Breakout Star

Acne, acne treatment, blemish treatment

I like a little imperfection. A crooked smile, a beauty mark, or two different colored eyes can make a face more interesting and beautiful. I think a lot of people are with me on this. But there is one imperfection that everyone hates–a blemish. One zit can be a bummer and widespread acne can take a real toll on a person’s confidence.

Luckily, there are ways to prevent and treat all types of blemishes. The culprits are always either dirt, oil, bacteria or a combination of them. Hormonal imbalances can spark breakouts, as can food allergies, sleeping with makeup on and using the wrong products for your skin. Let’s talk about the different kinds of blemishes and what you can do to prevent and treat them.

Whiteheads

Whiteheads are small blemishes with a raised white surface. There is little or no redness associated with whiteheads. They are caused when excess sebum (aka oil) and dead skin cells clog the follicle (aka the pore). Whiteheads have a thin covering of cells that trap the sebum and dead skin cells so that they can’t oxidize. Because of this covering, they are also referred to as closed comedones. They can appear anywhere on the face or body. You also might see whiteheads on area that has been recently waxed because the follicles are temporarily opened post-wax and if you touch the area, you can easily transfer oil into the follicles. And if the esthetician uses an oil-based treatment after the wax, that can cause whiteheads.

Treat Them With: A combination of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Salicylic acid is the only acid that can penetrate the follicle and exfoliate from within and benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria inside the follicle. You can get this combo by using a cleanser with salicylic acid, like Vichy Normaderm Gel Cleanser, in the morning and a spot treatment like Clinique Acne Solutions Emergency Gel Lotion at night.

Blackheads

These blemishes look like tiny black dots. They are most common on the nose and chin. They do not have any inflammation or redness associated with them. Blackheads are caused when excess sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria get trapped in a follicle and oxidize. In normal function, that bacteria can make its way out of the follicle, but when excess sebum is present, it clogs up the follicle so the bacteria has nowhere to go.  The melanin in the dead skin cell oxides and turns dark, then essentially peeks through the follicle. There is no layer above the trapped dead skin cells but they can’t be naturally pushed out of the follicle because the sebum has clogged it up. Because there is no layer between the trapped matter and the top layer of the skin, blackheads are also called open comedones.

Treat Them With: Salicylic acid. The chemical exfoliation powers of salicylic acid break down the sebum and push the bacteria and dead skin cells out of the follicle. Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Eliminating Spot Gel is a great salicylic acid spot treatment. Extractions done by a licensed esthetician are the way to go if you prefer to outsource.

Papules

These buggers are red, inflamed and often painful to the touch. They can appear anywhere on the body but are most common on the chin, neck and jawline. They do not have a white head so they can not be extracted.

Treat Them With: A combination of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Salicylic acid is the only acid that can penetrate the follicle and exfoliate from within and benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria inside the follicle. You can get this combo by using a cleanser with salicylic acid, like Vichy Normaderm Gel Cleanser, in the morning and a spot treatment like Clinique Acne Solutions Emergency Gel Lotion at night.

Pustules

Pustules are like whiteheads on steroids. They have that same raised white surface, but the area around that surface is red and inflamed. They are typically bigger than whiteheads and may appear more yellow than white.

Treat Them With: A combination of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Salicylic acid is the only acid that can penetrate the follicle and exfoliate from within and benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria inside the follicle. You can get this combo by using a cleanser with salicylic acid, like Vichy Normaderm Gel Cleanser, in the morning and a spot treatment like Clinique Acne Solutions Emergency Gel Lotion at night. Don’t attempt to pop these bad boys. Let a licensed esthetician do it, as they have been trained to properly do extractions without causing scarring.

Severe Acne: Cysts, Nodules and Acne Conglobata

Nodules are hard acne lesions which can be felt deep under the skin. They appear on the body, most often on the back and chest, and are painful to the touch. They are red and inflamed and take a long time to disappear.

Cysts, like nodules, start deep below the skin’s surface, but they are softer because they are filled with pus. They develop when the contents of blackheads and/or whiteheads leak out into the surrounding area. The immune system sees this spillage as an attack and forms pus.  Cysts can also take several weeks to fully go away.

Acne conglobata can affect the body and face. It is the most uncommon type of acne and has no known cause. It consists of abscesses and scars caused by cysts and tracts under the skin.

Treat Them With: A visit to the dermatologist or other specialist. Severe acne requires a customized treatment plan that sometimes includes antibiotics. If you don’t want to go that route, try consulting with a naturopathic or homeopathic doctor or an Ayurvedic practitioner. I personally have great results when I go the holistic route for most issues I have experienced, and I did have breakouts that were only eliminated after taking Japanese herbs. Eastern medicine and holistic methods typically treat the systemic root of the problem instead of just the symptoms. I’m no doctor, but I suggest doing what feels right for you.

Tips for All Types of Acne

  1. Wash your damn makeup off… If you don’t consistently and thoroughly remove your makeup, you have no right to complain about acne. Even if you don’t wear makeup, you still have to wash your face every night. If you think your face doesn’t get covered in oil and microscopic debris from pollutants every day, you need a reality check. If you have acneic skin and are not on any prescription acne medication, I recommend removing your makeup first with a makeup remover like Dermalogica PreCleanse then following with Vichy Normaderm Gel Cleanser. If you are on acne medication, please speak to your dermatologist about what cleanser you should use.
  2. …But don’t over-cleanse. It may feel like overcleansing gets your skin cleaner and removes the oil, but when you remove too much oil, your body kicks into overdrive to produce more oil. That excess oil can easily lead to breakouts. Unless you have an extremely oily skin, cleansing only at night is enough. If you are very oily, I recommend using an anti-acne cleanser at night and a gentle cleanser, like Fresh Soy Cleanser, in the morning.
  3. Clean your phone. Your phone screen gets covered in dirt, oil and bacteria every day. When you talk on the phone, you are putting that dirt and bacteria onto your face. Oh, you only text? Unless your hands are always squeaky clean and you never touch your face, you are still transferring that dirt, oil and bacteria. If you have a landline phone at home or work, make sure to regularly clean that off too.
  4. Change your pillowcases regularly. Oil and sweat from your face and scalp can absorb into your pillowcase, creating a wonderful place for bacteria to breed. A fresh pillowcase every few days may help prevent blemishes.
  5. Spot treat correctly. If you are using a salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide spot treatment, only use a small amount on the actual blemish. Do not use spot treatments on unblemished skin, as they will likely cause redness and irritation. Spot treatments are best if you only have a couple of blemishes. They are not meant for a full face breakout.
  6. Mask your feelings. Maybe don’t do that, but consider face masks. If you have combination or oily skin and are prone to breakouts, using a charcoal, sulfur or clay based mask once or twice a week will absorb some of the excess oil that could be contributing to your breakouts.
  7. Exfoliate chemically. As you read above, some types of blemishes are partially filled with dead skin cells. If you regularly exfoliate, you are removing some of the dead skin cells that could otherwise end up inside a blemish. Chemical exfoliants are generally more effective and gentle, so most dermatologists and estheticians will recommend those over physical exfoliants. (If you use prescription retinol, that exfoliates for so you can skip this step.)
  8. Do not pick or pop. The best way to create acne scars is to pop and pick at your blemishes. A licensed esthetician can do extractions for you if you have a blackhead, whitehead or pustule, but you really should not mess with that yourself. Acne scars can only be corrected by laser treatments, and sometimes those don’t even fully do the job. Those treatments can cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars so take a look at your bank account next time you are tempted to pick or pop.

If you have acne, I really feel for you. I have been there before and know it’s a serious confidence killer. But there are ways to treat all types of acne and ways to prevent it. Hopefully this post has been helpful for those of you struggling with acne and for those who just want to minimize the chances of getting a blemish.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Breakout Star

    • Hi Maria! I should have included a recommendation and have since updated the post. I haven’t found a good two in one product that includes salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, but you can get this combo by using a cleanser with salicylic acid, like Vichy Normaderm Gel Cleanser, in the morning and a spot treatment like Clinique Acne Solutions Emergency Gel Lotion at night.

      • thank you so much. i’ve been a loyal social media follower since you did my wedding August 2010 at Hotel Commonwealth 🙂 love all the recs

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