facial Wash by Juice Beauty, which cleanses with organic sugar cane, grape and apple fruit acids; or Desert Essence Thoroughly Clean Face Wash, which uses tea tree oil and licorice root to beat back bacteria while still nourishing skin.
- Tone: You can run into problems here if you use an alcohol-based toner, as it will only dry out your skin, which encourages it to produce more oil. Try instead a nourishing toner that won’t undo the benefits you just gained with gentle cleansing. Options: Taylor Made Aromatherapy Acne Blemish Facial Toner, which contains witch hazel and tea tree to shrink pores and fight bacteria, or make your own by mixing a thyme tincture with some rosewater. The thyme kills the bacteria that cause acne, and the rosewater provides a natural astringent effect. For more acne-killing power add some organic apple cider vinegar, or for a bit of moisturizing, add some aloe vera juice.
- Moisturize: Sometimes people think that acneic skin doesn’t need moisture, since it’s often oily. To leave moisturizer out of your daily skin care regimen is a mistake, however. If you leave your skin too dry, it will react by producing more oil. Keeping skin moisture-balanced can actually help cut back on oil production. In addition, moisture in the skin helps keep pores open, so they are less likely to clog up. Avoid products with alcohol and other harsh ingredients. Options: CV Skinlabs Calming Moisture for Face and Neck, which contains oat extract to soothe inflammation and redness, while the unique Tri-Rescue Complex encourages healing and repair of damaged skin. (If you’re particularly oily, try this for your night cream.)
- Exfoliate: This is a key step in any skin-care regimen, but is especially important if you suffer from acne, as you must help your skin get rid of the dead skin cells. Regular exfoliation helps slough those cells off and encourages faster rising of newer, fresh cells. It’s best if you avoid harsh exfoliants, however, like those made with walnuts, salts, and synthetic beads, as they can encourage inflammation and you may find you break out more after using them. Instead, try a gentle exfoliant like Juice Beauty’s Blemish Clearing Mask, which combines exfoliating hydroxy-fruit acids with a purifying clay.
Be sure to review all the other products you’re currently using, including your makeup, aftershave, etc. If these contain alcohol or other pore-clogging ingredients, they could be contributing to your problem.
To Treat a Flare-Up
Once you get a flare up, resist the urge to get rough, as you’ll only increase the odds that you’ll end up with nasty scars. Instead, try natural products to help your skin recover.
- Rescue + Relief Spray: If your skin is feeling irritated, red, and inflamed, spritz a bit of this product on it. Chamomile and cucumber help calm and soothe, while delivering a bit of needed light moisture.
- Juice Beauty Green Apple Blemish Clearing Peel: This is an award-winning product that uses malic acid and vitamin C to quickly clear and repair skin.
- Juice Beauty Blemish Be Gone: This is an on-the-go spot treatment that helps unclog pores and zap pimples with salicylic acid and CoQ10.
You can also try some of these natural solutions:
- Lemon juice: It naturally helps kill bacteria and exfoliates at the same time. Apply directly on the affected areas with a cotton ball and leave on overnight.
- Neem: This natural oil kills the bacteria that cause acne and helps control oily skin. Use a dab of the oil on the affected areas.
- Apple cider vinegar: Yes, it’s good for pimples too! You can mix it with some water to create your own toner, or simply apply directly to pimples.
- Reduce the swelling first with a little ice, or try eye drops designed to get rid of redness-they will help reduce the size of the pimple. Apply the ice cube (or the eye drops on a cotton swab) to the pimple for 3-5 minutes.
- A yellow-based concealer in a color close to your foundation is best for hiding breakouts. Apply from the center out with a brush, covering it from all angles, and blend well at the edges.
- Blot with mineral makeup (powder) to keep the concealer in place.
Do you have good remedies for acne? Please share your tips.
Picture courtesy Stuart Miles via freedigitalphotos.net.
Robyn N. Smith, et al., “A low-glycemic-load diet improves symptoms in acne vulgaris patients: a randomized controlled trial,” American Society for Clinical Nutrition, 2007, 86(1):107-115, http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/1/107.full.
“Sugar Intake Increases Inflammation in the Body,” Ground Floor Health, January 16, 2006, http://www.groundfloorhealth.com/diabetes/sugar-intake-increases-inflammation-in-body/.
Ferdowsian Hr, Levin S, “Does diet really affect acne?” Skin Therapy Lett, 2010 Mar;15(3):1-2,5, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20361171.
Adebamowo CA, et al., “High school dietary dairy intake and teenage acne,” J Am Acad Dermatol, 2005 Feb;52(2):207-14, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15692464.