Part One: The Acne Chronicles
The Acne Chronicles is the latest series from The Skin Edit. Breaking down the myths, explaining the realities of acne and most importantly how to treat your skin.
Acne. The word is responsible for spreading fear amongst those who hear it. Especially amongst adults, who like me, want to believe that breakouts were happily left behind us in our teenage years! But like all things that evoke fear into our hearts, when we eventually break down the facts and dispel the myths, the appearance of acne is not a life-sentence!
Fact: 80% of people between the ages of 11-30 are affected by acne (i.e. you are NOT alone).
What Is Acne?
Facial acne is one of the most common skin conditions affecting most people at some point in their lives. Acne can be present on any part of the body; more than 50% of people will suffer from ‘back acne’ and about 15% of people will suffer with acne on their chest.
Acne is the byword often used to describe the production and sight of spots that can sometimes be painful to the touch. One of the most common forms of Acne is Acne Vulgaris. This presents itself through the appearance of whiteheads (pustules), blackheads, papules (red bumps) and cysts.
Acne Rosacea is commonly described as ‘adult acne’ and is most commonly seen between the ages of 30-50. It can occasionally be mistaken for acne vulgaris because of its similar appearance on the skin however, whiteheads and blackheads are not always present. Acne Rosacea is seen on the face (forehead, nose, cheeks and chin) and appears as redness or flushing of the face. This redness can continue to develop into red bumps and cysts, coinciding with small, red blood vessels that are prominent on the surface of the skin.
Why Do You Have Acne?
Despite research the exact cause of acne is unknown. Today, many factors are attributed to the causes of acne. Certainly studies have shown that acne is likely to be hereditary and passed down through generations.
In adult cases of acne, more than 80% of the presented cases are women. Hormonal changes within the body are most commonly considered responsible for the development of acne. Whilst puberty can be apportioned part of the responsibility, in adult females; menstrual cycles, pregnancy and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and the (peri)menopause are contributing factors , whilst stress levels are also being attributed to the rise in cases of acne amongst both men and women respectively.
Other triggers can include some prescriptive medications (consult your GP, if you believe this may relate to you personally) and smoking, which can contribute to the development and appearance of acne in maturer patients.
Acne develops when hair follicles in the skin become blocked. This occurs when the sebaceous glands produce too much sebum. The sebum reacts negatively with what is initially harmless bacteria found on the skin called p.acnes; when the two elements combine, the bacteria becomes ‘aggressive’ and leads to inflammation and pustules.
How Do You Effectively Manage Acne?
When you begin to notice changes to the skin, consider the basics of your lifestyle; what has changed? Are you going through a period of high stress or anxiety? Have you changed your diet? Is your body going through a hormonal change, such as pregnancy or menopause?
Mild cases of acne can be helped when considering these factors and making changes to your lifestyle adopted; including reducing caffeine intake, altering diet and increasing exercise. Severer cases can be treated by your skin therapist, dermatologist or GP. Treatments can often include antibiotics or the contraceptive pill however, it is vital that you consult your GP or specialist physician for advice about the short-term and long-term side effects and the options best suited to you.
Although exercise does not in itself rid the skin of acne, the benefits of exercise are countless when suffering from high-levels of stress. Consider a ‘mindful’ approach to your lifestyle; the high levels of cortisol which are realised due to stress are not beneficial to good health in any way! Try to take 5 minutes of ‘down-time’ each day. You don’t need to be in a yoga-studio to practice good breathing or lying on a beach to find a moments calm (sorry).
The Nutritional Supplement Approach:
According to the Advanced Nutrition Programme, supplements can be beneficial as a support tool. Skin problems can be a reflection of an internal imbalance. Treating this internal issue as well as the visible breakouts can be beneficial. Supplements which include Vitamins A, C and E; Zinc and Diindolylmethane (DIM, a natural plant nutrient found in cruciferous vegetables such as Broccoli) can treat the skin and boost immunity and strength.
Investing in Quality Skincare:
When treating acne, lifestyle should be considered (although, according to the NHS it is not a scientific fact). However a mindful-medical or topical approach is equally valid. Utilising ingredients such as Vitamin A and Retinoids are now mainstay when tackling problematic skins. Anti-inflammatory ingredients such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide can be incorporated into your skincare routine, as prescribed by your skincare therapist or GP.
Harsh, soapy or abrasive cleansers and exfoliators may promise miraculous results for problematic skins but, in the long-term, they are likely to cause more harm than good. Investing in skincare which treats your problems ‘sensitively’ will be far more valuable to you in the long run. Consider slowing down your regular use of facial-wipes too. Yes, we know they are amazing when time is of the essence but consider relegating them to your weekend-travel bag for occasional use only.
Acne sufferers can also experience sensitivity of the skin and commonly prescribed topical treatments might be intolerable because of this. In cases like this, employing treatments which treat sensitive and, or reactive skins’ first are often a better fit. Light therapies which harness the power of blue and red light (anti-bacterial and regenerative) are an option, as well as specialist facial treatments which incorporate low-level galvanic and high-frequency currents.
Whatever you find works for you, it is important to remember that you do not need to face the stress and worry of acne alone. Consult you skin therapist, GP and dermatologist for personal advice and you will be amazed at the help there is available.
Tried and Tested | Skincare and Treatments to Try:
Guinot’s Hydradermie Facial (75minutes – £85.00) | Guinot’s hero facial the ‘Hydraderm’ utilises galvanic and high frequency currents and provides a deep-cleansing, exfoliating and extracting heaven for problematic skins. The double ionisation penetrates the skin-specific active ingredients deep into the skin for optimal results. The combination of 3 key ingredients – salicylic acid, lipid and ac-net – help to rebalance sebum secretion and microbial levels, as well as having a cell-renewing action.
Elemis‘ BIOTEC L.E.D Blemish Control Facial (60minutes – £85.00) | A high-tech wizardry facial; combining ultrasonic vibrations, steam and galvanic current deeply cleanse, exfoliate and re-balance an oily, congested skin. Light therapy helps repair, visibly reducing pore size and clearing the complexion.
Environ Sebuwash Skin Cleanser (100ml) | Sebuwash is a pleasantly fragranced mild, low foaming cleansing gel containing tea-tree oil and salicylic acid. It gently removes excess surface oils and environmental debris without drying out your skin so retains its natural acid balance. This cleanser is suitable for oily, blemish-prone and congested skin.
Elizabeth Arden PRO Perfection Facial Serum (30ml) | Clinically proven, oil free, lightweight serum that is ideal for mature problem-prone skin. Designed to keep skin looking clear, fresh and radiant. Contains a multifunctional, innovative and proprietary combination of salicylic acid, to improve the appearance of problem prone skin, and AHA Retinoid Conjugate, to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Skin appears fresh, smooth and radiant.
Advanced Nutrition Programme Skin Accumax (60 – 120 Capsules) | Skin Accumax contains a combination of vitamins and nutrients which address the underlying factors of problem skin. A unique combination of ingredients that work to improve skin texture, help to condition and balance oil as well as reduce redness.