Beauty report: tackling acne
Oil is not the enemy, but ‘drying’ products containing alcohol are
In Ireland, we don’t take acne seriously enough. It may not pose a danger to overall health, but dismissing it as an adolescent rite of passage ignores how damaging it can be to a person’s wellbeing. In the UK, diagnoses of acne are highest among women over 40. It’s an emotionally debilitating condition, and can leave sufferers in significant distress, so never feel that it’s something you should have to live with. There are always things you can do.
Acne is frustrating because it is often multicausal. The primary cause among women is hormonal imbalance or fluctuation – during adolescence, prior to and after periods and during the menopause are all typical flare-up times. Propionibacterium acnes is the bacteria which is responsible for bacterial acne, and inflammation or food intolerances can also contribute. Acneic skin can be the result of one or several of these causes, so for prolonged outbreaks which are bad enough to affect your quality of life, visit your GP and ask for a referral to a dermatologist. Medication may be required, particularly for hormonal acne.
Topical skincare can help, and you can certainly make your skin worse by using the wrong skincare. Alcohol-heavy and astringent acne products are, ironically, guaranteed to make acne worse. There is no such thing as “drying out” a spot. Alcohol robs the skin of oil, resulting in the skin kicking into oil production overdrive. Treat the skin gently and with kindness.
A spot is caused by an inflammation below the surface of the skin; by using drying products, you dehydrate skin on the surface, creating new problems, and do nothing but worsen inflammation. The alcohol never reaches the site of infection. A zinc-rich facial spritz will help to calm swelling and redness without upsetting the skin. La Roche-Posay Serozinc (€10) is a cult product which is new to Ireland, and gentle enough to use on nappy rash as well as acne.
The most dangerous assumption that people with acne make is that they need to stay away from oil. This is nonsense – oil is an acneic skin’s friend. When cleansing, use an oil or balm cleanser, such as Clinique Take The Day Off Balm (€29). This will remove make up and sebum build up without stripping or distressing the skin. It won’t clog pores or encourage the skin to get oilier – quite the opposite.
A post-cleanse product such as Pixi Glow Tonic (£18/€25 from pixibeauty.com) contains glycolic acid to help keep cell turnover at a high rate. Slow shedding of dead skin cells helps to create the right environment for bacterial acne – the glycolic acid in this product dissolves the bonds between dead surface skin cells and the fresh ones underneath, speeding up cell turnover.
Avène Cleanance Expert (€19) is a gentle acne treatment which can be used in conjunction with medications. It contains Diolenyl, which is designed to target acne-causing bacteria, while leaving your skin’s good bacteria untouched. It moisturises gently, and targets the problem without harming your skin.