Acne is the most common of skin diseases. Very few people manage to escape their teenage and young adult years without experiencing some pimples and blackheads.
Acne happens when the oil glands (pores) in the skin become blocked. Hormones make the oil glands produce more oil (sebum) and if the pores are blocked, a build-up occurs and you’ve got acne. Acne usually starts at puberty when increased levels of sex hormones cause an increase in the size and oil production of glands. Acne in boys usually settles during their early 20s. If you’re female, you’re more likely to suffer with ongoing acne. In some cases, this means acne can be hanging around even in your 30s and 40s. Females can also develop acne for the first time after puberty.
The face, neck, chest, shoulders and upper back are the areas mainly affected by acne because they have the highest number of oil glands.
What factors may contribute to acne?
Research has shown that increased stress can often be linked to new outbreaks of pimples or worsening acne. This may be a result from chemical reactions and changing hormone levels that occur in your body during times of stress. While it is impossible to eliminate stress from your life completely, you can learn to manage some situations better and reduce the impact on your emotional and physical wellbeing. It’s a good idea to try some relaxation and stress reduction techniques if you notice that your acne is worse during times of stress. You might find activities such as walking or listening to music help you to relax and de-stress. Other people find specific techniques such as slow breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and meditation are worth learning and incorporating into their daily lives.
Eating foods with a lowGI (glycaemic index) may help you achieve healthier skin. A low GI diet focuses on protein-rich foods such as fish, beef, lamb, nuts and legumes as well as a wide range of fruits and vegetables. Try to limit foods which have a high GI, such as white bread, biscuits and sweets.
Maintaining a healthy weight may help to reduce the risk of developing acne and reduce its severity. Ask your Advantage Pharmacist to calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) today. Advantage Pharmacies offer Bodytrim+, a premium weight-loss program, which can provide you with support and ensure rapid and sustained weight loss.
Most of us are aware of the need to exercise daily as a means to improve or maintain our overall well being, including healthy skin. It is recommended that you include at least 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week.
There are a few key steps to good skin care, which is important for everyone with acne. Acne treatments aim to unblock hair follicles, reduce sebum production, reduce bacteria on the skin and reduce skin inflammation. Using the right skin care products can make a big difference in your acne control, promote skin health and help keep your skin looking young. Your Advantage Pharmacist may provide you with guidance in choosing the right skin care products to help control your acne.
A basic and effective skin care routine for acne-prone skin is to:
For people with mild acne, a specific acne cleanser (e.g. Avene Cleanance Soap-less Gel Cleanser) or a cleanser which contains salicylic acid (e.g. Clearasil StayClear Wash) might be all you need for your every day control of acne. Gently cleanse your face twice a day, both morning and night, and use a gentle soap-free substitute (e.g. Cetaphil Oily Skin Cleanser or Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser) at all other times.
Treatments for acne include over the counter products and those prescribed by your Doctor or Dermatologist. Tips for using treatments:
- Apply the treatment to your skin after it has been cleansed and dried.
- Be careful not to apply treatments to sensitive skin areas (which are not usually affected by acne) such as the skin immediately around your eyes, lips and nostrils.
- Follow the instructions for applying these treatments as directed by your Doctor, Dermatologist or Advantage Pharmacist. Applying more than directed will not help your skin get better faster and may lead to new visible problems such as irritated looking skin.
- Most treatments should only be applied sparingly.
- Remember, you may not see improvement immediately. Improvement may not be seen for 4-8 weeks with some treatments.
The effectiveness of certain acne treatments may vary from person to person. Talk to your Advantage Pharmacist for advice on which products would best suit you. Two common ingredients used in some over the counter acne treatments include: Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide.
Benzoyl Peroxide (e.g. Benzac AC) is a powerful product that can penetrate deeply into pores, but it can also be very drying. If your pimples are deep under the skin, red and/or pus-filled, benzoyl is probably a good choice for you because you need both bacteria killing and deep-down exfoliation.
For those people who have sensitive skin and are more troubled by blackheads, salicylic acid (e.g. Clearasil DailyClear Vanishing Pimple Clearing Cream) can be a better option for you. Salicylic acid, like benzoic acid, is a good peeling agent, but it’s gentler and lacks the oxygen that helps to kill acne bacteria. Alternatively, if you have dry/combination skin, Avene Cleanance K, a product rich in AHA, BHA’s and moisturisers, can help unclog blocked pores and reduce the appearance of blackheads.
If your acne is severe or not improving with any over the counter products, your Doctor may prescribe medication or refer you to a Dermatologist. Medications can lead to huge improvements in how the skin looks and can reduce the number of new pimples appearing. Medical treatment can include:
- Antibiotics to kill the germs, which are part of the cause.
- Medications to reduce the amount of oil being produced.
- Medications to reduce the amount of hormone in the body contributing to the acne.
This step includes using makeup and/or sunscreen during the day and possibly a moisturiser at night to protect your skin against harmful environmental factors such as sunlight, wind and dryness. Tips for using makeup, moisturisers and sunscreens:
- Apply makeup, moisturisers and sunscreens only after, or on top of, your morning or evening acne medications.
- Look out for products labelled ‘oil free’, suitable for acne prone skin and are non-comedogenic. You may have to trial a few products before finding one that suits you.
- Mineral make-up, such as Nude Mineral Foundation, do not contain talc, cakey bismuth, parabens or any other toxic harmful ingredients that can be found in traditional make-up, so they are an ideal choice for sensitive acne prone skin.
- A moisturiser (such as Avene Cleanace or Cetaphil Moisturising Lotion) can be beneficial in those with combination, dry, sensitive or irritated skin. It’s very important for people with acne not to over-use moisturisers, as this may worsen acne.
- Sun protection and sun avoidance measures are even more important in those being treated for acne. Hamilton’s Everyday Face SPF 30+ Sunscreen is not oily, non-comedogenic and does not clog pores, so is a suitable product for acne prone skin.