A question I am constantly asked as a derm is: can certain skin care products make your acne worse? The short answer is YES: Skin care is a big factor in creating acne and breakouts. As a dermatologist I see so many problems related to what people use for their acne which in 90% of cases actually makes it worse!
I understand how difficult it can be to navigate the thousands of products on the market that all claim to be the miracle cure to your persistent acne. What is worse, ironically the majority of over the counter products designed for acne usually are the opposite of what we derms know you SHOULD be using, and are aggravating acne-prone skin.
I breakdown three key skincare myths, in this edition specifically related to acne, and what in fact you should be doing.
1. “My skin should feel ‘squeaky clean’ after I use a cleanser”
The number one skin care mistake I see as a derm when it comes to acne is using the wrong cleanser. Foaming and scrubbing cleansers that dry out the skin are a big no no. Ironically most over the counter products for breakouts are ALL foaming and or scrub like. This makes acne WORSE!
How in fact does a stripping cleanser make acne worse? The foaming cleanser strips all the oil out of the skin. You see, these cleansers can’t distinguish between unwanted sebum and the good oils , known as intercellular lipids (the stuff that sits between your skin cells to keep them healthy and together and forming a protective barrier function). To put it simply, they overdo it, damaging this VERY important barrier function.
The skin then goes into PANIC knowing all the good oils are gone, so it attempts to over compensate and produce excessive amounts of sebum and oils. A process known as reactive oiliness. This then ends up creating more breakouts and more acne. It is also a reason why you shouldn’t wash your skin more than twice a day.
It was this skincare myth and my knowledge as a derm on the matter that lead me to formulate my Concentrated Cleanser which manages to remove debris, makeup and impurities without stripping skin of its natural oils. The ultra-gentle formulation soothes and hydrates your skin with anti-inflammatory and barrier boosting Vitamin B3.
2. “I shouldn’t be using a moisturizer, it will only make my oily, acne-prone skin worse”
This one is VERY false: Not using moisturiser is another big NO NO that will make acne worse. Most mainstream, over the counter, products designed for acne actually inflame it by trying to dry it out. Stripping and damaging the barrier layer leading to more inflammation and more breakouts. Not to mention your oil glands go into overdrive to over compensate for the depleted oil.
Moisturising with the RIGHT moisturizer is so important in keeping acne under control. A moisturiser that’s not comodogenic (ie doesn’t cause congestion, leading to blackheads and whiteheads) and has sebum controlling and anti-inflammatory ingredient like NIACINAMIDE, is ESSENTIAL for acne prone skin.
Putting it simple, hydrated skin performs better than dry skin. The moisturizer actually calms down the oil gland. A process known as bio feedback. Yep putting moisturiser on sends an immediate message to the sebum glands that they don’t need to make oil so they calm down and stop being over active.
Niacinamide (aka B3) further calms sebum output AND is an anti-inflammatory that speeds up healing of the breakout. It also strengthens and stabilizes the barrier function further adding to breakout stabilization.
My Concentrated Moisturiser+ is boosted by 5% B3 and completed with anti-inflammatory & anti-oxidant vitamins A, C & E to soothe irritation and rejuvenate the skin. The clever formulation combines powerful water binding molecules including Hyaluronic Acid, Sodium RNA and Glycerin to keep you hydrated all day long without causing congestion. The best part is, it feels like you’re wearing nothing at all, seamlessly integrating into your skin, without messing with your makeup.
3. “Scrubs are essential to exfoliate the skin”
NO NO NO! Scrubs breakdown the protective barrier layer, leading to dryness, irritation and dehydration therefore only aggravating acne. On top of that, the beads are too big to get into the follicle to even deal with the congestion! Not only are these products bad for your skin, they are also have a far reaching detrimental impact on our environment, where the beads used in these scrubs do not break down or degrade, polluting our water ways and our oceans. So in all, these products are definitely a poor choice, being not only a complete waste of time but also creating havoc and skin damage while polluting our environment.
Rather than using scrubs to exfoliate the skin and remove dead skin cells, serums incorporating Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids (a.k.a AHA’s and BHA’s) are the best cell exfoliation products. Active ingredients like Salicylic acid and AHAs (aka fruit acids) help speed up the healing of a breakout BUT more importantly prevent them. Together they enhance cell exfoliation stopping and preventing congestion in its tracks. If you stop the congestion, you simply stop the breakouts. The BHA, aka salicylic acid, powerfully penetrates into the entire follicle and dissolves blackheads and whiteheads. At the same time it’s a natural anti-inflammatory so it calms down the breakouts.
Acne is largely a condition of prevention so using AHAs and BHAS is essential if you are serious about taking control of your congestion and breakouts. Check out both my Concentrated Clarifier and Concentrated Spot Destroyer. Both contain some of the most powerful combos of BOTH AHA and BHA on the market.
I hope this helped clear up some common misconceptions when it comes to treating acne prone skin and tune in next time where we continue our acne series.