Wow it’s almost the end of June and that means we are halfway through the year! Where does the time go? Usually when we think of June we think of summertime fun, beach bbq’s, and temps that are heating up! But June can also bring a little June gloom, not only with overcast weather, but also with skin care issues and breakouts due to the changing weather. The summer months are actually MORE troublesome for those suffering from acne (despite the popular misconception that the sun helps to clear breakouts). In fact, one study published in The Journal of Dermatology, the majority of patients said their acne worsened as temperatures heated up due to increased oil production, sweating and humidity. So June seems like the perfect time to recognize “Acne Awareness Month” (and yes, it’s a thing!). Studies show that over 60 million Americans suffer from acne and acne breakouts each year. That’s a lot of people! As a skincare specialist, I care about this issue because helping people get and maintain beautiful skin is a top priority for me, so here are some tips to help fight acne and
Wow it’s almost the end of June and that means we are halfway through the year! Where does the time go? Usually, when we think of June we think of summertime fun, beach bbq’s, and temps that are heating up! But June can also bring a little June gloom, not only with overcast weather but also with skin care issues and breakouts due to the changing weather. The summer months are actually MORE troublesome for those suffering from acne (despite the popular misconception that the sun helps to clear breakouts). In fact, one study published in The Journal of Dermatology, the majority of patients said their acne worsened as temperatures heated up due to increased oil production, sweating, and humidity. So June seems like the perfect time to recognize “Acne Awareness Month” (and yes, it’s a thing!). Studies show that over 60 million Americans suffer from acne and acne breakouts each year. That’s a lot of people! As a skin care specialist, I care about this issue because helping people get and maintain beautiful skin is a top priority for me, so here are some tips to help fight acne and more information on Acne Awareness Month.
So what exactly is acne? I mean we all pretty much know that acne refers to pimples, blemishes, and breakouts…but what is the scientific definition and cause of acne? Well, for starters, acne is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that tends to occur around puberty which is why it is often seen as a teenage condition, but can really happen and affect people at any age, or stage of life, and happens to both men and women. Men are prone to acne because of testosterone levels responsible for producing excess sebum. Men also tend to have larger pores and produce more sweat. These factors can cause the skin to attract more dirt which can clog pores even more. Likewise, many adult women suffer from hormonal acne. Birth control pills, pregnancy, post-pregnancy, PCOS or menstruation can cause hormonal breakouts. Most hormonal breakouts in women happen near or around the chin and jawline. While experts aren’t exactly sure why, it’s believed the particular oil glands in these areas may be more sensitive to hormonal fluctuations. Chin acne typically appears as red angry bumps, occasionally situated next to pus containing pimples, and there may even be some painful deeper nodules.
In teen and young adulthood, acne can be triggered by a surge in hormones, known as androgens, released throughout the body at this stage of life. This surge of hormones causes oil glands to become overly-active and as a result, produce too much sebum. Too much sebum can cause pores to become clogged which also increases an overgrowth of Propionibacterium (the bacteria on skin known to cause acne) which causes spots to develop. This results in:
- Blocked, infected or inflamed pores which cause whiteheads – a raised red spot with a white head center filled with puss.
- Blackheads that develop when the clogged pore is open and is exposed to the air.
- Cysts that form when the pores blockage is deep inside the pore.
- Pustules, a red inflamed pimple, occurs when bacteria grows inside the blocked pore.
You can read more about the different types of acne and the science of it all in another one of my recent “All About Acne” blog here.
Acne is the most common skin condition in the U.S. and can occur at any stage of a person’s life — even into late adulthood. Acne sufferers are often plagued with breakouts that can be painful, humiliating, and life altering, at times being so bad that dealing with the issue can bring on a feeling of hopelessness, low self-esteem, and even depression. In a world where filters and flawless skin are the gold standard, imagine how dealing with severe acne can affect every aspect of a person’s life when there is just no way to filter its effects IRL (in real life). It’s reasons like this that Acne Awareness Month is recognized, to bring awareness to those who suffer this kind of acne and to help shed light on the treatments that can help!
Unfortunately, there’s typically no one-size-fits-all solution to treating acne because the root of the cause differs from person to person. There can be several causes, such as hormones, clogged pores, bacteria, etc., or something more targeted and specific to an individual. Most experts agree, though, that there are several consistent factors that seem to play a role in persistent acne, including:
- Hormones: Acne can flare up easily in teens and adults—especially women during pregnancy, menstrual periods and menopause.
- Certain drugs: It’s best to avoid certain drugs and products such as lithium and steroids if you suffer from chronic and severe acne, but there are certain other drugs such as birth control pills that may help keep acne from developing.
- Genetics: If a parent, brother or sister, or your child has acne, it could be due to genetics. One study found that this was true of 50% of adults with acne.
- Comedogenic products: Using oily skin care and some hair products can block pores, which can lead to breakouts.
- Stress: Stress won’t cause acne, but it can aggravate hormones that do. The higher the stress level, the higher the occurrence of acne, especially in women who work in high-pressure jobs.
- Physical pressure: For some, such as our favorite athletes, the pressure from helmets, chinstraps and collars can aggravate acne.
The good news is that there are many high quality skin care products available with different ingredients that will help (click here to view our online store of products), as well as customized skincare treatment plans that can be created to treat each individual case. This is what we offer here at Tru Skin Rituals. We always recommend coming in for a personal skin analysis and assessment so that a custom skin care plan can be created for you, we can then suggest products from our specialty skincare lines such as NeoGenesis, Osmosis, Skin Script, Face Reality, and more. As skincare professionals, we’ll know exactly which products to include in your skin care treatment plan that will give you the results you need. This saves you the struggle of having to go through the trial and error of trying to find the right products on your own, which can often take years to do! (Sixty-eight percent of women are still looking for the right moisturizer—it can take up to two years to find the right one, after trying up to five products at a time). Our product customization plans consider differentiating factors from our professional insight, so that you are using products meant for your particular needs.
What You DON’T Want to Do:
So what can you do if you have severe and chronic acne? I’ll get to that in just a bit, but first, let me tell you about what NOT to do, because that’s just as important!
- Don’t pick at your skin/pimples. Picking or popping problematic skin areas can lead to a number of issues, like lengthening the lifespan of acne pimples and breakouts, potential scarring, and additional exposure to bacteria.
- Don’t rely on treating acne yourself. If you want long term healing and results see a professional. When people attempt to treat acne on their own, they tend to apply so many intense products to the skin that it can actually create its own reaction that makes the acne flare up worse, or cause flare ups in new areas that look and feel similar to acne.
- Avoid scrubbing your skin harshly. Don’t scrub your face harshly with a washcloth, an exfoliating glove, or loofah (a coarse-textured sponge). Gently wash it with a very soft cloth or your hands. Always rinse well, and then dry your face with a clean towel. (Toss the towel in the laundry hamper, as dirty towels spread bacteria.) Also, use the washcloth only once.
- Don’t bask in the sun. The sun’s ultraviolet rays can increase inflammation and redness, and can cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (dark discoloration).
- Don’t apply hair products too close to your forehead. If you use an anti-frizz product, styling gel or pomade, apply it away from your forehead.
- Don’t let acne rule your life. Acne can change the way you feel about yourself. It can make you feel self-conscious, embarrassed, ashamed, and angry. It’s OK if you feel this way. You don’t have to pretend acne doesn’t bother you. Acknowledge these feelings. Bring them out into the open. But don’t let acne rule your life. Don’t miss out on events, experiences, or a social life just because you have acne. You’re so much more than just your skin.
What You CAN Do to help fight Acne:
It’s so hard to stay positive and motivated when you have tried dozens of treatments, and you still have acne. It’s natural to want to give up and be confused, but you do not need to attack or fight any part of your skin, zit, breakout, or otherwise. You need to care for it, and, when you have flare-ups, you can treat them. Here are a few basic steps to start with:
Step 1: Cleanse. Let’s start with the basics. Cleansing your skin is the first step in any successful skincare routine.
Step 2: Exfoliate. This comes after cleansing but before moisturizing. Exfoliate lightly or use a skin care product with a natural light exfoliant built in.
Step 3: Treat. Give an acne treatment at least 4 weeks to work. Using a new acne product every few days may seem useful, but that approach can worsen acne. Acne treatment needs time to work. Using a different product every few days can also irritate your skin, causing new breakouts. With the right acne treatment, you should notice some improvement in 4 to 6 weeks. But remember, it can take 2 to 3 months or longer to see overall clearing.
Step 4: Moisturize. This helps to rehydrate the facial skin and can leave it feeling softer and smoother. Keeping facial skin hydrated helps it retain its elasticity for longer and helps stave off signs of aging. But choose a lightweight moisturizer during acne breakouts as a thick and heavy one can clog pores, making acne worse.
Step 5: Target. Target your skincare treatment to address specific problems. For instance, Benzoyl peroxide decreases P. acnes bacteria, retinoids (such as adapalene gel) unclog pores and reduce oiliness, and salicylic acid eases inflammation and unclogs pores.
Step 6: See a professional. Most people will head straight to the drugstore at the first sign of breaking out. While there’s nothing wrong with trying an OTC acne product first; you’ll want to see a skincare professional as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the longer it will take to get your acne under control. Acne may get worse, and you run the risk of scarring. If cost is an issue, consider the amount of money you can spend on OTC products that aren’t working for you.
Last, but not least here are a few more options to keep kicking acne’s butt:
- Pile on the Sunscreen: More is better when it comes to protecting your skin from the summer sun. Put sunscreen on 30 minutes before exposure and again every 90 minutes. After a swim, be sure to reapply. The UV rays in sunlight increase the risk of skin cancer and cause early aging. In addition, many acne medications and products make the skin sun-sensitive.
- Chow Down on Fresh Fruit & Stay Hydrated: Blueberries, cantaloupe and other melons help stimulate collagen growth in your skin. Take advantage of the summer’s bountiful offerings! Add eight glasses of water daily to keep your body hydrated.
- Skip the Heavy Foundation: Natural beauty is best when the temperatures rise. Keep things simple with mineral make-up bronzer that won’t block pores.
- Stick with your Treatment Program: Even if your acne clears or improves, you should continue your treatment to keep breakouts from occurring. Many times, patients stop skincare treatments suddenly, only to see a flare-up several weeks later. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
- Clean off your cell phone. Think about it: Your face produces oil and sweat, which gets onto your phone when you’re on a call. If you don’t clean that off, during your next call you’re pushing it back into your skin, along with any bacteria that has grown.
- Wash your pillowcases, hats, and other things that touch your acne-prone skin. Dead skin cells, bacteria, and dirt will build up on these surfaces, which can clog your pores. Washing what touches your acne-prone skin can prevent this. Changing your sheets every week and your pillowcase 2 or 3 times a week can make a difference.
So there you have it, my personal tips for treating acne in honor of Acne Awareness Month. Just remember, taking care of your skin and incorporating anti-acne and anti-aging practices are an every single day process, not just during Acne Awareness Month.
Jamie Ortiz of Tru Skin Rituals is a licensed esthetician, healthy skin advocate, age management strategist, and authority on corrective skin care.