The best ways to combat acne in boys
A good skincare routine will do a lot to help those struggling with adolescent breakouts
A good skincare routine will do a lot to help clear teenage acne. Photograph: iStock
A few weeks back, I had an email from a reader asking me to write about young men’s skin issues. Almost all beauty writing, she rightly pointed out, is targeted at women. Apart from physical and hormonal causes, boys can struggle with skin problems for two reasons – first, we are more dismissive of or less sensitive to self-esteem issues in teenage boys than girls arising from skin problems, and second, it is socially very acceptable for girls (but not boys) to use cosmetics to cover breakouts.
A good skincare routine will help, but in the case of serious or chronic acne, nothing you can buy over the counter is going to cut it, and a dermatologist needs to be consulted. This is better done sooner rather than later, both for peace of mind, and to minimise and prevent scarring.
If you or a young man in your life is simply struggling with standard adolescent or late adolescent breakouts, a good skincare routine will do a lot to help. Maintaining a healthy skin pH is essential.
If the skin veers too alkaline, the bacteria which causes acne (propionibacterium acnes) get far too comfortable. Inflammation and discomfort are also common. The primary means of tackling this is to ditch any and all aggressive, astringent, alcohol-rich over-the-counter acne products which you may be using.
Skincare should not cause tightness, redness, discomfort or stinging. Let’s not be Kantians about our skin. Pain is not a sign that it is working; pain is your body’s signifier of damage.
What broken out, angry or acne-prone skin needs most is a regular, hygienic, gentle skincare routine, and kindness. Alex Steinherr X Primark Pore Balance Low pH Sulphate-Free Cleanser (€5 at selected Penneys stores) is a really affordable sulphate-free cleanser which is appropriate for cleansing congested skin.
If you would like a bit of extra help, the range’s very affordable Pore Balance Super Detox Clay Mousse Mask (€6) is also a useful weekly treatment for especially oily or congested skin.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid (from €9.95 at cloud10beauty.com) contains the maximum allowance of salicylic acid (an incredibly effective anti-inflammatory and decongesting beta hydroxy acid) that you can buy over the counter. Splash a little on a cotton pad and run it over congested or broken-out areas after cleansing.
La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo+ Anti-Blemish Moisturiser (€16.99 at Boots) is a salicylic acid fluid. Except on the oiliest skins, it is insufficiently moisture-rich to keep skin happy (I think of it as more of a treatment product), so you can put your normal moisturiser on top.
To finish a simple skincare routine, choose an unfussy, effective, non-irritating moisturiser like Malin + Goetz Vitamin E Face Moisturizer (€55 for 250ml at Space.NK), which can be used day or night. A moisturiser is really just an outer layer designed to keep moisture in – apply treatment products underneath it, and leave them to do the hard work.