Whether it's blackheads, painful undergrounders or puss-filled whiteheads, we've got the one, two, three on how to deal with some of the worst acne offenders.
We know it’s hard to keep your confidence up when annoying breakouts keep bringing you down. That’s why we called up Anna Gunning, a skin expert at The Laser and Skin Clinic, to get the low down on the most common types of pimples and the best way to treat them. Surprise, surprise: it’s all down to your hormones, causing an overproduction of sebum. “All pimples are acne,” explains Anna. “It’s excess oil in the skin that’s not being controlled properly.” Basically, all that extra oil gets trapped in your skin, and your skin reacts by flaring up.
Sounds straight forward enough, right? Well, the problem is that acne comes in many different forms, from cystic spots and whiteheads, to blackheads and painful, lumpy pimples, and they all need to be treated differently.
Blackheads are the mildest form of acne and the most common. They’re the tiny black dots often found on your nose and t-zone, and essentially they are oxidised oil and dead skin cells.
DO: Try oil-free serums or gels, which reduce clogged pores. “Use a good exfoliating cleanser with some percentage of salicylic acid and vitamin C,” says Anna. “Keep all beauty products, such as make-up, moisturiser and sunscreen, oil-free to prevent congestion on the top layer of the skin,” she adds.
DON’T: Use long-wear foundation, which will clog your pores. Look for the words ‘non-comedogenic’ (non-clogging) on labels. Also avoid anything with a talc base. “Glo Minerals make-up is a brand I’d recommend,” says Anna.
Some of these pesky pimples have funny names. These bad boys are known as ‘nodules’, and they are painful inflamed lumps, just under the skin’s surface, that often appear around the chin and neck. They’re a classic sign of adult-onset acne, and are usually caused by a hormone imbalance.
DO: Speak to your doc. The contraceptive pill can be effective. For severe cases, a dermatologist may prescribe a hormonal treatment called spironolactone, which reduces your skin’s oil production.
DON’T: Use cleansing cloths, brushes and scrubs. You can’t exfoliate these spots away and harsh treatment will make inflammation worse. These kind of spots are sensitive with a capital S!
Another funny name, ‘papules’ are small red bumps that are inflamed and may feel sore. Their close relatives, ‘pustules’, have a white centre, often filled with pus, which come about in response to inflammation. Neither are welcome and these skin critters are best left very much alone.
DO: Consider the Pill. Certain types, such as Yasmin, can help with outbreaks of this kind. Some gals may benefit from a low-dose, long course of antibiotics. “Or, try an anti-inflammatory, topical treatment that containing benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid,” recommends Anna.
DON’T: Squeeze them. You risk scarring and worsening the spot by pushing inflammation deeper into the surrounding tissue. So go hands-free. As in, Don’t. Touch. Your. Face. Got it?
Similar to boils, these big spots are acne cysts. Think large, pus-filled lumps. They’re the most extreme example of acne and the most likely to cause scarring. But there is hope…
DO: Ask to be referred to a dermatologist. “Switch to products that contain benzyl peroxide or vitamin A/retinol,” says Anna. “It reduces inflammation and sebum production, completely clearing acne in most cases,” she adds.
DON’T: Use normal foundation – it’ll clog your pores. Opt for a lightweight cover-up, that’ll still hide spots, acne cysts and scars.
By Jennifer Conway.