If you are someone who is currently dealing with acne or have combat it before, you know how debilitating it can be to your mental health. With flawless faces of celebrities and models splayed all over the media, it can be hard for sufferers to feel comfortable and beautiful in their own imperfect complexions.
Despite what society may have taught us, facial imperfections are not something to feel embarrassed about. Our skin is a complex organ and it is completely normal for it to go through changes over the years. Some of us are genetically blessed with problem-free complexions, others have to deal with the gruelling years of pimple-filled puberty, and the rest of us might have to face the dreaded onslaught of adult pimples. If you are battling the pesky bumps right now, fret not. We have just what you need to know about how you can prevent, treat and remove them, so read on!
Acne: Non-Inflammatory & Inflammatory
The oil glands in the skin’s hair follicle produce sebum to ensure the face remains soft and hydrated. However, this process goes awry when the hair follicle is blocked, thus clogging the pore and resulting in the development of acne. There are mainly three things that can lead to clogged pores:
- Excess sebum
- Accumulation of dead skin cells
- Bacteria build-up
Acne is usually a result of one or more of the above three factors, depending on which type of it you are dealing with. In general, these pesky bumps can be categorised into two groups: non-inflammatory and inflammatory. The non-inflammatory pimple develops due to the pore being clogged by excess sebum and dead skin cells. However, when bacteria finds its way into the pore, it can cause an infection in the innermost layers of the skin. This leads to more severe forms, known as inflammatory acne.
2 Types of Non-Inflammatory Acne
Non-inflammatory acne is considered a mild form and can be easily treated with over-the-counter products. Using products that contain ingredients such as salicylic acid and retinoid is an effective method to get rid of non-inflammatory bumps too. There are two types of non-inflammatory acne: blackheads and whiteheads.
An excess of sebum coupled with the accumulation of dead skin cells can clog the hair follicles, thus resulting in a bump known as a comedo. If the comedo opens, the exposure to air causes it to oxidise and turn black, thus resulting in a blackhead.
Just like blackheads, whiteheads are a result of clogged hair follicles, thus causing small bumps on the face. However, while blackheads are formed due to these bumps opening up, whiteheads are produced when the bumps remain closed.
4 Types of Inflammatory Acne
Inflammatory acne is usually characterised by red and swollen bumps. It can range from mild to severe, and can either be treated with over-the-counter products or oral/topical medication prescribed by a dermatologist. Inflammatory acne can be divided into four types: papules, pustules, nodules and cysts.
Inflammation can compromise the walls surrounding the pores, breaking them down and leading to small bumps underneath the surface of the skin. These bumps are usually pink in colour.
When a papule accumulates pus, it turns into a pustule. You can identify a pustule by its white or yellow head on top of the bump surrounded by a surrounding of pinkish-red.
Further irritation can cause clogged pores to grow in size, resulting in larger and harder swollen bumps, known as nodules. Nodules are found in the deeper layers of the skin and usually require prescribed medication to remove.
Like nodules, cysts develop when clogged pores experience even more irritation, thus leading to much larger bumps. These bumps occur really deep within the layers of the skin, making them the hardest form of acne to get rid of.
The Causes of Acne & How to Prevent Them
However, in order to truly remove the pesky bumps permanently, it is essential for you to understand the potential factors that are causing this condition in the first place. Knowing its root cause will make figuring out an effective solution to treat it crystal clear.
Figuring out which one is your main trigger can be an arduous process. Plus, for some people, their zits might be a result of a combination of different reasons, making the process of finding out their triggers even tougher.
But, once you have successfully figured this out, it will be that much easier for you to prevent another flare-up from happening in the future. That being said, here are the possible reasons that can trigger it:
1. Excessive Intake of Sugar and Dairy
While consuming high amounts of sugar and dairy is generally bad for your health, their effect relates specifically to your gut health. There are millions of bacteria and other microorganisms living in your gut, both good and bad. If your diet consists of high levels of sugar and dairy, this will feed the bad bacteria in your gut, thus promoting their growth. When there is a higher level of bad bacteria, it can lead to increased inflammation in your body, thus causing breakouts. Therefore, to reduce this risk, it might be wise for you to consider lowering your intake of sugar and dairy.
2. Overproduction of Sebum
Another trigger is the overproduction of sebum, which can happen when it is too dry and dehydrated. When this occurs, it will overcompensate for the lack of moisture by producing more oil. Thus, if you have skincare habits that tend to cause dryness such as over-cleansing or using harsh facial products, it is not uncommon for your face to still look greasy despite it feeling dehydrated. Therefore, to counteract the dryness, always remember to hydrate yourself both on the inside and out. Drink lots of water and apply a moisturiser or facial oil, especially after cleansing.
3. Hormonal Imbalance
If you notice cystic pimples popping up on your chin and jawline mainly during your time of the month, then you most likely have hormonal acne. This occurs as a result of an increase in the level of male hormones (also known as androgens) such as testosterone. When there is an excess of testosterone in the body, it may lead to an overproduction of sebum. This may then result in clogged pores, thus causing breakouts. Due to the higher instance of hormonal imbalances occurring during menstruation and menopause, it is common for one to still suffer from acne well into your adult years.
Preventing the Development of Hormonal Acne
Unfortunately, preventing the development of hormonal acne cannot be done through the application of skincare products. What you can do to stop hormonal acne in its tracks is by incorporating hormone-balancing supplements into your diet. If you opt for this strategy, do remember to consult your doctor or dermatologist on the safety of these supplements.
Your Acne Treatment Options To Consider
There are several options available to treat the sore bumps, ranging from over-the-counter creams to professional laser treatments. The medical procedure you go for depends on different factors too including the severity of your acne.
Below, we will discuss the various treatment options available today to help you decide on which one will suit you best. However, do remember that this journey can be a long one and the first one that you decide on might not always be the most effective. Plus, more often than not, treating the condition might require a combination of different types in order for you to achieve the best results.
Therefore, do not give up when a treatment does not work. Trust us, along with proper and regular skincare maintenance, there is a treatment out there that will effectively help you achieve a clear complexion.
1. Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA)
Also known as a beta hydroxy acid, or BHA, salicylic acid is one of the most effective and affordable treatments available in the market. This chemical exfoliant works by penetrating into the deeper layers of the skin and loosening up the excess oils that have accumulated under the surface and clogging the pores. When the pores are unclogged of these excess oils, it will reduce the size of the cystic bumps as well as prevent more pimples from developing. Salicylic acid is a particularly effective ingredient for those with oily skin as it is oil-soluble. This means it is able to get through the layer of oil, thus effectively reaching the deeper layers and killing pimples at their root.
2. Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl peroxide is an anti-microbial ingredient often used in many pimple-fighting skincare products and over-the-counter treatments. It is a particularly effective solution for the treatment of inflammatory acne as it works by killing the bacteria trapped in the pores. In addition, it gets rid of the excess sebum and dead skin cells clogging the pores. Benzoyl peroxide is sold in varying concentrations, depending on the severity of the zits. Sufferers of this condition are usually advised to start with a low concentration (from two to four percent) as too high a concentration can lead to an extreme dryness of the skin.
3. Chemical Peel
The words chemical and peel together might terrify you, but this treatment is basically a higher-grade version of chemical exfoliation. Chemical peels tend to contain a higher percentage of chemical exfoliants such as salicylic acid and glycolic acid, and is much more effective at sloughing away the dead cells from the outermost layer of the skin. However, a note of caution: due to the higher concentration of ingredients, chemical peels can be too harsh for sensitive skin types. Therefore, if you choose to try a chemical peel, do a patch test beforehand and monitor if you experience any adverse reactions.
Retinoids are a group of vitamin A-based compounds that benefit the skin in a variety of ways, from providing a smoother texture to reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. They do this by targeting free radicals that are damaging the collagen in the skin. Furthermore, retinoids are effective at speeding up the rate of skin cell turnover as well as unclogging pores, making them a popular solution for treating acne. There are five types of retinoids, ranging from the least to most potent:
- Retinyl palmitate
5. Blue LED Light Therapy
Blue LED Light Therapy — or light-emitting diode therapy — uses light of varying wavelengths to help bring down inflammation in the skin and rid acne. It works by targeting the oil glands found underneath the hair follicles and making them less active. Thus, this balances the production of sebum by the oil glands, which then reduces the likelihood of the oil clogging the pores thus resulting in fewer breakouts. Besides controlling the facial oil production, blue light is also able to kill bacteria in the face, which will help rid zits as well. Since this is a non-invasive procedure, Blue LED Light Therapy does not require any downtime, making it a viable option for those who prefer a more convenient treatment. Other than Blue Led Light Therapy, many aesthetic centres that provide other non-invasive laser treatments as well for acne.
Depending on its severity, acne can turn into a long-term skin condition that involves a lot of trial and error when it comes to finding an effective treatment. If not tackled at its root as soon as possible, the breakouts may worsen and lead to scarring that requires an even longer time to heal compared to the zit itself.
1. Consult a Professional
If you have tried countless skincare products and over-the-counter treatments and have yet to find an effective solution, consult a dermatologist who will be able to provide you with a proper diagnosis of your condition. With the expertise of a dermatologist, you can better understand the cause of your unsightly bumps and seek a truly effective treatment to get rid of your acne once and for all.
2. Adopt a Holistic Approach with Lifestyle Changes
However, do remember that treating acne is not only about relying on oral/topical treatments or procedures, but also about how you take care of your own health. Achieving and maintaining clear skin involves a holistic approach such as consuming a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and taking time out for yourself through self-care activities. By incorporating all of these factors into your lifestyle, and coupled with a good skincare regimen, watch your skin begin to heal and return to its smooth and balanced state.