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Understanding Acne and its treatment

What is acne?

Acne is a skin condition that involves the pilosebaceous follicle (hair follicle). Acne eruptions form when the follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells. It usually appears on the face, forehead, chest, upper back and shoulders. Acne is most common among teenagers, though it affects people of all ages.

What are the causes of acne?

The appearance of the condition is usually related to hormonal changes. 
The oil gland inside the hair follicle releases sebum (oil), which travels up the hair, out of the pore, and onto the skin. The sebum keeps the skin lubricated and soft.

In puberty, increased production of androgens, both in boys and girls, stimulates oil glands causing them to overproduce sebum. Androgens are also responsible for an excessive proliferation of skin cells (keratinocytes) on the epidermis. Excess sebum in the skin surface and its altered composition are causes of skin inflammation that further stimulate keratinocytes proliferation.
The build-up of dead skin cells and excess sebum inside the pore cause it to clog. Plugged pores have perfect conditions for bacteria to spread. P. acnes, the bacteria found in acne, is responsible for causing further inflammation of the acne lesions. 

Types of acne

Acne treatment

Effective treatments are available, but acne can be persistent. 
Depending on its severity, acne can cause emotional distress and permanent skin scarring. 
The earlier you start treatment, the lower your risk of such problems.
Keep away from DIY skincare as they can do more harm than good. Opt for clinically tested products to prevent lesions from becoming infected.
When treating acne and regardless of its type and severity, there´s a basic 3 steps skincare routine you should follow:
1. Cleanse your skin twice a day, with a gentle cleansing gel. Massage it without rubbing the skin, especially if you have inflammatory acne as friction can aggravate the condition. If your skin is too sensitive from treatments, skip your cleanser in the morning and use just water. 
2. Moisturise after cleansing. Choose a light oil-free formula. Acne-prone skin serums and moisturizers feature active ingredients that help control acne symptoms and keep your skin shine-free for longer. 
3. Apply SPF in the morning and ideally reapply it midday to prevent post-inflammatory pigmentation and further skin inflammation from happening.
If you want extra help, products such as adstringent lotions, usually containing alcohol and purifying agents, clay masks that absorb excess oil and control shine, and spot treatments can also help control acne symptoms.

Acne-prone skin can benefit from the use of cosmetics containing exfoliating ingredients, which remove dead skin cells of the skin surface and help unclog the pores, refine the skin surface and prevent further eruptions from rising:

Salicylic acid, a chemical exfoliant, is the number one active ingredient when treating acne. It works by removing dirt and debris from the skin. As an oil-soluble acid, salicylic acid can penetrate the pores where it breaks down the connections between the cells, encouraging exfoliation of the skin and unclogging of the pores. At the same time, salicylic acid has anti-inflammatory properties, which help control skin inflammation and lessen redness, pain, and itchiness that result from acne eruptions.
Salicylic Acid can be found in cleansing gels, lotions, serums, or moisturizers. 

Featured on: La Roche Posay Effaclar Micropeeling Purifying GelSesderma Salises Foamy Soapless CreamLa Roche-Posay Effaclar Micro-exfoliant Adstringent LotionCaudalie Vinopure Blemish Control Infusion SerumVichy Normaderm Phytosolution Double Correction Daily Care

Although very effective, salicylic acid may irritate sensitive skin. 

AHA´s (alpha-hydroxy acids) such as glycolic or lactic acid can also help control acne and are a good alternative for those who are too sensitive to tolerate salicylic acid. AHA´s work by boosting cell renewal and reduce dead cells on the skin surface which helps prevent pore-clogging and tackle existing ones. 
AHA´s is also a great option to help to resurface the skin and reduce post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation after the control of acne symptoms. 
AHA´s is featured in cleansers, lotions, serums, and moisturizers. 

Featured on: Vichy Mineral Micellar Water Oily SkinCaudalie Vinoperfect Concentrated Brightening EssenceSesderma Acglicolic Liposomal SerumBioderma Sebium Night Peel

Physical Exfoliants, containing micro-beads, can be helpful when treating non-inflammatory acne. Nevertheless, they are not indicated in the case of inflammatory acne as the process of rubbing the exfoliant on the skin may increase inflammation and worsen acne. 

Featured on: Bioderma Sebium Exfoliating GelLa Roche Posay Ultrafine Scrub, Avène Cleanance Mask-scrub

Other skincare active ingredients that can also have a positive impact on acne are:

Retinoids and Bioretinoids
are a well-studied group of ingredients known to have a positive role in acne treatment. Retinoids work by regulating skin turnover and skin oil production, therefore limiting the two major causes of acne. 
Depending on the strength of the retinoid, it can cause more or fewer side effects, including irritation, dryness, and redness. Usually, these symptoms subside with treatment continuity. 
Bioretinoids are a new family of active ingredients that act similarly as retinoids with no irritation

Featured on: Bioderma Sebium GlobalSesderma Sesretinal Mature Skin Facial Gel-Cream

Zinc Gluconate is another ally in acne treatments. Zinc helps regulate sebum production which helps reduce breakouts. It has also shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, helping reducing acne symptoms, such as redness and oiliness. 
Featured on: Bioderma Sebium Gel MoussantLa Roche Posay SerozincLa Roche Posay Effaclar Mat

Last but not least, Niacinamide improves excess sebum production, the appearance of pores and helps to repair the skin barrier.  In turn, this prevents water loss from the skin, limiting dryness and skin irritation and reducing the inflammation and redness associated with acne-prone skin. 
Niacinamide is also a great ally for treating acne marks. Due to its brightening properties, this ingredient gently reduces post-acne hyperpigmentation and evens out the skin tone. 

Featured on: La Roche Posay Effaclar H Hydrating Cleansing Cream, La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo [+]

Keep in mind moderate and severe acne should always be treated by a dermatologist as it usually requires the use of prescription medications to have control of the condition. This means, any form of persistent acne that goes beyond a few papules or pustules now and then should get medical attention.
This can all be very confusing but please get in touch with us, tell us what your skin concern is and we will do our best to advise you. 
The Skin Element Team
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