Acne Be Gone: 8 Tips For Achieving Clear Skin
We’ve all been there: waking up on the day of a very important work presentation or better yet, the morning of a first date, to find a cute little cluster of new, pimply friends on your face. Acne —be it whiteheads, pimples, cysts, or blackheads—happens to the best of us, and is reported to affect nearly 5.6-million Canadians per year.
Although there are different degrees of acne, with risk factors being your menstrual cycle, genetics, stress and anxiety, the makeup you wear, and the food you eat, we always recommend that the journey to clearer skin calls for a dedicated, holistic approach.
If you are having stubborn, painful issues with your skin due to acne (potentially caused by hormonal imbalance or a genetic condition and in the form of cysts or nodules), we highly recommend seeking the attention of a dermatologist for prescribed acne medication. But specifically for those suffering from mild to moderate acne, we outline 8 practices to incorporate into your daily routine to keep your skin—and presentations with the CEO—acne-free.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF ACNE?
According to the Canadian Dermatology Association, “[acne] occurs when pores become clogged by dead skin cells resulting in accumulation of sebum, an oily substance produced by oil glands.” This, mixed with bacteria known as Cutibacterium acnes (C. acnes), leads to inflammation, visible swelling, pus and redness, and pore blockage, better known as whiteheads, pimples, blackheads, and cysts.
Acne can form anywhere on the body, but most popularly on the face, neck, back, shoulders, and upper arms, and although some individuals are more prone to acne than others, we outline more specific triggers below.
As mentioned above, those with specifically overactive sebaceous glands produce more natural oils and can often lead to more prevalence of acne (from puberty to adulthood). Genetics—specifically if both of your biological parents suffered from acne, too—can give you a clear insight into your skin health future as well.
Acne is a hormonal disease as hormones for both men and women are responsible for developing sebaceous glands. Hormonal fluctuations can indeed trigger breakouts, throughout puberty or as an adult, specifically in women if one menstrual cycle is imbalanced. There can also be an excessive amount of male hormones, which over-stimulates the production of sebum (known as seborrhea), leading to pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, and cysts, pustules, and papules.
For many women with hormonal disorders, like polycystic ovary syndrome or endometriosis, the stakes for having cystic, inflamed acne are much higher, often presenting itself around the jawline. For this type of acne, we always recommend seeking the help of a dermatologist to provide medical advice.
We’ve all heard the age-old advice to shower, or wash your face, directly after sweating and completing any physical exercise. This holds true for a few reasons. When you are sweating at the gym or in pilates class, while touching equipment like weights or a shared stationary bike, there is an opportunity for harmful bacteria to live on the skin. Mixed with sweat, this becomes a breeding ground for acne. According to dermatologist Dr. Keria Barr, taking your makeup off before a workout is another best practice.
"When you exercise, your body heats up and your pores open. Makeup can settle in your pores and contribute to clogging them,” she says in MindBodyGreen. We always recommend non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic, and please, FirstBasers, remember to take off your makeup before bed.
There are also several studies linked to eating well for clear skin, with dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe noting primarily eating a clean diet can assist with your acne struggles. “There are randomized controlled trials that show if you swap out some of those high glycemic index foods for low glycemic index foods,” she says in an interview with Byrdie, “including any kinds of protein sources, chicken, pasteurized eggs, vegetables, quinoa, steel-cut oatmeal, sweet potato, brown rice—you actually can clear up acne."
Eating a healthy diet rich in antioxidants especially vitamin C can play a huge difference in achieving clear skin.
HOW TO GET CLEAR SKIN: 8 TIPS FOR A MORE GLOWING SKIN
Achieving glowing, clear skin is everybody's dream! Who wants acne breakouts, right? Depending on your skin type, you're one step closer to achieving glowing, clear skin with these dermatologist-approved tips.
1. WASH YOUR FACE REGULARLY
Washing the face is the first step to getting glowing, clear skin!
For those with mild to moderate acne, it is recommended to wash your face twice daily, and should always be the first step in your skin care routine. We recommend a gentle, non-drying facial cleanser with active ingredients such as salicylic acid, or lotus flower extract, which being anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory, shed the dead skin cells on the top layer of your face.
Additional active ingredients to look out for in cleansers are acne-fighting ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, tea tree oil, and alpha-hydroxy acids, and retinol. Regular face washing also means removing pollutants, viruses, bacteria, dirt, excessive natural oils, and old skin cells, meaning a fresher palette for your active ingredients further along with your skincare routine, to sink right in.
2. EXFOLIATE WEEKLY
Exfoliation is key in the treatment of acne and should be part of your skincare routine. Why? Because the acne-causing bacteria, Propionibacterium acnes, thrive on dead skin. However, the right mode of exfoliation is key.
We would never recommend using a physical exfoliator —like a facial scrub or cleansing cost—as this can inflame and can cause irritated skin. Worst, they can be breeding grounds for bacteria when left sitting on your vanity counter. Also, always avoid harsh soaps and cleansers. Using the right skin care products can prevent breakouts and avoid skin problems when used the right way.
Instead, opt for a chemical exfoliant with enzymes like papain (derived from papaya) bromelain (derived from pineapple), or baobab extract, and glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acid. Exfoliation can be done once weekly and is ideal for mild to moderate acne, as well as blackheads and clogged pores. For more severe acne, please contact your dermatologist.
3. DON’T SNUB THE MOISTURIZER
First and foremost, it’s a common misconception that acne-prone skin does not require added moisture. By using ingredients like exfoliating acids and prescription topicals, the skin is more prone to drying and requires moisture more than ever. They also keep the skin hydrated and more healthy-looking! "Many acne medications work by targeting oil glands and decreasing the production of oil on the skin," says dermatologist Dr. Nazarian to Well + Good. "So it's important to use a moisturizer to keep your skin moisturized so that it can tolerate the acne regimen.”
Lack of hydration also can make skin appear more inflamed, and as we’ve come to know so well, become lackluster. That doesn't mean that all ingredients are made the same, though, and for moisturizing acne-prone skin. According to Dr. Rachel Nazarian, a New York-based dermatologist interviewed in Well + Good, choosing an oil-free, lightweight moisturizer with ceramides and hyaluronic acid is key. “These will help make your skin stronger and maintain more water and hydration with continued use,” she says.
4. ASK FOR A TOPICAL PRESCRIPTION
For those suffering from moderate to severe acne, we recommend seeking medical attention. A dermatologist can prescribe the right topical medication based on your needs ranging from salicylic and benzoyl peroxide, to tretinoin (a retinoid drug derived from vitamin A), or an antibiotic called clindamycin, all of which kill bacteria on the skin. Retinoids, according to dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick, help to clear skin acne and regulate the skin cell turnover, but will also stimulate collagen to decrease the appearance of scarring.
“At the molecular level, retinoic acid diffuses through the cell membrane and binds to nuclear receptors to promote cell turnover,” Dr. Marisa Garshick says in Byrdie. These treatments can reduce the amount of oil your body produces, decrease the number of existing blemishes and halt new ones from forming, and can be applied as a thin layer after cleansing in the morning, or before bedtime. For many of these treatments, it is recommended that an SPF is applied during the day to reduce the effects of sunlight exposure on your oversensitized skin.
5. WEAR SUNSCREEN: APPLY SPF
For many acne-sufferers, skipping the SPF is all too common with the fear it will clog and ultimately cause the severity of your acne to increase. Forgetting to wear sunscreen can do more damage than good, apart from the more obvious sunspots. SPF is vital for any person using prescription retinol, benzols, and salicylic, as these ingredients can lead to a compromised and more sensitive skin barrier. Applying SPF means sun protection from harmful pollutants and irritants, as well as damage from harmful UV rays.
According to dermatologist Dr. Martha H. Viera, as stated in Byrdie, the key is to look for the right ingredients. "Ideally, you need to avoid heavy oils that can clog the pores (coconut oil, for example) and certain silicone derivatives such as dimethicone," she says, with oil and fragrance-free— as well as non-comedogenic—being your best bet for SPF ingredients when battling breakouts.
6. STOP PICKING
Just don’t do it, it will only make acne worse! Picking or popping a pimple, squeezing out blackheads, or rubbing off acne scabs can only lead to a higher risk of acne’s harmful bacteria spreading. It can also damage the skin's surface.
7. GET SOME SLEEP
Sleep is usually the answer to everything, and acne is no exception and according to Today.com, “The less sleep you get, the more your body releases glucocorticoid — a steroid that can exacerbate breakouts.” During your nightly zzzs, your skin replaces aging cells with new ones, removes harmful toxins, and repairs cell and DNA damage.
Sleep’s regeneration process is also three times faster than during the day, which means ample opportunity for your nightly skincare products to heal acne scarring and pigmentation, clear out clogged pores and dead skin cells, and help produce more collagen naturally for supple, more radiant skin come morning.
8. TAKE SUPPLEMENTS
Here at FirstBase, we are advocates of treating and making the skin clear skin from within. Specifically for acne, we recommend treating the gut first, as it has been proven to have positive effects on the skin microbiome. According to one study published in NCBI, “probiotics have been shown to directly inhibit P. acnes through the production of antibacterial proteins,” and we also recommend ingesting Zinc, which helps acne to heal, and Vitamin D, which assists in inflammation.
According to dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick, Vitamin B3 is also effective. “A form of Vitamin B3 or Niacin, called Nicotinamide, may be helpful in the treatment of acne through its anti-inflammatory effects. It also may be effective at reducing oil production, which leads to shine and oiliness,” she shares in Byrdie.
HOW TO GET CLEAR SKIN: THE FIRST BASE APPROACH
Remember, achieving clear skin doesn't just happen overnight. At the root of any journey to clear skin is self-love. That, and a skincare regime tailored specifically for your individual needs and skin type, is the key to taking the next steps towards your ideal skin health. And remember, no one is perfect, but we hope by incorporating a few of our self-care suggestions above, that you are able to keep your breakouts at bay to get clear, glowing skin.