HOW TO TACKLE BLEMISHES?
Whether you experience occasional pimples, the odd blackhead or long-term signs of ageing such as discolouration, dark spots and age spots, blemishes are an unwelcome addition to our complexions. It’s a common misconception that blemishes are an adolescent skin concern, however they can occur throughout different life stages, often at the most inconvenient moment before an important event.
That’s why it’s important to implement a research-based skincare regime to minimise the appearance of unwanted blemishes. Follow our comprehensive guide to types of blemishes, highly effective ingredients and our recommended products to achieve clearer, smoother and more even looking skin.
WHAT ARE SKIN BLEMISHES?
‘Skin blemishes’ is a blanket term that covers a wide variety of spots, marks or bumps that create visible imperfections on the surface epidermal layer of the skin. Many blemishes are confined entirely to the superficial epidermal layer, however some types of acne lesions also involve the deeper layers.
There are many high efficacy skincare options that can help reduce the appearance of all types of skin blemishes, including those that occur with acne prone, sun damaged or ageing skin.
TYPES OF BLEMISHES AND THEIR CAUSES
Although they are all related as visible imperfections on the surface of the skin, each type of blemish has its own distinct features and causes. Understanding these features and causes will allow you to utilise the most appropriate science-based skincare options to see visible improvements in your skin health.
ACNE-PRONE SKIN BLEMISHES
There are many types of acne related blemishes ranging from mild to more severe. They all share some common features and causes, however moderate to more severe acne-prone skin has some additional causal factors.
All acne-prone blemishes begin when a pore contains excessive quantities of sebum, dead skin cells and other debris. These impurities form a ‘plug’ that blocks the pore opening and creates an environment where acne causing bacteria can proliferate. Read more on How to Remove Blackheads and Unclog Pores.
There are two types of mild-acne blemishes: open comedones (blackheads) and closed comedones (whiteheads). These non-inflamed skin blemishes can be attributed to causes including excess sebum (oil) production, stress, and some food types.
Moderate to more severe acne prone skin can also be related to the above causes, however hormonal imbalances and hereditary factors are more likely to be causally associated with more serious cases.
The blemishes we call age spots are sometimes also known as sun spots, solar lentigo or liver spots. Age spots are brown to dark brown, black or grey flat spots that usually occur on the face, backs of hands, forearms, shoulders and upper back. These spots don’t cause any pain or discomfort, although they are often an unwanted presence.
Age spots are created when there is an overproduction of melanin, the naturally occurring pigment that determines our hair, skin and eye colour. This means age spots can be classified as a type of hyperpigmentation.
As their alternative names and common locations suggest, age spots are associated with sun exposure, however there are several possible causes for these types of skin blemishes. Other forms of ultraviolet light exposure like tanning beds (now banned) can lead to the formation of age spots, as can intrinsic chronological skin ageing.
Facial scarring is most commonly seen in the form of post acne scarring, which can develop in people with current or historic moderate to severe acne blemishes.
Superficial acne scars that are red to purplish in appearance are sometimes unavoidable in acne-prone skin types but the best way to avoid post acne scarring is to not pick at or squeeze them, ever. Deeper acne scars are formed when deeper lesions damage the underlying dermal layer of the skin. The body creates new collagen fibres to repair the damage, resulting in scar tissue that differs in texture and appearance to the surrounding dermal and epidermal tissue.
SKINCARE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR DIFFERENT TYPES OF BLEMISHES
There is no universal blemish fighting ingredient as different skin types and different blemishes have different needs. Here are our recommended ingredients and products tailored to each type of skin blemish, for the most effective visible results.
SKINCARE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ACNE
For acne prone skin, there are several key ingredients that can help reduce excess sebum production to minimise future blemishes and manage existing pimples.
When it comes to products, a cleanser containing salicylic acid is the first step to managing acne blemishes. Our Clarifying Exfoliating Cleanser is designed for skin prone to breakouts and contains 7% salicylic acid combined with pumice beans for physical exfoliation to avoid clogged pores. Massage a small amount of the cleanser into damp skin once daily before rinsing thoroughly.
We also recommend our Blemish + Age Defense serum, a potent serum for imperfections which also reduces signs of ageing. This highly effective corrective serum contains a unique combination of ingredients combining dioic acid with an optimal beta-hydroxy acid formula and lipo-hydroxy acid to reduce excess sebum production and subsequent pimple formation. Apply four or five drops to the skin once or twice daily after cleansing and toning, but before moisturiser.
Here are some key ingredients known to be beneficial for acne-prone skin:
Retinol: A form of vitamin A (retinoic acid) that promotes skin cell turnover, therefore helping prevent excess dead skin cells from clogging pores and causing acne prone skin.
Salicylic acid: A beta-hydroxy acid derived from willow tree bark. This acid is the key active ingredient in most topical acne-based products and acts to chemically exfoliate the skin. It also refines pores to minimise the chance of blockages and therefore pimples.
Glycolic acid: Found in fruits, beetroot, sugarcane or derived synthetically, this acid also helps to facilitate the skin’s natural exfoliation process. In addition, this ingredient also improves the appearance of skin texture and tone.
Lipo-hydroxy acid: Commonly known as LHA, this acid is a derivative of salicylic acid, as it decongests pores and refines the surface of the skin.
SKINCARE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AGE SPOTS
We recommend our anti pigmentation products, that target stubborn skin discolouration and evens out the skin tone. The SkinCeuticals range of products also contain products with salicylic acid to exfoliate existing age spots, hydroxyphenoxy propionic acid and ellagic acid to help target excess melanin. Always use sunscreen as the last step in your skincare routine as exfoliating ingredients may likely increase sun sensitivity of the skin.
Here are some other key ingredients known to be beneficial for reducing the appearance of age spots.
Ellagic acid: A powerful naturally occurring antioxidant that helps improve the appearance of skin discolouration. This ingredient is found in fruits and berries.
Kojic Acid: Produced in nature by some kinds of fungi, this acid also helps minimise the appearance of discolouration, as well as having a brightening effect.
SKINCARE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SCARRING
We recommend our Retinol 0.3 refining night cream as a high efficacy option to help with skin where scarring is present. This concentrated product is recommended for first-time retinol users and works to increase skin cell turnover at the epidermal and dermal level, to subsequently decrease the appearance of post acne scarring.
Retinol may increase photosensitivity (sensitivity to sunlight), so we recommend applying this product at night. If you must use it in the morning, it’s essential to follow up with a high SPF, broad spectrum sunscreen. To apply, smooth a pea sized amount to cleansed skin while avoiding the eye area. The skin will need to establish tolerance to a retinol cream over time, so start by using this lotion once a week and gradually increase the frequency over time.
Here are some other powerful ingredients known to be beneficial for scarring.
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA): This type of acids (found in sugary fruits and many more natural sources) also has a chemical exfoliating effect to positively effect the appearance of discolouration from scarring.
Lactic acid: This acid is a type of AHA and acts as a very gentle chemical peel and can improve the textural element of acne scars.
Blemishes can often cause or present in conjunction with facial redness. Read our Guide to Visibly Reducing Redness to learn how to target your skincare routine towards managing this concern.