Acne can feel like the end of the world when you have tried everything under the sun to get rid of it and it still lingers. When it comes to acne, knowledge is power. Knowing what kind of acne you might be experiencing and which ingredients are the best to keep it at bay is the key to clear skin. Read on to find out more about your acne and what products you should use to fight persistent breakouts.
What is Acne and what Causes it?
Acne is a common skin condition in which a hair follicle under the skin becomes clogged with sebum oil and dead skin cells, producing lesions or pimples on the skin. Sebum oil is produced by your skin to keep your skin from drying out, but it's also the reason for many individual's skin concerns. In healthy skin, sebaceous glands release sebum through the pore (which is an opening in the follicle) and onto the skin. Acne occurs when this pore is blocked with dead skin cells and the pore continues to produce sebum. This prevents your skin from shedding naturally, and is perfect for harboring bacteria. When the wall of the plugged follicle starts to break down, it spills out the bacteria, skin cells, and sebum into nearby skin, creating pimples and lesions. Acne can be found on the face, neck, back, butt, thighs and arms.
Acne can be attributed to:
excess oil (sebum) production
bacteria and/or bad hygiene practices
dead skin cells
hair & skin products
medication side effect
Types of Acne
Non-Inflammatory Acne or Comedones
This type of acne is the most common, affecting 40-50 million people in the U.S. This type of acne is caused by a hair follicle being clogged with sebum and dead skin cells. This causes whiteheads and blackheads and respond well to OTC treatments.
Blackheads (open comedones): occur when a pore is clogged with sebum and dead skins cells but the top of the pore stays open, despite the rest of it being clogged. This results in a dark color because the air discolors the sebum, not because they're dirty.
Whiteheads (closed comedones): occur when a pore is clogged with sebum and dead skin cells, but the top of the pore closes up and produces a white bump.
If your skin falls under this category, finding products that reduce oil production and remove dead skin cell buildup is key. It's important to note that although you want to detox your pores, you do not want to dry out your skin. Dry skin can lead to increased oil production, putting you at risk for clogged pores. We recommend avoiding physical exfoliates (like abrasive face cleansers) and using chemical exfoliators (AHAs and BHAs). Use lightweight hydrators like hyaluronic acid and a gel-based moisturizer. Salicylic acid (BHA) works great for this type of acne because it breaks down the bonds between the dead skins cells so that they can release from the pore more naturally. It also helps decrease oil production which can help limit the amount of blackheads and whiteheads you get. Retinols work great for persistent acne and can be purchased OTC.
Inflammatory and Hormonal Acne
The Acne Lab
Pimples or cysts that are red, swollen, and painful to the touch are types of inflammatory acne. While this type is also caused by clogged pores through a combination of sebum and dead skin cells, bacteria can play a role in it as well. Hormonal acne is under this category because the pimples you get from hormones tend to be painful and inflammed. Hormonal acne gets its name from the male and female sex hormones, testosterone and estrogen. Testosterone affects the amount of sebum you produce since the glands that secrete the oil are very senstive to this hormone. Falling levels in estrogen around a woman's period can also increase the risk of acne.
Papules: occur when the walls around your pores break down due to severe inflammation. This results in hard, clogged pores that are tender to the touch. They are often small, pink bumps.
Pustules: also occur when the walls around your pores break down due to severe inflammation. Unlike papules, these are red in color and filled with puss. Pustules protrude on the skin with a white or yellow head.
Nodules: occur when clogged pores undergo furthur irritation. They are large, painful, solid lesions that are deep in the skin.
Cysts: occur when pores are clogged with dead skin cells, sebum, and bacteria. They are deep within the skin, filled with puss, and may be red or white. This type of acne is most likely to scar.
If your skin falls under this category, focus on products that remove dead skin cells and reduce inflammation like AHAs and BHAs. BHAs are great for this type of acne as they also contain anti-bacterial properties. For persistent acne, you might want to see a dermatologist about antibiotics (Doxycycline) to help reduce the amount of acne-causing bacteria on the skin. Spironolactane is commonly prescribed to women with hormonal acne as it slows the production of andrgogen hormones, such as testosterone. Birth control is also often prescribed to women with hormonal acne, but this has also been found to make acne worse for some women after stopping the pill.
Our Product & Service Recommendations
AHA 30% + BHA 2% Exfoliating Peeling Solution from The Ordinary, $8: exfoliating facial with alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids. This water-based rinse-off weekly treatment is ideal for experienced users of exfoliating acids looking for solutions for textural irregularities, dullness, and signs of congested pores.
Cerave Foaming Facial Cleanser, $16: with hyaluronic acid cleanses and refreshes normal to oily skin while reinforcing the skin's barrier with ceramides
Brightening Facial Wash from Revision Skincare, $38: Ultrarich cleanser, with Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids plus brightening botanicals removes both the day's impurities and dead surface cells, leaving skin clean, hydrated and smooth.
D·E·J Night Face Cream® from Revision Skincare, $168: is an intensive nighttime moisturizer that features a unique combination of time-released 0.25% Retinol and plant-based Bakuchiol in a hydrating, antioxidant-rich formula that minimizes irritation and can be used on all skin types to rejuvenate and reveal new, younger-looking skin overnight.
Acne Treatment Gel from Differin, $36: Differin is the first and only FDA-approved full prescription strength retinoid. This acne treatment is now available without a prescription. Differin Gel is dermatologist developed and tested.
Acne & Acne Scars
RF Microneedling is a procedure we offer at The Lotus that uses radio frequency and microneedling to stimulate collagen production and correct acne scars while promoting skin tightening. Read more about it by clicking the link.
Chemical Peels can rapidly exfoliate the skin and reduce the appearance of acne scars and wrinkles.