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What is acne?

Acne is a common skin condition that happens when there are changes in our hormone levels. This usually occurs during our teenage years, when our bodies are going through puberty, but it is also common in adults reaching their early 30s, and going into their 40s and 50s. Anything from pregnancy, periods, premenstrual syndrome, and even stress and fatigue can affect acne. Genetics also play a part.

When sebaceous hair follicles (also known as our pores) become plugged up with the skin’s natural oil and dead skin cells, these turn into whiteheads when the mixture is sealed beneath the surface, or into blackheads when it comes into contact with air. This is known as Retentional Acne.

Blocked pores can become inflamed, leading to raised red spots, pimples, or even nodules and cysts. This is known as Inflammatory Acne, and can often result in scarring.

Generally, acne-prone skin also tends to be more oily than normal due to an over-production of sebum from the sebaceous glands.

What exactly are blackheads?

Blackheads generally appear towards the centre of the face, namely the T-zone. However, they can also appear on the chest, neck, back, and even arms and shoulders. These are more stubborn to get rid of than whiteheads, and stand out more. Blackheads are a dark brown colour, and are raised slightly above the surface of the skin.

When oil and dead skin cells plugging up a follicle come into contact with air, they become oxidised, which is what causes the brownish colour.

Teen acne vs Adult acne

As previously stated, both teenagers and adults can suffer from acne-prone skin. However, where teenage acne is more common in young men, adult acne is more prevalent in women. Adult acne is also more cyclical than teenage acne, which tends to be erratic.

Adults with acne can also experience more shine on their face, enlarged pores, sensitivity, and dehydrated skin. Acne in adults is usually formed around the mouth, chin, and jawline.

Another major difference is that adult skin isn’t as naturally hydrated as teenage skin, meaning that our sebaceous glands will produce even more oil to help with hydration.

What else can affect acne?

Unfortunately, our fast-paced, busy lifestyles in pollution-riddled environments can have a major effect on our skin. How? Small dust particles can get past the skin’s protective barrier triggering an oxidation of sebum, which means more blackheads! There are also studies that link high stress levels to acne aggravation, since stress hormones can trigger our sebaceous glands into producing more oil.

But that’s not all… even sun exposure can further worsen acne! The sun’s drying effects have a rebound effect on skin, which means that the drier oily skin gets, the more oil our glands will try to produce in order to compensate for the loss of sebum and water.

Acne solutions and how to care for oily, acne-prone skin

It is important to remember that we should never pop zits, because this can worsen the situation. When we squeeze a pimple, we are literally bursting our skin, which can damage the hair follicle and further increase inflammation. We also risk spreading the infection to other parts of our face with our fingertips. Touching the face in general should be off-limits.

It is worth investing in a skincare routine that is formulated especially for oily, acne-prone skin. Usually, these will contain active ingredients, which promote healthy, clear skin, and further help eliminate blemishes. Skin should be cleansed every morning and evening, without using harsh products.

It is also imperative that we do not forget to use a good moisturiser. Remember, oily skin can get dehydrated, too. Look for products that are oil-free, and water-based solutions.


In the case of severe acne, we recommend scheduling an appointment with a dermatologist.

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