It happens to all of us: we wake up one morning, look in the mirror, and there is a huge, angry bump on our chin. Ugh! Acne, right? Well, not so fast. There’s actually a difference between acne vs. breakouts. It’s helpful to know the difference and the correct way to treat them!
Acne is a word we use all the time to describe a breakout, but acne is really a medical condition or disorder. Breakouts are one of the symptoms of acne. A breakout happens when oil (officially known as sebum) gets trapped in a hair follicle, or pore. The oil clog can cause dead skin to build up, trapping debris and bacteria. The skin tries to protect itself and forms a protective bubble around the irritant – what we often call a pimple. Messing with these bumps, either by squeezing or scratching, causes the bacteria to spread to the rest of our skin, causing problems (and breakouts) to multiply.
While breakouts are a symptom of acne, not all breakouts are acne related. Sudden breakouts can be caused by a multitude of things such as hormones, stress, or the environment. Typically a hormonal breakout is an isolated event, with just an isolated blemish. But if there is an eruption covering the face, it’s usually due to something called barrier depletion. We’ll talk more about this in a moment.
If oil is causing problems, we should just get rid of it, right? That is what many of us think to do when struggling with acne or breakouts. We aggressively wash our face with harsh cleansers, use products that dry up our skin and do everything we can to keep sebum away.
But sebum is vital to our skin’s health! It makes up part of the acid mantle, a protective barrier that keeps out bacteria and environmental bad guys. Remember when we mentioned barrier depletion? The acid mantle is your skin’s defensive wall. It keeps the bad stuff out and the good stuff (like moisture!) inside. When that protective barrier is depleted, your skin is red, dry, and sometimes flaky. Your skin may even feel tight, and physically hurt. As this cycle continues, the more likely you are to end up with skin lesions and open wounds that are not even acne related.
So how do we treat acne and breakouts? While everyone’s skin is different, we can recommend a few clear strategies.
2. Use a gentle cleanser – we want to restore skin, not strip away its protective barrier. Only a small number of people actually need gel or foaming cleansers, but over-the-counter brands tend to tout these products as a one size fits all cure. It simply isn’t true.
3. Use acid mantle replacements in your daily and nightly skincare routine. Replacing your skins natural barrier is the key to optimal skin health and a clear complexion.
4. Add a high quality EFA supplement to your daily (and nightly) vitamin intake. We recommend avoiding fish-oil based EFAs and opting for higher quality ingredients, like primrose or sea buckthorn oil. Taking a high quality essential fatty acid supplement will liquify your sebum, so that it may evenly cover your face and help form that natural protective barrier your skin needs. If your sebum is able to exit the pore, the less likely you are to experience symptoms of acne and breakouts.
5. Use products that don’t just target acne and breakouts, but nourish the skin back to optimal health. You need high-quality, well-researched skincare products that work together. We can help!
6. Avoid AHA and other exfoliating products that require daily use. While AHAs draw moisture to the surface, overusing these products can cause them to have the opposite effect on your skin. You need inner, and outer, moisture.
If you are struggling with acne, breakouts, or barrier depletion- we can help. Take the online consultation tool featured on our website to see how we can help you toward your goal of beautiful, healthy skin.
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