Causes of acne: How to beat spotty skin – including the foods you should avoid

TikTok user reveals which CeraVe products cleared her acne

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Acne is one of the most common skin conditions in the UK. While there isn’t a ‘cure’ for acne, there are plenty of treatments that can ease your symptoms. However, it’s important not to believe the myths you’re sold by society and some brands, as covering your skin in harsh products could make the situation worse. Here’s what you really need to do to ward off and treat existing acne, according to aesthetic practitioner Natali Kelly (@natalikellyldn on Instagram)

Even though acne is one of the most widespread skin conditions, it is also one of the most poorly understood.

Whatever you think you know about acne, scratch that and start again.

If you’re experiencing acne as an adult, it’s important to look at what type of acne you’re experiencing and assess your lifestyle and habits to figure out the root cause.

In general, acne occurs when hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells, leading to whiteheads, blackheads or pimples, but a range of things can set this process off.

Certain medication, diet and stress are the most common causes of adult acne, Natali said.

In contrast, teenage acne normally starts when hormones become active during puberty, and the oil glands are stimulated to produce excess oil.

Hormonal changes, particularly in women, can also lead to adult acne. Or, acne could be a sign of endocrine disorders such as polycystic ovary disease, Cushing syndrome, androgen-secreting tumours. 

Not all acne is the same. In general, you can consider your spots ‘acne’ when they are “stubborn, visible and not reducing with regular over the counter products or treatments”.

However, there are different types of acne and they all look and feel different. The main four types of acne are:

  • Cystic Nodules (deep and large painful lumps that often cause permanent acne scars)
  • Pustules (pus-filled pimples with yellowish liquid)
  • Papules (small red bumps that feel hard)
  • Blackheads and whiteheads (clogged pores showing tiny bumps with a white or blackhead)

How to treat acne

In the UK, doctors often fail to treat acne until it is severe and scarring has already developed.

British Skin Foundation found that nearly 20 percent of acne patients have ended a relationship because of it.

Natali recommended looking at what you’re consuming, using medical-grade skincare and getting regular treatments to treat the condition.

She said: “Medical-grade products such as ZO skin health can significantly reduce acne.

“Ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide (to kill the bacteria), salicylic acid (to control the oil), glycolic acid (to remove the build-up of dead skin cells), and retinol (to help speed up the skin cell turnover and shrink the sebaceous glands) will set you up for success.”

Alongside arming yourself with a powerful skincare routine, you should consider getting medical-grade treatments.

Natali said: “Try getting a hydrafacial once a week for a course of four or six facials, laser facials, blue light therapy and chemical peels.”

In the day to day, make sure you’re not “picking or touching the affected area” and always remove your makeup before bed.

If you can, clean your pillowcases daily to ensure you’re not sleeping on a sheet of bacteria, germs and oil.

You might have heard that diet cannot cause acne, but that’s not necessarily true.

Natali said: “Your diet and lifestyle may play a role in exacerbating breakouts.

“Switch to an anti-inflammatory, clean and balanced diet.

“Prioritise cutting out sugary foods or drinks, dairy and greasy foods, and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water (around two to three litres a day) to flush toxins.”

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