Acne is a disease of the philosebaceous unit. What does that mean in English? Well, your body's oil travels to the surface of your skin. If there is blockage or congestion, acne happens.
Here are three reasons why your pores may be clogged:
1. Excess dead skin cells mixed with oil your skin produces.
2. Collapsed follicles. Think ingrown hairs. Have you ever had a clogged hair follicle? These can turn into infections quickly.
3. Using products that have pore-clogging ingredients.
Acne starts before it appears.
A clogged pore means the oil your skin produces is stuck in your dead skin cells, causing congestion. If the buildup is exposed to the air, it is a blackhead. If the buildup is covered, it is a whitehead. Left untreated, it runs a high risk of getting infected from a specific strain of acne-causing bacteria, P. acnes. These microbes feed off of your oil and set off your body’s immune system, bringing with it a rush of white blood cells. The immune reaction leaves a visible mark on your skin—a papule or pustule, otherwise known as a pimple. If the infection is deep, it may result in cystic acne and nodules.
The importance of exfoliating
The first step to clear skin is getting into a habit of exfoliating. Exfoliation removes one component of clogged pores—dead skin cells. Regular exfoliation reduces the number of clogged pores and brings congestion to the surface, reducing the risk of an infection.
I recommend exfoliating once or twice a week, but everyone is different. If you have sensitive skin, exfoliate less often. If you have oily skin, exfoliate more frequently. Pay attention to your skin. If you’re over-exfoliating, you’ll notice your skin becoming irritated. Dial it back. I don’t advocate treatments such as microdermabrasion, laser, or harsh acids. In the hands of a trained professional, they can be effective tools; however, a couple of seconds can be the difference between clear skin and scarring. Also, for most of my clients, staying out of the sun after harsh treatments is imperative but not practical.
Our skin wants to be in balance. Most mistakes people make are one of these two:
Clients with Normal to Oily Skin often use products that are too drying to get rid of their oily skin. This can actually cause your skin to overproduce oil in an effort to restore balance, making your skin more vulnerable to acne. Using an oil-free moisturizer can help your skin maintain balance and reduce overproduction of sebum.
Clients with Normal to Dry Skin often over-moisturize. I’ve had many a client who moisturizes religiously but without exfoliating. Without removing the dead cells on the surface of your skin, products get stuck on the surface and further exacerbate congestion and dryness. Regular exfoliation allows skin to breathe and allows absorption of products.
What About Extractions?
LEAVE IT TO THE EXPERTS! I recommend against extractions since the majority of the time, while trying to extract, clients push the infection down, causing a larger and deeper infection and increasing the risk of scarring.
Why go natural?
Acne medications can work; for example, topical retinoid treatments unclog pores. Isotretinoin (the ingredient in Accutane) drastically reduces sebum production, resulting in fewer clogged pores. Salicylic acid aids in the breaking down of skin cells, thus unclogging pores as well. However, many of my clients suffered from side effects their sensitive skin and body could not handle. With a consistent regimen of the right preventive skin care, it’s possible to mitigate acne naturally. There is no magic pill for acne. The good news is that acne can be controlled and even prevented, naturally.
Everyone is different.
Genetics, food allergies, and hormones play a part in who gets acne. How big of a part can be controlled by your diet and lifestyle. For example, I naturally have oily skin. Because I produce more oil than others, I stay away from oily foods. Many of my pregnant clients have hormonal acne. I am more concerned about their scarring since acne will go away, but scars may not. I match a good concealer for them and give them a spot control, not a serum that covers their whole face. But even with conditions like hormonal imbalances or food allergies, the acne is still being caused by a clogged pore. Genetics, food allergies, and hormones may make it harder to control and maintain your skin, but it doesn’t change how acne works.
Acne scars run deep.
Many of my clients come in during closed hours for private consultations because they don't want to be seen without makeup. Acne leaves scars that run far deeper than the surface of your skin.
When I sit someone down and examine their skin, I want them to know they are still beautiful, with or without makeup and with or without acne. Everyone has crosses to bear. Some people have difficult hair that must be blown dry every day. Some people need to work out every day to maintain a healthy weight. Some of us have high-maintenance skin that needs to be taken care of diligently. It can be tempting to resort to risky treatments and medication or thick foundation, but please remember, there’s nothing more beautiful than someone who is comfortable in their own skin.