Acne is the most common skin condition within the Middle East and worldwide. It is estimated that 85 percent of individuals will develop acne during their life. Although we consider acne as an affliction that largely peaks during the teenage years and subsides, the statistics have indicated otherwise. In a considerable proportion of people, this condition can well persist into late teens and adulthood. So here are a few tips on acne self-care to help you manage your breakouts and improve skin healing.
Acne self-care tips to help you get started
Before we get started, I’d like to remind you that the right way to treat acne is by customizing the treatment according to your skin type and concerns. Likewise, what might work for me, may or may not work for you.
Finding the right approach can take time, but don’t let any of this affect your confidence and self-esteem.
Keep your hands busy
Try to keep your hands busy so that you can avoid unnecessarily touching your face. That also includes leaning your face against your hand at the office. In fact, this is a common trigger for breakouts around your chin and jawline. Though seemingly harmless, it can actually aggravate your acne, and create unnecessary wrinkles on your face.
Beat the blues
Acne has been shown to affect one’s quality of life, self-esteem and mood. Studies have reported a negative effect on self-esteem among patients across all age groups. Although these effects are believed to significantly influence women, especially those with severe acne. Therefore it is important to reach out to others for support. This includes your friends, family members and support groups.
As a health care provider, I feel obliged to remind you that reducing the psychosocial impact of acne is actually considered one of the guiding principles in acne management. So feel free to contact me, or leave me a comment here in case you need some support.
Recognize stress breakouts
We know that chronic stress can cause your skin issues to flare up, whether its eczema, psoriasis or acne. A study of university students showed that patients experienced worsening of their acne during examinations. Similarly, results showed that acne severity was significantly associated with increased stress levels.
When we’re stressed, our cortisol levels are disrupted, which can cause or even exacerbate acne. Cortisol is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands (located on top of each kidney). When released into the bloodstream, it can act on many different parts of the body and regulates metabolism of glucose, controls blood pressure and reduces inflammation. In simpler words, cortisol prepares the body to ‘fight or flight’ in response to real or perceived stress. This entire process is well regulated and monitored by the pituitary gland (the master gland).
However, during chronic stress your body releases extra cortisol to help you overcome the stressful event(s), but this repeated spike in the hormone level can wreak havoc in your skin. Aside from its role in triggering the acne cascade (via its action on the sebaceous glands), chronic high levels of cortisol can also impair the skin’s potential to heal.
Overtime, it can accelerate the aging process and the skin becomes more thinner and fragile. According to latest research, there is some evidence that acute stress can trigger specific types of immune cells and lead to a cycle of stress-induced inflammatory events.
Stress is how your body responds to pressures from a situation or a life event. The responses could be either psychological or physiological.
Demystify acne-fighting ingredients
If you have acne-prone skin, chances are you know how baffling it can be to find a product that actually works, without worsening your acne. If your acne is mild, it is worth trying some over-the-counter preparations and ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, niacinamide can be helpful. Consult your dermatologist or pharmacist for further advice on what to start with, but meanwhile, do your own research about the ingredients. If you’re not sure where to start with, you can refer to our summarized guide here for starters.
It might take several months before your acne symptoms improve. Meanwhile, make sure you understand what each product does, and how to use them correctly so you get the maximum benefit.
Full face, or just spot treat?
Discuss this with your dermatologist. But as a general guide: preparations containing bezoyl peroxide and differin, can be applied to the entire affected area (full face) and not just restricted to individual spots. Doing so will help treat both existing acne and also prevent future breakouts.
Click HERE to learn more about acne-busting ingredients, and to see which one would work best for you.
Don’t over cleanse!
As part of your acne self-care, cleanse daily and remove make-up with a gentle cleanser and water. Another point to note is: scrubbing excessively can irritate your skin and cause your acne to flare up, therefore, whenever given the option, opt for gentle cleansers and avoid harsh physical exfoliants. Remember blackheads are not due to poor hygiene or inadequate washing.
Overcleaning creates a vicious cycle that eventually disrupts your skin’s protective barrier. Inevitably, this aggravates your acne, and furthers the need to use acne-based preparations.
Acne self-care: keeping it simple
Choose cosmetics, toiletries and sunscreens that do not block pores – these products may be labelled “non-comedogenic” or “oil free”. In the first few weeks of using acne treatments such as topical retinoid and benzoyl peroxide, it may be difficult to apply foundation evenly because the skin may be red or scaly.
Most of the acne preparations may dry or irritate your skin initially. But if you find that your face is getting red or extensively irritated, you can stop the treatment for a few days.
Following which, consult your dermatologist, and based on her advice you can either decrease the frequency and use, or switch to other alternatives.
Skincare do’s and don’ts
I’m sure you’re familiar with the drill. But here’s a reminder for those of you who are new to my blog.
- Stay away from using facial oils (with some exceptions).
- Similarly, avoid moisturizers with thick creamy textures.
- Always look for lighter formulas, or gel-like preparations.
- Look for the ‘non-comedogenic’ label in your products.
- Try to opt for fragrance-free preparations.
- Avoid using too much make-up and cosmetics.
- Make sure you completely remove your make-up before going to bed.
- Wash your hair regularly.
Always wait 10 to 15 minutes after washing your face before applying your acne cream. This will help decrease skin irritation.
Yes, its not just in your head, it’s actually a thing. The hormonal fluctuations around your period time are doing all sorts of things to your skin. Each phase has its own set of ups and downs, and it would be helpful to learn how to best adapt these fluctuations to your skincare regimen. We have previously talked about it here.
To simplify it for you: estrogen predominates in the first half of the cycle, while progesterone takes over the second half. The androgen hormone (testosterone) is present in very small quantities throughout the month. However, while the two hormones are at their lowest, testosterone on the other hand maintains a constant level. This means right before your period, the circulating testosterone will increase sebum production and lead to acne flare-ups.
Supplements you can take for acne
Bearing in mind that everyone’s nutritional needs are different—this might be something that could work for a few of us. In fact, some small scale studies have explored the role of nutrients in acne, but its still too early to establish a confirmed correlation between the two.
So let me reiterate, the best approach would be: maintain a healthy diet, start treatment with topical preparations early, and communicate all concerns with your dermatologist.
But if you’ve tried everything else, you could consider the following supplements as a supportive plan in your acne self-care.
- Nicotinamide (niacinamide, or vitamin B3)
- Vitamin A
- Omega-3 fatty acids
For best advice, always consult your dermatologist. They will gather your medical history to determine whether you’re genetically predisposed to acne, or identify if there’s an underlying condition, such as PCOS, or if you are overweight, allergic, etc.