Why do I get spots?
The first thing you need to take solace in is that getting spots does not mean you have dirty skin. Of course, maintaining good skin hygiene is sensible (cleansing your skin daily, regularly washing pillowcases and make-up brushes etc), but, 99% of the time, spots occur due to factors out of your control.
So now for the science bit. A spot is formed when an excess of sebum (oil) produced in the skin gland mixes with bacteria, dirt or dead skin cells. This can build up to form a plug, meaning the sebum trapped under the surface of the skin can become inflamed – and voilà, a spot is born.
The other major factor, and one so often linked to acne, is hormones. When a woman’s hormonal cycle fluctuates, this can disrupt the body’s balance of progesterone and testosterone (yes, women have testosterone too). Whether it’s starting your period, hitting menopause or even coming to the end of a stint on the contraceptive pill, an increase in testosterone can amp up the skin’s sebum production, which increases the chance of blocked pores.
How can I control them?
Many dermatologists will share tales of patients throwing everything but the kitchen sink at their skin after watching a 12-step “clarifying” routine on YouTube, but this will more likely have the opposite effect by making your skin over-sensitised and angry. Your best tactic is to strip your approach back and not overcomplicate things.
Stress and diet can have an effect on your skin, so one approach is to consider taking supplements to support your skincare. Anything packed with omega fatty acids is a great place to start – like these capsules by Sarah Chapman, which maintain the overall health and structure of skin cells.
In terms of skincare products to soothe spots or keep them at bay, keep a lookout for star ingredients that are proven to gently exfoliate and unclog pores (think: salicylic, glycolic and lactic acid), ensure you’re regimentally cleansing your skin morning and night, and always finish with a hydrating serum or moisturiser. Retinol (vitamin A) is also your friend: it ramps up skin cell turnover to help spots heal faster and fade the red marks they can leave behind – more on the wonders of retinol here.