expert advice

EVERYTHING YOU

NEED TO KNOW ABOUT

BLEMISH-PRONE SKIN

We get to the bottom of how and why spots appear and share the all-important intel (and dermatologist-approved routine) you need to tackle them.

Words: Grace Gargini

Blemishes – or, in more severe cases, acne – are more prevalent than ever, with 40 to 50% of women aged 20 to 40 now suffering from adult acne. ​It’s an unwelcome skin problem that can cause both physical and mental distress, and is evidently more than just a teenage affliction, but why and how does it happen?

expert advice

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT

BLEMISH-PRONE SKIN

We get to the bottom of how and why spots appear and share the all-important intel you need to tackle them.

Words: Grace Gargini

Blemishes – or, in more severe cases, acne – are more prevalent than ever, with 40 to 50% of women aged 20 to 40 now suffering from adult acne. ​It’s an unwelcome skin problem that can cause both physical and mental distress, and is evidently more than just a teenage affliction, but why and how does it happen?

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.

 

Take note:

Stripping your skin of all moisture or oil can lead to further inflammation and dehydration, so it’s not the answer to blitzing blemishes. Although it may feel counterintuitive to use an oil, a high-quality, light, plant-based oil can actually strengthen the skin and help it heal.

THE DERMATOLOGIST-APPROVED ROUTINE

YOUR QUESTIONS, ANSWERED BY EXPERTS

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Dennis Gross, M.D.

Dermatologist, surgeon & Founder of Dennis Gross Skincare
What advice would you give to someone suffering with spots or acne?

The best acne treatment is prevention. The spot you see today actually started forming beneath the skin’s surface two weeks ago. If you have acne-prone skin, you need to incorporate a product into your daily routine that is going to help treat and prevent future breakouts. For active spots, the key is to decongest the pore with active ingredients, like azelaic and salicylic acid, and reduce inflammation with soothing ingredients like bisabolol and green tea. Avoid harsh, over-drying ingredients like benzoyl peroxide. I always recommend adding an LED light to any acne treatment – the blue light kills acne-causing bacteria, while the red light reduces inflammation.

What advice would you give to someone suffering with spots or acne?

The best acne treatment is prevention. The spot you see today actually started forming beneath the skin’s surface two weeks ago. If you have acne-prone skin, you need to incorporate a product into your daily routine that is going to help treat and prevent future breakouts. For active spots, the key is to decongest the pore with active ingredients, like azelaic and salicylic acid, and reduce inflammation with soothing ingredients like bisabolol and green tea. Avoid harsh, over-drying ingredients like benzoyl peroxide. I always recommend adding an LED light to any acne treatment – the blue light kills acne-causing bacteria, while the red light reduces inflammation.

What can be done to tackle the scars and pigmentation a spot can leave behind?

Vitamin C is one of the best ingredients to diminish hyperpigmentation and acne scarring. It stimulates collagen production in skin, which helps repair acne-related damage, and it also helps diminish fine lines and improves radiance. Red LED will also help with this, as it stimulates collagen. And don’t forget sunscreen – exposure to the sun will cause dark spots to become darker. Use a physical SPF with at least 30 SPF. 

What can be done to tackle the scars and pigmentation a spot can leave behind?

Vitamin C is one of the best ingredients to diminish hyperpigmentation and acne scarring. It stimulates collagen production in skin, which helps repair acne-related damage, and it also helps diminish fine lines and improves radiance. Red LED will also help with this, as it stimulates collagen. And don’t forget sunscreen – exposure to the sun will cause dark spots to become darker. Use a physical SPF with at least 30 SPF. 

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Sunday Riley

Brand Founder & CEO of Sunday Riley
How should I treat active spots? Should I leave or squeeze?

As tempted as we all are to get rid of a blemish by squeezing it, we should actually leave it well alone. By squeezing our spots, we risk spreading bacteria to the surrounding areas, which can then increase the risk of further breakouts. You also risk inflammation, bruising and, ultimately, scarring the skin. If I have a blemish (or one of my daughters does), I slather U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil. It contains 1.5% salicylic acid to decongest the sebum clogging the pore, hexylresorcinol to help reduce redness, detoxifying tea-tree oil and chamomile to soothe inflammation. 

How should I treat active spots? Should I leave or squeeze?

As tempted as we all are to get rid of a blemish by squeezing it, we should actually leave it well alone. By squeezing our spots, we risk spreading bacteria to the surrounding areas, which can then increase the risk of further breakouts. You also risk inflammation, bruising and, ultimately, scarring the skin. If I have a blemish (or one of my daughters does), I slather U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil. It contains 1.5% salicylic acid to decongest the sebum clogging the pore, hexylresorcinol to help reduce redness, detoxifying tea-tree oil and chamomile to soothe inflammation. 

Which ingredients should I look out for to maintain good skin health and prevent future spots?

In my opinion, the golden trio for acne is BHA (salicylic acid), AHA (glycolic acid) and retinol. Good Genes is a powerful glycolic treatment that dissolves the glue binding the dead skin cells to the surface of your skin, which can build up and clog pores (and lead to an overall dull complexion). Our popular Luna Sleeping Night Oil contains an advanced retinol complex that speeds up cell turnover and tackles decongestion. It’s a winner!