We asked consultant dermatologist Dr Tabi Leslie to answer some of your most commonly asked questions about oily, acne-prone skin, the science behind it and how best to manage it. Discover her answers below.
The Science Behind Acne-prone Skin
What causes spots?
The appearance of spots can be largely driven by genetics and is perceived as being more common in teenagers. In fact, they can be experienced by anyone - 90% of teenagers, 80% of 11-30 year olds and up to 5% of adults - and also made worse by a number of external factors. Hormone fluctuation can also have an impact, whether during puberty, premenstrually, in pregnancy or as a result of your contraception. Diet and stress can also aggravate the concern further.
What are spots and how do they form?
A spot forms because the sebaceous gland, which is attached to the follicle, produces oil that coats our hair and accumulates to form a blockage. This leads to a build-up in bacteria that triggers inflammation. The process is increased by our level of testosterone, which is why spot-prone skin is seen so commonly in adolescence. However, an increase in testosterone can still be seen in adult men and women, making them susceptible to spots. One thing to remember is to avoid picking and squeezing as much as possible, as this often does more harm than good and can lead to scarring.
Why do I get clogged pores?
This is very much a continuation of the problem when testosterone interacts with the pilo sebatious hair follicle. If the gland then over produces sebum or sweat-type oil, it can result in a blockage of the pore. This blockage can then result in an ‘open’ blackhead (people feel this must be dirt, but actually this is the sebum and dead skin cells coming to the surface, oxidising with air and turning black) or if the pores remains closed, a whitehead.
Targeting Troubled Skin
How can I help reduce the appearance of blemishes?
In my opinion it’s important to stick with a regime. In terms of your routine, going back to basics and using a cleanser is key, as well as finding a toner to dry the skin if it’s oily, and a moisturiser to help protect against over-drying whilst helping to reduce the appearance of blemishes.
I have sensitive, acne-prone skin - what can I do?
Avoid any skin products that are heavily perfumed or contain agents that might irritate the skin. Some medications can also aggravate or dry out your skin, so be mindful of what you are taking and consult your GP if you are concerned.
How can I help protect against marks?
Rule number one: don’t pick or squeeze the blemish. This simply irritates the skin and can aggravate the inflammation, causing increased redness and even pigment change. Picking and squeezing can also lead to scarring.
How do I target clogged pores?
The best advice I can give is using a gentle exfoliating agent to help unblock pores.
What can I use for acne-prone skin?
The Effaclar 3-Step Anti-Blemish System is an ideal regime in the sense that it combines a cleanser with a toner - what I believe are two crucial steps towards achieving clearer-looking skin and by drying the skin appropriately and adopting a moisturiser to counteract any dryness and help reduce the appearance of blemishes, you will be far more likely to see the results you are hoping for.
Is it bad to squeeze spots?
In a word, yes. Squeezing your spots will simply irritate the skin and can cause an increase in redness, pigment change and scarring.
How can I get advice about my skin?
If your skin is impacting the way in which you live your everyday life, it may be a good idea to see your GP and be referred to a dermatologist to receive professional care and advice. Whilst embracing a simple regime and sticking to it should help, sometimes you need a GP or dermatologist’s advice that is tailored to the individual. Don’t think twice about seeking advice; the positive impact can be bigger than you imagined.
What is the best makeup to use on acne-prone skin?
Be patient when looking for what really works for you – remember your skin is unique. Making obvious decisions, like using an oil-free product if you suffer from oily skin will also prove to be useful, and choose hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic foundation.
Should I wear sunscreen if I have oily or acne-prone skin?
Yes, you should always protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun, but the key is to find a sun cream that is suitable for your skin type. If your skin is oily or acne-prone, choose a sun cream which is non-comedogenic which means it won’t clog your pores.