For years, acne was considered a teenager’s affliction, one of the many awkward rites of passage left behind as we entered adulthood. Unfortunately this is not the case for many of us, with acne persisting well into our 30s, 40s and 50s. But don’t despair, there are some simple steps you can follow for clearer, healthier skin.
Acne blemishes appear most commonly on areas of the body that have a large number of oil glands and hair follicles. When there is excess oil (sebum) production and irregular shedding of dead skin cells in the follicles, this build-up can cause a plug. Acne develops as more oil and cells accumulate in the plug and mix with bacteria, leading to inflammation and infection.
Certain factors may put you at greater risk for developing acne:
Hormonal changes. Acne can be stimulated by hormonal changes during puberty, the menstrual cycle, or pregnancy, when starting or stopping birth control pills, or from taking certain medications.
Genetic predisposition. One can be prone to developing acne if it runs in the family.
Oily beauty products. Use of oily hair and skin care products can contribute to acne.
Topical treatments – Ingredients to look for
Salicylic acid. A beta hydroxy acid found in white willow bark, this ingredient helps slow the abnormal shedding of cells inside the hair follicles. It also breaks down whiteheads and blackheads that are clogging pores and helps dry up excess oil.
Tea tree oil. Well known for its antibacterial and antiseptic properties, this ingredient helps neutralize acne-causing bacteria. Look for tea tree oil described as “encapsulated”. Encapsulation ensures that it is time released throughout the day, allowing small doses to be released onto the skin, killing bacteria that are present and preventing new bacteria from forming.
Oligopeptide-10. This ingredient is derived from plant amino acids. It binds itself to a pro-inflammatory substance on the cell wall of the acne-causing bacteria, rendering it inactive. As a result, it reduces inflammation and redness.
Wash skin with lukewarm water and a gentle cleanser twice a day. Wait 5-15 minutes after washing before applying topical treatments. This will help avoid irritation if you have sensitive skin.
Look for skin care products labeled “water based”, “oil free” or “noncomedogenic,” which means that they won’t clog pores. Be cautious in the sun. Exposure to the sun can worsen acne for some people. Be sure to use non-greasy sunscreen.
Do not pop, pick or squeeze acne. This can make acne worse and potentially leave a scar. Remember that while acne can not be cured, it can be controlled with effective treatments combined with a healthy lifestyle. When starting a new treatment, patience is key as many products can take 6 - 8 weeks before results are seen. Once you find a treatment that works for you, continue its use to maintain healthy clear skin.