Acne 101

Acne 101: The What, The Why, and The How

July 15, 2020

Half the acne battle is understanding what makes your skin tick.

One of the most prevalent skin conditions today, acne affects about 50 million people in the United States and over 681 million globally. Acne is a skin inflammation that occurs when sebum and dead skin cells accumulate and form a plug on the hair follicles. While it most commonly appears on the face, acne can also show up on the chest, shoulders, arms, back, and other body parts.

Acne ranges from mild to moderate to severe, with the level of severity affected by factors such as hormones and bacteria, the latter of which could trigger or aggravate the inflammation, or in some cases, even cause infection.

Types of Acne

Acne is a spectrum with six types:

  • Whiteheads. A mild form of acne, whiteheads are small white bumps on the skin that appear when the pores are clogged by excess oil and dead skin cells.
  • Blackheads. Also a mild form of acne, blackheads are pretty much whiteheads that are exposed to air. The oxidation process — not dirt! — gives it its dark color.
  • Papules. Red, swollen, and tender, papules are skin lesions that appear as bumps less than a centimeter around. Considered moderate acne, it’s what we commonly refer to as a pimple.
  • Pustules. Moderate like papules, pustules are swollen and tender bumps on the skin. But the difference is that they’re filled with pus — a yellowish fluid that contains dead tissue and bacteria — which makes them quite tempting to pop (even when we all know we shouldn’t).
  • Nodules. A severe form of acne, nodules are firm lumps on the skin that are often painful when touched. It could sometimes be skin toned, but as the surrounding area gets more inflamed, it could become red. This type of infection goes deep beneath the skin surface.
  • Cysts. The most severe in the spectrum, cystic acne appears as large, pus-filled bumps on the skin that are red and swollen as a result of both inflammation and infection. These are painful, too, and when they burst, they could worsen breakouts even more.

Why, though?

Hormones are generally considered one of the main culprits behind acne. After all, a huge chunk of those affected by this skin condition are in their teenage years, when hormones go haywire during the transition to adulthood. For women, the menstrual cycle is yet another trigger for hormonal changes. And in the case of adult acne, this is often influenced by one’s lifestyle.

Genetics are a possible reason, too, and in rare cases, acne may be the result of a pre-existing medical condition, or perhaps the side effect of certain medications.

The exact cause of acne —  the reason why some have it while others don’t — is still unclear to this day. What we’re sure of is this: there are a number of agents behind it, but that list does not include you. In other words, you’re not to blame for your acne, so take it easy.

But this doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it, because you can. Just as a combination of factors behind acne, a combination of lifestyle choices is the key to managing it. Just as acne is caused by a combination of factors,
managing it also takes a combination of lifestyle choices.

You are what you eat and drink

We eat to nourish our bodies, and our bodies include our skin. While a singular anti-acne diet that works for all does not exist, certain foods and beverages have been identified as acne-inducing.

Sugar tops that list, as its consumption triggers the production of insulin, a hormone that regulates the glucose levels in our blood.

An obvious source of sugar is soda and energy drinks, but be wary of what you replace it with. Fruit juices may seem like a better, natural alternative, but they are just as loaded with sugar as their fizzy counterparts. Tea and coffee are good replacements, granted that you don’t mix in syrups and other sweeteners (if you really crave the sweetness in your drink, go for Stevia). Ultimately, though, water trumps them all!

It’s pretty common knowledge that carbs can make us gain weight, but did you know that they actually trigger breakouts, too? But we don’t have to give them up completely — we just have to choose the good carbs over the bad ones. Whole grains, quinoa, pasta, sweet potatoes, leafy green veggies, seeds, and legumes are just some examples of good carbs.

White bread, white rice, cakes and cookies, muffins and pastries, corn flakes and similar cereals, and potatoes are the opposite — and should therefore be avoided, along with dairy. Yes, dairy (sorry!). Milk and cheese may be good for the bones, but it’s bad news for those of us who are prone to breakouts, so it’s better to just get calcium from non-dairy sources.

Foods rich in vitamins A, E, and D, omega-3 fatty acids, and some trace minerals like zinc nourish our bodies as well as our skin, so these should be staples in our diets. But just in case you can’t get the amount you need from food sources alone (perhaps because of food allergies or other dietary restrictions), supplements could help. But be sure you consult a doctor before taking any!

Stress management is also skincare

Our hormones can also go haywire as a response to stress, which is another trigger for acne. Among other things, acne itself is a cause of stress, and this perpetuates a vicious cycle that’s difficult to break free from.

The cold, hard truth is that the “stress-free lifestyle” is unattainable in the modern world. But while we can’t get rid of stress completely, we can still manage it so it doesn’t wreak havoc on our lives — and our skin.

Different people have different ways to deal with stress, and among the best methods are incorporating physical activity into one’s daily routine, getting ample sleep and rest, eating good food, taking up a hobby, keeping a journal, meditating, and/or talking to people. It’s really a matter of finding and doing what works for you.

A word of caution: some of our stress management techniques do more harm than good — as they could actually trigger or aggravate breakouts.

For starters, there’s stress eating. If your go-to comfort foods are saccharine treats and other junk, it’s high time for you to consider swapping them in for fruits, veggies, and nuts whenever you feel the crave coming on.

Having some caffeine at the start of our day is perfectly fine, but that should be it! Too much of this stimulant actually causes more stress instead of reducing it. The same goes for alcohol; although it can help you feel relaxed, too much of it puts additional stress on your body functions (and it has a lot of sugar, yikes!).

It’s great if you can avoid caffeine and alcohol altogether, but if that’s not an option for you, then you should at least moderate your intake. This doesn’t apply to nicotine, though — if you smoke, then just stop it already! Science has made it abundantly clear that it does you absolutely no good. A cigarette can help you relax for all but five minutes, and when that’s over, all you’re left with is damage to your body and skin.

And of course, take care of the surface, too!

As essential as taking care of our bodies and minds are to treating acne, a holistic approach should also cover the surface. After all, acne is right on our skin, so that’s obviously where treatment should be focused.

With way too many products and treatments available, acne sufferers often tend to experiment with their skincare out of frustration, or maybe even desperation. A 10-step skincare routine may feel like you’re really giving your skin everything, but if the products you use turn out to be incompatible, either with your skin or with each other, then it will only make acne worse.

Treating acne doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s not the number of products you use that make a difference; it’s what’s in them that really counts.

SMACNE is a simple, effective, and complete treatment for acne that combines the acne-fighting power of tea tree oil, glycolic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid with the hydrating effects of aloe vera, jojoba oil, and hyaluronic acid — in a delicately-balanced ratio that works for on acne, no matter the type or severity.

Before you spend any more time, money, and energy on more products and routines, try SMACNE free for a month (just cover $7.95 for shipping)! And while you wait for your starter kit, keep your hands off your face, and do not under any circumstances pop your pimples!

Brighter skin is within your reach

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