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I was recently involved in a conversation about acne, what causes acne, what products work and don’t work when it comes to treating acne. Thankfully, I have been blessed with blemish-free skin (for most of the time). Having said that, I still have plenty of skin concerns, even though they don’t involve large pores, painful bumps or over-production of oil. So, I found the conversation very intriguing. Firstly, none of the involved actually knew the correct causes of acne. To me, that immediately screamed trouble. If you don’t know what is causing you to breakout, how can you choose the right products to help fight acne? As the conversation became more heated, with one person blaming hormones, the other saying over-production of oil and that not all acne was hormonal, I wondered, how many people are prone to breakouts or have acne, and are making it worse with the products they are using, or aren’t using! I quickly decided that a blog needed to be written about acne and important facts you need to know about acne.

Acne is one of the most common, and upsetting, skin care problems for people worldwide, and not just during the teenage years. I posted my comments above on facebook, to see what our customers thought about acne and how to treat acne, and the despair that comes with trying to control acne was blatant. Some had struggled for most of their lives with acne, and had found the right combination of products that were able to control acne and others had tried everything but the kitchen sink and just couldn’t keep acne and breakouts under control. But you should know that there is hope! Just like I have been able to control my dry, easily-freckled skin, those with acne and breakouts can control it once and for all!

What Causes Acne?

Regardless of your age, gender or skin color, what causes acne is the same for everyone. The most important fact to know about acne, is that it is an inflammatory disorder. Therefore, anything that you use to treat acne, must reduce or eliminate inflammation. You should also know that many products out there actually contain ingredients that will make inflammation worse, which makes acne worse hence making the healing of the skin take much, much longer.   

There are a number of skin factors that create the perfect environment for acne to develop and multiply. So understanding what stops acne from forming and multiplying will allow you to create a successful anti-acne skincare routine at any age.

Here are a list of the 5 main factors that contribute to the formation of acne:

  1. Hormones (primarily androgens – the male hormone)
  2. Inflammation
  3. Overproduction of oil by the sebaceous glands. Oil glands are an important site for the production of androgen, which is the hormone that controls oil production.
  4. Irregular or excessive shedding of dead skin cells, both on the surface of the skin and inside the pore
  5. Build-up of bacteria in the pore, which leads to inflammation

It should also be noted that reactions to makeup and irritating skin care ingredients can also contribute to the formation of blemishes and acne.

Now that we know what can cause blemishes or acne from developing, we need to know how and why those sore, lumpy red dots are created.

How are blemishes created?

The hormones responsible for oily skin are called androgens. Androgens stimulate healthy oil production, however, it becomes a problem when androgens stimulate too much oil to be produced! When too much oil is produced, the pores become larger to accommodate the excess oil production. Excess androgens can also cause the pore lining to thicken, which blocks oil from getting out of the pore.  Inside oil glands bacterium Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) finds the perfect environment for growth. Dead skin cells and excess oil in the oil gland provide just the kind of conditions that P. acnes needs to thrive. As this bacteria settles in, thanks to an abundant supply of sebum (oil), it reproduces, which causes irritation and inflammation. That’s why most blemishes are red and swollen. In normal skin, the sebum smoothly leaves the pore and gradually melts on the skin’s surface, helping to keep the skin surface hydrated and soft. However, when things aren’t going well, or ‘normal’, with your skin, the pore becomes plugged with sebum, tiny hairs, and dead skin cells. When this happens, the bacteria begin to multiply and multiply. In response, your body produces white blood cells, which arrive at the site to fight the bacteria. Inflammation sets in as dead bacteria and dead white blood cells accumulate, creating the much dreaded pus, and a blemish soon appears.

Things anyone struggling with acne should avoid?

  • Don’t use harsh or irritating skin-care products. Treating acne-prone skin gently is the best way to go.
  • Don’t wash your face with bar soaps or bar cleansers of any kind.
  • Don’t pick at blemishes! You can “pop” a pimple, but how you do it makes all the difference between healing and scarring.
  • Don’t use extreme heat or cold to clean your face or treat a blemish.

Don’t apply thick, waxy hair-styling products, or hairspray, especially if your hair usually touches your forehead. The ingredients in these products can clog pores if they get on your skin.

So now that we know what causes acne and blemishes to form, and what we shouldn’t do to control acne, here are the basics that you need to know for treating breakout-prone skin.

  1. Gentle Cleansing: Gentle cleansing is a vital first step. A mild, water-soluble cleanser helps reduce oily skin and acne without making your skin feel dry and tight.
  2. Exfoliate with Salicylic Acid: Salicylic acid, also known as beta hydroxy acid (BHA), is an amazing ingredient that treats acne in several ways. It not only has potent anti-inflammatory properties, but also exfoliates to remove built-up dead skin cells on the surface of the skin as well as inside the pore. 
  3. Disinfect Skin with Benzoyl Peroxide: Benzoyl peroxide penetrates into the pore and kills acne-causing bacteria, preventing inflammation.

Anti-Acne Products you should consider:

Anti-acne products must be able to truly make a difference in breakouts by doing the following:

•Disinfecting to kill acne-causing bacteria
•Exfoliating the skin’s surface and inside the pore
•Not containing skin irritants like alcohol or menthol
•Not triggering excess oil production
•Working to absorb excess oil

The below mentioned products are those that are suitable and effective at treating acne and blemish-prone skin:


Cellex-C Betaplex Gentle Foaming Cleanser ($42)

iS Clinical Cleansing Complex ($53)

MD Formulations Facial Cleanser Cleanse & Exfoliates (Contains Gliycolic Acid) ($41)

Salicylic Acid

Jan Marini Factor-A Plus Mask ($108) – leave this product on skin overnight

Jan Marini Bioglycolic Bioclear Face Lotion ($80)

Priori Advanced AHA Perfection Facial Gel ($54)

Benzoyl Peroxide

DDF Benzoyl Peroxide Gel 5% with Tea Tree Oil ($37)

Jan Marini Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Lotion 5% ($41)

Skin Medica Acne Treatment Lotion ($62)

As you’ve seen, there are numerous options available to manage, and in some cases eliminate, acne. Gentle, effective skin-care products with proven anti-acne ingredients are the best place to start, followed by avoiding any source of needless irritation.