Acne is a recurring issue in many adolescents and young adults, though it affects people of all ages.
It can be difficult to know what exactly is causing the problem as there can be different triggers for each person.
However, there are several common triggers that can be the root of having acne and this is exactly what I want to talk about today.
While our hormones, diet, and lifestyle can do their part in contributing to acne-breakouts, there is also another common thing we are exposed to daily and that is our skincare products.
Badly formulated skincare products that contain pore-clogging and over-drying ingredients can actually be the root of acne or they can at least aggravate the problem.
Therefore today, we’re going to talk about some of the best skincare ingredients for acne today.
These ingredients can not only heal your acne and soothe the redness and inflammation, but they can also hydrate your skin, help it heal and prevent future breakouts.
However, let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room.
What Causes Acne?
There are several known triggers that can cause acne. A few of them are:
Excess oil production.
If you are someone with quite oily skin, you are probably no stranger to having a few pimples here and there.
Having oily skin doesn’t necessarily mean that you will experience full-blown acne breakout, however, from all skin types, this one is by nature most likely to be the very root of acne. And this is why:
Your skin has small passages known as pores. Every single pore is an opening to a follicle and the follicle is made up of a single hair and a sebaceous gland.
The sebaceous gland releases an oily substance known as sebum which travels up and out of the pore and it then remains onto your skin to keep it moisturized and lubricated.
Now, this oily film is what keeps that skin soft and protected from external bacteria and pollution. It has mild bactericidal properties and it is on the acidic side of the pH scale, which is the oilier side in simple terms.
Acne develops when the pores on your skin become clogged with excess oil and a mixture of accumulated dead skin cells and bacteria buildup.
The mixture of dead skin cells and overgrowth of the bad bacteria cause clogged pores that prevent the oil from escaping, meaning it will remain trapped inside the follicle.
Well, sebum doesn’t like staying inside the pore as it is meant to stay on the surface of the skin instead of under it, so it’s basically trying to tell us that we should grab a cleanser and get rid of the blockage.
Pore-clogging skincare ingredients.
You already know that if you have acne-prone skin you never want to use anything that is going to clog your pores and aggravate your acne.
But there are many products labeled as “non-comedogenic” and “won’t clog your pores” and these have some of the worst ingredients that clog pores and cause even more acne.
If you feel cheated, you are not the only one. But why would a manufacturer use an ingredient that will clog pores into a skincare product and claim the opposite?
Well, there are many reasons as to why. Some highly pore-clogging ingredients give products a smooth and elegant feel and this justifies a high price point of skincare products in many cases.
But the same properties that make these products feel smooth and luxurious contribute to clogged pores. Some of them are:
Algae Extracts: Research has shown that extracts from certain algae have the ability to strengthen the walls of blood vessels, leading researches to hypothesize that they can help combat rosacea. So some manufacturers use algae extracts in rosacea products. However, algae extracts rank high on the comedogenic scale, meaning they are very likely to clog pores and trigger acne, therefore, rosacea sufferers should definitely stay away from this ingredient.
Natural Oils: Some of the worst offenders are natural products, mainly oils that consumers are drawn to because they believe them to be safe. However, natural doesn’t always mean better, more so it rarely is, and you should always rely on experts and researches when it comes to skincare products instead of experimenting with ingredients from your kitchen cupboard. Some oils like jojoba, olive, and coconut oil which are found in many organic skincare lines are highly comedogenic which means they will most definitely worsen your acne.
Having said that, I just want to add that some of these ingredients are really good for other skin conditions as well as other skin types and if your skin isn’t acne-prone, they could be good for you.
However, if you tend to break out often it is best to stay away from products that contain these ingredients.
Diet and lifestyle.
While we all like to indulge in a delicious sweet snack, the bittersweet truth about sugar is that it significantly exacerbates acne breakouts.
Processed foods such as sweets rapidly raise your blood sugar and contribute to excess production of the hormone insulin.
This directly causes increased secretion of androgen secretion, the main hormone that stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce excess oil and plays a role in acne development.
Sugar has a dehydrating effect on the skin and the sebaceous glands tend to produce excess amounts of sebum in an attempt to recover the lacking hydration.
Excess sebum can lead to clogging of the pores and allows bacteria to thrive which essentially leads to acne breakouts.
Additionally, a sugar rush makes your body work hard to get back to normal levels and this roller coaster of ups and downs can leave you feeling nervous, foggy, irritable, drained, and stressed.
Stress has long been suspected to induce acne flare-ups and it has been closely studied only to be confirmed by a west-controlled study some years ago.
Increased acne severity is significantly associated with the spike of the cortisol hormone as this directly stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce excess sebum that can lead to clogging of the pores and further inflammatory acne breakouts.
Stress is closely associated with increased colonization of P. acnes bacteria which is the main acne-producing bacteria that lies on the skin.
It can actively interfere with your daily skincare routine as we all tend to skip on our skincare regimens from time to time after a long, exhausting and stressful day.
What Ingredient Clears Acne?
Luckily, many ingredients in skin care products can relieve and soothe acne breakouts and inflammation.
Some of them have the additional benefits of hydrating your skin instead of over-drying it, which is a smart strategy against acne.
You never want to use overly drying and stripping ingredients as these will dehydrate your skin to the point where it will start overproducing oil to compensate for the lack of hydration.
Here are some of the best ingredients that clear acne:
Benzoyl Peroxide is an ingredient that is starting to have a bad name on the market, however, while others deem it to be dangerous, In my experience, it is one of the most misunderstood ingredients out there.
Benzoyl peroxide is proven to have an antibacterial effect that specifically inhibits and destroys the acne-causing bacteria P. acnes that live deep in your pores and survive on your natural oil, dead skin cells, and skin tissue.
It can be quite drying for the skin if not used properly and this is why many people experience side effects that include sensitive skin, burning sensation, redness, peeling, and inflammation.
However, if used properly, it can successfully heal your acne without triggering any side effects.
Zinc is an important nutritious mineral found in our body that protects the immune system and metabolism function by fighting off harmful cells and bacteria.
Additionally, this superstar mineral has been studied for other medical concerns too and it is actually one of the most studied elements for various skin concerns, including acne.
Besides helping to heal sores and rashes. zinc also boosts the immune system and help control and reduce the inflammatory response that causes acne.
It can also inhibit the overgrowth of the yeast malassezia that is the main cause for fungal acne.
Zinc also regulates cellular turnover and can help reduce the production of excess sebum and prevent pores from clogging.
If you’re a fan of Korean skincare, you’ve probably heard about the ingredient Centella Asiatica. The ingredient is known by a variety of other names and this plant extract is hailed as a hydrating skin saver.
Studies show that Centella Asiatica has benefits for the skin thanks to its active compounds including madecassoside, which serves as an antioxidant.
Centella Asiatica is somewhat similar to green tea in that it has skin-soothing properties that can help with calming inflammatory acne responses.
Otherwise known as vitamin B3, niacinamide is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory ingredients that help in treating acne.
It is also called nicotinamide and it is a form of vitamin B3 that’s an essential nutrient for your body and it is one hell of an ingredient to prevent serious disorders of your skin.
It is ideal for treating blemishes due to its anti-inflammatory properties and can suppress the skin’s inflammatory response to calm redness, sores, and imperfections as well as balance out the oil production and prevent future breakouts.
What Acid Is Best For Acne?
Scrubs are halfway out the door since acids in skincare products stepped in the spotlight, and rightfully so.
Acids such as alpha and beta hydroxy acids are popular for their gentle exfoliating properties that help exfoliate dead skin cells, unclog pores, reveal brighter and clearer complexion, and help with many skin concerns.
However, acids are targeted solutions which means each one has its purpose, so here are the two best acids for acne:
Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid naturally derived from willow tree bark, wintergreen leaves or sweet birch bark.
Different concentrations may vary depending on the product at hand, however, salicylic acid can be found in concentrations of up to 5% in some over-the-counter products.
Salicylic acid is an effective ingredient in many targeted acne treatments and it has excellent soothing properties that help calm the inflammation caused by acne.
Additionally, it’s oil-soluble which means it can cut through the superficial oil and penetrate deeper to cleanse the pores.
This will unclog the pores and allow sebum to flow freely, which will result in less acne.
Another effective ingredient in targeted acne treatments that can be found in over-the-counter products is mandelic acid.
Mandelic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that contains larger molecules compared to other AHAs such as glycolic acid and lactic acid.
It has antibacterial properties that are highly helpful in treating acne and it also helps to regulate sebum production and in turn prevent future breakouts.
Additionally, mandelic acid does a pretty good job of improving skin texture and reducing pore size.
Glycolic acid is the most common type of alpha-hydroxy acids naturally derived from sugar cane.
It contains the smallest particles of AHAs which make it easy to penetrate the upper layers of the skin effectively and break down the bonds between dead skin cells, revealing brighter and fresher skin.
When applied to the skin, acne products containing glycolic acid weaken the “glue” that holds dead skin cells together and by eliminating the buildup of oils and dead skin cells, glycolic acid ensures the pores are less likely to become clogged and acne breakouts are less likely to occur.
Dealing with acne-prone skin surely feels like dealing with a ticking bomb that is about to explode at any moment.
In this day and age where we are spoiled to choose from the infinite number of skincare products out there, we still manage to somehow f*ck it all up.
And this is why learning about ingredients that can be beneficial for your skin and help it heal is important.
Additionally, the ingredients mentioned in this article can be found in relatively cheap products on the market, which proves the point that good skincare doesn’t have to be expensive.
I hope you enjoyed reading my article and if there is an ingredient that changed your skincare game I want to know all about it so don’t forget to drop a comment down below.
Trying to cope with my obnoxious acne breakouts forced me into finding a solution to my problem by pursuing a career in the beauty industry. Today, I’m a certified esthetician & I’m passionate about sharing what I know to help you achieve healthy, glowing skin. You can learn more about me here.