In this post, we’re talking about the best skin care ingredients for acne and scars. Antioxidants such as vitamin A/Retinol, vitamin B3 and vitamin C are best ingredients you need to look out for in your skin care when it comes to acne healing as studies have shown they can reduce inflammation, speed up healing and fade scars and pigmentation!
The best skin care ingredients for acne, scarring and pigmentation
Before we delve deeper into how these powerful topical antioxidants can help improve acne, scarring and pigmentation, we need to get a better understanding of HOW acne occurs and the reaction that takes place within our bodies that causes a pimple to form.
Inflammation plays a key role in the formation of acne. Most people believe that acne inflammation is the final symptom of a number of different reactions that take place before the red pimple appears but in actual fact, inflammation is the initial trigger that sets the stage and kick starts the entire acne process!
Chronic Inflammation ⇰ Sebum Oxidisation ⇰ Hyperkeratinisation & Clogged Pores ⇰ Bacteria Overgrowth ⇰ Skin Inflammation
Acne happens when our sebum oxidises and results in the excess production of keratin – also known as hyperkeratinisation – which creates a clogged pore that allows the p.acnes bacteria to thrive and results in an inflamed pimple. These factors don’t just happen out the blue for no reason, sebum oxidisation, hyperkeratinisation and bacteria overgrowth are a result of one key trigger that is putting our skin out of whack.
Can you guess what that one trigger is?
You guessed it. Inflammation.
What causes chronic inflammation in the first place?
When you think of inflammation in relation to acne, the first thing that probably springs to mind is the red, swollen bumps on your face, but this is only a fraction of the full story! There are also hundreds of other sources of chronic inflammation that could be affecting your body in ways you may not even realise. Just some of the potential inflammatory triggers include:
- Digestive problems
- UV Damage
- Toxic Ingredients
- Harmful Chemicals
- Artificial Sweeteners (Aspartame)
- Refined Vegetable Oils
How to combat acne with topical antioxidants
While topical antioxidants can’t treat the source of chronic inflammation, whether it be poor diet, stress or pollution, they can work at reducing inflammation at a surface level. When it comes to fighting skin inflammation, antioxidants are the key player when it comes to reducing oxidative stress. As mentioned earlier, sebum oxidation is one of the initial phases in acne formation. If we are able to reduce sebum oxidation by using topical antioxidants that prevent the sebum from ‘going bad’, we can stop the chain of events that follow sebum oxidisation (hyperkeratinisation and bacterial overgrowth) which will prevent the formation of acne altogether.
By eating lots of antioxidant rich foods (think colourful fruits and vegetables) and minimising inflammatory foods you can significantly reduce oxidative stress and inflammation from the inside out, but topical application of antioxidants will help prevent sebum oxidation from the outside.
How do topical antioxidants work?
It took me ages to get to grips with how antioxidants actually worked – for ages I just knew that antioxidants were good, and these things called ‘free radicals’ were bad…but that’s pretty much as far as my knowledge on the subject went! Now I have a much better understanding on the topic…so here goes!
What are free radicals?
Free radicals are incomplete molecules that are missing an important electron – these bad guys will do whatever it takes to find their missing electron, including damaging healthy cells to steal electrons!
Free radicals are created by external toxins such as processed food, pollution, UV rays and environmental chemicals but can also be made naturally in the body due to excess stress and digestive issues.
How do free radicals affect inflammation?
When it comes to inflammation, the primary trigger for acne, free radicals are both a cause and a result of inflammation. The cell damage caused by free radicals creates inflammation and longterm inflammation produces free radicals, which creates further inflammation, which creates more free radicals! It’s a vicious cycle but thankfully, antioxidants (found in all fruit and veg!) have the power to protect our bodies from the damaging effects of free radicals and inflammation.
Antioxidants to the rescue!
As mentioned earlier, antioxidants reduce oxidative stress by neutralising the free radicals. These skin nutrients (specifically vitamins A, B3, C, E etc) donate one of their electrons to the damaged, unstable free radicals to make them complete and prevents oxidative damage to sebum. No oxidised sebum means NO clogged pores, NO hyperkeratinisation, NO bacteria build up and NO pimples!
Inflammation and free radicals cause oxidative damage to sebum which sets the wheels in motion for hyperkeratinisation, clogged pores, p.acnes bacteria overgrowth and eventually an inflamed pimple!
If you’re still not quite sure on the science behind free radical damage, this infographic really helped me get a better understanding of the relationship between antioxidants, free radicals and inflammation!
Head over to these posts where I go into further detail on these skin care ingredients for acne, scarring and pigmentation.
If you want to catch up on all my other posts on topical antioxidants you can read the following articles:
- Skin benefits of topical vitamin B3 for acne prone skin
- Vitamin A & retinoids for acne: Retin A the natural way
- The best natural retinoid serums for acne prone skin
- Benefits of topical vitamin C for acne scarring + why you should NEVER make your own!
Peace, Love & Clear Skin,