The Regimen

The Acne Clinic Is In Session: Where Do Pimples Come From?

The Acne Clinic Is In Session: Where Pimples Come From?


When skin cells and sebum love each other very much, they may form a bond deep in the hair follicle, instead of shedding away as nature intended. This creates a plug, which clogs the pore. As more oil gets produced, it remains trapped in the follicle creating a breeding and feeding ground for bacteria. The growing bacteria irritate the follicle and oil gland, which then triggers redness and swelling. Thus, a pimple is born.


As you can imagine, this gestation process doesn’t happen overnight. It takes about thirty days for a pimple to form. So when you change something in your routine and then experience a breakout a few days later, it’s not the change that brought it on. That breakout has been brewing for weeks.


What else contributes to your skin’s pimple population?

Slacking on your skin care routine: Nothing is more important than keeping skin free of oil, debris and dead skin. Adopt a solid skin care regimen and stick to it. Cleanse twice a day. Keep micro-exfoliation ongoing with the use of retinoids, alpha-hydroxy acids, and some physical exfoliation like a cleansing scrub, or a buffing pad. Use a toner to keep pores refined and help skin absorb additional corrective products.


Over treating your skin: While exfoliation is extremely important (see number one), doing it too frequently or with too much vigor can cause inflammation, which will slow down healing. Like in life, the key is knowing the difference between being subtly abrasive and outright caustic.


Comedogenic ingredients: Watch what you’re putting on your skin. Moisturizers, foundation, and sunscreen can have pore-clogging ingredients. Check the ingredient labels and avoid things like isopropyl myristate, lanolin, laureth-4, and yes, coconut oil. Sorry to break it to you, but it’s highly comedogenic. Here’s a more complete list of ingredients to watch for.


Getting too wound up: Stress causes your body to produce more hormones like cortisol that can trigger oil production. When sebum goes into overdrive, it’s far more likely to trap skin cells and debris that clog pores and produce bacteria. Anything you can do to avoid or reduce stress will help keep your skin looking clearer.


You’re low on zinc: Zinc is a trace mineral that plays an essential role in skin health. It helps regulate cell production and turnover, boosts immune function, combats inflammation, may decrease oil production, and is integral in ferrying vitamin A to your skin. Studies show that acne and zinc deficiency often go hand-in-hand, so make sure you’re getting enough zinc in your diet. Between 15 and 30 milligrams of zinc per day is ideal. Good sources are beef, chicken, nuts, beans, whole grains, spinach, avocados and dairy products. Vegans and vegetarians, take note: While beans and grains are good sources of zinc, they contain less than meat sources they contain phytic acid, which binds to minerals in the gut and disrupts absorption. You may want to consider taking a supplement. You can get more info on phytates and mineral absorption here.


A pimple may stick around for just a few days or up to a month depending on the severity of the blemish and your skin’s own inflammatory response. You can speed up the process with a little cold therapy. Rub ice over the blemish for two to three minutes up to three times a day to reduce inflammation and prep skin for better penetration of corrective products. Products with salicylic acid, mandelic acid, sulfur, lactic acid, or benzoyl peroxide will also help to kill bacteria, reduce inflammation and speed pimples on their way.


Visit the acne section of our website to build your perfect acne toolkit and go from problem to polished skin.

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