Everything You Need To Know About Acne And How To Care For It With Natural Skincare

Acne is a stressor and stress triggers acne. Does that sound like a loop? Well, yes it is! Can skin be cleared of acne fast is a question that is often asked, and it has its answers in two parts. Yes, it can be cleared, and no…….not fast! But some acne facts first before we delve deeper.

I am tempted to quote these lines “Be in love with your acne, they have taught you patience in life“. Whoever coined this is wise. If you hate your acne, it gets you with a vengeance. Acknowledge, accept, and heal – now that’s a good mantra! Couple it with an anti-inflammatory lifestyle and a few high-performance skincare products and you should be good to go.

But What Is Acne?

Is acne pimples? Or blackheads? Or whiteheads? Or breakouts? Well, acne is all of these. Acne is a medical term for blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, pustules, cysts, and nodules (pimples that don’t come out on the surface but just seem like hard bumps inside the skin). Acne is usually diagnosed in stages and here you go :

  • Grade 1: Whiteheads and blackheads
  • Grade 2: Pus-filled pimples
  • Grade 3: Large painful pimples that look like cysts
  • Grade 4: A mix of all of the above plus those red bumps which never come out.

A simple acne fact – it is a pore that’s clogged with sebum. When it oxidizes or collects dirt and particulate matter, it turns into a blackhead that later gets inflamed causing pus.

What Causes Acne?

Several factors and that’s what makes it so hard – to diagnose and to treat. The first task is to identify what causes acne in a person and I am hoping this list will help :

Hormonal imbalance is the most common cause of acne, in both males and females with puberty topping the list. Menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, or PCOS are other predominant factors in females.

Stress, the second most common cause.

Intake of certain drugs like steroids, bodybuilding supplements, and other hormones.

Improper skin hygiene and by that, we mean usage of wrong skincare products as well as inadequate daily cleansing. Includes makeup removal. Listing a little later in the blog ingredients to be avoided.

Lifestyle – Junk food like fried and fast food. Dairy products, and food with a high glycemic index.

Genes – it can run in the family.

Picking zits and pimples can flare it up further and leave behind scars and pigmentation.

Acne can be mild, or stubborn. Yet, it can be managed and cared for with the right lifestyle and effective topical applications. Diet plays a major role in managing acne and hence, before you begin your deep dive into skincare, give your food choices a thought.

It seems that for many, the cure to acne is at the end of a fork, not in a prescription pad” – Unknown.

Good food for the skin

Ingredients You Should Avoid

Synthetic Fragrances The words fragrance, perfume, or parfum are to be viewed with suspicion when it comes to acne. They are skin irritants that you can do without and they can cause breakouts and inflammation.

Essential Oils These oils are extremely concentrated compounds and can cause havoc when applied directly to the skin. Those with acne-prone skin can avoid them completely. Other types of skin too need to be cautious – always dilute the oils in suitable carrier oils.

Carrier oils that work well are jojoba oil, hazelnut oil and hemp oil. Coconut oil and cocoa butter are a no-no for acne skin. 

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate SLS is a surfactant and hence an irritant to sensitive, or acne-prone skin. It can disrupt the skin barrier leading to inflammations of the skin. Choose sulfate-free cleansers over the rich foaming ones.

Sodium Chloride In simple words, this is sea salt and is often used in cleansers for its exfoliating properties. It also helps thicken formulations. But, it can cause breakouts.

Coconut Oil & Cocoa Butter Though it has gained in popularity amongst those with dry, parched skin, acneic skin can do well without it. Coconut oil contains saturated as well as unsaturated fats and by now we should know that they are bad news for acne-prone skin.

Algae Extract It may be a universally loved ingredient, but it can also be comedogenic as per skincare experts.

Now for some Acne Friendly Ingredients – Apple cider vinegar, baking soda, turmeric, honey, tea tree oil,

Cleansing For Acne Prone Skin

Cleansing and ‘appropriate cleansing’ is the key to managing acne. Earlier in the blog, I brought to your notice that the root cause of acne is pore-clogging.

Is there one ingredient in face cleansers that can alleviate acne? Yes, and that is BHAs – beta hydroxy acids, more specifically Salicylic Acid. Salicylic Acid is derived from the bark of White Willow and Wintergreen leaves. It works as an anti-infective and anti-fungal agent, thereby protecting the skin from microbes.

Time to look at the next step in skincare – moisturizing. Does oily skin need moisturizing is probably one of the most searched topics on the net, and the answer is yes, it does. Oil or sebum secretion is a continuous process in all types of skin. Sebum is what keeps skin hydrated and looking healthy. Drier the skin, a) darker it gets, b) faster it ages, c) itchier it gets.

Why Does Oily and Acne-prone Skin Need Moisturizing?

There is an oft-quoted misconception that people with oily skin should skip moisturizing. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every type of skin needs moisturizing because there is a constant loss of moisture from our skin due to TEWL (trans-epidermal water loss) and weather conditions. The natural tendency of skin is to produce sebum every day, every minute. In the mistaken notion when you deprive the skin of external hydration, it produces even more oil to compensate for the lack. So, the wise ones choose an oil-free, non-comedogenic, and water-based moisturizer to keep their oily skin hydrated.

An important ingredient we all must look for in a moisturizer is Hyaluronic Acid. It is sometimes called the ‘moisture magnet’ because it attracts moisture and retains it in the skin, keeping tissues lubricated and plump.

Are Toners & Face Mists Good For Acne?

Yes, yes, and yes! Toners do oily and acne-prone skin a good turn. They lend a hand in some additional cleansing. They unclog pores and dislodge makeup more easily. Often, toners and mists can be substituted for moisturizers when skin feels dry. Air-conditioned spaces and dry and cold weather can dehydrate skin. Work, travel, sports, or even leisure sometimes is not conducive to frequent application of moisturizers. That’s when toners and mists are so convenient! Just a spray all over your face and neck, and skin feels hydrated.

Bonus Tip :

And before we move on to another skin topic in our next blog, I wish to remind you to stay clear of sugar, all refined foods, eat a nutritious diet, sleep and exercise adequately, meditate to keep stress at bay, and stay happy. Show acne the backdoor with these great lifestyle habits.

Fight Pigmentation and Acne with Ahaglow and Tone n glo

Skin Rejuvenators

I have found two magical face wash gels to combat pigmentation and rejuvenate my skin , Tone n glo and Ahaglow.

Ahaglow and Tone n glo

Back then , I was fighting a long drawn out war against pigmentation and was in the stage of giving up when I was introduced to this holistic , no-nonsense dermatologist Dr Muralidhar Rajagopal from Chennai , India. My face had maps , the pigmentation was so bad. This doctor put me at ease with an assurance to rid me of the dark patches or at least to lighten them in about two months. I didn’t ask for the sky , after all that I had gone through , lightening would be a blessing.

One of the products he prescribed was Ahaglow. I had another option , Tone n glo , just in case the former ran out of stock. And trust me , they are twins. If you find me waxing eloquent about these two face washes , it clearly goes to show how effective they are ! ( I plan to review the other equally magical products he prescribed soon ).

Their claim to fame lie in :

  • Rejuvenating the skin by encouraging the shedding of old and dead skin cells
  • Reducing the number of superficial wrinkles
  • Improving skin texture and tone
  • Unblocking and cleansing the pores

Well , Ahaglow and Tone n glo did more than had been promised – to my skin. I would alternate between the two periodically and they gave my skin a brightness like never before. A week into using Aha Glow , I could see the difference. Not a day passes now without using one of the two and at any given point in time , there are two tubes at home. The other being used by my son. He has acne-prone skin and these two products do wonder to his skin as well.

So what makes these products so effective ? Their active ingredients :

  • Aloe Vera………….5% w/w
  • Glycolic Acid ……1.5% w/w
  • Vitamin E………0.10% w/w and a gel base.

A refresher on the benefits of each of the above :

Aloe Vera :

This succulent plant species is manna from the heaven to skin. Medicinally and cosmetically ours to ageless skin. I have potted plants of Aloe Vera in my garden and I apply natural fresh gel from its leaves on my face on alternate days. (If fresh gel is not available , then the next best thing is to use products that contain a percentage of the gel). Dry skin has flown out of the window ! That’s the biggest benefit of aloe vera , but here are some others :

  • Heals skin of several issues including insect bites
  • Improves complexion by removing dead cells
  • Reduces acne , inflammation and redness of the skin
  • Soothes sunburns and flattens stretch marks
  • Improves skin firmness and elasticity with its anti-oxidants
  • Lightens the skin
  • Acts as a natural moisturiser and provides oxygen to the skin
  • Prevents and lightens under-eye dark circles

Glycolic Acid :

Glycolic Acid is a natural ingredient derived from sugar cane. It is also made synthetically and used increasingly in skin care and anti-aging treatments. It comes from the family of alpha-hydroxy acids and has an excellent capacity to penetrate the skin. This is how it works : on application , glycolic acid reacts with the upper layer of the epidermis and weakens the lipids that hold dead skin cells together , thereby dissolving them to make place for new live cells. And that , exfoliation is the mother of all the perks of glycolic acid. What follows naturally are these :

  • Improves skin’s appearance and texture
  • Reduces wrinkles , acne scars , age-spots and hyper pigmentation
  • Smoothens skin

Glycolic acid is a very safe product with minimal side-effects. However , it is best to test your skin’s sensitivity to the fruit acid. It is used in facial peels and treatments by dermatologists.

A sunscreen is a must anyway , especially so after any treatment that uses glycolic acid actively.

Vitamin E :

We have all been told Vitamin E is good for the skin , but not many know how exactly it works. For beginners , it’s a powerful , anti-soluble antioxidant that protects and repairs our skin. An antioxidant is an agent that helps neutralise the effect of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that attack collagen and other cells and cause several health issues , in this case drying of the skin , making it flaky and causing fine lines.

  • Vitamin E neutralises free radicals
  • Prevents cellular damage

So , packed with these three powerful ingredients , Ahaglow and Tone n glo are wonder products for those with dull skin or pigmentation. Squeeze out a small quantity of the gel on to your palm , crush the milli capsules and smear the gel all over your wet face and neck , massaging gently in upward circles for a few seconds. Wash it off with clear water and there you have squeaky clean skin.

Some skins like mine will need moisturizer after using these face washes. I love pampering my skin anyway.

These paraben-free ( parabens are a class of preservatives that can be avoided ) face wash gels are available across the counter in medical stores and do not need a prescription.

Good , problem free skin is a boon , but problematic skin can be tackled too , with the right products and a lot of patience. You have to be lucky to meet with the right dermatologist too ! I spend a lot of time researching for safe , holistic skin care and then hold on to them for dear life!

After Ahaglow and Tone n glo , more coming soon on other products. Till then , wishing you beautiful moments ( pun intended ) !

Do you want to know how to make your skin radiant from within? Read here  for a miracke drink : https://mythoughtlane.com/2015/01/31/radiant-skin/