You've tried tons products to keep your acne at bay. Yet you're still looking for more answers because nothing seems to work anymore. You've tried killing "germs" that you feel are on your face all the time. You made sure to clear oil and dirt on the surface just like what every acne commercial says. But every month you still get those nasty bumps and cysts. And even when you've killed the zit, there'd still be reddish-brown spots on your face--sometimes craters from meaner pimples. The cycle never stops.
Here's the perfect equation to demonstrate the causes of acne:
OIL + BACTERIA + DEAD SKIN = BREAKOUTS
Here are 5 things that you may have overlooked. It's now time to look at the bigger picture!
1. Not exfoliating
You've probably heard this word a lot. But maybe you haven't really exfoliated enough yet.
Exfoliation does a good job in starving P. acnes bacteria that cause acne. No dead skin means no food for bacteria. Exfoliation prevents clogging of oil in the pores.
Killing acne-causing bacteria doesn't always have to start with big guns like benzoyl peroxide. Gentle exfoliation will go a long mile.
A. Underexfoliation can trick you into believing that you've done enough. Make sure to use a skin brush when washing face. Skin brushes like THESE shred skin effectively without irritation.
B. Overexfoliation is common when using acids like BHA (salicylic acid) and AHA (fruit acids). Exfoliating too much causes irritation in the pores. This makes skin more oily, further nurtures insidious bacteria. Even blackheads and whiteheads can be inflamed and turn into a full-blown zit. "Gentle" is the operative word. If you see redness, itchiness, dryness, and excessive flaking, you are exfoliating the wrong way.
Moisture is needed for normal skin functioning. Skin cells badly need enough moisture. When moisture is little to none, our skin compensates by producing more oil--not moisture (H20). Dehydration registers as "threat" to the immune system. So, more oil for opportunistic bacteria. That's probably why you woke up with a big zit today.
Alcohol and fragrances dehydrate the skin big time. Avoid these ingredients as much as possible. Always check the labels on your skin care products. Overexfoliation also takes away moisture. Be sure to moisturize skin when using BHA or AHA. Same applies when on tretinoin (Vitamin A) treatments.
Remember not to do opposite too. Don't over-moisturize!
Unnecessary pressure is bad for skin. Your goal is to keep skin calm. Pressure can increase chances of inflammation.
Wearing tight garments, helmets, caps, and occlusive clothing can cause acne. Remember growing a big zit on your forehead after wearing a hat all day? Aside from the active transfer of bacteria from your cap to your forehead, you've also pushed comedones (blackhead and whiteheads) further deeper into the pores. This condition triggers immune responses that result in angry red pimples.
Pressure also keeps skin inflamed. When skin is inflamed, more oil is produced. More oil means more food for bacteria. You will need gentle scrubbing and face massages. Avoid unnecessary friction when applying face products.
Picking at your blackheads and whiteheads is bad. Don't apply pressure on whiteheads and blackheads if you don't want to awaken the sleeping beast.
4. Masked Irritation
Irritation causes acne. Bacteria is not the only cause of acne.
Take note: Irritation is characterized by itchiness, dryness, flaking, redness, and increased oil production. It can also happen without any initial symptom. Even the "tingling feeling" that makes you think your products are "working" is in fact irritation.
Skin care product ingredients irritate skin without you noticing. Take note that some "natural" or "organic" ingredients are strong irritants.
Fragrances (organic or synthetic), alcohol, citrus, and mint are the most common ingredients proven to cause irritation. This is why you should avoid strongly fragrant creams, toothpaste, and poorly formulated skin products for acne.
Applying too much skin product can also irritate skin. Your skin reacts when potent ingredients are applied way too much. Antioxidants like skin vitamin and acids or bases can irritate skin. Apply just the right amount of cream or lotion onto the skin.
The lack of sleep has always been associated with acne. Staying up late results in disruption of hormones, not to mention stress and irritability.
When you lack sleep, your skin is dehydrated. This gives the signal to the body to plug more oil to your pores. You are harboring a party for bacteria. Immune defences against bacteria also become weak. But the worst that could happen is INFLAMMATION. Acne favors inflammation. Expect longer healing time and darker spots for pimples that are more inflamed than usual.