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Health and Beauty Articles

How to prevent and treat spots and acne

I’ll never forget someone saying to me once, “Who’s your friend?”  After looking behind my back and to the side of me like a total idiot it dawned on me - they were referring to my spot! I’d never been so horrified. Needless to say that person was knocked off my Christmas card list that year.

Spots, zits, pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, cysts, pustules, papules – call them what you like – are unsightly, irritating, painful and disruptive to self confidence. How to treat them can be difficult but simple once you understand what is causing them and what you can do to prevent them!

What is a spot?

Spots are basically excess sebum (oil) trapped in the pores of the skin. And why do we get excess sebum in our skins? Because when our hormones surge our bodies produce more sebum.

Sebum is apparent in our sebaceous glands which themselves are present all over the skin as they are part of the hair follicle. The sebum is in the skin to keep it soft and supple but when too much is produced toxic chemicals can clog the pores causing the skin to turn red i.e. turn the skin spotty! The bacteria continues to grow in the blocked pore where eventually the spot bursts and the trapped sebum and bacteria are ejected onto the skins surface – often spreading the infection to the surrounding area.

Knowing the differences in the terminology:

Pimples, pustules, papules or spots: Small-large skin swellings red in colour that sometimes can contain pus.

Blackheads: Dark formations on the skin due to an accumulated mixture of oil and cells in a blocked skin pore.

Whiteheads: Small white/flesh coloured bumps (commonly found around the eyes) due to pore blockages.

What is acne?

Acne, also known as Acne Vulgaris is a combination of blackheads, whiteheads, pustules and papules – and is effectively an active bacterial infection that spreads over a significant area of the face, neck, chest, shoulders or back. These areas are the most susceptible to acne break-outs as they contain the largest numbers of oil glands; for example there is an estimated 2,000 oil glands per square inch on the forehead alone!

Acne Rosacea: This is a chronic type of acne that involves inflammation of the cheeks, nose, chin, forehead and/or eyelids. The skin may have a lot of redness, swelling, skin eruptions or prominent spider-like blood vessels. Unfortunately an immediate cure hasn’t been found for this type of acne as it is a skin condition that is triggered by certain lifestyle factors e.g. sun exposure, wind, hot baths, exercise, stress, alcohol, hot drinks, spicy foods and even blushing.

Anti-biotics applied topically or orally can help control the condition. For severe cases isoretional or Accutane can be prescribed by your doctor.

Teenage acne and spots

Spots and acne are so common in teenagers due to the high level of hormones that they produce. It generally begins between the ages of ten and thirteen. Acne and spots respond well to treatment at the on-set of infection – so catch it quick!

Adult acne and spots

Adult acne can affect up to 50% of women and 25% of men in their lives – it is growing increasingly common. Causes of this acne can be cosmetics, stress, an increase of resistant bacteria and ultimately hormones, namely premenstrual flare ups. The treatment for adult acne is very much the same for teenage acne, however a more thorough skin care routine is recommended to preserve the skin and ensure it is hydrated to avoid premature ageing.

For teenagers: Start a good skin care routine using oil-reducing face washes such as Clearasil or Witch.

For adults: Maintain a good skin care routine by cleansing and moisturising twice daily, using a scrub and mask once a week - it is thoroughly recommended to invest in good skincare products as cheap brands such as simple won’t do your skin any favours!

Try not to ‘hop’ between different products – find a brand that works for you and stick with their full line of cleansing system as contrasting ingredients can cause breakouts in the skin.

Make sure every inch of make-up (including eye make up!) is removed before going to bed

Monthly facials will ensure the skin is having a regular deep cleanse as well as a boost of nutrient-rich products.

Avoid wearing heavy make-up and fake tan everyday as this assists in clogging the pores.

Do NOT squeeze your spots! Squeezing spots will spread the infection under the skin and make scarring possible.

Try to avoid greasy foods such as chips, Chinese and crisps.

Drink as much water as possible, preferably 2 litres!

Get into a good sleeping pattern – 8 hours a night is ideal.

Try to avoid sleeping on one side of your face every night as that side of the face will be more likely to have a break-out due to suffocated pores

If all else fails acne/spots can be managed well by over-the-counter creams with ingredients Benzoyl peroxide/Resorcinol/Salicylic acid and Sulfur.

In worst case scenarios (i.e. Prolonged Severe Acne) the medicine Accutane has proven the most effective acne treatment but it has many side effects and has to be prescribed by your local doctor.

Spots/acne on the back

Spots on the back can be a lot more difficult to treat than any other area of the body – largely due to the fact you can’t reach a third of it! And sebaceous glands on the back tend to be a lot larger than on the face, thus produce more oil – making typical treatments very challenging to tackle. It’s most common in men as they produce more oil than women in general, but this affects so many people that women are not exempt.

Acne on the back is different to that of the face as it is largely to do with irritation. Anything that repeatedly rubs against the skin such as tight fitting clothing, weight lifting machines, rough massages and backpacks can irritate the back to make it more prone to back acne. Sweating is a breeding ground for bacteria on the back as well.

Try to wear breathable cotton clothing as much as possible

Be aware of anything you think is irritating your back and change your routine where appropriate

Take a spare towel if you’re going to be on the move and unable to get to a shower to rub off any excess sweat

Ensure you wash your back thoroughly in the shower on a daily basis with an anti-bacterial shower gel– a large scrubbing brush is ideal to reach right up to the top of the back

Benzonyl peroxide and alpha hydroxyl can be bought over the counter and applied daily to treat the area

Follow these guidelines and you’ll notice a huge difference in your skin after a few days. And managing your spots and cleansing routine from your teenage years will set you up for a lifetime of crystal clear, glowing skin – guaranteed!


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