The 101 Guide To Understanding Acne-Prone Skin

The 101 Guide To Understanding Acne-Prone Skin

Reference Lab

AUG 18, 2022

Whether you have acne-prone skin or not, chances are you’ve probably had to deal with some form of acne in your life. In your pesky teen years or during your menopausal transition, acne can easily wiggle its way into your life and onto your face.

So why does acne occur in the first place, how does it affect skin health, and how can you best avoid it?

What causes acne?

Each pore in your skin contains a hair follicle and an oil gland. These oil glands maintain moisture in the skin by releasing sebum, a natural lubricating substance.

Hormone fluctuations, environmental conditions, and even stress can trigger the overproduction of sebum in these glands. This excess oil can clog your pore, trapping the hair follicle or deposits of dirt. This creates a bulge which presents as a pimple, the primary symptom of acne. That’s why those experiencing hormone fluctuations, such as pubescent, pregnant, and menopausal individuals, often experience breakouts and other common acne symptoms such as scarring or hyperpigmentation. Accumulation of dead skin cells on the face can also block pores and create a pimple. Occasionally, bacteria infect the clogged pore leading to more severe acne, like inflammatory acne.1,2

The skin’s pH also plays a huge role in acne development. Ideally, the skin actively maintains a slightly acidic pH of 5.5 to prevent bacterial growth. Even a slightly higher pH can allow bacterial growth and create the perfect environment for infectious and severe acne.3

What are the different types of acne?

There are six different varieties of acne, some inflammatory and some non-inflammatory. The non-inflammatory types are:
  1. Blackheads - open bumps, visibly filled with excess oil and dead skin.
  2. Whiteheads - closed bumps filled with excess oil and dead skin. (4)
Once these forms of acne are bacterially infected, they become inflamed. The inflammatory types of acne are:
  1. Papules - small red or pink bumps with swelling and redness.
  2. Pustules - whitehead-looking pimples with pus, visibly surrounded by redness.
  3. Nodules - solid, large, and painful pimples deep in the skin.
  4. Cysts - pus-filled pimples that can often scar. (4)
 We all grow older. Our skin doesn’t have to. Learn more!

How does acne impact long-term skin health?

While acne does have significant psychosocial and psychological impacts, long-term skin health is not as affected by acne alone. (5) However, some acne medications or treatments, especially products with active ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and retinol, can be quite harsh on the skin. In fact, continued use of benzoyl peroxide can generate free radicals and accelerate skin aging. If the relationship between free radicals and skin piques your interest, we have the facts and figures you’re looking for. Additionally, retinol has been shown to compromise skin’s barrier function, which could impact long-term skin health with consistent use over time.

What is acne-prone skin?

Skin that’s more likely to have clog is referred to as acne-prone skin. Usually, acne-prone skin consistently experiences inflammatory forms of acne. (7) Genetics are a common cause of acne-prone skin. In fact, a UK study on 400 twins demonstrated that around 81% of acne resulted from genetic factors. (8)

What is the difference between acne and acne-prone skin?

Acne can often result from changing hormones or negligence of skin cleanliness, which is why establishing a face cleansing routine is crucial. Acne-prone skin, on the other hand, is a predisposition towards acne. It can worsen during hormone fluctuations, but it’s usually recurring and extreme. Acne-prone skin is also more inclined towards inflammatory varieties of acne.

How do I know if I have acne-prone skin?

If you frequently break out and have oily, shiny skin, you may have acne-prone skin. Bacterial and inflammatory acne is also a sign of acne-prone skin, especially if these varieties are recurring. (7)

What is the protocol for acne-prone skin?

If you have acne-prone or highly sensitive skin, you should take extra caution to avoid factors that can contribute to an acne breakouts.

What are preventative measures I can take if I have acne-prone skin?

There are a number of ways you can keep your skin clean, avoid skin irritation, and encourage the flushing of toxins from your pores. Here are some recommendations:
  1. Avoid touching your face or picking at pimples. The dirt in your fingers can get trapped in your pores, leading to further breakouts. Some pimples are also infectious and can spread with touch.
  2. Wash your face at least twice a day with a gentle cleanser vs face wash. You may consider using a face wash at least once per day to cut through excess oil and dirt.
  3. Change your pillowcase often. Many pillowcases retain oil, dirt and bacteria. Sleeping on a dirty pillowcase can expose your skin to these factors for long periods of time.
  4. Avoid harsh scrubs. Scrubs can significantly irritate acne and acne-prone skin, worsening breakouts.
  5. Stay hydrated. Water encourages the flushing of toxins from your pores, keeping your skin clean from the inside! (1)
If you have acne-prone skin that doesn’t respond to alternative preventative measures, you may consider consulting a dermatologist about the following interventions:
  1. Birth control
  2. Accutane
  3. Antibiotics

What are the dos and don'ts for acne-prone skin?

One of the best ways to gain control over acne-prone skin is to address your diet. Since acne is closely tied to insulin sensitivity, foods containing complex carbohydrates are ideal, as they do not stimulate blood sugar levels. The following foods are good options for acne-prone skin.
  1. Fruits
  2. Vegetables
  3. Whole grains
  4. Beans and legumes(9)
Vegetables and leafy greens, specifically, can also help regulate your hormones and prevent hormonal breakouts. (9)

Wondering what foods cause acne? The following foods can encourage sebum production and insulin sensitivity to promote acne in the skin and should therefore be avoided.
  1. Sugar
  2. Red meat
  3. White bread, pasta and rice
  4. Dairy products such as milk and yogurt (9)
Sweating via steaming is also a great way to open and clean your pores. However, make sure you are in a clean environment to prevent pores from retrapping bacteria and dirt once you cool down. The shower is a perfect place to steam, clean and let your skin breathe! (10)

What should be included in a skincare regimen for acne-prone skin types?

How you care for your skin can play a big part in maintaining clean, less oily skin with a balanced pH. These are several types of topical skin care products you can look into for creating a basic skin care routine.
  1. Cleanser: Using a daily face cleanser during your morning and evening skincare routine can help keep dirt away from your pores. Slightly drying and less moisturizing varieties are usually a better option for oily skin to prevent the accumulation of excess oil. However, you want to make sure you don’t entirely strip the oils from your skin, as that can increase your skin’s natural oil production.
  2. Toner: Using a toner can help you achieve cleaner and clearer skin by removing excess oil. Try looking for toners specifically designed for acne-prone skin.
  3. Moisturizer: Moisturizers that are careful not to clog pores will help you keep your skin hydrated. Consider using a daily peptide moisturizer that promotes overall skin health without introducing pore-blocking ingredients such as petrolatum and coconut oil. Our OS-01 FACE Topical Supplement and OS-01 BODY Topical Supplement are formulated with ingredients that have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, such as niacinamide.
  4. Sunscreen: Sun damage can cause irritation and make acne symptoms, breakouts, or other skin conditions worse, especially if you use acne treatments that increase your skin's sensitivity to UV exposure, such as retinol and benzoyl peroxide.
  5. Exfoliate: Once your breakouts calm down, you can try gently exfoliating to cleanse, remove your dead skin cells, and encourage new cell turnover. (1)

Key Takeaways

  • Hormone fluctuations, environmental conditions, and even stress can trigger the overproduction of oil in your skin. This excess oil clogs your pores, creating a pimple.
  • Acne can be inflammatory, bacterial, or non-inflammatory. Acne-prone skin often experiences the bacterial form of acne.
  • Genetics is a common cause of acne-prone skin. In fact, a UK study on 400 twins demonstrated that around 81% of acne resulted from genetic factors.
  • If you have acne-prone skin, avoid touching your face or picking at pimples. Wash your face and your pillowcase often. Avoid harsh scrubs and stay hydrated!
  • Avoid dairy products and foods that raise blood sugar levels. These foods promote acne.
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