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Acne Positivity Day - The ultimate guide to information and treatment for the skin condition which affects millions across the globe
On Spring Day, Acne Positivity Day was commemorated and research has found that in South Africa, the skin condition ranks as one of the most common skin concerns, with eczema being a close second.
In addition, an estimated 9% of people are affected by acne worldwide. Acne prevalence also varies widely in different geographical areas with Western industrialised countries having much higher rates of acne than some non-industrialised countries, studies found.
Scientifically, acne occurs when oil and dead skin cells clog your hair follicles. It creates pimples, whiteheads, as well as blackheads. And while the skin condition is the most common among teenagers, people of all ages can be affected.
And as common as it is, acne can be a prominent source of insecurity for many people, affecting other aspects of their lives, such as social and personal aspects.
Historically, the origin of acne is traced back to antiquity and interestingly enough, the earliest mentions of the condition come from historical records stating that Pharaohs had acne. There is also evidence that shows us that during Cleopatra’s reign, sulphur was used as a topical treatment for acne.
Meanwhile, French physician François Boissier de Sauvages de Lacroix first diagnosed acne as a skin concern in the 16th century calling it “psydracia achne” that characterised red and firm tubercles that changed the look of a person’s face during adolescence but were neither itchy nor bothersome. Since then, the recognition and classification of acne advanced further as the years and decades passed by.
In the 21st century, with the power of research, testing and investigation – acne treatment is now understood a lot better and as a result the treatments are more targeted, effective and manageable through trusted, well-formulated skin care products with the correct ingredients.
And in a bid to provide support to those who suffer from the skin condition, National Acne Positivity Day aims to encourage self-love, acceptance, and appreciation for yourself and your skin.
With the abundance of acne treatments and procedures currently available, experts want to provide information that can empower sufferers of the skin condition.
Dr Aurora Garre Contreras, who leads the clinical trials for ISDIN global, explained that while these are the biggest acne triggers in most of the population, the leading cause of acne is misinformation.
“Treating your acne isn’t as easy as applying a skincare product – or several,” she said.
Meanwhile, Karlo Mitchell, Brand Manager for ISDIN South Africa added that treating the skin condition starts with identifying what kind of acne you have, what is causing it, and from there using the correct recommended products and ingredients that match your skin type and products that your skin will like.
“Every single day, your skin can potentially face an abundance of onslaught of contributing factors that wreak havoc with your skin’s texture, its complexion and could even perpetuate your acne,” Mitchell said.
“Key to protecting your skin from the development of acne both in your teens and adulthood is to know the triggers.”
She added that the four primary acne triggers that you should be aware of include hormonal imbalances, gut imbalances, stress, and diet.
“These contributors can affect you at different stages of your life and at varying intensities.”
What is acne – really?
Mitchell explained that acne is mostly a genetic condition referred to as retention hyperkeratosis.
“This basically means that every day a layer of dead skin cells is shed inside the pore,” she said.
“Normally, these dead skin cells will be pushed from behind by newer cells rising to the skin’s surface, then flake off in a normal, healthy pore and this process is disrupted in people with acne.”
Mitchell added that acne-prone sufferers produce up to five times more dead skin cells than the normal person and are not able to get rid of the dead skin cells effectively.
“Therefore, these dead skin cells are trapped by the skin and clog your pores and the result, known as a micro-comedone, is a clogged pore that causes a blackhead which will further develop into a blemish when aggravated by oil and bacteria.”
Mitchell said that it is interesting to note that acne forms under the skin for up to 90 days before you see it surface.
“Even if you started the best acne clearing skincare routine in the world today, acne that already started forming today still has to work its way up and out through your skin,” he said. “Acne treatment is therefore a long process, there is no quick fix.”
Considering your 4 triggers, here’s how you should treat your acne:
- Mitchell said that whether it's hormonal, gut, stress or diet induced, any acne routine that you follow should be switched up every 90 days. “Keep it strong for three months and then introduce higher concentrations of effective ingredients and build as you go,” he said.
“That way, you can (a) clear acne that’s already forming below the surface where you can’t see it, (b) prevent new acne from forming and (c) break the acne cycle.”
- Mitchell also suggested ditching the spot treatments as he believes that these are temporary fixes and that they don’t fix the underlying problems.
“As we now know, there are acne triggers and we know that it’s also mostly genetic.”
“There is space in your acne arsenal to use your acne products daily on your entire face (such as your forehead , cheeks and chin) even when you’re not breaking out.”
“That way, pre-acne lurking deeper in the skin can be dissolved before it surfaces.”
- Keep your skin clear from harm, Mitchell suggested and he said that this includes removing your makeup and double cleansing, sleeping on clean pillow cases that are free from oils and dirt. Other suggestions are staying out of the sun and applying a high SPF, and being careful about the products that touch your skin from haircare, to laundry and beauty and health products. “These all can aggravate your skin and make things worse for you,” Mitchell said.
“From our experience, hearing the stories of many of our customers, acne usually appears to be triggered by a combination of issues, as opposed to just one,” he said.
“That is why we recommend these three tips to follow that will withstand any trigger you have.”
He said that acne treatment is 50% your strategy, lifestyle and management and 50% your products and consistent dedication to your skin.
Retinoids and acne:
Along with certain acids and anti-inflammatory ingredients such as azelaic acid and niacinamide – retinol plays a vital role in acne and breakout management.
“Retinol helps unblock pores, making it an effective treatment for acne and it can also help reduce signs of ageing and improve skin texture and tone, explained Kevin Khosa, Skin Expert at SKIN functional.
He added that retinol is less potent than prescription-strength retinoids.
“Because of this, people may use it to treat mild-to-moderate acne.”
Khoza also explained that retinol comes in different strengths and can be used in forms. “What’s great about retinol is that it is a multifunctional ingredient and offers your skin more than one benefit,” he said.
“It belongs to a group dermatologists refer to as retinoids which are derived from Vitamin A, and it is available in the form of serums, gels, creams, lotions, and wipes.”
He added that dermatologists may recommend retinol for acne, fine wrinkles, or hyperpigmentation. “Retinol and other retinoids can help unclog the pores and enable the skin to repair itself, which can reduce swelling and smooth the skin.” “They can also help improve the appearance of acne marks and scars.”
He suggested first trying out different forms of retinoids to see which your skin likes the best to help with acne treatment and management. “If you are new to retinoids, start off with a small percentage in a night cream to avoid use during the day as retinoids make the skin photosensitive.”
“Once your skin builds up its tolerability, you may opt to increase your percentage and move onto serums that absorb deeper into your skin, and can be more effective,” said Khosa.
He concluded that acne is not a life sentence and can be treated.
“Acne is also not ‘gross’ ‘dirty’ or a ‘contagious disease’, it is a skin condition that is treatable.” “If you are an acne sufferer, remember that it can be eradicated.”