about skin prone to blemishes and acne?
Around 70-80% of people suffer with blemishes and acne-prone skin,varying in severity and complexity. In some forms of mild to moderate acne, people do not seek out medication to manage their symptoms. However, it is advisable to consult a GP, even for early or mild symptoms, as medicinal intervention can help to prevent further aggravation and consequences such as scarring.
Non-medicinal products, such as: cleansers, toners, scrubs, moisturisers and concealers are sold by pharmacists, over the counter, with no need for a prescription. These cleanse, clear and help to care for blemish-prone skin. There are also a number of lifestyle changes sufferers can make to help to control outbreaks and minimise symptoms.
Signs & symptoms of blemish prone and acne-prone skin
Before deciding which non-medicinal treatment to use, it’s important to identify the symptoms that are causing concern. Treatments for blemishes and mild to moderate acne-prone skin tend to address one or more of the four issues that contribute to the condition.
They work by:
- reducing sebum production thereby controlling seborrhoea.
- breaking down keratin and therefore helpign to unblock the pores
- controlling the proliferation of bacteria and reducing microbial colonisation.
- and may help to reduce inflammation and, in turn, calm down spots, papules and pustules.
Major causes and triggers of blemishes and acne-prone skin
Blemishes and acne-prone skin are very common skin problems that usually begin during puberty when both boys and girls experience major hormonal changes. Hormones called androgens, stimulate sebaceous glands to produce more sebum than is necessary (seborrhoea). This seborrhoea may itself interfere with the normal skin shedding.
When skin produces an excessive amount of sebum and does not shed dead skin cells sufficiently, the two can build up in the hair follicle and form together as a soft plug. This plug may cause the follicle wall to bulge and produce a whitehead or, the plug may be open to the surface and may darken, causing a blackhead.
Pimples (also known as papules or pustules) are raised red areas of skin with a white centre that develop when blocked hair follicles become inflamed or infected. Blockages and inflammation that develop deep inside sebaceous glands produce lumps beneath the surface of the skin called cysts.
Blemished skin is most commonly found on the face, shoulders, chest and back as these are the areas that produce the most sebum.
Hormones. Although most common in teenagers, there are increasing numbers of adults continuing to suffer with blemishes and acne-prone skin, particularly women who experience hormonal changes during pregnancy, menstruation or as a result of a hormone-related condition such as polycystic ovary syndrome.
Bacteria. Skin prone to blemishes and acne tends to be quite oily as a result of excessive sebum secretion. This makes it more likely to have an over production of the bacteria that usually live harmlessly on the skin. This increase in bacteria can cause irritation and inflammation to the enlarged sebaceous glands.
Genetics. There is some evidence that genetic predisposition plays a large part in the development of acne and blemish prone skin. If both parents suffered from acne during their adolescence, then it is more likely that their children will also develop acne. The children of adult acne sufferers are also more likely to develop adult acne themselves.
Myths of acne-prone skin
As well as the facts, there is a lot of fiction surrounding the causes of acne blemish-prone skin. These unfounded myths unfairly blame the sufferer for their condition. For example, people with acne-prone skin are often told that they are unhygienic or do not wash their skin often enough. The truth is that over-washing is actually more damaging to acne, blemish-prone skin than under-washing as skin can become more irritated by excessive rubbing. Sufferers are also accused of having a poor diet.While a healthy diet is always preferable, there is little evidence to show that greasy foods or chocolate exacerbate symptoms.
The main contributing factors of acne, blemish-prone skin
While the main causes of acne-prone skin tend to be hormonal or genetic, there are some further factors that have been shown to aggravate the symptoms. For example:
- a diet rich in certain carbohydrates
- excessive drinking of milk and other dairy products
- cigarette smoking
- heavy or comedogenic skin care products and make-up which is known to block pores
Whilst it is always a good idea to seek advice from a dermatologist, even for mild and early symptoms (to prevent the condition worsening), there are certain rules that make sense to be followed:
- Use lukewarm water rather than over-hot or over-cold.
- Use non-comedogenic make-up.
- Only use non-comedogenic skin care.
- Leave pimples alone – touching or squeezing them will only make things worse.
Read more about medicinal acne therapies.
Treating the symptoms of blemish prone, acne skin without medication
Moderate to severe acne may need medical intervention from a doctor or dermatologist but mild comedonal acne can often be treated without medication.
Pharmacists can offer a range of dermo cosmetic care products. These may include:
- Topical antibacterials, such as Decandiol, which can kill bacteria
- Licorice extract, which can help to reduce inflammation
- Carnitine, which can help to decrease sebum secretion
- Lactic acid, which acts as a keratolytic agent
These can be used on any affected area, whether it’s the face, shoulders, chest or back. They can also be used as adjunctive care to standard medication treatment to help to counteract some of the side effects such as skin dryness or sun sensitivity.
As well as the creams and gels used to treat the symptoms of acne-prone skin, there are also products available that can helpmask the physical effects. For example, non-comedogenic make-up can be used to cover up facial blemishes, although it is important to remove it with a gentle cleanser at the end of the day. Men can also use camouflage make-up to tone down redness and give complexions an even tone. Concealers can be used topically on small, affected areas.
Contrary to myth, neither toothpaste nor Aspirin masks are effective in drying up spots. There is no medication evidence to prove either help in any way. In fact, toothpaste contains substances that can irritate and damage your skin.
In addition it is a good idea to eat healthily, stay away from places where skin is exposed to smoke or dirt and, given the psychological effects of blemished skin, pursue interests that help improve self-esteem and self-confidence.
A daily cleanse, clear and care routine can take several weeks to take effect so be patient and persevere.