By Joanne McGregor- Skin Care Enthusiast
I watched a YouTube video recently where a side comment from the vlogger was that her acne was “normal” and will always be there so please, dear viewers, stop offering advice on how to get rid of it.
Now, unsolicited advice from strangers is never super helpful but her push-back that acne is “normal” was hard to hear. For a lot of us, breakouts will always be part of our lives and therefore “normal” but I know – I KNOW – that there are solutions available that work to calm and heal acne and while they vary as much as each individual patient does, they do exist. And, as someone who has battled cystic breakouts her entire adult life as well as persistent congestion, I understand the journey.
But where to start?
First things first, for more severe or reactive cases of acne, it is best to consult a Dermatologist. Many Dermatologists have cosmetic clinics attached to their medical practice and offer a myriad of acne treatment options under their supervision. Acne treatments can be combined with prescription medications for best results. Even if your acne does not require prescription medications, seeing a dermatologist is a good idea to get advice on corresponding treatments for acne or break-out-prone skin.
My favourite way to get started when exploring treatment options (and to get to know a clinic) is with an acne facial. For acne-prone skin, consider a “medical acne facial”, if available, at a Medi-Spa or Cosmetic Dermatology clinic. These acne facials should be designed for your Baumann Skin Type. Done correctly, these treatments can encourage better exfoliation, break up stubborn congestion and allow for more efficient absorption of any subsequent acne skin care products used. A proper treatment should include steps to manually decongest the pores if applicable.
There is also nothing wrong with some self-care and a little relaxation via a facial can go a long way in helping to calm acne flare-ups caused by stress.
When researching an Acne-focused facial, products used should help calm inflammation (Salicylic Acid for example) and aid in preventing pigmentation caused by breakouts (Hydroquinone, Kojic Acid). Ensure an SPF is used as the last step and have a discussion with the Aesthetician about a daily SPF that is best for Acne-prone skin (if you do not already have one).
1-3 days before the acne facial treatment, discontinue use of any stronger skincare products/ingredients (Retinol, Glycolic or Lactic Acids, Salicylic Acid), don’t use any physical scrubs, and avoid hair removal (shaving, waxing, etc.).
3-5 days pre and post treatment minimize your sun exposure especially if you have chosen to include a peel in your facial.
For best results at home and ongoing what I implore above all else is to be kind to your skin. Skincare routines should not involve constant damage and repair and a lot of acne-focused products are especially guilty of encouraging a perpetual state of damage-heal-repeat. Nothing breaks my heart more than seeing acne sufferers peeling and red from skincare that is too irritating.
Skin that isn’t irritated glows; breakouts aren’t as red and obvious and they can heal faster. This can mean less make-up is needed to cover a breakout which also leads to lower inflammation; it’s a beautiful cycle.
Targeted inflammation (chemical peels, light therapy, higher-dose ingredient topicals) under supervision at a clinic and combined with the proper skincare for your skin type can benefit acne prone skin greatly but daily products should encourage calm healing.
Again, I have been there (raise your hand if you have ever tried to scrub your face off out of sheer frustration over breakouts *raises hand*) but what I have learned is to avoid scrubbing in favour of a cream-based Glycolic or Lactic Acid used daily to help exfoliate and hydrate. Remember that even if you can’t see or feel exfoliation, things are happening.
Retinol is an amazing anti-acne and anti-aging ingredient and it doesn’t have to burn and peel to be effective; find a water-based formula with no silicones to get maximum benefit and result. A good Salicylic Acid is key for keeping blackheads under control. Use a noncomedogenic SPF daily.
Know that this is a marathon and not a sprint and there is trial and error involved so don’t panic if a product or ingredient doesn’t work for you. It took me a few months to figure out that my skin loves Lactic Acid but isn’t so keen on Glycolic; my sister found she was the opposite. It’s a process. Knowing your Baumann Skin Type will help navigate these confusing variables.
Bottom line, “normal” means that for some of us, acne will always be an uphill battle but keep exploring because there are ways to help make that hill a little less steep.