The low down on acne and blemishes
Acne, blemishes, breakouts, pimples, zits – whatever you want to call them, they’re all equally annoying. And there is probably no skin issue that causes just as much stress in a prepubescent teen as it does a woman in her 30s or even 40s.
So that’s why we called on the experts – Dawn Goddard, Dermal Therapist at Southern Cosmetics Victoria and Iola Ciavarra, National Skincare Trainer for Obagi – to shed some light on the difference between acne and blemishes, the causes of breakouts and how to improve your skin.
What’s the difference between acne and pimples/blemishes?
According to Dawn Goddard, there is no major difference between blemishes and acne, but there is still a distinction between the two. She explains: “Pimples are a mild acne breakout, which occur occasionally in isolation and are usually caused by a blockage in the pore.” On the other hand, acne is a condition “caused by a combination of overactivity of cells lining the pore, enlargement of the sebaceous gland and bacterial growth.” When it comes to acne, there is often an underlying cause (like hormonal imbalance) and an entire area – such as the face, back or chest – is usually affected.
What’s the difference between adult acne and blemishes and teenage acne and blemishes?
It turns out they’re not as different as you may have thought!
According to Iola: “Adult acne and teen acne is very similar in that both tend to be caused by a sudden shift in hormonal levels. Androgens, the male hormones present in both men and women, stimulate oil glands. This increase in oil (sebum) in the follicle is a major contributor to acne breakouts.”
What causes body acne and blemishes?
Commonly found on the chest, back, shoulders and bum, body acne is triggered by the same things as facial acne and blemishes: too much oil, dead skin cells and clogged pores. The oil and dead skin get caught in your body’s hair follicles, blocking the pores and causing blackheads to form.
And because body acne has the same root causes as facial acne and blemishes, Iola says you can use the same products to clear your skin. But if you want to use body-specific products, there are plenty to choose from. Mary Kay Body Spray for Acne-Prone Skin helps to remove dead skin cells and prevent future blemishes, while SkinB5 Acne Control Tablets work from within to control pimples and breakouts.
How can you treat acne and blemishes?
There are a few different ways to treat and heal acne and blemishes.
In terms of using skincare products to treat pesky breakouts and full-blown acne, there are certain ingredients that are more effective than others.
Salicylic acid is high on that list of blemish-fighting ingredients. Found in products like cleansers, exfoliants and toners, it sloughs away dead skin and helps to unclog pores. While it doesn’t do anything about the overproduction of oil that contributes to breakouts, it does keep pores clear, which prevents oil from clogging them and causing pimples. When treating pimples and blemishes, it’s important to make a habit out of using products containing salicylic acid.
Bioré® Blemish Fighting Ice Cleanser is an everyday cleanser containing high-performance salicylic acid to fight blemishes while ensuring skin is cleansed. And because the formulation is alcohol- and soap- free, you can use it continuously without worrying about drying out your skin. You can also pair your cleanser with a toner formulated with salicylic acid, such as Bioré® Triple Action Toner.
If you’d prefer a simpler regime, use an all-in-one product to cleanse and purify your skin – so long as it contains salicylic acid. Garnier Pure Active 3 in 1 Wash, Scrub & Mask is perfect for those with oily to combination skin prone to imperfections, shine, visible pores and blackheads. It is enriched with triple mineral power to effectively cleanse, exfoliate and mattify skin while salicylic acid works to clear blemishes and pimples.
For more problematic skin, benzoyl peroxide is often used to target acne-causing bacteria, although many formulas have particles that are too large, meaning they only sit on the surface of the skin. The Obagi CLENZIderm System contains a solubilised form of 5 per cent benzoyl peroxide to ensure the ingredient is delivered deep into the root of the hair follicle. This helps to remove acne-causing bacteria at the source, resulting in clearer, healthier skin in as little as one week. The two systems (Normal-to-Oily and Normal-to-Dry) consist of three steps that utilise the power of both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid to help unclog pores, clear skin, and improve the overall condition and health of the skin.
Sulfur is another ingredient to look out for, as it can kill bacteria that cause acne and blemishes. You’ll usually find this in spot treatments like Dermalogica MediBac™ Concealing Spot Treatment.
If you’re a fan of natural skincare, you can try products containing tea tree oil. But just be aware that although it has anti-bacterial properties, it’s not fast-acting, so you won’t notice results immediately.
The foods you eat can affect the health of your skin, so Dawn Goddard suggests eating more “good fats, wholegrains, beans, and vegetables.” Iola recommends “upping your antioxidants and healthy fatty acids” to promote a clear complexion. And of course, make sure you drink plenty of water.
According to Dawn, “exercise or simply avoiding a sedentary lifestyle will increase blood flow to the skin. This brings oxygen and nutrients to the tissue and removes waste build-up. When you work up a sweat, the pores dilate, and sweat helps to flush out any blockages. It can also help to regulate hormones responsible for acne, and reduce stress and anxiety (which, surprise, can contribute to zitty flare-ups).”
Iola suggests trying to reduce your stress levels, because stress can actually exacerbate breakouts, and ensuring your linen is always clean, as dirty pillowcases don’t allow skin to properly heal – and can cause further breakouts. No, thanks.
How can you prevent acne and blemishes?
Washing and toning your skin with products containing the right ingredients is a start, but it’s also a good idea to regularly exfoliate your skin. This will remove dead skin cells and keep pores clear, meaning there’s less chance of a breakout occurring.
Bioré® Blemish Clearing Scrub works to target dirt and oil deep below the surface of your skin without stripping it or drying it out. It prevents blemishes and leaves skin in great condition.
Garnier Pure Active 3 in 1 Wash, Scrub & Mask contains purifying zinc as well as pumice stone, a natural exfoliant that works to buff away dead skin cells and dislodge stubborn impurities.
Iola points out that to keep your skin truly healthy, you need a skincare regime that's targeted to your individual needs. She says: “It is important to recognise that the products you used in your teens are probably not going to be the right ones for you in your 40s. Regular visits to your medical skin clinician will ensure you maximise your skin health at any age.”
Besides having a good (and consistent) skincare routine, Dawn recommends using mineral make-up to keep your skin clean and healthy. She also suggests regularly cleaning the screen of your phone. “It goes to lunch with you and gets fondled with greasy fingers, lurks around in the bottom of your handbag amongst miscellaneous filth, and sometimes even goes to the toilet with you. And then you press it up against your cheek to whisper sweet nothings for lengthy periods each day. The good news is that all this bacterial wrongness can be undone with a simple disinfectant wipe,” she says.
Are there food and lifestyle choices that can cause breakouts?
Even Dawn can’t definitively blame chocolate for breakouts, but that’s not to say it’s innocent: “The jury is still out on whether diet can actually cause acne, however evidence suggests that the spike in insulin produced in response to high sugar intake can cause a rise in the hormones that promote acne.” Iola adds that processed food can exacerbate breakouts, while spicy food can increase inflammation in the skin and trigger breakouts.
Dawn also warns those prone to acne and breakouts about piling on heavy, pore-clogging foundation. Even though you’re doing it to cover blemishes, it can actually cause more problems for your skin. The same goes for using skincare products that aren’t oil-free or non-comedogenic.
When should you get your acne and blemishes checked by a dermatologist?
How do you know when a pimple or blemish is something you need to worry about? Dawn offers this advice: “If symptoms worsen or can’t be managed easily using basic skincare, or if a condition is making somebody feel unhappy, a professional opinion should be sought. The sooner acne is treated, the easier it is to prevent scarring.”
Iola adds that sometimes over-the-counter treatments can only offer short-term or limited results for acne sufferers, and if your problems persist, seeing a dermal clinician or cosmetic nurse is the next step. “Within the clinical space, in-depth knowledge of the skin is combined with efficacious, medical-grade products to create a tailored solution for you as an individual.” Physician-dispensed skincare, such as Obagi CLENZIderm, could be the solution you need, and is only available through medical cosmetic clinics to ensure you receive the correct advice and support in targeting acne.
Do you suffer from blemishes, pimples or acne? Do you look for products specially formulated to treat breakouts?
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