Acne Vulgaris is the most common skin disease in the developed world. It is estimated that up to 85 per cent of Australians will develop acne during their lifetime, with approximately 5 per cent experiencing severe acne. Although acne targets teenagers more than other demographics, nearly half of men and women continue to experience acne into their thirties. This can affect self-esteem and confidence and even cause people to isolate themselves, triggering mental health problems.
WHAT CAUSES ACNE?
Acne is caused by inflamed and infected sebaceous glands. Your skin is full of pores. They’re tiny openings where hair follicles, sweat, and oil come out. Wherever there’s a pore with oil glands, that’s where you can get acne. These are most concentrated on the nose, chin, and cheeks, as well as the shoulders, back and butt.
Sebum is the name for the oil your skin produces. Sebum’s purpose is to keep your skin moist and healthy, but too much oil can clog pores and cause pimples or acne.
Your hair follicles produce too much oil
“The more oil on your face, the more acne you’re likely to get”, says Noelani Gonzalez, MD, a dermatologist from Mt. Sinai Hospital. A lot of oil production has to do with genetics – for example, you have a four times higher risk of acne if a first-degree relative has it.
But there are a few behaviours that also lead to increased oil production. “Not washing your face appropriately is one, and that’s in terms of frequency and what you’re actually using to wash your face,” Gonzalez says.
Having a diet high in refined sugars can also contribute to acne. A 2016 study found that dairy products and foods high on the glycaemic index can lead to excess oil production and worsen acne. Smoking is another habit which can increase sebum production and in turn cause acne. Then there are some medications which have the unfortunate side effect of increasing acne.
Dead skin cells and bacteria build up in your pores
Hair follicles can be blocked by dead skin cells, which can cause a build-up of sebum. This can cause inflammation – pain, redness, and swelling. Inflammation is when the body rushes white blood cells to an area to fight off an infection. Bacteria may invade the area, and pus can form. “Dead skin cells can accumulate in your pores if you don’t wash your face properly,” Gonzalez says, “and bacteria can eat those skin cells and proliferate in the pores.”
Hormonal activity can trigger acne
Androgens are masculinising hormones that increase oil production in the skin. Androgens are higher in males, which is why men get thicker, oilier skin and more hair production. However, women have androgen hormones as well.
When we’re kids, we don’t have a lot of androgens in our bodies. Once puberty hits in our teenage years, our levels of androgens rise and cause our bodies to go through changes. The disrupted hormone levels, in which females produce more oestrogen and androgens, and males have heightened testosterone levels, all contribute to acne.
Pregnancy is another time of hormonal disruption. Gonzalez notes that pregnant women often have dewier skin as a result of high oestrogen and progesterone levels during pregnancy (often called the pregnancy glow). Many people experience acne flare-ups during pregnancy due to increased androgen production. Menopause can also cause acne due to oestrogen levels dropping and androgen levels rising.
So how can I reduce or even eliminate acne?
There is no magic bullet to cure acne… Caring for skin with acne requires an excellent skincare ritual, sun protection, exercise, good sleep, a balanced diet, no smoking and reduced stress.
Let’s talk about skincare, starting with a high quality cleanser. Dermatologists recommend washing your face twice a day – once in the morning and again at night. In addition to the standard morning and evening cleanses, if you have acne it’s also recommended to wash your face any time after you sweat a lot, like after a workout, or even after wearing a hat or helmet on a sunny day as sweat can cause bacteria to build up on your skin. Because it is easy to spread bacteria around your face and body, constant hand washing is essential and you must resist the temptation to touch your face during the day.
Exfoliation is another important step for sufferers of acne. Exfoliating once or twice a week using a gentle leave-on exfoliator helps remove excessive oiliness from deeper layers of the skin while providing anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits to calm acne.
It is also strongly recommended that you incorporate a specialist serum into your daily ritual such as LeRêve’s Clarifying Anti-Blemish Serum. Featuring anti-acne, pore clearing, astringent and antiseptic qualities, this Serum clears oily, clogged, acne-prone skin. Powerful botanical anti-inflammatories soothe irritated, reactive skin while natural vitamin C helps protect skin from free radical damage caused by UV rays. This is a product created specifically for acne sufferers and should be used at least once or preferably twice each day.
It’s essential that the skincare range you select be non-comedogenic. Such products only contain ingredients that do not clog or block the pores allowing the skin to breathe and reducing the severity of acne.
Please note that severe acne requires medical specialist diagnosis and treatment, although skincare designed for oily skin will assist acneic conditions by gently cleaning and purifying, exfoliating, correcting and hydrating.
And if the problem persists?
After doing all you can to control your acne, if it still persists, remember that blemishes on your face do not define you. A growing number of people have decided to stop feeling embarrassed by their clusters of spots and are sharing unedited photos of their acne using hashtags such as #acnelove, #acnepositivity, #acneisbeautiful and #acnedoesntmakeyouugly.
The final word? You should never be ashamed or insecure about acne because it’s very common, completely natural and you look beautiful with or without it.