Acne is a skin disease. It’s not a “temporary skin condition”. Although many of us suffer from acne tos ome extent during puberty, in some cases, acne can occur at an adult age. Genetic predisposition plays an important role.

According tot he American dermatologist Nicolas Perricone, 7 stages of acne can be distinguished.

  • “Retention hyperkeratosis”. In a healthy skin, dead skin cells on the inside of our pores, are shed in a natural and continuous manner. In this first stage of acne, this no longer happens in a normal way. Dead skin cells and sebum (the natural grease our skin produces) cling together. As a result of this, pores get clogged and can eventually enlarge.
  • Bacteria start to grow inside the pore and its follicle (this is the hairshaft).Acne bacteria grow “anaerobically”, meaning they like places without oxygen.Skin condition deteriorates and the first lesions start to appear. Acne is a fact.
  • Comedones & blackheads start to appear.
  • Red, inflamed spots, the acne spreads.
  • Worsening of the condition: more spots, more redness.
  • Formation of cysts: this stage + 7 is called “acne conglobata” and is the worst case scenario. Large areas of heavily inflamed, large pimples.

In the first stages of acne (stage 1 to 4), good skincare can do a lot. It’s very important for young people to start taking care of their skin in an early stage. For stages 6 & 7, dermatologists’ treatments are a necessity.Treatment with antibiotics or Roaccutane/Accutane might be the only solution left.

Antibiotics kill the acne bacteria, but have the disandvantage of creating resistant strains. Roaccutane (Accutane in the US) is a very potent form of Vitamin A (iso-tretinoin) and clears up severe acne in a couple of months.

I personally suffered from acne from my 14th until my 23th. It was severe, and I tried everything I could to get rid of it. It took me years to go to a dermatologist. I wish I had done so before. Roaccutane was the ultimate solution for me. It helped, thank god it did. But it left my skin dry and parchy. Years of diligent skin care gave me back a “normal” skin. Nowadays, however,  I still suffer from acne scars and hyperpigmentation due to the many inflamations I had.

The worst thing you can do is “self-medicate”! Please don’t try to “dry out” your acne with desinfection alcohol, like I did.Don’t use soap or drying face washes either. It will only make matters worse, believe me.

What you can do, in order to improve your skin condition :

  • Use a mild, non-foaming cleanser twice a day. “Non-foaming” is important, because your sebeceous glands are already “overexcited”. Calm them down by using a very mild cleanser. Cleansing oil or milk is perfect. The body Shop makes a great cleansing oil with Chamomile and Clarins has a cleansing milk designed for oilier skin types. Cerave Cleansing Cream is rather a gel, so if you prefer a gel, this one will suit you. Clinique Facial Soap Extra Mild isn’t a soap, but a gelly milk and is great too.
  • If you use a toner (which I recommend), make it a hydrating one. Toners with glycerin, propanediol and hyaluronic acid are all very good. Not too much alcohol please ! Clarins, Exuviance, Lancôme and many Koreans (Leegeehaam, Klairs, Missha) are fab.
  • Use a AHA/BHA product. Fruit acids are GREAT for acne & oily skin. BHA’s can even penetrate inside your pores to help “clean them out”. Salicylic acid is great, glycolic, citric & lactic will be very helpful too. Use your product in the form of a gel, lotion or (very light) cream. Specialists in this section are brands like Paula’s Choice and Exuviance. Neostrata is available by dermatologists’ prescription (NL/BE).
  • Eventually use a product with Retinol (Vitamin A).Retinol is known to “improve” the pore lining, thus making your skin more healthy. It will also have a preventative effect on scarring and hyperpigmentation. Neostrata, Indeed Labs, Nazan Tastan and Mad Hippie all make excellent Retinol products.
  • Use a spot-on treatment on inflamed areas.On the pimples itself, that is. Do NOT use them all over your face !
  • Make-up is ok. Don’t let yourself be influenced by people saying it will “suffocate” your skin !Modern make-up does NOT do that. The only thing I would advice you is not to choose a stick or compact cream foundation as these are often based on heavier oils and waxes.

And don’t be as stupid as I was trying to “pop” spots. You can only do that when there is a BIG WHTE head on top of the pimple. And press gently, with CLEAN fingers. Don’t continue to press if it doesn’t “pop”. Just wait another day. (I know this isn’t easy, I’ve been there).

Last but not least : seek professional advise if your acne condition gets worse.

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