Stop that Breakout
No one wants to wake up the morning before a big, important event, roll out of bed, toddle down the hallway, and squint at the mirror. . . . . .to find there is already an "event" happening on your face. . . .of the acne breakout variety!
Now you're kicking yourself for not washing your face before you went to bed after that late night out drinking with your girlfriends during finals week. (There are a LOT of things wrong with that picture!) And now you're scrambling trying to find a remedy or a patch or a coverup for the red, swollen, blotchy pimples that are dotting your face. NOT TODAY!
Relax and don't stress. Easier said than done, I know. But believe me, stressing is almost guaranteed to make your acne worse. More on that later.
How Does Acne Form?
Acne is the skin condition responsible for pimples and breakouts, which can manifest as whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, and papules. As sebum is produced by sebaceous glands and travels up through your pores, dead skin cells are carried up with it to be washed away. Sometimes the gland produces too much sebum, which can clog the pore, forming a plug. As the pore is clogged with sebum, oil and bacteria, the bacteria can multiply, leading to an infection, swelling, and inflammation around the clogged pore. Sometimes you'll notice a white tip of purulent discharge (pus).
Things like hormonal imbalances, traveling, genetics, and medications can all play a role in the development of acne. The good news is that these types of breakouts are normally temporary. There are things that you can do to help speed up their disappearance.
The Connection Between Stress and Acne
Emotional stress won't necessarily trigger a new case of acne, but it could worsen symptoms of a current breakout. According to Lisa A. Garner, MD, FAAD, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, "When you already have acne and you get into a stressful situation, that seems to be when your acne really flares up."
The cells that produce sebum have receptors for stress hormones. Somehow, these sebum-producing cells are stoked to produce more sebum when you are upset or worried. On a good day, sebum helps to protect your skin. When too much is produced, it mixes with dead skin cells and bacteria to clog hair follicles, leading to acne.
So while de-stressing isn't necessarily going to cure your current breakout, it can help to keep you from being your own worst enemy.
Facial Care for Acne Breakouts
The first rule of thumb to follow, and maybe the most difficult, is don't squeeze your pimples. This can make them worse, causing the infected pus to spread infection. Apply acne treatment products twice a day; when you wake up and before bedtime. Utilize the help of medicated products designed to clear up zits. They may take a little bit of time to work, but will help to prevent any new pimples from forming. You'll want to stay away from any products that contain oils. They'll only serve to further clog your pores.
Take these steps now to help curb your breakout and prevent it from getting any worse:
- Clean your face twice daily with a foaming cleanser that contains salicylic acid. This should help to clear current blemishes and keep more from popping up. Gently rub your face for at least one minute. The cleansing will help to rid your skin of all the grime that could lead to more clogged pores.
- Apply a benzoyl peroxide cream all over your face, dotting it on a little extra thick directly over your pimples to dry them up. Let this soak for a few minutes before you do anything else. Benzoyl peroxide is a great addition to a long-term acne treatment plan, as it does best when used continuously. If you're planning on using it long-term, you'll want to ease into it to see how your skin reacts. Try every other day or every two days at first.
- Massage in an oil-free moisturizer, like Calysta Labs Revitalizing Moisturizer, designed to be non-comedogenic (not pore-clogging). Acne products tend to be harsh on the skin, so a moisturizer will help to combat associated irritation, redness, and dehydration. They also tend to make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so it's really important that your moisturizer also contains sunscreen of at least SPF 30, or that you apply a broad spectrum sunscreen after your morning ritual, before going outside.
- In the evening after you wash your face, apply a lotion containing glycolic acid which will help to fight the breakouts and get rid of dead skin cells. It's a powerful exfoliant, clearing away the debris like dead skin cells that can clog your pores and lead to blackheads and whiteheads. Just like with the benzoyl peroxide, dab a little extra right on your pimples.
Beware of excess exfoliation. I said excess. Some exfoliation is helpful in improving acne, too much can actually make things worse by removing too much oil. Your skin may decide to compensate by producing even more oil!