Its super important to get the right info when you suffer from this skin disorder. Especially for teenagers, it can be emotionally and physically scarring. As an educator, a paramedical aesthetician, and a beauty therapist who specialises in treating skin disorders, acne is definetely becoming more common and more socially stigmatizing than ever before. So lets get some scientific facts out there! No hooha!
1. Acne is an inflammatory disease of the skin. It can affect you at any age and for any period of time from sporadic outbreaks to a systemic chronic ongoing condition over years. An increase in androgens (hormones) causes excessive sebum (the skins natural oil it secretes). When you have excessive oil in the sebaceous gland, dead skin cells that should naturally exfoliate off get trapped in the sebaceous duct and form a plug together with oil. This provides the perfect environment for bacteria(Proprionibacterium Acnes or P.Acnes) to feed and infect the duct, causing swelling and a pustular pimple.
2. Acne is an inflammatory response to an infection. P.Acnes releases pro-inflammatory molecules (cytokines) that stimulate inflammation, swelling, redness, and to compensate the skin speeds up producing dead skin cells in a process called hyperkeratinization. All this works to make a bad situation worse. So what can we do about it?
3. Many over the counter skin care products that claim to treat acne DONT WORK! They are a gimmick, and many times give a temporary feel good but cause even more problems and possible permanent damage! Yes, using benzyl peroxide preparations and products with a high alcohol content will only dry out your skin, making you feel "clean" by stripping the oil, BUT your skin NEEDS OIL for normal function. By stripping it away, your skin compensates and ends up pumping out EVEN MORE OIL, making a bad situation worse. Also, they are highly irritating to an already sensitized inflammed skin and can cause permanent scarring and pitting. So what should you use on your skin?
4. Be sensible, get a proper skin consultation from an experienced beauty therapist that includes a skin scan using a woods lamp. If your skin is inflammed, swolled, red, sensitized that is the very first thing that needs to be treated above all. The skin needs to be calm in order to tolerate any kind of treatment to address the bacterial infection or remove the excess skin buildup. Over exfoliating is a big no no as it overstimulates. Getting into a good all round routine will help to regulate your skin over the long term. This means using a milky cleanser (non foaming), an alcohol free toner (tea tree is a great ingredient as it has antiseptic properties but avoid the direct essential oil as its too harsh) and a lightweight oil absorbing moisturiser. Exfoliating once a week is the norm using a non-abrasive exfoliant. There are many on the market including enzyme based ones that dont rely on physical rubbing and possible irritation.
5. Treatments that can help regulate and clear up acne vary, but generally your beauty therapist may recommend anything from AHA peels for regulating cell turnover and removing cellular debris, microdermabrasion for scarring, high frequency for spot treatment and ozone for killing the bacteria in an active infection. Keep in mind, long term commitment is required to see results, as it takes 6-8 weeks for cells to turn over.
6. Maintaining skin hygiene is paramount when you have an outbreak. Wash face towels daily (always use a fresh towel to avoid recomtamination), change your pillow cases weekly, never double dip your fingers into any of your skincare, use disposable cotton tips etc. Maintain a healthy diet with lots of water and probiotics. If you would like to improve your diet, i highly recommend seeking advice from a dietician. They are university qualified professionals that require registration and accreditation to practice and use scientifically sound basis to recommend a well balanced diet rich in everything you need for skin health including omega 3 fatty acids. I STRONGLY warm against seeing a naturopath, their preparations have been proven to be pseudoscience, there is no basis to their training and there is no scientific studies that has shown them to be more effective than a placebo. If anything It is detrimental as they can be very costly, and prevent you from seeking real treatment from real professionals.
7. If you have a chronic problem with dysregulation of your hormones, there is no topical skincare that can alter hormone release, then talking with your GP or a dermatologist is required. There are many things that may be prescribed and they all have their positives and negatives. these range from High dose Vitamin A (roaccutane), Diane ED (a birth control pill) to various antibiotics. To certain clients, these options may be their only hope and result in amazing life changing results. Talk to your doctor about your options if you have tried all the above and are still struggling. Some of these more drastic treatments do require more careful maintenance while under treatment.