Why do some of us have to deal with the despair of acne, while others (even our closest relatives) have clear skin? That is the million dollar question, and I am here to give you the surprisingly, not so costly answers! I will tell you what you can do to get rid of the Acne Monster inside of you.
I am going to teach you about:
- Why You have acne.
- How a pimple is formed.
- What are the types of pimples.
- What you should Not do.
- What to avoid.
- If you need to see a doctor.
- And the most importantly, what you should do, along with a Daily Treatment Plan to follow so we can unplug this blemish factory.
I would like to begin by stating that I have been in your shoes!
Oh heck, who am I kidding, I am still wearing your shoes. These are your Louboutins aren't they? ... LOL, shoot, I need to take a step back into this store...
OK, now I have my own shoes back on and we can talk about how I know so much about pimples. Red is good on the bottom of a shoe, but not on your face. Never forget that!
I am not just talking from the hip here. My problem skin is the reason I started Platinum Skin Care in the first place. I was a grade 3, with anywhere from 20-30 bumps on my forehead at any given time (other areas too). After more than 15 years creating skin care products, I can definitely give you some solid fundamentals on how to start controlling your skin. So let's get started shall we?
Generally speaking, there are a few key ingredients that will start you on your journey to skin redemption, and I will list them all for you, so don't worry. You will leave this post with a clear cut path to move forward. There is nothing I love to do more then actually help people be able to feel good again in their skin.
Learning a bit about the how pimples form in the first place, will help you to understand HOW these specific ingredients will help you. Notice I didn't say "can", I said will. Knowledge is powerful, and this wisdom is going to take you places.
First of all Acne is genetic! That is all. You are predestined to either get acne or not. You may not see it in your parents or siblings, but somewhere down the line (Grandma or Grandpa perhaps) someone in your family passed it along to you. It doesn't do any good to pout about it - I tried, and nothing miraculous happened to cure my face! Just learn the secrets to control it, and you will be looking at a fresh face in the mirror in about 4-5 weeks.
Everyone has the same sebum, bacteria, testosterone and hormones, so we can't blame it on those. *It is true though that those with a greater deal of testosterone, like teenage boys, may have a bit more aggravated form. Acne is also more severe in humid climates, so if you are in Florida for example, you may have a higher deck stacked against you. That is ok, we can still work with that!
The Heart and Soul of a Blemish?
Let's start with what does NOT cause a blemish. It is not caused by chocolate or dirty skin or - close your ears - too much or too little sex. Those all have absolutely nothing to do with the root cause of a pimple. There are cases of allergies causing issues with flareups though, so if you think this is you, toss out the milk and cheese and start taking a good probiotic. That should help.
So, what does cause a pimple to form? In certain families there is a "special" vulnerability called "retention hyperkeratosis. This is when deep in the pores, an abnormally rapid build-up of dead cells (literally 4-5X faster than normal) stick together and form a mass in the follicle.
*Some biochemical studies have shown cell producing at rates up to 20x faster than normal!
This mass is now constructed of dead skin cells and other debris such as sebum (your skin's oil), bacteria and maybe even a stray hair. This then accumulates at a very rapid rate and forms the keratinous clog that will become a pimple.
This clogs name... Comedo (comm-ee-doe) or plural Comedones. In Latin comedo means "fat maggot" and I don't care for that term, so we will stick with comedones. I am sure you agree?
Now that the clog is formed it can do one of two things.
- It can become non-inflammatory - which is the desirable route - and becomes either a closed comedo or an open comedo. Both are easily treated and do not cause scarring.
- It can become inflammatory - and become a papule and then a pustule. It can also take a more severe route and become a nudule or cyst .
Here is a little List to keep the types of blemishes distinguished:
- Whitehead - closed comedo.
- Blackhead - open comedo.
- Papule - red, inflamed.
- Pustule - red, inflamed with white top.
- Nodule - firm, red, inflamed lump that is larger and deeper than a pustule.
- Cyst - intense inflammatory response. Large pus-filled lesion resembling a boil. *Must be a centimeter (approximately 1/3 inch) or larger to be defined as a cyst.
No matter which route the clog will take, it is going to take about 90 days to decide what it wants to be and then you are stuck dealing with it.
After the impaction is formed, our body does want to destroy the problem. It releases an enzyme that attempts to dissolve the matter. Unfortunately, the enzymes can not dissolve the keratin, and instead begin to dissolve the follicular walls (leading to a rupture beneath the skin) and surrounding collagen. This can lead to depressed scarring and continuously rupturing, healing and re-rupturing walls.
**TIP*** Don't Pop A Pimple That is Not White*** Popping pimples that are not ready to be ruptured will only cause more troubles later on. If you see a bump on the top of your skin there is an equal sized bump below the skin. If you rupture the top you also rupture the bottom.
We don't want to aggressively rupture those walls and allow all the poison to leak under our skin. That just breeds new pimples in the same general area over and over again. *I want to add a note to never pop a pustule. This can lead to scarring. See your doctor if you are dealing with these. They can inject the bump to make it recede quickly and avoid scarring.
Let's Sum it Up!
We can basically sum up the Fact that those with acne-prone skin generally have:
- Weaker follicular walls, and retention hyperkeratosis.
Both of those things together equal zits and clogs on your face. Let's use this knowledge of how a pimple is formed to help us understand how to fix it as well.
In order to stop acne from reoccurring again and again - until it eventually burns itself out (which it WILL at some point in later life) - we must START by controlling the excess buildup in the follicles. I am going to suggest some products and ingredients to use to aid in this process.
Types of products to utilize
- Vitamin A (Retinol or Retin A) = exfoliation deep in the pores.
- Alpha Hydroxy acids (Salicylic or TCA) = exfoliation deep in the pores.
- Benzoyl Peroxide (liquid oxygen) and Sulfur= exfoliation deep in the pores and fights bacteria.
- Vitamin B5 (Panthenol) antimicrobial, decreases pore size and Vitamin B3 (Niacinimide) creates an effective, calming barrier on the skin.
Retinol and other acids can cause some light to moderate flaking once you begin using them - this is the entire point! We want to shed the excess buildup that causes the keratin to form in the first place. If you do not have dead skin in the pore you can not form the clog! Now, since our skin has hyperkeratosis, you will find that using acids every day will be your new lifestyle choice.
You want to work yourself down to a point where your acne is controlled and you have just the slightest bit of flaking each day (this can be gently washed away with a scrubbing granual or facial brush). If you have extremely troublesome acne that does not respond to topicals, it may be necessary to obtain an antibiotic such as Tetracycline or Accutane from a dermatologist or family doctor.
Should I See A Doctor? Do you have:
- Cystic acne - hard, very large nodules that are deep in the skin? Painful and unpoppable? = See a doctor.
- Grade 4 acne - open and closed comedomes, pustules, nodules and cystic acne that are not responding to topical home treatments after 4 weeks. = See a doctor.
Never suffer in silence. If you have cystic acne see a doctor prior to forming scars. They will help you control the problem. Once everything has calmed down you may still use these same exact products. *In all actuality, your doctor will tell you to use them before you leave the office. They will probably write you a Vitamin A prescription and give you a benzoyl or salicylic cleanser while you are scheduling your next chemical peel.
Where do I apply my topical treatments?
Most people tend to just "treat active lesions", when it is of the UTMOST importance to always treat ANYWHERE you are prone to acne. Acne is busy forming new blemishes for a good 90 days before you can actually SEE and FEEL them! You have to treat those too. Basically, most people will be applying their topicals to the majority of their face/neck on any given day to remain clear.
Acne placement generally follows a pattern on your face in accordance to your age. You can use this as a gauge on where to apply your acne treatments.
- Tween Acne - on the nose, forehead and chin.
- Teen Acne - on the cheeks mostly but sometimes chest and back.
- Adult Acne - can have it anywhere, but it is mostly on the jawline, forehead and chin.
Most adults will need to treat the entire face/jaw area. Apply your treatment products everywhere you have ever had a pimple - everyday. It's really that simple.
Prepare and avoid.
Dodge and repeat.
You get it. Never stop trying.
The Vitamin A and Benzoyl Peroxide should keep your skin at a light flaking. The flaking is not bothersome - just use a microdermabrasion scrub or facial brush to loosen the dead skin and wash it down the drain. I suggest applying a gentle moisturizer such as Pure EMU oil. *IT is 100% non-comedogenic, anti-inflammatory, and also a topical wound healer! Exactly what our skin needs - and I use every day (btw). I add 2 drops to my Vitamin B Complex right before applying.
***TIP*** Learn What Is NON-Comedogenic and Avoid What Is. Here is a handy Comedogenic Ingredient chart for you to use.
*Contrary to what most OTC acne products say - do NOT discontinue usage if the product causes flaking or redness. This IS the GOAL! If you are excessively bothered, then you may cut back on one of the products by either washing it off after a shorter time, or by alternating them on different days. Use a scrub or enzyme mask like I talked about earlier, but keep those pores clear.
What shouldn't I do/use?
- Stay out of the sun! Ultraviolet rays irritate and damage the skin. The skin responds with an increased production of replacement cells - opposite of what your face/body needs.
- Keep the friction off of your acne-prone areas. Tight helmets, chin straps, nervous rubbing on the same area. By having constant friction on certain spots you are aggravating the clogged pores deep in the skin and are causing them to rupture.
- Don't pick at your acne. Some of you (most) feel the need to pick at a pimple. There is a right way and a wrong way to pick. Wash your hands and face before you even think about eradicating a pimple.
- Never squeeze a pimple that does not have a white center!
- Never just squeeze the pimple without FIRST popping a small hole with a sterilized needle (or other such instrument). **If you pop a pimple by simply applying pressure until it bursts, you will rupture the follicular wall beneath the skin. This then allows the infection to seep out inside your skin causing inflammation and even MORE pimples!
- Watch out for too much IODINE or KELP in your diet. You will find these items in excess in many vitamins. Large enough amounts can cause acne in ANYone, so since you are susceptible steer clear of them.
- Stay away from steroids - unless they are prescribed to control an illness.
- Women - check your birth control pill. Many are great for acne and just as many are terrible. Estrogen based pills have the most clearing effect.
- Check your cosmetic ingredients. Even products geared towards acne prone skin are known to have comedogenic ingredients! Stay away from the following:
- Lanolin derivatives (pure is SAFE) such as: anhydrous lanolin, lanolin oil, lanolin alcohol, acetylated lanolin, ethoxyated lanolin.
- Isporopyl Myristate and similar forms: isopropyl palmitate, isopropyl isotearate, butyl stearate, isostearyl neopentanoate, myristyl myristate, decyl oleate, octyl stearate, octyl palmitate and isocetyl stearate.
- D&C red pigments.
- Foundation: "oil free" does not mean oil free! Stick with a mineral powder make-up
- Hair products: If you are breaking out around your hair line, one of your products is likely to blame.
- RetinA -- Even RetinA has Isoproypl myristate in the cream form. Stick with the Micro GEL to be safe, or if you would like a topical, the Retinol Molecular Serum .20% is a perfect place to start and is 100% non-comedogenic.
I would like to highly suggest the book Acne Rx, by Dr. James E. Fulton Jr. for anyone with troublesome acne to read. Many of the suggestions above were gleaned from his expertise. He highly believes in the exfoliation method for clearing aggravating acne. Vitamin A, Benzyl Peroxide and Hydroxy Acids will help to control your issues.
Here is my personal schedule of products and their application. If you would like to get an even more in depth look at my skin, why I created these products, and what I recommend, see this article.
Morning treatment Schedule:
- Wash with exfoliating AB Cleanser
- Follow with a quick swipe of Purify Toner.
- Mix Vitamin B Complex with 2 drops emu oil, 1 pump Nano Hyaluronic and a dab of High Octane Vitamin C.
- Top with COTZ SPF 40, tinted matte finish.
Evening treatment Schedule:
- Wash with exfoliating AB Cleanser
- Follow with a quick swipe of Purify Toner.
- Mix Vitamin B Complex with .20% Retinol Molecular Serum.
- Dab Clear Benzoyl Peroxide every few days.
I don' t like to apply benzoyl every evening. Your skin can become accustomed to it and the function will not be good. Alternate with Retinol or only use a few times per week to keep this from happening.
Alternate treatment Schedule:
- Acne Diamond Dermabrasion Cream 1-3x per week or a face brush with my cleanser.
- TCA 13% peel, Salicylic 15% or Mandelic 40+ peel 1-2x per month.
I have to say that my skin looks great. I went through a period where I could have anywhere around 20-30 clogs on my forehead to maybe a 1-2 small clogs every month or two. Dramatic? You bet! Even though I was acne prone for about 20 years, I no longer consider myself in that group. It is ALL in the ingredients you use and that you are treating the exact issues that cause acne to form.
***Tip*** Even when your skin is clear - DO NOT STOP USING ALL OF THE PRODUCTS! You must continue with them every single day. After several months you can start to SLOWLY back off with your products (think about using your treatments every other day instead of every day). Each time you start to back off - wait 90 days before you attempt to back off more! Like I said, it takes 90 days for a pimple to work its way to the surface, so you do not want to feel like your skin is all better - when you are just having a clear moment, and later you will see what was REALLY still happening and end up with another break-out.
Go slowly and never stop treating your skin.
We created a great starter kit that has 4 basic products to get you on the right track.
- AB Cleanser
- Purify Toner
- Vitamin B Complex
- Retinol .20% Molecular Serum
It is discounted 15% and is full of the products I use every day and that I attribute to my skin being completely clear. Start here, and then think about adding on a chemical peel that you can do 1x per week. I suggest the Mandelic 40+.