If your skin is prone to breakouts, you've probably spent a lot of time lamenting, trying every product in the books. Sometimes you may find something that may work, only to discover that it loses its effectiveness after a while.
Are these products really not working, or is there something else amiss?
Acne's "Dirty" Little Secret
Most acne isn't caused by bacteria and dirty skin. Small numbers of bacteria are actually beneficial to the skin, helping to keep the pores' sebum production under control. By doing too much in an attempt to dry your already irritated skin, you can actually cause stress, which can trigger the production of even more sebum. This is how pores become blocked.
Chronic inflammation is usually the culprit, which can occur with or without acne bacteria present. If bacteria are present, a chronic inflammatory response dramatically increases the body's reaction, releasing inflammatory chemicals, causing collateral damage to the rest of the pore. Inflammatory chemicals like cytokines are supposed to break down injured tissue at the site of a wound so that the body can repair itself. But with chronic inflammation, this response breaks down healthy tissue too, and at a high rate. The damaged pore and the surrounding skin is now red, swollen, and painfully irritated. Stress hormones like cortisol further trigger the release of these chemicals Bacteria aren't even necessary.
To add insult to injury, many acne treatments also cause damage to healthy skin as well, which leads to more acne.
What Causes Chronic Inflammation?
Chronic inflammation is usually linked to unhealthy, inflammatory things like eating unhealthy foods, not sleeping well, being stressed, and exposing yourself to toxins like cigarettes and alcohol. If you have acne, it's likely you may have chronic inflammation from one or more of these things, at least to a moderate degree.
How to Calm Breakouts
- Don't stress, which increases cortisone levels, triggering further inflammation.
- Help the good bacteria! Incorporate foods and drinks naturally rich in probiotics like yogurt paired with prebiotics like bananas, onions, and garlic to feed the bacteria. If you're not getting enough naturally, take a good quality probiotic supplement.
- Make sure your diet is varied and balanced, paying special attention to taking in plenty of inflammation-fighting antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Learn which foods to avoid. Foods that contribute to increased inflammation typically have a high glycemic index like sugary foods, white bread, and pasta. Dairy products and red meats can contain hormones that promote pimples, so avoid ingesting too many of those.
- Incorporate a comprehensive skin care routine that can help to soothe acneic skin and clarify congested pores while helping to prevent new blemishes. Calming probiotics can help to reduce inflammation, help to strengthen the skin barrier, and visibly improve skin texture.
- Include a gentle cleanser twice daily to clear your pores of dirt, oil, and makeup. And a non-comedogenic, oil-free moisturizer (even if you're prone to oily skin).
- Exercise is a great way to boost circulation, which can ease inflammation. It can also reduce your stress levels. Stress hormones lead to a variety of skin problems and contribute to inflammation, so find ways to de-stress yourself on a regular basis, including exercise. Meditation and yoga are great for that. Be sure to get plenty of sleep!
- Avoid touching your face, which can spread bacteria, irritating inflamed skin. Keep anything that touches your face (like cell phones and glasses) clean. Never pop pimples.
- Stay out of the sun, which triggers inflammation.
- Take care of your hair, and avoid heavy, fragranced products which can irritate your skin and add to oil on your face.
- Use makeup sparingly.