Is Acne Preventable?
Quite simply, no and yes. In 85-90% of us, genetics and hormones, neither of which we can control, create acne-prone skin. However, with the right skincare approach and specific lifestyle changes, you have the power to minimize and often prevent your chances of breaking out.
The ultimate goal of treating and preventing acne is to unplug pores, remove bacteria, minimize oil production, and reduce inflammation. This is often possible using over-the-counter treatment products containing active anti-acne ingredients. Because the process of acne is complicated, there isn’t just one medicine that is effective against all of these steps. That’s why a combination therapy approach often works best. For example, exfoliators help slough off dead skin cells so that pores don’t become clogged and they remove surface oil. Benzoyl peroxide kills the p. acnes bacteria living in the pore.
Sulfur is an acne medicine that tames redness and swelling and absorbs excess oil. Skin conditioning ingredients like bisabolol (from chamomile) help soothe and calm redness and irritation; a prebiotic helps nourish the skin’s natural protective barrier. When used in combination all over the face every day, these medicines and skincare ingredients help prevent acne from forming and can restore your skin’s healthy-looking appearance. Everything you need to accomplish these goals is found in the Proactiv+ three-step system.
Consistent use of your products is critically important to help prevent acne. The medicines won’t work if they simply sit on your bathroom counter. For success, it’s crucial to maintain the three-step regimen twice a day, all over your face, to keep your pores clear and exterminate the p. acnes bacteria before they multiply on your skin and in your pores. And, once your skin is clear, continuing with the program daily is the secret to staying clear. Acne is a chronic condition, lasting six to seven years in a teen and 20 years on average in an adult woman. So if your skin is blemish-free while on a medicated program, it means that the medicines are working. Even though logically it would seem to make sense that a clear complexion means your acne is gone for good, it’s not. If you stop an effective program, you can expect your breakouts to return four to eight weeks later. So to keep the clear complexion you earned and the confidence that comes with it, make Proactiv+ as much a part of your daily routine as brushing your teeth.
Eat Right for Your Skin Type
As we discussed in What Causes Acne?, there are many myths surrounding foods like French fries and chocolate causing acne. They don’t cause acne but certain foods may trigger it. Dermatologists are no longer dismissing the link between diet and acne. As doctors, we believe there are some preventive dietary measures that may help your skin in the long run. Research shows that foods high on the glycemic index, like white pasta, rice, bread and sweets, cause blood sugar to rise rapidly, which triggers insulin production. When there is too much insulin in the blood stream, certain hormones spur increased oil production, one of the key steps in acne formation. So we recommend that you try eating a low-glycemic index diet of low fat protein (chicken, fish, lean beef), whole grains like quinoa, and leafy vegetables to avoid spiking your blood sugar levels.
Studies have also been conducted on omega-3 fatty acids and their ability to reduce the risk of acne. Research has found that these fatty acids, known as "healthy fats," found naturally in wild salmon, avocado, flaxseed oil and walnuts, may help prevent skin cells from collecting inside the pore, rather than sloughing off as they should. Remember that when dead skin cells mix with oil instead of shedding, they can clog pores, eventually leading to acne.
Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet should be in a 1:1 ratio with omega-6 fatty acids, an increasingly rare occurrence in our Western diet where it’s more likely a 1:20 ratio. When omega-6 fatty acids (found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds) are metabolized, Leukotriene B4, a proinflammatory agent, is created. Leukotriene B4 has been associated with the pathway to acne formation. Ingesting enough omega-3s can help maintain the 1:1 ratio of fatty acids and help block the formation of Leukotriene B4. So it’s a good idea to supplement your diet with an omega-3 capsule for these anti-acne benefits as well as other health advantages.
Hormones and antibiotics in dairy products and meats may also contribute to acne in some people. Looking for "hormone-free" and "antibiotic-free" foods may make a difference in your skin. If you eat a lot of seafood, seaweed, or iodized salt, you may have an increased level of iodine in your system, which has also been reported to trigger breakouts.
Tackle Stress to Help Control Acne
Improving your overall mental well-being can also calm down your skin. Knowing that stress hormones increase oil production and overall inflammation, which both flare acne, it makes sense to do what you can to reduce your stress level. Practicing yoga or Tai Chi helps, as does meditation, "mindfulness" and breathing exercises. Exercise in general is associated with lower stress levels. And don’t stress about fitting exercise into your schedule! Try to include 20 minutes a day of activity, even if it’s just briskly walking around your neighborhood. Remember that if you sweat while exercising, shower as soon as you finish to avoid "marinating" in sweat and bacteria, which can produce body breakouts.
Massage is also a fantastic stress-buster, but if you have body acne, you should avoid the massage oils traditionally used by a therapist because many are heavy and pore-clogging. Instead, bring your own noncomedogenic moisturizer for the therapist to use on your body. Also, avoid having your face massaged because rubbing can further inflame your skin.
Sleep is important to reduce stress-related breakouts and maintain a healthy balance in your life. Insufficient sleep can contribute to hormonal imbalances that may trigger the production of more oil, leading to breakouts. Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally while you sleep; it’s also associated with stimulating your immune system and protecting against bacterial infections, which is helpful in fighting acne. Certain foods such as milk, peanuts, turkey, chicken and almond contain tryptophan, which raises serotonin in the brain that can be converted to melatonin. Evening rituals, like a warm bath, herbal tea, or relaxation before bedtime encourage a good night’s sleep. And keeping clean sheets and pillowcases will help maintain clean skin.
Other ways to manage your stress include keeping a stress journal, writing down everything that is bothering you, which in effect helps "get it out of your system." Or make a stress list prioritizing what is annoying you, and tackle the items one at a time, feeling the satisfaction of crossing it off your list when it’s completed. Cut back on caffeine and other stimulants that can hype you up too much. Plan a vacation. And turn off the nightly news if it’s too distressing.
Makeup, Cosmetics, and Sunscreens Makeup is Allowed
Makeup can be a lifesaver for teens and adult women who are embarrassed about their skin, and a beauty enhancer for those who use it to express themselves. It’s important to choose and apply makeup correctly to conceal, but not aggravate, your acne. And of course utilize it to bring out your most beautiful you, so you feel confident, not clownish.
The wrong makeup can make acne worse. On the back of every product is an ingredient list, that rank orders ingredients from highest to lowest in concentration. Avoiding a product that is high on the list of potentially pore-clogging oils, like cocoa butter and mineral oil, may be only slightly helpful. A product’s true ability to clog pores or not, depends on the product’s formula (which is like a recipe) and is demonstrated through rigorous clinical testing. If proven safe for acne-prone skin, a product is often labeled with the designation of "noncomedogenic" or "non-acneogenic." Irritation or allergy is a different story altogether. To find out if a product is compatible with your skin, patch-test it on an area such as your neck to see if there is any reaction, such as, redness, itching or swelling, before slathering it all over your face. Make sure that your makeup brushes and sponges are clean before each use and they are not shared with other people. The reason is to avoid spreading bacteria (besides the p.acnes bacteria) yeast or fungi to your compromised skin.
We believe in a minimal approach to makeup. The fewer products with fewer ingredients, the better. Always start with a clean, dry face. The correct order for application is medication, then moisturizer, sunscreen, and finally, makeup. Proactiv+ Complexion Perfecting Hydrator contains salicylic acid, glycolic acid, omegas, hydrators and brighteners. Because it combines both medicine and moisturizers, it’s the perfect base for sunscreen and makeup.
There are times when it’s not a good idea to wear makeup. One is while you are sleeping. Sleep is when your skin is most receptive to products and in repair mode, so make the most of it by thoroughly cleansing, hydrating and medicating your skin before going to bed. Also avoid wearing makeup while exercising. Even a noncomedogenic product may clog pores when combined with heat, friction and sweat.
Pay attention to your hair products especially if you are experiencing breakouts near the hairline or on the scalp. Products like pomades, gels, mousses and leave-on conditioners can prevent dead skin cells from sloughing off, trapping acne-causing bacteria in the follicles, setting the stage for acne. Washing your hair more frequently, especially with a salicylic acid-medicated shampoo, and avoiding heavy, oily products often makes a difference.
Daily use of a sunscreen is important for everyone’s skin, especially if you are acne-prone. Contrary to popular belief, the sun does not clear up acne. A sunburn or tan may camouflage pimples and redness temporarily. But sun exposure actually exacerbates acne by increasing inflammation, causing greater cell turnover and a build-up of dead cells inside the pore. Many people with acne worry that sunscreens will worsen their skin. Thick, occlusive creams might, so wearing a lightweight, noncomedogenic sunscreen lotion daily is a safer bet. For the best broad spectrum UVA and UVB sun protection, look for zinc oxide or avobenzone as the main active ingredient.
Taking precautionary steps to help prevent acne flare-ups will empower you. The idea is to control the co-factors that contribute to your acne condition, since you can’t change your hormones or genetics that cause it. Using the right acne treatment system will give you a similar sense of power and the confidence that comes with knowing you are doing all you can to prevent your acne.
Uneven Skin Tone Goes Hand in Hand with Acne
A flawless, even-toned complexion is associated with youth, health and beauty. Studies show that skin discoloration ages your appearance more than wrinkles. Brown patches, sunspots, and post-acne dark marks often impact self-esteem as much as having a face full of pimples. Stopping breakouts and protecting your skin from damaging UV rays are critical steps toward achieving an attractive, uniform skin tone.
Sun exposure is to blame for most discolorations. To protect your skin from damaging UV rays, your body produces melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. Small melanin clumps form freckles when we are young. With age, the clumps enlarge forming dark marks, often called "liver spots."
In addition to sun exposure, hormonal fluctuations cause melanin-producing cells to go into overdrive, creating discolorations. Hormonal surges, brought on by oral contraceptives, pregnancy or menopause, create excess melanin in response to even minimal amounts of sun exposure. Large brown patches called melasma form across the cheeks, upper lip and forehead. And of course, these same hormonal surges trigger acne, so it’s no surprise that acne and melasma seem to go hand in hand.
A condition known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is another reason why acne prone skin may look uneven. PIH is the brown spot that follows a healed pimple. Each and every pimple inflicts an injury to your skin. Your body reacts to the injury and resulting inflammation by sending in scavenger cells called melanophages to clean up the mess. The debris left behind contains melanin granules, which appear as flat red or brown-pigmented spots. The darker your complexion is, the more likely you are to develop these marks. They will fade eventually, but some melanin lingers causing a subtle, uneven tone.
There are many ways to treat uneven skin tone. A dermatologist can prescribe a 4% hydroquinone cream to lighten discolorations. In-office procedures such as microdermabrasion, laser and pulsed light treatments have been shown to help even out skin tone.
You can also get great results at home. Brightening agents, including kojic acid, licorice extract, bearberry and sophora root found in Proactiv+ Complexion Perfecting Hydrator can help brighten dark areas producing a more uniform skin tone with continued use. Proactiv+ also has Mark Correcting Pads with glycolic and salicylic acid to promote a more even tone and texture.
And of course your best defense against uneven skin tone is daily sun protection. Proactiv+ Oil Free Moisture Broad Spectrum SPF 15 is feather-light, noncomedogenic (non pore-clogging) and specially designed for acne-prone skin. If you have acne, or if your acne has cleared, please don’t shy away from sunscreen. It’s one of the most important things you can do to protect your skin from damage and create an even toned complexion.