In my early twenties, I struggled with acne.
Caused by Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, all month long my jaw and chin would be covered in painful red bumps – nay, craters. Looking online, I felt overwhelmed with all of the advice and nothing seemed to work.
Finally, a combo of balancing my hormones with diet and exercise, generally growing up and using the La Roche-Posay Effaclar anti-acne range, my skin cleared up (and I genuinely promise I’m not being paid to say that). My confidence grew, and the lack of pain and redness shocked me when I looked in the mirror.
While my skin issues have been sorted (for now), I still remember that feeling of being totally overwhelmed by the hot takes, thousands of products on the market, and advice floating around the internet.
That’s why we went straight to the expert and asked Central Sydney Dermatologist and the co-founder of the All About Acne, Dr Jo-Ann See, the no BS dos and don’ts of acne-prone skin.
Are there different types of acne-prone skin?
I think the most common type we think of are the teenagers, and that’s because the bulk of it starts in those teenage years. But the other type of patient is the hormonal patient, females in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Then there are rarer types of acne-prone skin. We have people putting a lot of skincare on, or those in very sweaty and hot environments, like chefs and kitchen hands. But the most common acne types are teens and people with late onset or persistent acne that is often called “hormonal”.
What’s the best thing to do for your skin if it starts acting up?
Ask yourself, ‘How long has this been going on for?’ ‘Is there something that’s triggered me?’ ‘Is there a product I’ve used or is it stress?’ The best thing is really gentle cleansing and something to limit the congestion and unblock the sebaceous glands. Usually, an unclogger is an alpha or beta hydroxy acid that comes in the form of a gentle cleanser. Common ones include salicylic, glycolic and lactic acids.
How about the worst?
Don’t pick! If things aren’t getting better after changing your skincare routine, see your GP because you may need a prescription or begin to investigate hormonal acne. Another ‘don’t’ is if you have really angry, inflammatory pimples don’t use something harsh like a scrub. I have several patients ask if laser therapy will make it all go away. The best laser practitioners are there to treat acne scarring, they won’t treat active acne. The worst thing is expecting a quick result. It’s not all going to be over tomorrow, it’s going to be a journey.
Why do things like diet and stress have an impact on our skin?
The reason we think that is because foods with a High GI [glycaemic index], like really processed, fried foods that are high in sugar can actually trigger the oil gland, so be mindful of that. The other issue is stress. When you’re stressed, it raises the cortisol in your body and that cortisol is turned into hormones i.e. acne.
As a dermatologist what is a skincare routine you recommend for those breaking out?
Wash morning and night. We wash because it removes oil, pollution, dead skin cells and sebum. I would then do a topical acne treatment like a serum or a lotion. That would be something that would unclog the skin and be anti-inflammatory because that’s what we’re targeting. We want to unclog the follicle with something like salicylic acid or LHA [Lypohydroxy Acid]. It’s going to break down the dead skin cells to open the follicle so you’re not congested.
I think a simple routine is best. Wash your face, the lightest ingredient goes on first, like when you’re putting a singlet on, then a shirt and then a jumper. So for instance, if you want to use a serum or lotion, use it first and then the sunscreen on top of that. A good tip is starting off using something once per day, getting used to it and then using it morning and night.
Hopefully those no BS dos and don’ts have helped those of you who may be feeling confused about all of the skincare ~content~ out there. Go forth my pimple pals and remember, your skin doesn’t define you.