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Question: How can I prevent acne breakouts?

Answer: It can be very frustrating to breakout even when you take great care of your skin. There are many different reasons breakouts occur and so many products available that it can be confusing to figure out what will really work. Hormonal acne is one of the most common types of acne women experience — and can also be the most challenging to prevent and treat.

In the holistic model of skincare, we look at different areas of the face and that tells us a story of what might be causing the acne. For instance, the peri-oral area – around the mouth and chin – is known as the hormone zone and it’s common to break out there pre-menstrually because of hormonal fluctuations. This type of acne usually presents itself as a cystic style pimple under the surface.

The products that are going to help the most

The best way to treat hormonal acne is increasing exfoliation with an Alpha Hydroxy Acid toner, or  low strength mandelic or salicylic peels 7 to 10 days before you normally get your period, or at the first sign of a breakout, to nip it in the bud. These types of Hydroxy Acids are lipophilic and disperse excess oil and are antibacterial. I don’t recommend using an entire acne skincare line on your face if you notice you are only getting random hormonal breakouts. You don’t want to dry out/dehydrate your face because when the skin gets dry, our lipid barrier is disrupted and bacteria can thrive in that environment which will lead to more breakouts. You can just treat the “hormone or effected zone” with an ointment or a pre-treated pad as you would medicine on the breakouts only. These types of treatments should be applied on clean, dry skin before using serum and moisturizer. Ingredients to look for to treat acne are salicylic, mandelic and tartaric acids which comes from grapes. Tartaric acid will help the skin heal since there can be a  scar or hyperpigmented area left over as the acne disappears. A vitamin C serum can also help the acne marks go away sooner since it has brightening and healing components.

Sometimes with cystic acne or hormonal acne, the cysts will shrink up and go away quickly if you apply the topical treatments. It’s best not to pick these or squeeze them since they are internal and that can cause scarring since the pimple will rupture internally with pressure (and it’ll take much longer to go away).

Benzoyl Peroxide is a common ingredient used as a spot treatment or an ingredient in cleansers, but it can be irritating for some people and it’s an ingredient that many are allergic to. I’ve been very unlucky with this ingredient since I’m allergic to it. I forgot my facial cleanser on a beach vacation once – imagine that; an Esthetician with no cleanser! So anyway, I used my girlfriends cleanser which was in a travel size. I didn’t know it had benzoyl peroxide in it until I woke up with my eyes almost swollen shut the next day and an itchy, red rash-ridden face. Good times!

If you tend to get cystic acne or pustules, then I don’t recommend using a Clarisonic or any kind of mechanical brush on the active acne. It can be irritating to brush over the inflamed areas and can break them open – which can cause your acne to spread and inflame. If you’re acne prone, it’s so important to use an antibacterial cleanser with your Clarisonic or any type of brushing mechanism. Use your fingertips and/or clean cotton pads to cleanse.

Step away from the facial scrubs!

I don’t recommend facial scrubs for daily use, especially if you have sensitive skin or if you’re oily and acne prone – 2 main reasons:

1. The granular scrubs that are massaged into the pores actually make your pores bigger over time.

2. Using a scrub can cause little microscopic cracks in the skin with can be places where bacteria can thrive  – leading to more breakouts. If you want to keep your skins barrier healthy, light peels will exfoliate better and kill bacteria as well. Think of light peels as “passive” exfoliants that can be very gentle and safe.

Don’t forget to maintain a healthy diet

Remember to drink lots of water with fresh lemon. My favorite healthy drink is rooibos tea which has plenty of vitamins and minerals and no caffeine. It will give you a glow and it’s known as the “skin tea”. Diet can play a huge part in acne and it’s best to eat a healthy diet low in sugar and animal fat. The inflammatory response of a high sugar and fat diet triggers hormonal changes that make us break out and also get wrinkles sooner, due to glycation.

What are some of your best skincare tricks?