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Acne Skin Care Tips to Help You Gain Control

Posted Dec 03 2008 2:57pm
Here at we get a lot of questions about how to best deal with blemishes. Harsh medications, completely natural remedies and everything in between exist. The reason why there are SO many products is that it’s an extremely complicated issue and unfortunately not everything works for everybody. Take heart though! There is a solution for you; it’s just a matter of being patient and finding the right one.

Let’s start by understanding what acne is:

Simply put, acne occurs when the skin produces an excess of oil which sticks to dead skin cells and forms a plug over a pore or follicle. Bacteria start to build under it and the body sends white blood cells to fight off the infection and inflammation. This results in everyone’s favorite….the “whitehead” or pustule. Blackheads are similar, only they’re open. So the oils have just collected in the oil duct (yummy…) and they start to oxidize and darken.

A pimple can be in the works for a couple of weeks before it decides to make itself known. Acne varies in degrees from mild (a few spots here and there) through to severe cystic acne (large, painful nodules that cover most of the area affected), and can occur on arms, chest, backs and shoulders.

Whogets acne?
Acne can pretty much affect anyone at any age. Women who’ve gone most of their lives with clear skin can find that pregnancy or menopause makes their skin go crazy. Or some just suffer from it during the already tempestuous teenage years and then clear right up. A large percentage of adults experience an onset in their 20’s and 30’s now.

Why do we get acne?

Isn’t that the million dollar question? There can be many factors that contribute to acne, sometimes even a combination of them. Some of them linked to acne are:
  • Hereditary: There is a tendency for acne to run in families, so thank your parents!
  • Hormones: Over production of the oil glands can be influenced by the hormone androgen. Puberty, menstrual cycles and pregnancy increase sensitivity to it, resulting in more breakouts during those times, also be aware of medications that cause an increase of hormone production.
  • Build up of skin cells: If the dead skin cells don’t shed properly, they stick around and create places for bacteria and oil to buildup.
  • Bacteria: P. acnes is the culprit. It thrives without oxygen, so those pores filled with oil and skin cells are a perfect breeding ground.
It isn’t caused by dirt or a lack of hygiene. The jury is still out on whether or not diet affects your skin. But diet affects most things about our body, so it doesn’t hurt to be responsibly and eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water. I don’t think you can ever feel bad about that.

So finally, here are ten tips to gain control over your acne:
  1. Be consistent and patient: Your body does not rest when it comes to producing oil and skin cells. When you start a system, do every step-every day, and give yourself time to see results. Most acne products may cause you to break out a bit more for a short amount of time, this is ok. It sucks, but it means all the bacteria are being flushed out of the skin, and your skin will be healthier. Give a product at least a month before you decide if it works. (Of course this is barring any other negative reaction i.e.: burning, redness or swelling. If that happens, stop using the product.)
  2. Use the right products: Look for ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. These are proven to help control acne. Try and use products with the lowest percentage possible that still give you results. They can be a little drying so you absolutely must use an oil-free moisturizer and sun-screen. Also only use makeup that is non-comedongenic (doesn’t cause breakouts).
  3. Follow the instructions! I know this sounds obvious. But you’d be surprised how many times I’ve seen people using a drying treatment as a moisturizer and complaining about the results. Make sure you understand how to use each product and in which order. With stronger ingredients you may have to gradually get the skin used to them.
  4. Cleanse: Cleanse daily, morning and evening. Use one designed for oily skin. This helps to dissolve the oil and remove any debris or makeup, making the next steps more effective. The cleanser shouldn’t make your skin feel tight, but it should feel soft and clean.
  5. Exfoliate: Gently exfoliating removes the clogging dead skin cells and improves texture. People with oily and acneic skin tend to like to scrub the heck out of their skin. This has the opposite effect than what they want. Our goal here is to balance the skin, not strip it entirely of the oils and irritate it. Over exfoliating can stimulate the oil glands. We don’t want that. There are many different ways to effectively and gently exfoliate. Alpha Hydroxy Acids loosen the bonds between dead skin cells and they can then be washed away. Mechanical exfoliants (with little beads or grains, or gommages which are gently rubbed off the skin) pull the dead cells away from the fresh new ones and then are rinsed away.
  6. Tone: This is an extremely important step that is often skipped or done incorrectly. It finishes the cleansing process (what’s shampooing without conditioning?) and helps to dissolve oil and rebalance the skin. Make sure to use a spa quality toner. They’re gentler and often moisturizing as well. Cheaper ones contain alcohol which just dry out the skin and can irritate. A good ingredient to look for in a toner is salicylic acid. It dissolves the skin cells that are stuck inside the follicle, freeing the oil to pass through the pore without getting stuck.
  7. Moisturize: Even with oily skin, moisturizing is important. After the other steps, if a moisturizer isn’t applied, the skin can overcompensate and create MORE oil. So save yourself the frustration and finish with an oil-free moisturizer. They’re light and specifically designed for that skin type and shouldn’t cause more breakouts.
  8. Extras: There are spots treatments, masks and serums available to enhance whatever program you’re using. Make use of these. Masks are extremely underused but very effective. Look for clay masks that absorb oil while providing valuable nutrients. Spot treatments are fantastic for getting rid of any stubborn little guys.
  9. Standard No No’s: Don’t squeeze, pick or touch! This is the hardest to do, but leave them alone and allow the products to work. Keep things that touch your face clean: pillow cases, cell phones, hands and hair. This will prevent old oils and skin cells from getting back onto the skin.
  10. Pay attention to results: Whether positive or negative. I remind you, there are a lot of great products out there, but you have to find the one that works for YOU. If your skin gets too dry, make sure you’re using the right moisturizer, don’t just stop using the other products. Professional products use higher quality and more active ingredients. You’re more likely to get positive results; which doesn’t just mean clear skin. It means healthy, hydrated and glowing skin.
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