Best Serum For Acne Prone Skin
Are you still experiencing frequent breakouts well into adulthood? Not just a pimple or two every now and then, but inflamed, bumpy skin that seems to never fully go away? If so, you probably have what is known as acne prone skin. Stay tuned for more about this unique skin condition and how you can learn to manage it.
If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that having acne can be super annoying. It creates an insecurity that wasn’t there prior to its discovery, draws attention from our friends and family who just “have to pop it right now”, and it’s as if they show up as soon as it’s time to go somewhere nice or take pictures. As soon as blemishes appear, we make a beeline for acne treatment programs, DIY remedies from the internet, or give up and squeeze them between our fingers.
By the way, we would never advocate for popping pimples (never, EVER do it if you can help it), but there’s definitely something fascinating about it to many, while others find it absolutely disgusting. One clean method we do recommend is the use of face serums that cater to acne prone skin.
WHAT IS ACNE PRONE SKIN?
We’ll all experience acne at some point in our lives, but there is a difference between the occasional breakout and acne prone skin.
As you may have guessed, skin is considered acne prone when pop ups occur more easily and more often than normal. If you enjoy applying cosmetics, then you’re probably familiar with what a normal skin type is. Unlike acne prone skin, “normal skin” has a regular texture, no imperfections, and a soft, clean appearance. It is neither too dry nor too oily and, therefore, does not need special care when it comes to management.
That isn’t to say people who have a normal skin type never experience acne; it just means that skin can be classified according to several factors related to its balance.
Skin’s balance is determined by such factors as its sebaceous secretion, hydration, and sensitivity levels. Based on these characteristics, there are five identifiable healthy skin types: normal, dry, oily, combination (both dry and oily), and sensitive (for more about this skin type, take a look at our blog post on hypersensitive skin). Each skin type has its own characteristics and requires different forms of care. In contrast, acne prone skin is a skin condition that may point to internal issues, but more on that later. The main point here is that acne prone skin is constant over time and requires consistent treatment over a number of months or years to manage effectively.
WHAT IS ACNE?
In order to further understand what acne prone skin is, we must first understand what acne is, how it is caused, and how different people can experience different levels of acne.
The medical term for common acne is acne vulgaris, a long term, chronic skin condition. Common acne includes the presence of blackheads, whiteheads, and other types of pimples on the skin. You’ve likely seen acne spread in a number of different places on your body before, such as your face, back, neck, chest, and shoulders. This is because acne changes constantly in terms of severity and where it appears on the body.
(Nap In The Meadow Face Serum, Earthwise Beauty, $65)
Acne pimples are caused by clogged pores, and pores can become clogged from a variety of outside materials, such as dead skin, dirt, and excess oil. Earlier, we mentioned how “normal skin” is the most balanced because its sebaceous secretion, hydration, and sensitivity levels are all normal. You’ve probably heard that drinking lots of water, for example, can help immensely to keep skin hydrated from the outside. However, our bodies have a way of doing the same thing from the inside as well. They’re called our sebaceous glands, and they’re connected to our pores to secrete oils that naturally hydrate the skin. Sometimes, the oil secretion process can happen too quickly, causing these glands to produce too much oil. This oil can then become mixed with dead skin cells and debris, causing build up beneath the skin’s outer layer, a.k.a. clogged pores. This environment is a breeding ground for bacteria, which causes the redness and swelling we associate with breakouts.
Another common cause of acne is puberty. When puberty is reached, the skin begins to thicken and - you guessed it - the sebaceous glands produce more oil through the pores to keep skin healthy. Much of the same follows and the first of many pimples for most people is born. During this time, a dizzying amount of hormones flood the body as well, helping us grow and change from young ones into fully grown adults. While some seem to suffer from consistent inflammation, there are those who seem to never get puberty acne. This can be due to several factors like genetics, eating habits, environment, and overall health.
Speaking of hormonal acne, a third cause we associate with breakouts is the menstrual cycle. Also known as a period, the menstrual cycle begins about two to two and a half years after a girl’s first signs of puberty. There are several signs that indicate the start of the menstrual cycle, but why are clogged pores one of them? This is because estrogen and progesterone levels drop significantly just before periods begin, triggering the sebaceous glands to once again secrete additional sebum to lubricate the skin. These hormonal fluctuations may also be responsible for other recognizable premenstrual syndrome symptoms, like moodiness, increased stress, and sore breasts.
If left untreated, this continuously changing skin condition can leave lifelong wounds, both physical and psychological. When severe, acne can lead to serious and permanent acne scars, and several studies have concluded that long term acne can take a serious toll on one’s emotional health.
In addition, the area of the body where acne forms could serve as an early warning sign of life threatening situations like high blood pressure, digestive issues, and much more.
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THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ACNE
If you’ve ever looked in the mirror and seen a hard, black bump staring back at you, then you’ve likely already experienced having a blackhead. A blackhead is a comedo that is open at the surface of the skin. The black color comes from the irregular reflection of light coming from clogged hair follicles.
What is a comedo, you ask? Comedones, or basic acne lesions, are hair follicles that have become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. You might have heard of products that are comedogenic; this simply means the product has the ability to trigger comedones.
WHITEHEADSThe opposite of a black head is a whitehead, a comedo that remains closed at the skin’s surface. This happens when oil and skin cells prevent a clogged hair follicle from opening. Many of the same over-the-counter medicines that treat blackheads are also effective against whiteheads.
PAPULESPapules are also comedones, but are inflamed and form small red or pink bumps on the skin as well. Papules may also be sensitive to touch. The reason we say you should never pick or squeeze your pimples is because doing so can make inflamed bumps such as papules worse. It can even lead to scarring!
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PUSTULESAnother kind of inflamed comedone looks a lot like a whitehead, but is usually surrounded by a red ring as well. It is called a pustule. Another difference is that it is typically filled with white or yellow pus. Picking or squeezing pustules can also cause scars or dark spots to develop on the skin.
NODULESNodules are also inflamed, but these large lumps form underneath the skin instead. For this reason, over-the-counter treatments may not work on nodules. They are also firm to the touch and are often painful.
CYSTSSimilar to nodules, cysts are large and often painful. However, cysts tend to resemble boils more than any other type of acne. Always seek treatment from a dermatologist to treat both nodules and cysts as they fall on the more severe end of the acne category spectrum.
ACNE VS. PIMPLES
At this point, you might be wondering why pimples were not mentioned in our list of acne types. This is because pimples are usually a singular infected bump, while acne is the presence of several pus-filled breakouts spread across the skin. If you are experiencing frequent breakouts, you probably suffer from acne.
There are three categories or grades that acne can fall into - mild, moderate, and severe. We’ll go from least to most worrisome. Your acne levels can be considered mild if you have fewer than 20 whiteheads or blackheads, fewer than 15 papules or pustules, or fewer than 30 total cysts. It is possible for this category of acne to improve with the use of over-the-counter treatments, and up to eight weeks are required to see significant improvements.
MODERATE ACNEAlso known as pustular acne, your acne can be considered moderate if you’ve had 20 to 100 whiteheads or blackheads, 15 to 50 inflamed bumps, or 30 to 125 total lesions mostly on your face. A dermatologist will usually recommend prescription medication at this level and it may take several weeks to notice an improvement. Unfortunately, however, moderate acne may appear to get worse before getting better.
Finally, as you’ve probably already guessed, severe acne is the most worrisome of the three categories. Also known as nodulocystic acne, severe acne is when multiple inflamed cysts and nodules are present on the skin. They may turn red or a deep purple color, and they often leave scars behind. Prompt treatment by a dermatologist, such as corticosteroid injections directly into nodules and cysts, can reduce the size, painful inflammation, and scarring.
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ACNE PRONE SKIN VS. SENSITIVE SKIN
If you happen to have sensitive skin, you may have seen yours behaving much like someone who falls into either of these skin categories. This is because whether you have dry, oily, or acne prone skin, it can still be considered sensitive as well. Sensitive skin is also a skin condition, just like acne prone skin.
Acne prone, sensitive skin can be genetic or surface due to certain lifestyle choices. For example, if you spend a lot of time in the sun or live in a heavily polluted area, your pores may appear larger than normal and, therefore, become infected with bacteria more often. Having both of these skin conditions is no fun at all, but the key is to learn how to care for it.
HOW TO MANAGE ACNE PRONE SKIN
Here are a couple ways we recommend prioritizing the health of your skin if it is acne prone:
VISIT A DERMATOLOGISTFirst and foremost, before making any changes to what you put on or inside your body, it is always a good idea to seek the help of a licensed professional. A dermatologist specializes in conditions that affect the skin, hair, and nails, so visiting one can help you find out if your skin is indeed acne prone.
CHANGE YOUR BEDDING MORE OFTENOne simple way we might not think of to get rid of acne is changing our sheets regularly. Not only should you do it to keep your bedroom nice and clean, but dirt and oils from our day easily get trapped in sheets and pillowcases. When we move around in our sleep, friction is caused and predisposed skin can break out easily from those particles as a result. If you’ve had lingering acne lately, try washing your bedding more often and purchasing an extra set of pillowcases and sheets to alternate between.
CLEAN UP YOUR DIETYou probably saw this one coming from a mile away! Eating less artificial sugar, getting rid of greasy, processed foods, and drinking more water can all help treat a variety of complications, including acne.
(The Rosa Whole-Fruit Rosehip Oil by Earthwise Beauty, $18, may not technically be a serum, but it is non-greasy, which makes it great for any skin type and the best oil for acne prone skin!)
EXERCISEAnother popular way to take care of your health, and acne, is working out. Exercise increases blood flow, unclogs pores through sweating, and reduces stress, a major acne trigger. As soon as you get home from the gym, make sure to remove and wash dirty gym clothes, and take a shower as soon as possible to lessen your chances of body acne as well.
STAY AWAY FROM HARSH SCRUBSDid you know you can trigger acne just by scrubbing your face too hard, or using abrasive face scrubs? We know it can be tempting to reach for an exfoliant when pop ups arise, but we highly discourage this. Sensitive skin types are especially easy to irritate if a cleanser is too gritty, leaving it red or burning, so trust us - be kind to your skin.
SLOWLY INTRODUCE NEW PRODUCTSSensitive, blemish prone skin types can also become irritated when adding new items to the mix or using too many at once. This is due to new or conflicting ingredients. If you experience acne often, be careful switching to a routine with more than five steps, as the combination of too many products can actually be counterproductive, leaving the skin drier and susceptible to breakouts.
BEST ACNE SERUMS
(Josh Rosebrook’s Hydration Boost Concentrate is an oil free formula loaded with botanical hyaluronic acid + plant antioxidants to help fight off acne, plump skin, and much more! )
Clean face serums are the perfect product to introduce when you’re struggling with acne. The best acne serums for this skin condition are face serums with natural, acne fighting ingredients packed in. Acne serums of this type are usually lightweight and are an easy way to add a luxurious new section to your daily skin care routine. Below are just a few ingredients that occur naturally in nature and have powerful effects on those pesky pimples.
SALICYLIC ACIDSalicylic acid is a white solid beta hydroxy acid. It can be found in the bark of willow trees and several other plant species. In the body, salicylic acid has the ability to penetrate the hair follicle and oil gland, dissolve dead skin cells, oil and other acne causing bacteria, and lessen the amount of oil produced by the gland over time; in turn, these bacterial blockages will decrease in size and eventually disappear altogether from exposure to salicylic acid.
HYALURONIC ACIDThere are so many reasons hyaluronic acid continues to be a fan favorite. Not only can it help reduce redness and the appearance of acne, but hyaluronic acid can also fill in the gaps of a weak lipid barrier to provide protection for the skin, something acne prone skin desperately needs.
ROSEHIP OILSince this oil is an anti-inflammatory, it is especially good at reducing swelling and fluid buildup, clearing the skin, and even getting rid of acne scars! Even so, it’s still an oil so make sure not to use too much at one time.
Aloe vera leaf juice isn’t just good for drinking or healing burn wounds. Applying to a red, swollen pimple can help reduce pain and tenderness. As a natural anti-bacterial, acne serums that include aloe vera can also be used to kill acne causing bacteria and lighten acne scars.
So, should you be worried about having acne as an adult?
Despite what you might think, it’s not just teenagers who have acne-prone skin. Mild acne is common, can occur at any stage of life, and may continue well into one's thirties and forties. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, however, it may be a sign of acne prone skin or another underlying condition. We highly recommend seeing a dermatologist when symptoms persist or if you are thinking of trying any new acne product.
Acne can be a real source of frustration for those who have acne-prone skin after the teen years. We know it’s not easy, but there are things you can do to manage your acne-prone skin.