Many customers ask questions about acne for themselves or their teenage children. Sometimes they are battling the negative results of years of acne treatment. I wanted to share some general rules about managing acne. In most instances, acne can be treated gently and intensive products or antibiotics are not necessary. Those treatments should be kept as a last resort as they can have negative side effects that can make acne worse or introduce other infections. Below are our top 5 tips for managing your acne prone skin!
- Keep it clean
Acne is correlated with an over production of sebum. Sebum is the oil excreted by the sebaceous glands, and if you are prone to over producing sebum, you need to gently cleanse your skin on a regular basis to keep sebum in check. What this means can vary from person to person. It could mean you need to use a soap or cleanser several times a day. Maybe once per day would work for you if you find the right cleaning product. If you tend to have an oily sheen to your skin I highly recommend using an astringent mid-day to help remove some of the excess oil. You will need to experiment a bit to figure out what works for you, but whatever you do, keep it clean!
- Don’t Over Dry
A favorite treatment for acne is use of a drying agent like salicylic acid or tea tree oil. I have lots of people come to me saying “I used this product with ‘x drying agent’ and it helped for awhile, but now my acne is worse! What happened?” Drying agents can be a fabulous spot treatment or can be a face saver for someone with excessively oily skin, but for your average bout of acne, it has the possibility of doing more harm than good when used on the whole face. Here’s why: irritation. When you use too many drying agents you remove the skins protective sebum and the all important skin biome (your bacterial BFFs that you haul around with you all day!).
Now wait, you say. I thought bacteria were causing the problem?? To be honest, acne is a pretty involved biological issue, which scientists are still researching. But it isn’t really the bacteria’s fault that you have acne. The same bacteria have been observed in inflamed acne papules as in non-inflamed, so the role of bacteria is still a bit muddy. However! Research is taking place regarding the microflora of skin, and although there is still much work left to be done, it looks like your bacterial BFFs are doing an important service in immune response and protecting the skin from colonization by invasive bacterial (hmm, this seems like a topic for another blog!)
So bottom line: start with a gentle cleansing agent and cleanse several times per day paying close attention to your skin’s dryness. Vary the strength of your cleanser and repetitions of cleansing until you see positive results.
- Eat right!
If you are not eating well, neither is your skin. It seems obvious, but we often treat our skin like a car. So long as we take it for an oil change once in awhile we expect it do its job. We consider it a decorative envelope for our guts (no need to be fancy here), but it is your biggest organ. It has important jobs to do including repair itself! It is constantly interacting with your environment on a microscopic level AND it is composed of and affected by the stuff you put in your body (i.e. food).
There are two important aspects here. First, stick to low glycemic index foods. There have been some articles recently that claim the food you put in your skin has nothing to do with acne, but studies show a solid correlation between high glycemic foods and increased incidence of acne. Why? The current hypothesis is that high glycemic foods have a greater hormonal impact and those hormones increase production of that pesky sebum from above resulting in a higher frequency of clogged pores that can become infected.
The second aspect is providing the body with the nutrients it needs to generate healthy skin. The first signs of many diseases or nutrient deficiencies can be observed in the skin, nails, and hair first! When you eat a nutrient dense diet, you will feel and see those results in your skin.
- Restore your skin’s natural biome
Going back to over drying making your acne worse, sometimes we need to restore our skin’s natural biome. An excellent way to help balance and restore your skins biome is to apply a yogurt mask or using apple cider vinegar on the face. Make sure you are using products that have live and active cultures in them to get the most benefit. Wash your skin with a gentle cleanse then apply your mask and let it work for a few minutes, then rinse.
- Don’t touch your face.
Here’s another piece of advice that is alternately championed and defamed. Oftentimes, when an idea is this polarized there is some truth, but it may be hard for scientists to reproduce. This is usually because we don’t understand the concepts driving observation, though we hate to admit it.
I have not been able to find definitive research that demonstrates compression of the skin clogs pores or anything regarding oil introduced from fingertips. It doesn’t take a leap of imagination to see that trapping moisture between hand and face in an environment that has excess sebum and hungry bacteria could result in a pimple. So if you are acne prone, it could certainly trigger a bout of inflammation since all the factors would be exacerbated. But one thing that is indisputable is that we touch lots of things, and in doing, pick up lots of bacteria and other microorganisms that could be easily introduced to your face and compound your acne issue. So, bottom line. Don’t touch!
Disclaimer: Information herein is not intended to diagnose, treat or eliminate any medical condition. It is not intended to take the place of consultation by a medical professional.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominiciat FreeDigitalPhotos.net