Acne is a subject that I’m very familiar with. I’ve dealt with teenage spots to hormonal acne for a good chunk of my life, and learned so much on the way. Now, I’m on the other side, with mixed emotions but one that stands out the most is feeling lucky to have been though it and be in a position to help others that feel as confused and miserable as I did.
I’ve learned so much about the external but also the emotional side of acne that I can write a book about it, but today I want to focus on the fundamentals; the philosophy of acne.
What is acne, what are the types of acne, how to understand what your skin is telling you, what it needs, what it doesn’t need, how to go about treating acne, and how to find the source of it all. This article is not product-focused because treating acne is not about a magical potion that fixes all your problems; it’s a mind set, a lifestyle.
I work part time at Content Beauty in London, the mecca of organic skincare, and I come across numerous people every week that need guidance and advice on all sorts of skin problems. So I’m lucky not only to have my personal experience with acne of many others to cross-reference and pick up on some patterns along the way.
Acne or congestion?
Firstly I would like to clarify that not all spots are acne. Most people think they have acne when in reality they have allowed their skin to become so congested that their skin reacts with little bumps, blackheads and whiteheads. Not removing your make up properly, luck of hygiene, stepping into puberty and using the wrong skincare on your skin, are the biggest causes of congestion. Please head over to my “Cleansing 1-0-1” article to make sure you clean your skin thoroughly. If you suspect that you are creams which are too thick for what your skin needs then please refer to my “How to use oils properly” article where I go more in depth about heavy and light molecules. If you are cleansing and moisturizing to those standards and still get painful cysts and inflamed whiteheads, then there is a good chance you are dealing with acne.
Why do I have acne?
Acne is usually linked with hormonal imbalances, food intolerances, poor nutrition, stress, and/or infection/inflammation. Acne is a great giveaway on what is the underlying problem. For example, acne that appears mainly on the jawline, chin and neck suggests hormonal. If this sounds like you, then I advise you to read “Period Repair Manual”. It’s an amazing book full of information on hormones, especially when linked with the contraceptive pill. Unfortunately, I won’t go into detail on each and every underlying cause of acne because I simply cannot condense it enough to fit in an article. Instead, I urge you to seek professional advice from a trustworthy facialist and a naturopath who specialize in acne to tell you what the underlying cause is or get in contact with me and I can happily direct you to the right people.
How can I help my skin? (Mental and physical side of acne).
After you figure out whether you have congestion or acne and what the cause of your acne is and before jumping into products that promise to heel your skin, focus more on understanding what your skin needs from you and what sort of routine you should design for your skin so that you help yourself instead of making mistakes.
What we see on the surface is a manifestation of some underlying issues in the body. Your skin is communicating this to you and your job is to learn how to speak its language so you can first understand it and then treat it. Think of acne like the shivering cold feeling you get when you have high fever. Our bodies tell us that our temperature has gotten higher than normal and that causes as to feel cold. When we get sick, it tells us. That’s exactly the same with acne. When we have some imbalance in the body, it tells us. However, the difference is that we judge our acne and greatly dislike it. We let it affect our mood and ultimately lives. This is the moment your skin is asking for help and care, and what do you do? Attack it with drying cleansers, harsh acid peels, extreme stress and junk food. Be kind to yourself. Strive for a holistic well being inside and out instead of obsessing over spots, which are the outcome of the problem, not the cause. I know, it’s easier said than done.
So how should we actually take care of our skin? How do we give it the respect it deserves? People often do the classic mistakes of using aggressive products on their skin. As a result, they jeopardize the ph of the skin, meaning that if your skin is too acidic or too alkaline then it’s a breading ground of bad bacteria. Be gentle to your skin. Treating your skin with anger and frustration only leads to irritated skin. Go for gentle washes (find recommendations here) and always double cleanse, avoid wearing make up as much as possible, use light serums instead of heavy creams, even if you think you are dry, chances are you are most probably dehydrated (find recommendations here). Pay extra attention to hygiene, for example don’t touch your face with dirty hands, change your pillow case a few times a week, wash your make up brushes every time you use them and disinfect them with alcohol. If you get excessively oily during the day, carry blotting papers to remove the excess sebum. Have your hair pulled back so it doesn’t touch your skin. Be careful with what you eat! Sugar, cow’s dairy and in some cases gluten can disrupt your hormones so try and avoid these foods. Have a blood test and see if your body is low on any vitamins or minerals. Please refer to the “Period Repair Manual” for more information on the subject. Also consider an anti-inflammatory diet. Christina Economidou, a clinical dietitian and nutritionist wrote an incredible book on antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods.
I urge you to take things into your own hands and educate yourself on this topic. Do your own research, read plenty of books, articles, watch videos by people who know what they are doing but always form your own opinion at the end. I wish acne had the same cure for everybody, but we are all different and our skin and body need different things. Look at the bright side! If you manage to control or eliminate your acne yourselves then you get to take all the credit for it, become wiser and are able to help other people.
The Green Edit
All the artworks are by David Shringley
The Nature of Beauty (book) – Great book to read if you don’t know where to start. Everything you need to know about skin and skincare is in there.
Cassandra Bankson (videos Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). Cassandra explains how she cleared her chronic acne in a 4-part video, and each part is dedicated to one contributory of acne. In great detail she illuminates this holistic idea of treating acne. Highly recommend watching it!