One of the most common skincare issues that we’re constantly asked about is acne. Sometimes it can seem like a never-ending battle, but we promise, with the right information and guidance, you can learn to curb your breakouts and reduce the signs of a flare-up. Just remember, knowledge is power when it comes to acne, so understanding what causes acne and what triggers acne is essential. So, we’ve created a guide containing the most useful information, acne treatments, and acne skincare tips that we’ve learned over the years.
Here’s everything you need to know:
What Causes Acne:
Acne occurs when your hair follicles (pores) become blocked with a combination of dead skin cells and sebum (the natural oil your skin produces). This then causes whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples to form. If your acne is severe, you could also have cystic acne, which means the infection has gone deeper into your skin and the pore has become inflamed causing a bump of pus to form. It’s really important to be able to identify the type of pimple you’re experiencing because different treatment is necessary for each.
Types of Pimples:
Whitehead: This is a hair follicle that’s blocked by dead skin cells piling up once the follicle opening is blocked. This is smaller and less inflamed than a Cyst. You should never pop a white head but instead, apply a topical spot cream. You can also use a retinoid cream as a way of preventing more whiteheads, as they stop dead skin cells from clogging pores and allow the skin to absorb treatments better.
Blackhead: This is essentially a whitehead that becomes exposed to oxygen, which oxidizes the contents making it turn black. Salicylic acid is great for both preventing and treating blackheads, as its oil-soluble and its small molecular structure means it can penetrate deep into the pore, where the acid then breaks down the ‘glue’ that binds the blockage. You can also use nose strips, we’re obsessed with the Biore Deep Cleansing Pore Strips (which you can bi-weekly), or a blackhead extractor to remove blackheads, but the latter needs to be done very carefully.
Pimple: This is an overgrowth of bacteria called p.acnes, which stimulate an immune response that creates redness, swelling, pain and sometimes pus. For a quick and easy DIY, lightly press a hot (not too hot) flannel onto your skin to open your pores, then dab tea tree oil or a piece of fresh ginger onto the blemish, which both have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Cyst: Cysts tend to be more painful, larger, redder and more raised than a whitehead. You should never try to pop a cyst, as these can lead to a spread of bacteria and more inflammation, which only means it will take longer to go away.
Nodule: This is another severe type of acne, similar to a cyst. A nodule, like a cyst, is a solid, large and painful lump below the surface of the skin. Unlike a cyst, it doesn’t have a head and the lump of dead skin and sebum will remain intact and could be there for weeks or even months. Retinoids and salicylic acid can be used to help unclog the trapped debris, but it’s best to have this treated with prescription ointments or antibiotics from your doctor.
Daily Skincare Regime for Acne-Prone Skin
If you have acne-prone skin, a consistent regime with products specifically made to soothe and regulate oil production can help rebalance the skin, reduce flare-ups, and boost skin regeneration. Alternatively, using the wrong formulas and ingredients can wreak havoc, which is why it’s super important to tailor your regime with care. To help, we consulted the experts for their advice on how to treat acne-prone skin like a pro. Here’s our derm- approved guide, including all of our fave products – obvs!
Step 1: Cleanse
Dr.Friedmann a leading dermatologist at The Harley Street Dermatology Clinic insists that the first step to a good regime is “gentle cleansing, both in the morning and evening, as it’ll relieve oiliness.” This will also help decongest your pores and lower the chances of breakouts. Using the right cleanser is extra important; a gel or foam cleanser is ideal for oily and acne-prone skin as they’ll clean deep into pores without leaving any residue.
Morning: Use a foam or gel cleanser and look for products with antibacterial ingredients like salicylic acid or tea tree as they’ll help reduce acne bacteria in the skin. We’re currently obsessed with our Good Skin Cleansing Gel, which contains natural exfoliants like lactic acid, which will prevent dead skin build-up that can cause blackheads and pimples.
Evening: Always double cleanse to ensure you’ve removed all traces of makeup as well as any dirt, bacteria or pollution from your skin. As a first step, cleansing oils are a good option, as the oil will mix with any excess sebum sitting on the surface of your skin and will be washed away with the cleanser. Plus, as they’re typically antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, they can help soothe your skin. We like the Glowy Deep Oil cleanser, which is infused with antioxidant-rich burdock root, that’ll replenish the skin and minimise the appearance of scars.
Step 2: Tone
A good toner or essence is essential for acne-prone skin as it’ll help minimise the appearance of pores, balance oil production and brighten and even out skin tone. Look for a toner that contains chemical exfoliants to help shed any dead skin and decongest your pores, lessening the chance of breakouts. Ingredients like salicylic acid and glycolic acid are your skincare holy grail, so keep an eye out for these. Natural ingredients like ginseng, chamomile, and rose are also amazing as they’re packed with antioxidants that’ll reduce inflammation and soothe skin.
Morning and Evening: Start and end your day with a soothing toner, that contains hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide or ginseng. We love our Hydro-Boost Hyaluronic 2-in-1 Toner- Essence, as it’s really gentle on the skin and doesn’t leave it feeling tight.
Step 3: Serum
Morning and Evening: Opt for a hydrating serum or a vitamin C formula to protect your skin, like the Liquid Gold Brightening Serum, which contains Vitamin B,C, and E and hydrating hyaluronic acid to brighten and even tone.
Step 4: Moisturise
One of the most common skincare myths is that if you have oily or acne-prone skin, you don’t need to moisturise, but this is SO not true! It’s possible to have dehydrated yet oily skin. In fact, the more dehydrated your skin is, the more oil it’ll produce to lubricate your skin cells. So, make sure you’re moisturising morning and night with a lightweight formula that’s ‘non-comedogenic,’ it won’t block pores, and ‘non-acnegenic,’ which means it has been specifically tested for acne-prone skin and doesn’t contain any aggravating ingredients. Other amazing ingredients to look out for include hydrating hyaluronic acid, and salicylic acid, which will help de-clog your pores and curb breakouts. Our Hyper-Bright Brightening Cream does all the above PLUS fade dark spots caused by acne or ingrown hairs.
Step 5: SPF
Another widely believed skincare myth is that sun exposure helps combat breakouts, but this is NOT true! While it can feel like the sun dries out pimples, it’s actually seriously damaging for your skin. Especially for acne-prone skin, if you’re using products containing AHAs, which make your skin more sensitive to UV rays. The sun can also make scars appear darker, so if you have acne-scarring, by wearing an SPF it’ll help your scars heal and fade more quickly than if they were exposed to the sun. We recommend our new product Sunfidence Beach Face with a SPF30
Exfoliation is also another crucial skincare step for acne-prone skin. Although Dr. Dennis Gross insists that you should “avoid harsh scrubs and over-drying skin as this will result in your skin increasing its own natural production of oil to compensate for the dryness caused by products, further exasperating the problem.”
Instead, opt for a chemical exfoliator, which is an enzyme or acid-based formula. Chemical exfoliants have a smaller molecular structure, which means they can penetrate deeper into the skin to dissolve and dislodge the glue that binds dirt in your pores and causes dead skin cell build-up. Look for AHAs like glycolic and lactic acid, as well as BHAs like salicylic acid. Dr. Dennis Gross highly recommends salicylic acid as “it’s oil soluble so it’s able to deeply penetrate and unclog oil-ridden pores.” It’s also anti-inflammatory and antibacterial so it’ll help stamp out any acne bacteria in the skin.
Evening: We prefer to exfoliate at night, as it gives your skin time to heal and replenish before being exposed to the sun. Especially, if you’re using an ingredient as potent as our Hype-Out Exfoliator with 10% Mandelic and Salicylic acid