Understanding your skin – blackheads, pimples, acne

Blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, breakouts, acne, … essentially they are all describing various stages of acne vulgaris. Acne is one of the most common skin conditions and affects up to 50million people in US, and can occur at any stage of life. Many misconceptions persist around acne: poor hygiene as a cause, a cosmetic problem that will be outgrown, … Let’s de-myth.

During the ages of 9 to 12 the hormonal system in the body changes and breakouts may start to occur. While male acne peaks at about 18/20 years, acne in females may persist mostly due to gastro-internal issues or hormonal fluctuations.

Why are some people more prone to breakouts than others? If an individual has naturally an oilier skin (as characterized by larger pores) and an abnormally high rate of desquamation (skin shedding), but lacks enzymes to break down cellular glue in between the skin cells, they may be more vulnerable to acne. The combination of dead skin cells and natural oils may clog pores and provides an optimal environment for acne bacteria to grow. This can show as blackheads, red ‘pimples’, or pustules.

Certain hormones increase oil production, such as the increase of testosterone during puberty, or hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, menopause, or pregnancy. It is not the level of hormones that are the issue, but the way an individuals’ skin reacts to them.

Stress is an inflator to oil production and inflammation, as it triggers the release of cortisol. Certain high glycemic foods, such as white bread, sugary foods, or a high carb diet increase blood sugar, which in turn cause inflammation, antioxidant depletion and sebum oxidation, i.e. blackheads.

To manage acne breakouts, we need to make the skin unattractive to acne bacteria. How?

  • Choose skincare products with ingredients that clean the skin properly, kill acne bacteria, are anti-inflammatory and non-comedogenic (non-pore clogging).
  • Introduce oxygen to the skin by exfoliation.
  • Keep the skin’s natural acid mantle intact to prevent inflammation and outside bacteria from taking hold – don’t ‘over-strip’ the skin.
  • Keep oil production in check.

While treatments such as facials or peels can achieve this in a professional manner, proper home care is an essential part to creating skin health. The most frustrating part about dealing with acne is that is requires patience and diligence. We are born with our individual skin and need to learn how to take care of it best, and that is different for every single person.

Let me help you gain confidence in your skincare routine with a consultation or a facial, so you can learn to love your skin.