Too many “bad” bacteria and too little “good” bacteria living on the skin
Lack of sleep
Too much sugar, processed food and skimmed dairy in the diet
Too much sun
Skin irritants in skincare and other products that come in contact with the skin
Overcleansing & overexfoliating
The villains cause the natural skin oil (sebum) to accumulate in skin pores. Sometimes the villains affect the sebum composition making it thicker and getting stuck in pores easier. As a result, blackheads and clogged pores appear.
Sebum stuck in pores can become a breeding ground for “bad” bacteria. These bacteria can cause inflammation in a pore resulting in a red spot or breakout.
Irritation, dryness, and sun damage can cause the skin to react with more inflammation to the bacteria leading to more breakouts.
Whenever possible, eliminate the villain, decrease the frequency of contact with it, or see if you can lessen the harm. Example: in case of overcleansing, you can wash your face with water and cleanser no more than twice per day (only once if you can tolerate it) with a mild non-foaming non-fragranced cleanser. You can try reducing sugar, fried foods and dairy in your diet. Get more active physically to help you manage the stress of life better.
Create a minimalist skincare routine and stick with it with discipline for at least 8 weeks. A good minimalist skincare routine effective against blemishes and clogged pores includes:
A mild non foaming non fragranced cleanser. Use is once (in the evening) and no more than twice daily.
A broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or more. Light product textures (usually achieved through silicones in the formula) and mineral sunblock ingredients often work best for blemish-prone skin. Wear sunscreen every time you are outside or close to a window in the daylight. It is an absolutely crucial step if you want to minimize post-blemish pigmentation and scarring.
If your skin can tolerate it, consider using a product with a retinoid at night. Start applying it every other night for the first two weeks and gradually increase the frequency to every night. Select a retinoid product without fragrance and other no value irritants.
You can add one or two more products containing the following ingredients:
Salicylic acid, AHAs, or PHAs (use 1-3 times per week in total. Do not use together with your retinoid product).
Niacinamide (can be used daily).
Azelaic acid (can be used daily).
A moisturizer with effective humectants and emollients (can be oil-free) and without fragrance and irritating plant extracts. Use the moisturizer at night at the end of your skincare routine (for example, after applying your retinoid product) and in the morning before your sunscreen if you feel that your skin needs it.
Important note: If your breakouts cover a significant portion of your face or back and are present most of the time, you might be suffering from a skin condition that needs to be treated by a doctor (for example, moderate to severe cases acne vulgaris). Especially if your skin condition seriously affects your quality of life (for example, makes you not want to meet friends or leave the house), we recommend you seek a medical consultation as soon as you possibly can.
Do not try to disinfect your skin, or achieve a “squeaky clean” feeling. While it is true that bacteria can cause inflammation and breakouts, it only does so in some conditions. For example, when there is more “bad” bacteria than good one. If you disinfect your face, you kill both “good” and “bad” bacteria. It can make it easier for “bad” bacteria to re-populate your skin surface quickly afterwards because the disinfectant (ethanol, other broad spectrum antibacterial agent) disrupts the skin barrier and its surface pH, creating an environment where “bad” bacteria thrive.
Do not be afraid of a sunscreen and moisturizer. Both are necessary to support your skin as you work to reduce blemishes and clogged pores.
Your products do not need to be oil-free. Oil-free is mostly a marketing term, and it does not mean that the product does not contain lipids (they can be simply listed as an extract). At the same time, products are marketed as oil-free tend to have lighter textures so they might work better for oily skin for this reason.
Do not pick your skin, especially inflamed spots. And while it is easier said than done, we still have to say: It will not help heal blemishes, but is likely to make them more red and elevated, stay noticeable for longer, lead to post-inflammatory pigmentation and scarring, as well as cause even more serious complications.
Consult your doctor before using products with retinoids and salicylic acid if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Do not believe that flawless skin exists. Everyone has an occasional pimple, everyone has clogged pores. It is part of being a human and living a good life. Looking perfect on Instagram is not.
** Please note this is not medical advice. This resource is provided for educational purposes only. If you suffer from or suspect eczema, melasma, psoriasis, sever acne, or other skin disease seek advice of a medical professional. The information provided in this guide is intended for adults. Seek advice from your paediatrician to select skincare for babies and children.