If you thought acne was only a problem for teenagers then you may be a little surprised to be experiencing breakouts in your 20s and 30s. While your hormones play a role in acne, using the right skincare ingredients in your routine can help you banish acne for good!
In this article, we’ll explain what causes acne, what you need to do to get rid of it, and which skincare ingredients can help keep it at bay. Let’s get started:
What Causes Acne?When it comes to acne, there is no single cause. Instead, there are many overlapping factors that contribute to acne breakouts:
- Too much oil
- Slower cellular turnover (the rate your skin makes new skin cells and sheds them from the surface of your skin)
- Acne-causing bacteria (c.acnes)
When your skin's cellular turnover is slow, dead skin cells build up on the surface of your skin which clogs your pores and traps oil and bacteria inside.
Usually, c.acnes bacteria live on your skin and in your pores without causing too much of a problem. However, when trapped in an oil-rich environment, like your clogged pore, they begin to breed and multiply rapidly.
The increase in bacteria alerts your body to infection and triggers an immune response where specialist cells are sent to the site of the infection (causing inflammation) to kill the bacteria (causing pus).
There are two main types of acne:
- Non-inflammatory acne - ‘clogged pores’ visible as either small skin-colored (whiteheads) or dark-colored (blackheads) bumps on the skin.
- Inflammatory acne - when an immune response has been triggered, acne becomes inflammatory. For example:
- Papules - small red bumps with no visible pus
- Pustules - small red bumps with visible pus
- Nodules - deeper and larger than papules that can be red or purple in color, have no visible pus, and are often painful to touch.
- Cysts - deeper and larger than pustules that can be red or purple in color, have visible pus, and are usually painful to touch.
Some skincare ingredients work better for different types of acne, so it’s useful to know which type of acne you have.
Most skincare ingredients that banish acne do so in one or more of the following ways:
- Reducing oil production
- Increasing cellular turnover
- Preventing the growth of bacteria
- Reducing inflammation
The 3 Best Skincare Ingredients To Banish Acne
Retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A and include retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid (prescription only). They mainly treat acne by increasing cellular turnover and renewal so that your skin produces new skin cells and brings them to the surface of your skin quicker.
Research has also shown that retinoids are excellent at reducing inflammation and preventing acne scarring.
We recommend our Moonlight serum as it contains retinaldehyde (retinal) alongside soothing ingredients to give you prescription level benefits without the irritation.
Start by using Moonlight once or twice a week for the first few weeks and then increase gradually. If you’re concerned about sensitivity, check out our Stargaze serum which contains retinol (retinal’s slightly less potent cousin).
Retinoids are best used at night as that’s when your skin’s natural cellular renewal process is at its highest.
Acids are chemical exfoliants that work by breaking down the bonds that hold your dead skin cells together so that they can be shed from the surface of your skin.
There are two main types of acids; alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs).
Both work in similar ways but BHAs have the added bonus of being able to exfoliate within your pores and reduce oil production which makes them an essential ingredient for treating acne.
Acids are also helpful when it comes to balancing your skin’s pH level.
Your skin is at its happiest when it’s slightly acidic (pH 4.7 - 6.0) as harmful bacteria are kept under control and your normal flora (or good bacteria) flourish. By reducing the pH of your skin, acids can help prevent the growth of acne-causing bacteria.
We recommend our Super Smooth serum which contains AHAs (lactic, glycolic, tartaric) and BHA (salicylic). It’s also enhanced with a load of good-for-skin ingredients like aloe, resveratrol, and hyaluronic acid to minimize skin irritation.
Start by using Super Smooth 2-3 nights per week on freshly cleansed skin and follow up with a moisturizer to prevent dryness. If your skin feels fine after a month, you can use it once or twice a day. Always remember to apply sunscreen (at least SPF30) when using Super Smooth in the AM.
Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) is an excellent antioxidant that can help treat acne in multiple ways. It reduces oil production and inflammation, controls bacterial growth, and strengthens your skin's barrier.
Although a damaged skin barrier isn't a direct cause of acne, it’s linked to increased oil production and worse acne.
Some research even suggests that niacinamide is better at treating acne than topical antibiotics.
We recommend using our Nia 10 Calming serum which contains 10% Niacinamide alongside zinc, aloe vera, and vitamin E (which all have their own acne-fighting benefits) twice a day.
Niacinamide layers really well with other skincare ingredients, particularly retinoids and salicylic acid, as it helps to reduce irritation while enhancing the effect of the other ingredients.
You can also find niacinamide in our Moonlight serum but we recommend pairing the Moonlight serum and Nia10 calming serum together to get even better results!
Other Underrated But Awesome Ingredients
Azelaic acid is a naturally occuring acid found in wheat and barley. It’s antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and has a mild exfoliating effect that’s suitable for even the most sensitive of skin.
Zinc is an essential mineral that your body requires for many different biological functions. Research has shown that zinc can improve acne when it’s taken as a supplement or applied to your skin. It mainly works by preventing the growth of bacteria and reducing inflammation but it can also help other acne-fighting ingredients penetrate your skin.
As zinc pairs particularly well with niacinamide, we’ve included it in our Nia10 calming serum.
Resveratrol is an antioxidant that’s found in red wine, grapes, and berries. It is anti-inflammatory, can prevent the growth of acne-causing bacteria, and has been shown to improve acne in a small clinical study.
You can find resveratrol in our Super Smooth serum alongside AHAs and BHAs.
The aloe vera plant contains a number of beneficial substances, including vitamins A, C, and E, zinc, and amino acids. It’s been used for centuries to improve wound healing and helps to soothe irritated skin as it is antibacterial, hydrating, and anti-inflammatory.
When used alongside other ingredients, aloe has been shown to be as effective as a commonly used antibiotic cream at treating acne.
How To Add These Ingredients Into Your Skincare Routine
If you’re wondering how to add multiple acne-fighting ingredients into one routine, we’ve got you covered.
The ideal skincare routine should focus on protecting your skin in the AM and repairing it in the PM.
Niacinamide can be used twice a day. However, if you only want to use it once a day, it’s better suited to your AM routine as its antioxidant effects can help protect your skin from the sun.
You may have heard that you can't use niacinamide with acidic ingredients like vitamin C and acids as it can create nicotinic acid which can cause facial flushing and redness (niacin flush). However, this is not true.
Niacinamide is a very stable ingredient and it takes a high heat, a long time, and a very low pH for it to turn into nicotinic acid.
Another common misconception is that you can’t use acids alongside retinoids as they reduce each other's effectiveness. However, again, this is not the case. In fact, research has shown that they can be MORE effective when used together.
The biggest risk with combining retinoids and acids is that you may experience skin irritation but this will depend on the product's formulation as well as the condition of your skin.
Both our Super Smooth and Moonlight serums have been formulated with a whole bunch of soothing and hydrating ingredients to counteract irritation and allow them to be used alongside each other without much issue.
Plus, it makes them gentle enough to use every day!
However, if you have sensitive skin, we recommend using Moonlight on alternating days for the first month. Then you can use it nightly if your skin feels fine.
You can find Super Smooth, Moonlight, and Nia10 in our Acne Kit for 20% less than if you were to purchase all three products separately - building your acne-fighting skincare routine has never been easier!
We recommend applying the Super Smooth serum to dry skin after cleansing and then following with:
- The Nia10 Calming serum, a lightweight moisturizer, and sunscreen every morning
- The Moonlight serum and a gentle moisturizer every evening
Wrapping it up
To recap, acne has four main causes and your skincare routine needs to include ingredients to target these.
The 3 best ingredients to banish acne are:
- Retinoids - increase cellular turnover, reduce inflammation
- Acids - exfoliate dead skin cells, control bacteria, BHA reduces oil production
- Niacinamide - reduces inflammation, reduces oil production, calms redness, reduces bacteria, hydrates skin