Acne-prone skin, in Calgary and all over the world, is the most common dermatological disorder that people; female, male, young and old will seek professional treatments yearly. Acne does not discriminate. Every walk of life, every ethnicity, every socio-economic background is vulnerable to this inflammatory skin condition. This dreaded four letter word has plagued people since the beginning of time. Acne can be a complex and multifaceted condition that ranges from very mild to painfully severe and everything in between. At SkinScience, we believe each case should be treated equally and with immense attention and care.
Whether you’re reading your first blog, tenth or 100th, know this: you are not alone, you matter, and you are a beautiful being with or without acne. Yes, acne can be a socially debilitating condition causing anxiety, depression, OCD and more. Today, you have come to the right place to be heard. We get it, but we can also help you solve it! Knowledge is power, so let’s educate you on this somewhat complicated topic.
ACNE FACTS 101
Hormonal changes can trigger acne: Girls and woman alike have already figured this one out and have seen first-hand what happens to their skin throughout their cycles, and into perimenopause and menopause.
Acne has predominantly an inflammatory factor. In the body, there are anti and pro-inflammatory interleukins and acne happens to be associated with the pro-inflammatory interleukins in the body and there are a large range of variables that can cause this. The takeaway from this is to understand that inflammation mitigation is going to be a key factor in acne control. I have attached a link for those interested in learning more about interleukins Interleukins – NCBI.
Diet affects acne
Food sensitivity can cause an inflammatory response in your body. Most of us have some degree of intolerance to dairy, whether we recognize it or not. Dairy is an extremely pro-inflammatory food which can be a culprit for many individuals, not just for their skin but within their entire gastro-intestinal tract as well. Also, high glycemic foods can trigger acne in certain individuals.
Stress affects acne
Cortisol is the stress hormone responsible for our fight or flight response and chronic stress will raise cortisol and negatively affect other anti-inflammatory mediators which in turn will raise inflammation.
Poor sleep can affect acne
Moreover, poor sleep raises cortisol and inhibits the body’s natural ability to repair and rejuvenate thus raising inflammation and oxidative stress.
Interestingly, using products with ingredients that clog pores or cause inflammation ie. parabens, sulphates, silicones, fragrance this list is a long one, I was going to attach a list of ingredients to avoid but the list is so long I have decided to attach a link to which ingredients are the most effective when trying to control acne. Effective acne ingredients – Mayo Clinic.
Clogged pores can affect acne
For every clogged pore there is risk of a future pimple.
Bacteria can be associated with acne
Most acne has a component of the C. acnes bacteria (Cutibacterium), formerely known as P. acnes (Propionbacterium) bacteria.
FALSE: Poor hygiene can cause acne
Acne is not due to dirty skin and doesn’t reflect personal hygiene habits, however we don’t recommend not cleansing our skin on a regular basis. Blackheads are dirt-filled pores – wrong! They’re dark because the oil in them has oxidized, this happens when it comes into contact with air. In fact, washing vigorously and exfoliating too often may make acne worse by irritating the skin, and causing inflammation and dehydration, especially if you are using products that contain harsh or stripping ingredients.
FALSE: Acne is just a phase
Your acne condition may clear up with time, but acne can get worse before it improves. The longer you have acne, the greater the risks of permanent scarring. This risk increases with the darker your natural skin color, however, lighter skins are not immune to PIH. Here’s a recent medical journal publication on PIH, Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation and the recent research and treatment options available: Clinical publication NCBI on PIH.
FALSE: Acne is contagious
You can’t get acne from contact with someone who has it: Acne may be unsightly and embarrassing, but it is not contagious.
Sun exposure and tanning clear up skin: Neither outdoor nor indoor tanning will help acne over time. Being in the sun can help initially by drying up skin lesions and surface oils, and masking spots by tanning, but the effect is only temporary. More often, people will experience an acne flare-up after UV exposure. Sun exposure also raises the risk of skin cancer and don’t think it won’t happen to you! It can happen to anyone, and it does.
Acne can present itself in a number of different ways and believe it or not it is quite possible to have one, two or all of the below listed types on your face or body. Acne cases should always be assessed individually and can vary greatly between grades.
What type of acne do you have?
- Grade 1,2 blackheads – small black or yellowish bumps that develop on the skin;
- Grade 1, 2 whiteheads – have a similar appearance to blackheads, but may be firmer and will not empty when squeezed
- Grade 1, 2 comedones/papules – small red bumps that may feel tender or sore
- Grade 1, 2 pustules – similar to papules, but have a white tip in the centre, caused by a build-up of pus
- Grade 3, 4 nodules – large hard lumps that build up beneath the surface of the skin and can be painful
- Grade 3, 4 cysts – also known as acne conglobata, the most severe type of spot caused by acne; they present as large pus-filled lumps that look similar to boils and carry the greatest risk of causing permanent scarring
Ok, you now know the facts and myths about acne and hopefully have a better understanding of what type of acne you suffer from, what’s next?
An important note on sunblock
“Sunblock makes me breakout” – Quite a few acne clients don’t want to wear sunblock because quite often they say sunblock will make them breakout. Yes, you may be right! Make sure you read your ingredients and apply sunblock with ONLY physical ingredients like zinc and titanium dioxide, any additional ingredients or chemical sunblock can inflame acne or even cause breakouts, they also have been proven to cause hormonal disruption. It doesn’t matter what skin colour you have, you need sun protection. Read more about it here: Anti-aging & Sunscreens NCBI publication.
The most effective way to control acne is to address it and make a plan with a trusted clinic who will listen to your concerns and is willing to guide you and work together to make positive changes as soon as possible. Take your time to find a clinic who is experienced with acne and treats each case individually. No two cases are the same, just like no two people are the same. What works for one may not work for another.
Please note! Acne is not the only condition that presents with red, inflamed bumps on the face. Always ensure you are properly diagnosed by a qualified health care professional before beginning any treatment.
Acne can be pretty overwhelming, but taking one step further in a positive direction, is one step further in the right direction. We hope this blog has helped to inform you more on acne and given you the tools to make a plan for your acne’s future. Acne doesn’t define you and it shouldn’t prevent you from being everything you want to be. Remember, sometimes the hardest thing to wear is our own skin.