Summer is a time of year that can be hard on your skin, but just a few changes in your skincare routine can help control those breakouts that are due to the hot and humid weather that leads to more sweating and oil accumulation on the skin. What can you do to manage your acne during the summer while continuing your acne treatment?
Acne is one of the most common skin conditions in the world, affecting adolescents and adults even if they didn’t have teenage acne. How we treat acne has evolved over the years as we learn more about the skin and its various conditions.
Acne isn’t caused by a lack of hygiene – so no amount of cleansing, scrubbing, or exfoliating will clear up your breakouts. In fact, excessive cleansing and exfoliating can inflame your skin and make it worse! Acne is a medical condition that needs a medical solution to clear up and manage.
Acne doesn’t just occur on your face – it can appear on your chest and back (and sometimes your upper arms) as these areas have many sebaceous glands.
Acne is not a cosmetic condition, but a chronic inflammatory disease, and can be anything from clogged pores called ‘comedones’, which can be open (blackheads) or closed (whiteheads); papules (small red bumps on the skin), and pustules (like papules but filled with pus); and very large, painful, inflamed nodules and cysts (‘blind pimples’). Redness and pain, as well as the resulting hyperpigmentation and scarring, are also common with acne.
Acne begins with a clogged pore, created when excess oil (‘sebum’) and skin cells that line the pores don’t shed properly, instead collecting in the pore. The skin cells and oil mix together along the length of the pore, creating a microscopic blockage called a microcomedone.
Acne bacteria (Cutibacterium acnes) feed on sebum, gathering and multiplying in large numbers around the oily plug, which signals to your immune system that it should start producing chemicals that result in inflammation.
The inflamed plug gradually enlarges to form a visible comedone. In some instances, the comedone bursts, resulting in the bacteria and pus spreading to the surrounding tissue. This creates even more inflammation and can cause other acne lesions like papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts.
Excess sebum production (‘seborrhoea’) is caused by hormones. The hormones involved are called ‘androgens’ and include dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and testosterone. Both males and females produce androgens in their adrenal glands, testes, or ovaries, or these are converted from precursor chemicals in the skin, hair follicles, sweat glands, and sebaceous glands.
Teenage acne occurs as a result of the natural increase in androgen hormones during puberty, but adult acne is more common than you think – it can flare during menstruation (it is thought that this is because less oestrogen is available to suppress androgens), and pregnancy.
Because of its hormonal basis, treatments for acne can include anti-androgen drugs such as oral contraceptives, spironolactone, and cyproterone acetate. Vitamin A can also reduce sebaceous gland activity.
From over-the-counter (OTC) remedies to custom formulated prescription treatments from telehealth providers, there are more than enough ways to treat and prevent acne from returning. When browsing the shelves of skincare, you will find acne cleansers and acne treatments aimed at unclogging pores (usually with salicylic acid and glycolic acid) and killing bacteria (benzoyl peroxide, which also has a pore unclogging effect). These often don’t fully clear breakouts because they don’t target all the factors that cause acne – oil, excess skin cells, bacteria, and inflammation.
Clinically formulated acne treatments can be found through telehealth providers whose doctors can customise the best acne treatment product for you – one that can help you correctly identify and target all the acne-causing pathways to help you rid your skin of acne (and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation at the same time). Qr8 MediSkin does just that, with a video consultation with a doctor and direct delivery of your treatment to your door, there is no need to visit an acne dermatologist or wait in line at the pharmacy!
This naturally occurring acid is derived from rye, wheat, and barley (although typically made in a lab from vegetable oils). Azelaic acid acts as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and depigmenting agent. The anti-inflammatory action of azelaic acid, combined with its anti-bacterial and pore unblocking functions, makes it a great treatment for mild to moderate acne, especially when combined with a prescription retinoid.
Also called niacinamide, vitamin B3 has anti-inflammatory, skin barrier lipid regulating, sebum-regulating, depigmenting, antimicrobial, and photo-protective effects when applied topically. It is very well tolerated – so well that you will find it in many cosmetic and OTC skincare products.
Tazarotene produces similar effects to tretinoin, but it has a more selective action than tretinoin, only binding to specific nuclear retinoic acid receptors (RARs). In practical terms, this means that tazarotene decreases acne papules and open comedones (blackheads) at a more rapid rate than tretinoin.
According to dermatologists, we should change up our cleansing routine, wash our hair more frequently, and retire our toner among other things to minimise skin irritation and acne breakouts during the warmer months of the year (or when you go on holiday to a tropical climate!).
Treating the different types of acne can take many forms, from peels to creams and serums. Simplify your skincare routine and stay away from over-cleansing or exfoliating with manual or chemical exfoliants.
With OTC remedies, while they are easily accessible in drug and beauty stores, you will not see the same results that you would get if you were prescribed acne treatment from a doctor or dermatologist – acne is, after all, a medical condition! Consulting a medical professional will take away most of the guesswork, as well as the trial and error that is common when attempting to treat and prevent future acne breakouts.