Acne is the most common skin condition and can occur at any stage of a person’s life, even into late adulthood. Nobody chooses to get pimples, so it’s surely outside your control whenever they appear. The truth of the matter is that if you suffer with acne, know that you’re not alone.
And being constantly told of society’s expectations of flawless skin can have a debilitating impact on a person’s self-esteem and emotional wellbeing. In honour of Acne Awareness Month in June, we spoke with Sarah Morris Miller, master instructor at Dermalogica, about causes and treatment of acne, and the power of skin acceptance.
Why do we get acne?
Too much sebum, too many skin cells, certain types of bacteria, and inflammation – it comes down to these four factors, and there are many things that can trigger them. For some people it’s genetics while others get acne because of their diet and stressful lifestyle. The biggest frustration for acne suffers is the unknown. The whole situation of: “I have been consistent with my skincare routine; my diet hasn’t changed; I’m not under a lot of new stress but yet I have a bunch of new breakouts! What gives?” As a licensed professional, I always try to become a skin detective and really talk to my clients about their lifestyle and make them more aware of why they get breakouts, so we can start to narrow down their individual triggers. A client might notice that it occurs in the chin area and usually involves ingrown hair. In such cases, we focus not only on treating the area with a good spot treatment product, but also incorporating an exfoliant in his routine.
Are certain skin types more prone to acne than other?
Yes! If you have genetically oily skin or inherit the “acne” gene, your skin may break out more often as a result. Sebum contributes to acne because it clogs your pores at a rate that the skin cannot eliminate it quick enough. Embrace and love the skin you’re in; we cannot change our skin type but we can certainly balance and manage it.
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Men have thicker skin than women and we have more active sebaceous glands. Does the that mean that our skin is more vulnerable to acne?
It’s about the same between teenage boys and girls with the former experiencing more severe condition during puberty due to testosterone. However, we actually see a higher percentage of adult women suffering from breakouts than adult men. Both genders have different skin concerns due to our different biological characteristics, so the approach to skin care can be different. Men may experience razor irritation, ingrown hairs and excess oily skin, while women may get breakouts during premenstrual and menstrual period and skin thinner that causes signs of premature ageing like fine lines.
There are different types of acne. So, how do you identify and find the best treatment for your condition?
I like to keep acne in two categories to at least help narrow down the treatment approach; although there are many different types of lesions. Inflammatory acne and non-inflammatory acne are a good starting point. If the acne is not inflamed and has more blackheads and that rough textured look and feel, then good exfoliation is key. If the acne is inflamed and irritated, focus on calming and soothing as well as bacteria control for best results.
How does acne impact self-confidence?
Acne can really take an emotional toll on people of all ages, from the physical discomfort to the potential skin scarring and discolouration. Many people feel embarrassed and the need to hide their breakouts to the extend of avoiding social activities because their skin. Change your mindset and be part of a good support system. Surround yourself with people that love you and your acne. Go to that pool party and post a selfie!
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What advice would you give on embracing acne?
Know that it’s normal to have acne. It can happen to anyone! People with the genetic predisposition are more likely to suffer from breakouts but any skin type can get a pimple or two. There are so many unavoidable triggers like hormone and stress. Your skin is beautiful and the more we work together to share our real skin, the more we will continue to see improved acceptance of acne. I love that so many influencers and brands are helping people feel more confident by not using filters, skipping makeup when you feel like it, and simply loving the skin you’re in.
Can retinol help acne – what are other key ingredients to look out for?
Retinol is great for acne sufferers. I am always very clear with my clients that are interested in retinol to make sure that one, they are going to wear SPF daily and two, that they do not overdo it with additional exfoliation. A few of my favourite ingredients include niacinamide and salicylic acid. Clay-based products and sulfur are effective too.
What are other lesser-known acne-fighting ingredients that we should know and try?
Certainly not lesser known but I find myself reminding my clients that acneic skin needs hydration too! Hyaluronic acid and panthenol (vitamin B5) are my favourites. Some other ingredients I love lately that may be lesser known are hexylresorcinol for any post breakout marks, blueberry and blue tansy are great at providing antioxidant support, and green tea for soothing inflammation. My product recommendations from Clear Start are Micro-Pore Mist (it has hyaluronic acid, panthenol (vitamin B5) and green tea) and Cooling Aqua Jelly (it contains blueberry and blue tansy).
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Is there any trick to get rid of the pimple fast?
Use a cold compress on inflammation and swelling, as well as a spot treatment and a moisturiser! Acne never sleeps so it is important to be treat it day and night and be as consistent as possible.
Since we’ve been spending most of the time at home, what is your recommended at-home routine and products to keep the acne at bay?
Start with a good cleanser to remove makeup, debris, pollution, oil buildup, etc. is the first step to keeping acne at bay. If your breakouts are inflamed and irritated, skip exfoliation until the irritation is under control or opt for an exfoliant that does not have any physical ingredients that can cause further irritation. I like to use a spray toner daily because it is fast and easy and allows skincare products to work even better. Also, use a spot treatment product on breakout after toner and moisturiser.