Acne Curb

I was talking with a younger customer a few weeks ago about some options for dealing with his acne, and he turned to me (with the most mournful ashen expression on his face) and said “I wouldn’t wish puberty on my worst enemy!” And he’s got a point, right? I mean, there is a certain irony to the fact that while our brains are rewiring themselves and we become the most self conscious we will ever be in our lives, we are also at our most awkward. Your voice is doing funny things, your body is growing in different ways (almost always asymmetrically) and your skin becomes a war zone. I don’t want to get all ‘What is Happening to Me?’ on you all here, but as someone who struggled with clear skin in my teenage years, I do want to spend some time unpacking acne, and how we can get rid of it, and get back to some level of confidence. I also want to recognise that it is not limited to adolescence. Around 15% of people will carry some form of acne into middle age.

What is the deal with acne? Well, your body is covered with thousands upon thousands of tiny hair follicles - each one is a little hole in your skin. Acne occurs when these little follicles become clogged with oil, dead skin or general dirt. Luckily, it is most common on all of those areas most visible to other people: face, shoulders, back and chest. There are a number of different variations of how this can manifest on your skin.

  1. Whiteheads - this is when there is a small yellowy white cap on top of the pimple, and it is the result of a closed plugged pore.
  2. Blackheads - These are often more difficult to see, which means they are widespread across many people’s faces without their knowledge. It looks like a tiny black pinprick peppered across your face, and it is what happens when a pore remains open but is still clogged.
  3. Papules - This is when there are small tender red bumps spread across the skin, and it looks like a rash of sorts. 
  4. Nodules or Cystic lesions - This is when you have large painful lumps under your skin. They might not be visible to other people (yet), but they are extremely painful to touch.

These little buggers often turn up together and it becomes an unpleasant cocktail. If you’ve ever known this pain, you will know the desperation to get rid of it. 

Despite the advertisements for ProActiv which used to plague commercial TV, there is no miracle cure. But if you balance a number of different treatments together, you have a pretty good chance of reclaiming your skin.

  1. Wash your face frequently. This is especially true if you have exerted yourself and you have begun to sweat. Sweat - whilst cooling us down - also spreads whatever oil or dead skin you have kicking about to every other pore. If you were wearing anything especially tight, this is even more important.
  2. Use a cleanser. There is a temptation to go for something heavy duty, and this is rarely your best friend. All it does is strip your skin of everything and instead of acne, you’ve got a peeling face and red raw flushes. Avid things with alcohol, because the redness that comes with it actually makes the acne stand out more. Go for something gentle to begin with. I often recommend Benzac because it uses a lot of natural ingredients to exfoliate and do a deep clean of your pores. The other advantage is that you can get Benzac for blackheads of Benzac for whiteheads, so you can target your area of greatest need. Important: You should use your fingers to gently apply the lotion to your skin. If you use a washer or some kind of sponge, you can actually end up irritating your skin even further.
  3. Rinse with lukewarm water. Hot water actually dries up too much of the oil on your face and then you are left with dry and flaky skin around the acne. The lukewarm water is much more gentle on your face whilst also making your your pores upon up. If you use cold water, you might end up causing the pores to contract and then you will struggle to penetrate and clear them of the gunk that is causing the acne in the first place.
  4. Wash your hair. Lots of the oil which ends up on our skin comes from our hair. So if you naturally have oily hair, you need to keep this as clean as possible. If you touch your hair a lot, you need to be conscious of the fact that this transfers it onto your fingers. You need to avoid touching your own face excessively.
  5. Let your skin heal naturally. This is often the hardest one. We see a whitehead that might as well be under a spotlight on our face, and we want to squeeze it and get rid of it for good. In actual fact, this draws out the healing process. If you can let it be, it will go away more quickly, and you will be much less likely to develop acne scars long term.

It’s important to note that if you try all of these and you aren’t seeing any improvement, it is definitely worth seeing a doctor. They can prescribe antibiotics, contraceptive pills (which have a powerful impact on acne as well) or other more potent mixes to help wrangle your skin back to something more manageable. If you get a sudden flare up outside of adolescence, and you don’t normally suffer from acne, you should definitely see a doctor as it can be a symptom of some more unpleasant conditions.

If I could leave you with two pieces of advice from someone who battled with this.

  1. No one pays more attention to your acne than you.
  2. Those people who might make you feel small about your skin are not the important people in your life. Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.

Good luck,

Floyd - Senior Pharmacist


Do I have Anxiety?

May 02, 2023

Seasonal Illnesses

Feb 10, 2023

Cold and Flu Season

Feb 03, 2023