April 12, 2022
We know acne and blackheads are frustrating to say the least. Not only do they keep popping up, and *especially* before an important event, they often seem to come back at the same places.
There are many factors that contribute to acne. Excess oil production, accumulation of dead skin cells that leads to clogged pores, bacteria, and inflammation are the four most direct factors, whilst, hormones, stress, menstrual cycle, and diet, can all influence them. Some medications, including corticosteroids, anabolic steroids, and lithium, can also cause acne.
Today, our founder Wendy shares some of her secrets in tackling acne.
Wendy: There are so many skincare hacks out there that claim to deal with acne fast, but many of them actually can damage the skin. Here’s one that doesn’t, and can actually improve the performance of your skincare products——shaving the face. I’m not talking about just little hairs around the mouth. I really mean the whole face. Also, it’s important to shave using a blade made for removing facial / brow hair, and not use those hair removal strips, or blades made for men.
For women, most of the facial hair is so extremely fine that they can hardly be seen. That however does not mean they are not there, and especially for women in their 40s, the slow decrease of estrogen in the body can cause an increase in facial hair. Now, the reason for face shaving is because:
Wendy: Well, if shaving can cause more hair to grow, male baldness would not exist now, right?
Wendy: Again, no. The only reason hair appears to look thicker or darker is because it has just been cut straight across, and the way it reflects light makes it appear to be thicker or darker, but in reality, it is still the same hair.
Wendy: First of all, studies have shown that the levels of Vitamin A, Vitamin E and zinc in people with acne are statistically significantly lower than those without acne, and the more significant the acne, the lower those levels are. So supplementing these is a good start.
If it is a hormonal issue, you may want to look into taking diindolylmethane (DIM) or indole-3-carbinol (I3C, a precursor to DIM) supplement. They are phytonutrients derived from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. It’s known to stimulate detoxifying enzymes in the gut and liver, and most importantly, it regulates estrogen and androgen, support healthy estrogen metabolism and balanced hormones. Because hormonal acne results from an imbalance of estrogens and testosterone, taking DIM or I3C may help to maintain this delicate balance, and block androgen pathways to decrease sebum production and acne. Do not take it if you are pregnant or breastfeeding though.
Now, most acne-targeting supplements primarily contain these ingredients, so yes, they do work. With that said, know that they are pretty standard supplements, which means, you have plenty of other cheaper and possibly more effective options. In my opinion, a lot of brands, especially those that primarily deal with skincare products, take advantage of consumers' insecurity in regards to their acne situation and overcharge them. Why pay a premium on these standard supplements, when there are so many reputable supplement manufacturers out there that produce them at better quality standards and concentration yet at a much lower price?
Yes, collagen supplement, not only for its collagen boosting benefits for the skin, but also for its benefits for the whole body, especially the gut, where a lot of inflammation originates from. Let me explain why.
The skin is a great barometer of what is going on inside the body. More and more studies are showing that where there is gut inflammation, there will be skin inflammation. In fact, people with acne and rosacea are ten times more likely to have gut issues, and 34% of those with irritable bowel syndrome also have various skin conditions.
But how does the gut get inflamed?
Our digestive system has outer walls that act as barriers to the rest of the body - keeping certain toxins, harmful substances, food particles and other substances out of the bloodstream and away from the rest of the body. The problem is, these walls are very thin, and when we ingest certain foods that our bodies do not respond to well, these cell membranes can become ruptured, broken, and damaged, gaps begin to appear in the digestive wall, and substances from within the digestive system start to migrate into the body. Since they are not meant to be there, the body then treats them as foreign invaders and turns on an inflammatory response, which then manifests into inflammatory skin conditions like acne, rashes, redness, eczema, rosacea, and dermatitis.
As mentioned above, collagen is a key player in building and maintaining connective tissues all over the body, including all of the connective tissue that makes up the entire digestive system. By ingesting collagen supplements, the amino acids can help digestive system restore damaged cells, and close these gaps within the damaged gut lining. They can also strengthen the tract and increase the elasticity of the junctures and cells, which means that the area can be more flexible to movement and substances that come into contact with it, thereby reducing the chance of damage. When the gut is strengthened, the body will less likely turn its inflammatory response into overdrive, and thus less skin inflammatory issues.
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Wendy: Yep, and it costs pretty much nothing——just ice it.
Icing your acne has a few effects. First of all, it helps reduce inflammation. By reducing the inflammation within the skin, the size of the acne will also start to shrink. Secondly, ice can help constrict the blood vessels, which can bring down the swelling, as well as redness. Thirdly, it will encourage the clogged debris to rise to the surface of the skin, so it can be removed.
Wendy: Start with cleansing your face first. Then, wrap a piece of ice in a thin cloth or paper towel. Do NOT directly put the ice on the skin. Hold it against the acne for 1-2 minutes max, then continue with your skincare routine, using products with anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. Avoid heavy moisturizers. You can do it morning and night.
If the acne is really inflamed, then you can ice it again after at least 10 minutes. Never ice it consecutively to prevent skin damage.
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Wendy: Retinol and acids. Not only is retinol the gold standard for anti-aging, it is also the gold standard for acne treatment and prevention, whilst acids, if used correctly and with the right product, is also the key for treating and preventing acne. Any dermatologist would tell you the same thing. I’ve repeatedly mention this so I won’t go into details this time.
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Now, most people, as soon as they see a zit pop up, would apply an acne treatment in an attempt to dry it out. Here is the thing. If you apply a drying treatment before the whitehead / pus is on the surface, it will simply dry out the surface of the skin, which would then keep the infection trapped underneath for longer, and prevent the whitehead / pus from easily being released through the skin’s surface. The longer the infection stays within the skin, the more it stretches out the surrounding tissue, and the longer the zit will stay, and ultimately leading to scarring and pigmentation.
The best thing to do when you see a zit popping up, is do the trick I previously shared, then ice it, and use skincare products with soothing, anti-inflammatory properties. Do this for a few days. The acne will either go away on its own by then, or the whitehead / pus will come up to the surface. If it’s the latter, once the whitehead / pus is truly visible, gently squeeze out the infection with your fingers wrapped in tissue. Do not squeeze more than twice, and stop as soon as you see blood. After that, use the kaolin mask to dry up and pull out the remaining infection, and follow up with anti-inflammatory, soothing skincare products. Remember to keep the skin hydrated, as the skin will heal better and faster this way.
Let me list all the steps in point form:
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Wendy: Yes and no, because cystic acne is an extreme inflammation issue, and often has little to do with your skincare products, nor even environmental triggers, but more a diet, stress, and hormonal thing. So they have to be dealt with differently.
Wendy: Before you do anything, remember this——cystic acne CANNOT be popped. It is literally like a submarine, so the infection will NOT come up to the surface, and will stay deep within the skin until the body eventually re-absorbs it and flushes it out of the system. By trying to squeeze it, you are only creating a wound with more inflammation and inviting more bacteria to join the party, which means a redder, bigger, swollen bump that would take even longer now to heal, with the risk of pigmentation and scarring in the future.
I know, no one likes a bump on the face, but ask yourself, which is more noticeable, a closed bump or a bleeding, open wound and scab? A bump is smooth, and can be camouflaged with makeup relatively well unless looked at from certain angles. A scab, on the other hand, is a rough surface that foundation and concealer don’t glide on well, thus is extremely hard to hide, for at least weeks!
With that said, there are a few things you can do.
Steps 1 - 8 above apply to cystic acne as well. Also, start introducing retinol and acids into your routine, as they can help with existing acne and prevent future ones, and remember, DO NOT PICK under any circumstances.
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You can also take Vitamin A, Vitamin E, zinc, DIM and collagen supplements as mentioned above, which will help with both acne and cysts.
Drink more water
While water does not directly hydrate the skin, it does have an indirect effect on the skin. When you drink water, it travels through the esophagus to the stomach before entering the small intestine. It then makes its way into the bloodstream and gets filtered by the kidneys, so the cells and organs can get the hydration they need to perform optimally, and help flush out toxins, inflammation, and waste from the body and assist in circulation and getting oxygen and nutrients to the skin cells. The faster the toxins and inflammation get flushed out, the faster the cystic acne will heal.
Manage Your Stress Level
When you’re stressed and anxious, the body responds by over-producing cortisol as part of the fight-or-flight response. Without a proper way of relief, the extra cortisol in the body resulted from accumulated stress starts to become very inflammatory. This is one of the reasons why acne likes to pop up *especially* before an important event. In addition, when you keep looking at the mirror because of your cystic acne, not only will you not be able to resist picking the skin, you will also get more stressed out and unhappy, causing a rise in cortisol that can worsen the condition. So unless you manage your stress level, your cystic acne situation will always come back.
MARIE REYNOLDS LONDON
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Beauty sleep is called beauty sleep for a reason. If you don’t sleep enough or sleep well, not only will the division and self-repair process of skin cells be interrupted, it is also very inflammatory for the body, which could then lead to more cystic acne, as well as other much more serious body issues.
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