Acne occurs when the small pores on the surface of the skin become blocked with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. Each individual pore on the skin opens up to a follicle beneath the epidermis. Within these follicles lie a singular hair and a sebaceous gland. The sebaceous gland produces sebum, an oil designed to keep your skin lubricated and soft. However, when hormonal changes and other factors cause the gland to produce an excess of sebum, the oil will be pumped through the follicle, and may pick up dead skin cells and P. acnes bacteria on its way out. Should these substances clump together, a plug will form. As this plug starts to press up against the surface of the skin, the body responds with an accumulation of red and white blood cells to combat any infection, and this results in inflammation and redness. Acne can occur on the face, back, neck, chest, arms, and buttocks, and any other skin area with a saturation of sebaceous pores.
Extraction reactions: When performed correctly, extractions can be very helpful in getting rid of whiteheads, blackheads, and even pimples. But that’s when they’re performed correctly. Getting extractions from anyone other than an experienced aesthetician or dermatologist can lead to facial scarring and severe inflammatory acne. Some believe that all extractions lead to larger pores, and a larger likelihood of developing more severe acne, however many aestheticians refute the claim.
Laser treatment may cause some discomfort. While most patients are able to endure the procedure, ice packs and topical anesthetic cream can help alleviate the discomfort. Multiple treatments are typically necessary, and most insurances do not cover the procedure. Doctors recommend treatments in three- to six-week intervals; during this time, sun avoidance is necessary. Review risk, benefits, and alternatives with a physician prior to treatment. Combine laser treatments with photodynamic therapy (light-activated chemical using Levulan) for more noticeable results.
When you think about it, consistently reaching for your go-to face towel every day is like reusing a dinner napkin over and over again. Using dirty towels can harbor bacteria, and they can even introduce new bacteria to your skin, which may lead to more pimples. Thankfully, this doesn't mean you need to reach for a new towel every single time you wash your face, according to Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, board-certified NYC dermatologist and clinical instructor at NYU Langone and Mount Sinai Hospital. As long as you're truly washing off all of your makeup, you can stick to switching out your towels on a weekly basis.
"Leafy green vegetables and other brightly-colored fruit and vegetables which are rich in antioxidants and nutrients dampen inflammation and improve skin quality (studies have shown acne patients have higher oil production and lower antioxidant levels)," says Dr. Weiser. "Limit intake of dairy products, which can contain hormones and antibiotics that can worsen acne breakouts." Other skin-boosting superfoods include eggs, nuts, legumes, and quinoa.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is not an acne scar, but a red, pink, brown or tan skin discoloration where acne has previously flared up. It will usually disappear on its own in a year or so. Many skin lightening products claim to help reduce the visibility of these acne “scars." Their active ingredient, hydroquinone, works to slow melanin production and can reduce dark brown marks, but melanin isn't the cause of red and pink acne discolorations. A better option is to use the best foundation for acne prone skin you can find to hide the marks until they naturally fade away.
If you use hair sprays or gels, try to keep them away from your face, as they also can clog pores. If you have long hair that touches your face, be sure to wash it often enough to keep oil away. And if you have an after-school job that puts you in contact with oil — like in a fast-food restaurant or gas station, for example — be sure to wash your face well when you get home. It also can help to wash your face after you've been exercising.
Rosacea is a common skin problem often called "adult acne." Faired skinned and menopausal women are more likely to have rosacea. Rosacea also seems to run in families. It causes redness in the center parts of the face and pimples. Blood vessels under the skin of the face may enlarge and show through the skin as small red lines. The skin may be swollen and feel warm.
Blackheads are, essentially, open comedones. "Comedone refers to plugging of the follicular opening," explains NYC dermatologist Elizabeth Hale, M.D., referring to hair follicles that technically cover your entire face and body (hi, peach fuzz). "Every hair follicle appears in a sebaceous gland." So a blackhead is the mixture of dead cells, bacteria, and grime that builds up and hardens in the follicular opening—but it's open to the world, which is why blackheads are so easy (read: tempting) to push out.
What you can do differently: Gently wash and moisturize your face with a gentle yet effective system (cleanser, toner, moisturizer) that contains pore-clearing ingredients, like alpha hydroxy acids and glycolic and lactic acids. That way you keep the scrubbing to a minimum. Wright recommends Obagi Foaming Gel, Toner and Exfoderm Lotion, her favorite system to suggest for Dangene's acne-prone clients.
Our skin contains millions of small sebaceous glands underneath the surface. These glands excrete an oil, called sebum, that helps to keep our skin smooth and supple. This oil is released via pores, which are small holes on the surface of the skin, which is also where hairs grow out of. When the body produces a lot of sebum, the skin can feel oily and these pores can become clog. It is when these pores become clogged that germs and bacteria can thrive and grow. The result – pimples.
"Retinoids work over time by continuously increasing cell turnover which in turn helps fade hyperpigmentation," says Dr. Idriss. Dr. Shah agrees, noting that Retin-A helps with acne marks by causing your skin cells to "divide more rapidly and pushing out cells with discolored pigments." Since retinoids make your skin super-sensitive to the sun, it's best to not only wear SPF, but to also apply a treatment like RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream before you go to bed.
When it comes to scarring, many doctors will tell you that prevention is key. Wearing sunscreen daily is critical, says Heidi Waldorf, a New York City-based dermatologist, and this one from Elta MD is her favorite. "It contains niacinamide, which reduces inflammation, and it's oil-free, which makes it excellent for daily use for acne-prone patients," she says.
People trying to lose weight or build muscle are often encouraged to take photos along their journey—there's nothing more motivating than visible progress. I applied the same logic to my breakout. I took a photo of it at its worst to start, then continued. The second photo you see is one week after doing all of the above—you definitely see remnants of the breakout but they are not as active nor as inflamed (they're also flat and easy to cover up with my BFF, concealer). The last photo is four weeks later after me following these tips religiously—all clear.
There you have it! As with any skin condition, it's best to consult your regular dermatologist to see which option is best for you. And while technology has come a long way in making dark marks and acne scars treatable, remember that most of us will experience them at some point. So while these are all feasible options for fading your acne scars, don't forget that you always have the choice of pimple positivity, too.
What you can do differently: For starters, stop going to tanning beds. Period. And if you are in the sun, make sure to slather on a titanium dioxide- or zinc-based sunscreen (these are natural sun protectants and their formulations usually contain fewer chemicals, so they won't break you out as easily), and wear a sun hat or ball cap to shield your facial skin from harsh rays.
2. You're OD'ing on spot treatments. Overusing topical salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or sulphur over-the-counter treatments can dry out your skin, causing it to produce more oil and possibly blemishes. Those ingredients can actually make the appearance of your pimples look worse, since the active ingredients can slightly burn the top layer of your skin if used too often, making the pimple appear even redder and harder to conceal than if you had just left it alone. (Tip via Samantha Wright, a licensed aesthetician and Skinovator at the Dangene Institute.)
What to know about hormonal imbalances While it is natural to experience hormonal imbalances at certain times in life, such as puberty, menopause, and pregnancy, some hormonal changes are related to underlying medical conditions. This article looks at the causes and symptoms of hormonal imbalances in men and women, as well as treatment and home remedies. Read now
Some skin advocates suggest foregoing this method. The pH of baking soda is 7.0, which is far too basic for skin's pH. Optimal skin pH occurs between 4.7 and 5.5, which is an inhospitable environment for p. acne (the bacteria responsible for causing most acne). By raising the pH to a more basic level, p. acne is able to survive longer and cause more infection and inflammation. So try this method with care, and stop using it if it's not effective for you.
Use a toner after cleansing. After you wash your face, exfoliate, or apply a face mask, apply a toner to the entirety of your face. Toners work to tighten pores making it less likely that dirt and oil will become trapped in them. Buy acne toners at a local drugstore, or use witch hazel or apple cider vinegar dabbed on with a cotton ball. Don’t rinse toners after application - allow them to stay on your skin.
Blackheads are a mild form of acne that appear as unsightly, open pores that appear darker than the skin surrounding them. They get their dark appearance from a skin pigment called melanin, which oxidizes and turns black when it's exposed to the air. Blackheads aren't caused by dirt, but by sebum (oil) and dead skin cells blocking the pore. If the pore remains open, it becomes a blackhead; if it's completely blocked and closed, it turns into a whitehead.