Unfortunately I’m no stranger to acne. From the age of thirteen when I was hit with the beautiful combination of spots, glasses and a growth spurt resulting in awkward gangliness, I’ve been dealing on and off with acne, clogged pores and oily skin which has gradually evolved over the years into combination skin. I visited numerous skin specialists, from dermatologists trying to prescribe Roaccutane treatment (with side effects such as sun sensitivity, dry eyes and headaches) to a skin psychologist promoting her full skincare system. One of the dermatologists (male) authoritatively interrupted me before I could finish my sentence to say ‘Yes, I guessed it was about acne the moment you walked into the room’. Charming way to put a self-conscious teenager at ease. These experiences have resulted in me developing a slight obsession over skincare and how the right products, ingredients and routine can transform your complexion. I’m under no illusion that skincare plays only a small part in dealing with acne. Other key factors such as hormonal imbalances, diet (too much refined sugar), lifestyle (hello stress) and of course genes hugely contribute to skin’s health. But over the years there have been a handful of products, tips and ingredients that I’ve gone back to time and again to help deal with this skin condition.
AHA and BHA-enriched cleansers
How blemish cleansers have evolved. From being exclusively targeted at teenagers with the likes of Clean & Clear, tackling this skin condition is no longer the sole remit of the young as an increasing number of millennials now suffer from adult acne too: in the UK dermatologists have seen a 200% rise in the numbers of adults seeking specialist acne treatment (source: The Telegraph). My teenage years smelled of tea tree oil thanks to The Body Shop’s iconic tea tree range, as the oil from this Australian tree’s leaves is known to help reduce blemishes. With my skin having matured but not enough to totally let go of some of its teenage habits, I still need a blemish-fighting cleanser that is effective yet more gentle than products aimed at teen skin. Enter AHA (or Alpha Hydroxy Acid, explored in Key Beauty Ingredients) and BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid) which gently exfoliate the top layer of your skin, removing dead skin cells to make way for a softer smoother surface. They are also known to reduce the appearance of acne scars which make them a popular ingredient in blemish cleansers. When checking out your skincare’s list of ingredients look out for popular AHA glycolic acid which I discovered when using Natura Siberica’s Gentle Face Peeling. And for BHA you’ll recognise it under the name of salicylic acid in the likes of Murad Time Release Blemish Cleanser.
This one is down to personal choice but when it comes to exfoliators I like to include a mechanical one (rather than chemical) in my skincare routine. I admit I went through a phase of over-scrubbing, attacking my skin on a daily basis with a rough scrub and strong massaging movements. When I admitted this to the Murad therapist I visited last year he was not impressed. I still enjoy a good scrub but have toned it down to three times a week and only with a gentle face scrub such as Niskama Gentle Smoothing Face Polish. The ground hibiscus flowers and rice powder are fine enough to scrub without damaging skin and the formula is enriched in oils such as sweet almond, peppermint and bergamot to leave skin feeling smooth and baby soft.
Scar fading oil
A little while ago I did a #takeovertuesday for Rare Beauty and chatted about the natural face oils I was trialling for my upcoming post Top 5 Natural Face Oils for Healthy Skin. On the back of that I was contacted by I Love Skin who kindly sent me their Scar Oil to test. This is a 100% natural formula designed to accelerate healing and reduce scar formation. Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, rosehip oil is a fantastic base for acne-prone skin. The Scar Oil is then enriched in vitamin E-rich Sea Buckthorn which reduces discoloration and fades blemishes, as well as healing and regenerating essential oils of Helichrysum, Frankincense, Neroli, Lavender, Sage, Vetiver and Rosemary. The directions of use stipulate applying a couple of drops 2 to 3 times a day to the affected area, with a recommendation to use continuously for three months for best results. For someone as impatient as me this sounded like a long wait, and with the warning that the rich amber coloured oil can stain bedsheets I only manage to apply it in the morning. Luckily the oil sinks into skin straight away – rosehip oil is dry – so following up with makeup isn’t an issue. After a few months I could see that the acne scars along my jawline had faded, but possibly no more than would have been expected with time. Or maybe it’s because I regularly include rosehip oil in my skincare routine anyway. Either way I’d say this oil is for someone who’s willing to play the long game. And if you’re more of a cream rather than oil fan, give Caudalie Vinoperfect Dark Spot Correcting Glycolic Night Cream a try.
In the run up to my wedding day I took Perfectil Skin, Hair & Nails and loved the result: strong nails, healthy hair and above all, clear skin. I dropped the supplement routine until I was gifted a bottle of The Organic Pharmacy Liver & Kidney Drops and thought, hey a little detox will do me good. Except that trying to cleanse the liver whilst still drinking wine just means the toxins break out on my skin instead. And I’m not giving up the wine, #sorrynotsorry. So I now rely on Boots’ Acne Relief tablets which contain a blend of antibacterial Burdock root and anti-inflammatory Blue Flag, ingredients traditionally used for the relief of mild acne and spots. The recommended dose is one tablet two to three times a day but I find once a day is enough to keep the worse at bay.
Full coverage foundation
When all else fails and I’m just having one of those weeks I turn to heavy duty makeup such as Clinique Even Better Refresh Hydrating and Repairing foundation. This full coverage liquid foundation comes in 27 shades and truly covers every blemish and scar, no matter how pronounced. I also find it very long wearing, however by the end of the day the skin on my cheeks does develop a few dry patches (even though it’s sold as a hydrating formula). Clinique is known for its strong skincare knowledge which is formulated into this foundation too, so the Even Better Refresh foundation is fragrance-free, oil-free, non-acnegenic and won’t clog pores. For a flawless finish I apply it with Clinique’s Buff Brush, a handy little tool that admittedly I only discovered recently. I dot the foundation directly onto skin then use the brush to buff into or gently tap onto skin for a blurred finish.
What are your go to products to effectively tackle acne? Please leave a comment below to let me know.
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20 thoughts on “HOW TO TACKLE ACNE HEAD ON”
I’m really wanting to try the Clinique foundation!
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It’s a good option if you’re looking for a full coverage finish. What are you using at the moment?
Hey Julia, really love your article and had some good laughs in between. I’ve been struggling with acne in my teenage years too, then I took the pill for 15 years and my skin was amazing. But I stopped 1,5 years ago and unfortunately my acne around the jaw line came back too. What helps me most is tackling the acne from the inside as it is usually the result of toxins and inflammation, so every morning on an empty stomach I drink a glass of fresh celery juice. I also avoid dairy even more after I had a breakout after two scoops of ice-cream, so will go to a vegan ice cream place now. Because this wasn’t fun…And I take the Lifelong vitality supplements from the brand dōTERRA which do not only improve the skin, hair and nails but also boosts your energy levels 🙂 In terms of cosmetics I use the VERAGE skincare line of dōTERRA which treats my skin well thanks for their essential oils, such as Frankincense, Juniper Berry etc. If you are interested, I am happy to receive an email from you. Love, yours Nina
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Hi Nina! It feels great when you’ve found the right balance and products for your skin doesn’t it? I’m not sure about drinking celery juice though – you’re braver than I am with these things! I blended a celery stick in a smoothie once and even then I wasn’t keen on the after taste… But I’m going to be adding Frankincense to my skincare routine soon, so I can get on board with that 😉 Julia xx