June is #AcneAwarenessMonth so I thought it was the perfect time to ask my Instagram followers their acne skin care questions. As always, my followers smashed it and the questions came through thick and fast so I’ve compiled them all below.
**Please note that some of the links on this page are affiliated. This means that if you click through one of these links and make a purchase, I receive a small commission. It doesn’t cost you any extra but it’s these small commissions that help keep this blog going! Please bear in mind that I only ever recommend brands and cosmetics that I have personally tried, tested and loved and will never recommend a product that doesn’t share my philosophy and ethos.
#AcneAwarenessMonth: Your Skin Barrier Questions Answered
What’s the best way to exfoliate/use masks for sensitive/acne prone skin?
If you struggle with acne prone skin, then you’ve probably been recommended exfoliating acids (like Salicylic and Glycolic) to decongest pores and clear your complexion. However these acids are often misused and end up damaging the skin barrier – causing it to become ultra sensitive!
As much as it feels like the right route, scrubbing your face and using clay masks is actually counter productive for acne-prone skin! You actually need to be EXTRA gentle with your skin to reduce inflammation and heal your skin barrier. I recommend exfoliating with Konjac Sponges or cleansing pads like Face Halo and using hydrating sheets masks to calm and soothe the skin. Clay masks can be beneficial, but when they are left to go dry they can damage the skin barrier by stripping the skin of it’s protective oils, all my favourite exfoliating and mask products are listed here:
- Konjac Sponges (USA)
- Konjac Sponges (UK)
- Face Halo Cleansing Pads (UK)
- Balance Me Congested Sheet Mask (UK)
- Rael HydroLock Sheet Mask (UK)
- Rael HydroLock Sheet Mask (USA)
- Green Estate Cleansing Pads (USA)
How do you repair the skin barrier after over use of acids?
The key to repairing your skin barrier is to strip your routine RIGHT back to basics! You really don’t need tonnes of different products and you definitely want to avoid products aimed at acne-prone skin as these are often way too harsh and contain ingredients that actually damage the skin barrier further. My best advice is to use a simple cleanser that’s SLS-free and not too stripping on the skin, followed by a gentle serum that ideally contains Hyaluronic Acid and Niacinamide which both help to repair the skin barrier. I then recommend finishing off with a facial oil (my favourite is Emu oil) or gentle moisturiser and ALWAYS use an SPF during the day!
I know you’re not supposed to pop spots, how do they heal if you leave them alone?
Just like every other wound or scratch on your skin. Your immune system will fight the infection that is within the pore and work to clear it in a few days/weeks depending on the depth and severity of infection. To speed up healing, the key is to improve your immunity. Ensuring you’re getting enough sleep, working on stress management and eating a diet rich in nutrient rich foods is the best way to ensure your body can protect you against infection and inflammation before it gets out of control!
#AcneAwarenessMonth: Your Beauty Routine Questions Answered
Best skin care routine for hormonal acne?
The best skin care routine for hormonal acne is the same as any other type of acne. The key is to be super gentle with your skin! It’s so tempting to overuse acids, spot treatments and masks when we get a flare up but this often makes matters worse. You will be much better off switching your “deep pore cleansing” clay mask to a hydrating sheet mask as a weekly treatment.
If it’s the odd hormonal spot around your period that the issue, the spot treatments listed later on are a great option but if it’s chronic acne that doesn’t respond well to treatments I would recommend a routine that works to repair your skin barrier as outlined above in the Q. “How do you repair the skin barrier after over use of acids?” Specific product recommendations can be found here if you’re based in the UK and here if you’re in the USA.
What’s the best moisturiser for sensitive/oily skin?
Moisturisers can be really tricky to find one that works for your skin type and I don’t believe there is a “best one”. If you have oily skin then you want to avoid moisturisers that are too heavy, but that’s not to say you can skip the moisturiser all together! Many women with acne, especially if they’re suffered since their early teens have a fear of moisturiser – I didn’t use one till I was about 23! I personally love the Oy! Cleansing Moisturiser as it is lightweight for oily skin and also contains tonnes of beneficial plant nutrients and prebiotics to help repair the skin barrier, it’s also great value!
Another amazing option (but has a higher price tag) is Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream! If your skin is super reactive then you may be better starting off on 2-3 drops of a simple facial oil – Emu, Jojoba and Rosehip are the best options for sensitive/acne-prone skin types.
My moisturiser doesn’t skin into my skin! Help!
There are a couple of obvious reasons that may be causing this to happen, firstly you may be using a moisturiser that is much too heavy for your skin type? Try one of the recommendations listed in the Q. above 🙂 Secondly, you may have a build up of dead skin cells on the surface of your skin, this prevent your moisturiser from being able to penetrate to the lower layers of skin. Try using super gentle exfoliation with a Konjac Sponge (UK/USA) to remove dead skin cells then apply a lightweight serum and moisturiser/facial oil. Good luck!
What is your favourite face wash?
Face washes are probably the product within my routine that I change the most! There are a lot of available options out there and I personally think that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on this step of your routine – just find something that works for you. If you’re going to have three rules they should be this:
- Always make sure it’s free from “nasties” like SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), artificial fragrance/colour and parabens
- Opt for a gel or milk cleanser – if you have oily skin then balms and thick creams may be too heavy.
- I personally prefer going completely scent free or only using products with very light herbal scents. This doesn’t just apply to face wash, but all skin care products!
Is there any spot treatment you recommend?
Cut back on the super harsh spot treatment! I know it’s against EVERYTHIING you’ve ever been told about acne skin care but trust me, you skin will heal faster and leave less scarring if you working with your skin rather than against it! For really deep, under the skin spots I recommend using hot and cold compresses to reduce inflammation and emulsify the gunk trapped in your pores, I personally prefer a cold compress and applying too much heat to the skin can damage the skin barrier.
For more superficial spots, I find acne patches the very best thing for spots, some brands, like Rael, are even using “microdart technology” that injects spot reducing actives to the infected area. Don’t be put off by the term “injecting” these are totally safe and won’t even hurt! Another benefit of acne patches is that it stops you from picking and touching your skin. It’s true, the more you touch a spot – the longer it will take to heal! Here are my recommendations for spot treatments that won’t harm your skin barrier:
- Gel Ice/Heat Packs (USA)
- Gel Ice/Heat Packs (UK)
- Mighty Patch Acne Dots (USA)
- Avarelle Acne Dots (USA)
- Rael Acne Healing Patches (USA)
- Rael Acne Healing Patches (UK)
What are your thoughts on Benzoyl Peroxide?
If there is any chance you have a damaged skin barrier then I would avoid Benzoyl Peroxide for the time being. While Benzoyl Peroxide can have it’s benefits, it’s also very easy to over-do it. Any signs of redness, tightness or flaking is a sign of a damaged skin barrier and any blemish will scar and take a lot longer to heal. If you have a healthy skin barrier then you can use Benzoyl Peroxide responsible. This means only applying it to the affected area and using plenty of hydrating products and a good moisturiser to ensure you skin barrier stays strong and healthy!
#AcneAwarenessMonth: Your SPF Questions Answered
What are the best facial SPF’s that are affordable?
Really cheap sun creams that are actually safe for your skin and the planet are very hard to find. I would say that if you’re going to spend your money on anything in your routine, it should be sunscreen! I’ve struggled to find a decent acne-friendly sun cream for less than £28, but that gets me at least 2 months of everyday use.
The two facial sun creams my skin has loved are the Dr Sam Bunting Flawless SPF (£29 for 50ml) and Alumier MD Clear Shield SPF42 (£38 for 60ml – use access code 0EFC011F to create an account on the UK site) I’m planning to use up my Madara Plant Stem Cell Age Protecting Sunscreen SPF 30 (£29 for 40ml) then would love to try Paula’s Choice Calm SPF 30 Mineral Moisturiser (£29 for 60ml) and the MyChelle Sun Shield SPF50 this summer!
If your skin can tolerate a richer formula then the Green People Facial Sun Cream SPF30 (£15 for 50ml) is a great purse-friendly option!
Also, I hear incredible things over and over again about the KRAVE The Beet Shield SPF47 ($20 for 50ml) but sorry UK/EU folks, it’s not available to us yet!
What’s the best SPF for long sun exposure?
No SPF is made to last the full day, research has proven that “all day” sun lotions are misleading and don’t actually provide you with suitable protection all day long. The only way to ensure you are protected all day long is to wear a hat when you can, and reapply during the day if you are exposed for more than three hours. Beauty Blogger Hannah English has a great method of re-applying sunscreen over your make up using a microfibre velvet sponge – you can find it in her stories on her Instagram page under “How To Reapply You Sunscreen”.
Should you use an SPF and moisturiser during the day?
It completely depends! I have super oily skin and have been using Dr Sam Bunting Flawless SPF which contains Shea Butter and Niacinimide so I find I don’t need to use an additional moisturiser. However, if your SPF doesn’t offer moisturising properties you will need additional moisture. Experts recommend applying your sunscreen first, then allowing it to fully absorb before applying your moisturiser!
#AcneAwarenessMonth: Your Scarring Questions Answered
What is the best way to heal acne scars?
There isn’t one specific treatment alone that will heal acne scars. For best results, you want to approach your scarring from multiple angles. Treat your scars internally by drinking bone broth, cooking with bone broth or taking grass-fed collagen powder in your smoothie.
Make sure your skin barrier is functioning at its best! I know I go on and on about this, but it’s so important! If your skin is strong and healthy, it can repair itself quicker and scarring will heal much much better.
Treat pigmentation and scarring topically with a good vitamin C serum. Vitamin C reduces inflammation, promotes collagen formation to plump out the skin and fades pigmentation. Read more about topical vitamin C here.
Stimulate the production of new collagen with derma stamping, derma rolling, professional DermaPen and more gentle techniques like Gua Sha which can help to break down scar tissue when used regularly. Remember scar healing takes 6+ months to start seeing noticeable differences – no matter what your treatment plan.
How do you mirconeedle properly at home and what needle should I buy?
In an ideal situation, you should always get your scars professional microneedled, but this is costly and you want to have regular treatments (ideally a course of 6) to see the best results. I found that at-home dermarolling helped with pigmentation and speeding up spot healing but when it came to the really textures scarring on my face, I really only started seeing results when I started seeing a professional therapist who did 6 treatments of DermaPen.
I recently bought my first home so funds have been tighter than normal and professional treatments have not been an option so I have gone back to needling at home. I find this site excellent and their blog post comes from a professional, trusted source rather than a beauty blogger telling you how to microneedle! It covers everything from the technique you should use, how often you should treat your skin depending on the length of needles and most importantly, how to clean your tools.
There are lots of places to buy dermarollers; www.dermarollerstore.co.uk and www.dermarollerstore.com offer very high quality tools – I use the Dr Roller and DRS brands but there are others available on Amazon.
What’s the best at-home treatments to lighten dark spots and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation?
The first thing you must do is work out what has caused your pigmentation as there are three possible causes:
- Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH) – caused by acne and other skin wounds.
- Melasma – caused by pregnancy hormones and sometimes birth control.
- Sun Damage – caused by exposure to UV light
No matter what the cause of your pigmentation, daily SPF is essential for fading and preventing pigmentation as when exposed to UV light, PIH and Melasma can evolve into sun damage. SO no excuses, find your perfect sunscreen and wear it every. single. day!
N.B. If you are taking certain types of anxiety or anti-depressant medication (SSRIs), this can make your skin more susceptible to pigmentation and can make it harder to clear.
As well as daily SPF, you can also implement these technique to speed up the healing of pigmentation:
- Vitamin C or Liquorice Root serum (takes at least 6 months for noticeable results)
- Don’t pick at you skin
- Daily Gua Sha – this stimulates lymphatic flow and breaks down scar tissue to reduce stubborn pigmentation.
- Don’t over exfoliate – this will actually worsen your pigmentation as it makes your skin more susceptible to UV damage.
#AcneAwarenessMonth: Your Serum Questions Answered
What are the best serums for redness?
If the redness is wide spread across your face and there’s a possibility of Rosacea, then avoiding essential oils and alcohol will be essential. I love this calming serum for those who are prone to overall redness.
If the redness is localised to areas of breakouts then addressing skin barrier issues and being ultra gentle with your skin is key – this means avoiding fragrance (even essential oils) and harsh ingredients wherever possible. I love these hyaluronic acid and niacinimide serum:
- Dr Brenner Honest HA + B3 Serum (USA)
- Cosmedica Hyaluronic Acid Serum (USA)
- Joyal Beauty HA Serum (UK)
What is the best vitamin C serum for sensitive/acne prone skin?
I love a vitamin C serum and have tried LOTS of different types over the years. You can read this post for lots of recommendations and information about the different types of vitamin C available in skin care. However, I have discovered after years of testing different vitamin C serums, my stubborn pigmentation definitely responds best to L-Ascorbic Acid over other types of vitamin C like Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate and Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate. So for me, my favourite vitamin C serums are:
- Drunk Elephant C-Firma (UK) < this is my absolute favourite!
- Paula’s Choice C Booster (UK)
- No B.S Vitamin C + E Serum (USA)
- Paula’s Choice C Booster (USA)
- Drunk Elephant C-Firma (USA) < this is my absolute favourite!
They may seem pricer, but as I’ve said in the skin barrier repair section of this post, you really don’t have to splash out on every area of your beauty routine – far from it! As you can see from my recommendations here, there are many affordable options for make-up removers, cleansers, hydrating serums and facial oil – I spend my money on a good vitamin C serum and quality SPF and keep the other areas of my routine as simple and budget-friendly as possible!
Is it possible for hyaluronic acid serums to irritate ace-prone skin?
Technically, it’s possible to have a reaction to anything! I haven’t come across someone having a reaction to Hyaluronic acid serums before, it’s very possible it could be something else within the serum? Perhaps a preservative or fragrance?
My best advice would be to work on repairing your skin barrier and strong, healthy skin shouldn’t be so reactive. Perhaps switch your HA serum to a more organic Aloe Vera based serum like this one (UK)(USA) while you skin regains full barrier function.
#AcneAwarenessMonth: Your Make Up Questions Answered
What’s your favourite BB cream or tinted moisturiser?
My absolute favourite BB creams are the Madara City CC Creams – they offer excellent coverage whilst still being super light and natural! I jump between the two shades depending on the season and have worn them for years. When my acne was bad, I would use it as a base to help build up coverage alongside concealer and mineral powder and now I just wear it alone when I want my skin to look ultra glowy and lovely!
Can you recommend a good concealer for oily and acne scarred skin?
I’m a huge fan of the Hynt Beauty Concealer and 100% Pure 2nd Skin Concealer. They are both great for oily/acne prone skin as they don’t contain heavy, greasy ingredients like coconut oil. The Hynt Beauty Concealer is better for building up coverage and easier to blend in as it’s more creamy. The 100% one is much lighter in formula so needs more work to build up coverage – I find it works better on scarring rather than active acne.
Is 8-free nail polish safe for hormones?
This is a controversial one! Some people will say that no nail polish is totally hormone safe, but I’m not going to be a hypocrite as I wear nail polish 90% of the time and think if you can buy a nail polish that free from the 8 major irritants then you will be fine, there are a lot bigger issues we need to worry about when it comes to hormone health – like non-stick cookware!
The major issues with nail polish is toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and formaldehyde which have been shown to cause birth defects and cancer. A 7-free or 8-free nail polish will not have any of these, but will also avoid: formaldehyde resin, camphor, triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), ethyl tosylamid and xylene.
Phew! That was a long one, I hope this post has cleared up some of your biggest acne skin care questions and you can work towards a more concise and less confusing skin care routine for you acne or scarring! If you have a question that I haven’t covered, please leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to get back to you!
Peace, Love & Clear Skin,