I, like many others, have had my fair share of breakouts. Usually appearing out of the blue and almost always before an important event (just why?) – I’m often on the hunt for quick fixes. According to The British Medical Journal, 80% of us will experience acne at some point in our lives*. Be it a single breakout, hormonal acne, or a cluster of pimples – it’s very rare to get through our teenage and adult years unscathed. Helping to normalise the condition, the acne positivity movement (including #freethepimple) has been making strides on social media since 2018, encouraging many of us to embrace the skin that we’re in.
Challenging beauty standards, this movement is indeed positive. However, it doesn’t take away from the fact that spots can be darn right painful, uncomfortable and overall annoying. Instead of grinning and bearing it, here are my top researched skincare steps that can help banish those blemishes for good.
Tip #1: Cleanse daily
Daily cleansing, both morning and night, is key in the prevention and treatment of spots. Not only does it take off makeup, but it removes grime and bacteria – which, if left on the skin, can clog our pores leading to breakouts. A 2010 study* found that after 8 weeks of cleansing, participants inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesion counts were reduced.
I’d recommend seeking out cleansers specifically formulated for spot-prone skin as they’ll often contain savvy ingredients like salicylic acid or tea tree oil. Also, be sure to cleanse with warm, not hot, water as hot water can strip the skin of natural oils leaving it dry and irritated.
Tip #2: Avoid popping
However tempting it may be, try to resist the urge to pop a pimple. Strongly discouraged by dermatologists, squeezing spots can increase your risk of infection and cause post-inflammatory pigmentation. The latter refers to that stubborn dark mark that lingers long after a spot has gone. Instead, leave extraction to the experts and opt for a cold compress.
Applying a cold compress can help reduce swelling in inflammatory acne and as a result, reduce the size. It can also help relieve pain in the short-term. Double win!
Tip #3: Try a spot treatment
Invest in a spot treatment that contains blemish busting ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Salicylic acid is a well-known BHA (beta-hydroxy acid) that helps shed dead skin cells and unclog pores while reducing inflammation and redness. You can find it in various skincare – from serums and cleansers to targeted spot treatments. Benzoyl peroxide is an antiseptic ingredient that’s also used to treat acne as it kills bacteria on the skin’s surface.
Tip #4: Keep it simple
Contrary to what we may think, overloading our skin with lots of products, treatments and masks can make matters worse. The experts advise that when irritation or inflammation occurs - it’s best to strip your routine back to basics. Think cleanser, SPF and a targeted spot treatment where needed. Signs that you’re overdoing it include tightness (this can be caused by over exfoliation), further breakouts (too many acne-fighting products can irritate skin), and rashes (which can be linked to heavily fragranced products).
Tip #5: Try CBD
Along with the traditional acne treatments available, there are some lesser-known ingredients that have also been found to be effective. Take CBD, for instance. A growing body of research supports the notion that CBD can help treat acne. How, exactly? First, it boasts anti-inflammatory properties, as noted by a 2017 review*, which helps calm angry blemishes. Second, a 2014 study* looked at CBD’s effect on sebocytes (cells that produce oil) and found that CBD inhibited oil production – which in turn would help reduce acne.
Find it in Manuka Pharm’s Targeted Blemish Treatment, £15, alongside soothing tea tree oil and violet willow bark (nature’s alternative to salicylic acid), to speed up spot healing and soothe irritation.