Acne – Skin Disease or an Esthetic Problem?
Acne is a very common inflammatory condition of the sebaceous glands. According to studies, up to 90% of the teenagers suffer from acne, and up to 40% of the adults continue struggling with it well into their 20s or 30s.
Yet, at the same time acne is primarily thought of as an esthetic problem since oily skin, enlarged pores, blackheads and pimples affect our appearance and social image.
Most current dermatological treatments are very effective in battling acute inflammation and bacterial infection in acne, but do little to address other issues dealing with the skin's appearance such as oiliness, enlarged pores, increased sensitivity and acne scars and blemishes.
Very seldom does a dermatologist tell you which cosmetic products to use. As a result, you may feel that you are thrown into an ocean of “anti-acne” cosmetic products without any guidance or a life saving device.
The truth is that many of these so-called "anti-acne” cosmetic products may do little to really help your skin and may make it even worse!
Many contain harmful and irritating ingredients that can further aggravate acne and increase skin oiliness.
So what can you do?
Help to Control Acne Breakouts
The following regimen has been found effective by many individuals both for preventing acne reducing blemishes. If you want to reduce acne scars, you need to avoid new breakouts - Here's how:
1. In the morning, wipe your face with a 2 percent salicylic acid pad (available at drugstores).
2. After the salicylic acid pad, apply a copper peptide serum that also contains a small amount of salicylic acid and leave it on. Start with a maximum of four drops daily, and then slowly increase the amount. If you have sensitive skin, start with GHK copper, which is the mildest form.
3. In the evening, apply a light amount of a mix of lactic acid and salicylic acid in a supportive oil-free liquid) and leave it on.
4. For pitted scars some people use stronger hydroxy acids and/or retinoic acid at night.
5. About every two weeks, use pore-cleansing strips (available at drugstores) on acne-prone areas. Be careful not to overuse the strips to the point of irritation.
6. Some people use this method one day and anti-acne products on alternate days.
7. Anti-acne products can be somewhat drying to the skin. Biological healing oils, such as emu oil, work well as moisturizing agents and rarely increase breakouts.
If Your Skin is Oily and Blemish-Prone
If your skin is oily with enlarged, clogged, pores and frequently has acne breakouts, you may not be inclined to treat it very gently. After all, it looks thick and tough – so why be delicate when you need your results as quickly as possible!
However even though your skin is oily and, yes, may appear thick and tough, in reality it is just as sensitive and delicate as skin that produces much less oil.
Moreover, cosmetic products that are irritating and toxic to your skin will inevitably worsen its condition (even though they may appear to improve it in the short term).
Ouch, It Stings!
If you are tired of greasiness and an oily sheen, you may welcome anything that makes your skin drier. And if you have annoying acne breakouts right before an important event, you may not mind applying a product that stings or burns as long as you believe it is working. This is why nowhere but in the cosmetic world will you find such a wide assortment of burning, stinging, drying and overall irritating substances.
These “acne treatments” may clear up your skin for a little while and make it a bit less oily; but the results seldom last. Often, after spending a small fortune on acne products and enjoying some brief improvements, you notice that your skin becomes even worse with more comedones, enlarged pores, oiliness and breakouts! Even though your skin is oily, it may develop patches of apparently dry and flaky skin. Sometimes you may even notice that your nose and cheeks become red and puffy after applying some of those irritating products – this all can be a sign of another skin condition that often accompanies acne – rosacea.
Stop the War on Your Own Skin!
No matter what you believe about your skin, the truth is: You’ll never make your skin prettier (or healthier) by stinging or burning it.
Just as in case of other skin conditions, you will get better results and have better luck improving your appearance if you start listening to your skin's needs and taking care of it as if were a baby.
Only by nurturing the skin’s own protective and reparative mechanisms (by babying it back to health) can you truly make it look smooth, clear and radiant.
But don’t just take our words for it – read further to learn what causes problems of oily skin and why avoiding irritation is so important.
The Root of the Problem
1. Skin oil production increases: The skin of children is never visibly oily – it is clear and smooth and fresh. However, in adolescence the level of sexual hormone testosterone spikes and triggers excessive oil production. Both girls and boys have increased production of testosterone, but at different degrees. By itself testosterone is not a problem; but when it gets to the skin, it transforms into a different chemical – DHT or dihydrotestosterone – which increases oiliness and makes oil glands bigger, increasing the pore size. When you were a kid, your skin appeared perfectly smooth, but now you can see the pore openings clearly (especially on the nose), and your skin may look bumpy and uneven.
Up until recently, scientists had no idea why Mother Nature made this strange link between male sex hormones and skin oil. Now we know that oil is a great vehicle for human pheromones that get carried from oil glands on the skin's surface. Some pheromones are even produced right on the skin from sweat and skin oil (Yuck!) it may sound gross, but this also can make you irresistible to the opposite sex. Additionally, oil has antibacterial properties, contains important antioxidants, preserves skin moisture and improves wound healing.
2. Thick oil clogs the pores: As oil production increases, its composition may change. The reason is that all thick, saturated fats are produced locally in your skin cells, while more liquid, unsaturated fats need to be consumed with food. If you don’t get enough unsaturated fats (especially omega 3 fats) in your diet, you skin oil may become harder and thicker. Since such thick oil is not that easy to get out, and the oil glands get packed and eventually expand, stretching the glands and enlarging the pores.
Now the oil is so thick, it starts gluing together the skin cells that normally exfoliate off from the surface. This forms a thick plug that clogs the oil gland, stopping oil passage. This enlarged clogged pore is called a comedone.
3. Whiteheads turn into blackheads: At first, the sebum is white and the comedone is called a whitehead. But then the sebum becomes oxidized (impregnated with melanine and other pigments) and turns an unpleasant dark color creating a blackhead.
4. Infection and inflammation: Excessive sebum provides a fertile breeding ground for a special kind of oil-eating bacteria – Pronionbacteria acnes. Those tiny pests break down the oil, releasing skin irritating fatty acids that trigger swelling and inflammation. This leads to the development of inflamed comedones or acne.
5. Acne marks: Usually after inflammation takes its course, the skin reverts to its original state. But sometimes, the lasting inflammation leaves red marks – often called acne scars (even though they are not real scars). In some especially severe cases, inflammation runs so deep that it does not heal properly and leaves an actual scar that may be extremely difficult to fade.
Why Avoid Irritation?
As you already know increased oil production, disrupted exfoliation and inflammation are the three main factors that cause enlarged pores and acne. What you may not know that every time your skin gets irritated, it starts producing a special kind of chemicals called neuropeptides.
They are first response molecules that cause your skin to itch and burn. It may be annoying, but it serves as a warning signal that something potentially dangerous has come into a contact with your skin. For example, if you spill some acid on your skin, you need to wash it off as soon as possible, before it damages the skin too much. Neuropeptides alert you to the fact that there is an unpleasant chemical on your skin so you can take action.
However, neuropeptides can also trigger inflammation, increase oil production (since oil is protective) and increase exfoliation. Exfoliation by itself is a useful protective mechanism, but coupled with increased production of thick, viscous oil, it may lead to disaster making your skin even more oily and blemished.
Your Skin Can Look Beautiful
Your skin may remain oily until your early 20s or even longer. And even as you pass the turbulent teenage years, you still may have some areas of increased oiliness on the nose, forehead and chin (the T-Zone). Even when your skin becomes normal or dry, some oil glands may continue producing excessive oil which can clog pores and create problems. This doesn’t mean however that your skin cannot look smooth, clear and beautiful. All it takes is attention to its needs and an understanding of its basic processes.
There are several areas on which you will need to focus to restore your skin’s beauty:
1. Reducing oiliness
2. Unclogging the pores
3. Regular exfoliation
4. Reducing inflammation
5. Reducing acne marks
You may be very tempted to battle excessive oiliness with cosmetic products that contain drying solvents such as alcohol or acetone. As you dissolve and wipe away the oil, your skin becomes drier and feels so smooth and pleasant. Unfortunately, it is not for long. Very soon the oil is back and you have to dry and wipe it out again. In desperation, you wash your face in hot water with soap several times a day, and you keep wiping it with alcohol based cleansers in hope that this pesky oil will go away for good. Only it never happens. In fact, in a long run it makes your skin even oilier, since by wiping your skin with alcohol and washing it with hot water and soap, you disrupt its barrier, opening gates for irritants. As your skin gets irritated, you trigger production of neuropeptides, which increase oiliness.
There are three main ways to reduce oiliness without worsening your skin’s condition. First, you can lower the level of DHT in your skin. A number of plant phytochemicals contains natural substances that can inhibit DHT. Second, you can lower oil production directly in the oil glands. For example, retinoids and the copper peptide GHK work by reducing oiliness. Finally, you can avoid an increase in oil production caused by neuropeptides if you help your skin to build stronger barrier and avoid irritation.
Unclogging the Pores
You probably tried many products that claimed to refine and unclog pores. Unfortunately, many of them contain substances like camphor or menthol that produce temporary tightening and skin refreshing effect, however, really do nothing to your pore size and may be irritating.
To actually reduce pore size you need to supply your skin with unsaturated fats such as omega 3. Even though it seems strange to you to apply oil based products on oily skin, those oils will help your skin to make more liquid oil that will flow out easily. When your pores are free from excess oil, you may tighten them with collagen stimulating agents such as copper peptides. When skin becomes firmer, the pore size will visibly decrease.
In addition, clay and mud masks can be used to soften the pore plugs and to absorb oil excess.
When you have comedones and clogged pores, you need to apply substances that can unglue the skin cells. You also need to remove dead skin cells from your skin’s surface to prevent further clogging. It can be achieved by exfoliating acids such as salicylic and lactic acid.
To avoid irritation, use low concentration of acids – around 10. Lactic acid is a normal component of your skin’s acid mantle. This mantle creates favorable acidic environment for beneficial skin bacteria that keep bad germs away. When you wash your skin with soap, you can make it alkaline and this may give advantage to harmful bacteria.
By applying lactic acid, you strengthen your skin’s defense system. Also it is a good exfoliator that is much less irritating than glycolic acid. Salicylic acid dissolves in oils well, therefore it can penetrate oil glands, helping to dissolve the plugs in your pores. It also has anti-inflammatory action.
Copper peptides may help by reducing inflammation and improve antioxidant defense of your skin. Copper peptide GHK-Cu lowers TGF-beta and TNF-alpha – two cytokines that trigger inflammation. It also increases superoxide dismutase – the master antioxidant, and prevent inflammation by blocking iron release from ferritin. In addition, you may use many plant substances that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects such as Aloe Vera gel, beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, lavender oil, tea tree oil, white willow bark extract.
Reducing the Appearance of Acne Marks (Blemishes & Scars)
When you have acne marks, you may reduce them by alternating controlled skin damage and stimulators of regeneration. First, you apply exfoliating agents such as lactic or salicylic acid or use microdermabrasion cloth. Then you use substances that stimulate skin regeneration and reduce scar formation. Copper peptides have been proven to speed up skin healing and remodeling. They reduce risk of scarring by increasing decorin (anti-scarring protein) and decreasing TGF-beta (a cytokine that increases scarring).
If you want long-term improvement in your skin appearance, you must learn to be gentle and patient. Avoid irritating and drying substances, don’t fall for quick-fix solutions, wash your face using mild cleansers with neutral or slightly acidic pH, nourish it with omega 3 oils, don’t forget to exfoliate regularly, use skin remodeling copper peptides to speed up skin regeneration, and you will enjoy blemish-free and smooth complexion regardless of your skin’s type.
NOTE: If you have severe acne and acute inflammation, you may need to seek medical treatment such as
prescription antibiotics or retinoids before expecting results from over-the-counter from cosmetics.
If you have acne, always consult a physician or dermatologist first.
information provided on this website is for educational purposes only.
Any suggestions mentioned are not for the treatment or prevention of any skin disease or condition.