Acne is unpleasant at the best of times, and can be downright confidence shattering at its worst. Breakouts will affect us all at some point, and some more than others. There are many different ways to deal with these unwanted pimples, and there are loads of steps you can take to help reduce its impact on your life.
What you eat can have a big impact on your skin, so there are a few dietary changes you can try making in order to attempt to reduce your acne. First of all, you should consider cutting out, or cutting down on, dairy.
While there is no clear, medical link between acne and dairy, studies have shown that increased consumption of dairy products (like milk) can cause more spots, as it’s thought that the hormones dairy contains can interfere with our body’s own natural hormones, so inducing breakouts. There are lots of great dairy alternatives out there, so try substituting the milk you usually use in your tea, coffee or cereal with almond milk or oat milk.
Another dietary change which could help is reducing your intake of refined sugar and salt. Processed foods, such as ready meals or biscuits, are likely to contain a lot of these, so try to keep consumption of these to a minimum. Instead, load up on nutrient rich fruit and veg.
Additionally, you may benefit from eating more zinc rich foods and/or taking a zinc supplement. Zinc can help fight the bacteria that causes breakouts and will also reduce inflammation,
It’s thought that the hormones produced during times of stress can have an adverse effect on our skin. When we’re anxious or stressed, our bodies generate cortisol, which can cause acne to worsen. If you are feeling stressed and have noticed your breakouts worsening, there are a few things you can try to bring yourself back down to a calm level.
First of all, you should make sure you are exercising regularly. Exercising helps calm the mind and releases happy hormones to counteract any stress. Plus, if you try something like yoga, there is the added benefit of relaxation. Make sure you shower or wash your face as soon as possible after sweating though, as the sweat can easily sink into your pores and make your breakouts worse.
Meditation is another great way to reduce stress or anxiety. There are many different types of meditation exercises available out there, so try a few to find one that works for you. Generally, all you need is 10 minutes a day to improve your sense of calm.
Finally, make sure to look after yourself and build quiet time into your day. Burn candles, oils or incense that in soothing scents (such as rose geranium, eucalyptus and mint or lavender) and give yourself the time to relax in whatever way you find most comfortable.
There are a whole magnitude of home remedies rumoured to cure, or at least help reduce, acne. Tea tree oil is one of the most popular suggestions, as it is packed with natural, anti-inflammatory properties. A small, diluted dab of tea tree oil applied onto the spot/spots with a cotton wool pad should help calm and reduce the appearance of the pimple.
Honey is another substance which could help calm a breakout, as it is full of antioxidants which help the skin to appear healthy and fresh. Like tea tree oil, it has antibacterial and anti inflammatory properties too. A good way to try it out would be to make a mask out of honey and cinnamon, apply it to your face and leave for 10-15 minutes before washing off. You could also try applying a teaspoon of honey onto the affected area.
Apple cider vinegar is a great anti inflammatory as well, and it contains high levels of beta-carotene, which the body uses to fuel healthy skin, too. Try diluting 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar in 1 cup of clean water. After cleansing, use a cotton wool pad to sweep the vinegar mixture over your skin.
Specialised acne treatments or products are available to purchase either over the counter or from beauty brands/drugstores. In general, the type of product needed will depend on the type of acne you have, so it’s worth doing some deeper research into the area. Identify whether your main problem is blackheads, whiteheads, hormonal acne, cystic acne or pustules, and ask your local chemist for their recommendations. As a guide though, there are two main ingredients you could consider seeking out: salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
Salicylic acid sounds scary, but is actually one of the best pimple fighting ingredients there is. It is an exfoliant which works deep under the skin to target pores and clean out any oil and dirt inside. As an added bonus, salicylic acid soothes the skin too, reducing inflammation and calming breakouts. Usually, it comes in the form of a moisturiser or serum which is applied morning and evening. If you do start using salicylic acid, make sure you keep an eye on dryness, as overuse can strip the moisture from your skin.
Benzoyl peroxide works to kill the bacteria that causes acne. It encourages skin cells to regenerate, helping to remove the mixture of dead skin and sebum from pores. Again, you can find benzoyl peroxide in various forms, from face wash to more concentrated solutions to dab onto problem areas. As with salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide can dry the skin out, so watch out for this when you first start using it.
Depending on your problem and skin type, you could use both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide at the same time, to cleanse your pores, reduce inflammation and kill acne bacteria all at once. It’s safe to do so, although it’s worth talking to your pharmacist to get advice on the best time to integrate these products into your routine and how far apart to space their applications.
If you have severe acne which is more widespread, or you have tried over the counter products and they haven’t worked, you should visit your doctor to discuss stronger options for treatment. There are a number of things a doctor may recommend, depending on the specific problem. They may also refer you to a dermatologist to look into your issues in more depth.
Retinoids are a stronger form of exfoliant than salicylic acid, and can be prescribed in a topical form which must be applied to the face. These retinoids work to remove dead skin cells from the top surface of the skin to stop them clogging up the pores. They also have anti-ageing properties, but overuse can cause sensitivity to sunlight.
Alongside, or instead of, retinoids, your doctor may suggest a course of antibiotics to treat the bacteria which is causing acne. Antibiotics can either be prescribed as tablets or in the form of topical gels/creams. Both will work to kill the bacteria, and tablets are often only prescribed in severe cases.
If your acne is caused by hormones, it’s likely the doctor will recommend some sort of hormonal treatment. This is especially true of women who experience acne on or around their period. In this case, going on the combined oral contraceptive pill can help to reduce and control breakouts.