Quick Reference Guide To Understanding Acne
by Jenna Kent
What Causes Acne
Acne is often an inherited condition of the pore and is onset by the following factors : hormones, retention hyperkeratosis and c. acnes bacteria (which was formerly known as p. acnes bacteria). Though there are many triggers for acne, retention hyperkeratosis is the real culprit here. A normal skin will shed 1 layer of skin per day within the pore, whereas an acne prone individual will shed up to 5 layers, which becomes (literally) a sticky situation when the body cannot keep up and the pore becomes clogged. This clog creates the perfect environment for anaerobic c. acnes bacteria to proliferate. The overactive pore becomes an acne lesion starting as a microcomedone and it evolves into a blackhead, whitehead, pustule, papule, cyst or nodule, depending on the circumstances.
This multifaceted, common condition affects a large number of individuals throughout puberty, and many throughout life. It cannot be cured, but it can absolutely be managed! There are many options for treatment and it can be overwhelming for the consumer, and sometimes the Aesthetician to choose the best course of action for the individual, as there are many factors and triggers that result in acne. It is common that consumers “try everything” and become so frustrated that they become almost desperate to try anything that will promise to remove the spots that anguish them. Dermatologists often prescribe systemic antibiotics, which have an 81% failure rate and even Isotretinoin with a failure rate between 15-30%, which is quite huge considering the side effects! This isn’t to say that these medications are not helpful for some, but they are most definitely not required to treat acne.
Because acne affects a large portion of the population, it is so important for skin care professionals to have a thorough understanding of its cause, triggers and how to effectively manage the condition. Using the appropriate products and making suggestions for dietary & lifestyle changes are all important aspects of the treatment program to allow the client to keep their condition controlled.
How Is Hormonal Acne Different Than Bacterial Acne
On this topic, the phrase “same, same, but different” speaks true as all acne has a hormonal aspect since the sebaceous activity of the pore is governed by hormones, and bacteria proliferate in a sebum rich and oxygen deficient environment of the microcomedone.
Although Androgens are widely known as a group of male hormones, they are present in all sexes. Testosterone is the Androgen hormone that is converted into Dihydrotestosterone by the enzyme 5 alpha reductase and puts sebum activity into overdrive in the pore. Hormonal fluctuations alongside the propensity for retention hyperkeratosis becomes a perfect recipe for breakouts.
Acne in adolescence is common for all, but typically levels off in men once they reach adulthood. Due to the ability to bear children, female adult acne is more common due to the many hormones that fluctuate throughout menstrual cylces, pregnancy & postpartum, as well as menopause. Although rare, strictly hormonal acne will typically present itself only in one area, usually the chin & jawline in the case women. There are very effective OTC natural remedies for balancing hormones but it is best to have your client advised and monitored by a physician who specializes in hormonal therapy such as an Endocrinologist, OBGYN or Naturopath.
For clients who are pregnant or lactating, it is important to treat the skin very gently and get all products and modalities “okayed” by their physician. Be prepared to provide product data sheets for their review.
In the case of acne that is not strictly hormonally driven, the skin will often respond very quickly to in clinic acne treatments and home care products alongside the appropriate dietary and lifestyle adjustments, including avoiding foods and ingredients that stimulate Androgens or inflammation.
What Foods Cause Acne?
It might be relieving to learn that foods do not, or very rarely do CAUSE acne. For those who are genetically prone to acne however, many foods can be problematic. Eating a nutritious diet and avoiding foods, beverages & supplements that can imbalance hormones or create inflammation is helpful in clearing acne.
Potentially Problematic Foods
Foods high in iodides
High Glycemic Foods
Always speak to your doctor about making major changes to your diet. Additionally, you can consider getting tested for any other foods that may be a trigger for you individually.
How To Treat Acne At Home?
Home care is the most important part in acne treatment and can be a confusing subject as there are many misleading marketing terms printed on skin care products and makeup. I have seen many products touting that they are “noncomedogenic” or “non pore clogging” with pore clogging ingredients in the deck. Remember that these are marketing terms and are not regulated by any organization to hold them accountable to their claims. Studying ingredients and researching the comedogenicity scale is essential to knowing what is safe for use on an acne prone skin. Don’t forget to check your hair care and makeup products too! This can seem overwhelming at first, but once you start investigating, you’ll become more fluent and hopefully excited to dig in.
Using the appropriate acne products is also important. Not all acne conditions and skin types are the same, and not every clients regimen will look the same either. When starting a client on a new active such as an Alpha Hydroxy Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide product, it is important to do a sensitivity test. Because many acne sufferers have tried products, and given up when they only saw irritation and no results, it is important to take a progressive approach when beginning active acne products.
You may choose to slowly progress from using a product once a day, every other day, to every day twice a day depending on the clients tolerance. Creating a timed schedule for the first couple of weeks is also an option. For example, you could begin using a BPO for timed increments and wash it off after the specified time has completed. Each day, you could increase the amount of time the product is left on to slowly acclimate the skin to the potentially irritating side effects that sometimes occur.
A thorough consultation will give you a clearer picture of which ingredients you would like to focus on in your clients acne treatment program.
Effective Acne Treating Ingredients and Their Main Functions
Mandelic Acid: Anti-fungal, Antibacterial & Brightening
Salicylic Acid: Oil Soluble, Anti-inflammitory and Antibacterial
Lactic Acid: Brightening, Smoothing, Enhances Hydration
Glycolic Acid: Fast Acting, Resurfacing
Azaleic Acid: Beneficial for Rosacea, Anti-fungal, Brightening
Vitamin A: Keeps pores clear long term and builds collagen
Benzoyl Peroxide: Ant-inflammitory and oxygenating, assists in killing anaerobic bacteria.
Sulfur: Anti-inflammatory and Kerotolytic
15 Tips For Treating Acne
We have the ultimate guide to treating acne at home at in the treatment room! Unique treatment options from mask to peels to oxygen chambers! Then we have a list of home care products for treating acne that cover everything from spot treatments, cleansers, masks and serums!
What Treatments Help Clear Up Acne?
Knowing that over-profliferation of keratin within the pore is a characteristic of acne tells us that professional exfoliating treatments are necessary, but we must do so with caution as acne can also be inflammatory. A slow approach to peeling the skin or even performing a gentle enzyme is a great way to treat an acne client. Regular extractions are also necessary since the microcomedones in the skin can be present well before they manifest into an acne lesion. Being ahead of the problem is the idea here! Additional modalities such as LED Light Therapy and Microcurrent are also effective since they are able to calm down inflammation, stimulate cellular ATP and assist in wound healing.
Acne can seem like an overwhelming subject but once you begin focusing on this specialty, you will learn how rewarding it is to help someone regain their self confidence. I know first hand how it feels to want to help others and clear your own skin so badly. Sometimes we just don’t know where to seek out the information and the continuing education, so I would like to share with you a few of my favorite acne focused resources.
Acne Rx, Dr. James E. Fulton
Physiology of the Skin, Peter T. Pugliese, M.D.
Advanced Professional Skin Care, Peter T. Pugliese, M.D.
Gymed Acne Management Manual
Guest Blogger – Jenna Kent
Jenna Kent is a Licensed Aesthetician, Licensed Aesthetician Instructor, Certified Holistic Health Coach and Acne Specialist, with 12 years in the industry and a lifetime of passion for corrective skin care. Winning second place internationally (first place nationally) in both Acne and Pigmentation Categories of The Skin Games 2019 has inspired her to share her journey with others.
Her career in skin care was inspired by her own struggle with acne and her desire to help people feel their best. Immediately upon graduating high school, she enrolled in the Esthiology program at The Aveda Institute Las Vegas where she learned holistic approaches to treating skin concerns. Since graduating and becoming a Licensed Aesthetician she has worked with different spas, including 8 years at the world famous Spa Bellagio Las Vegas.
Committed to investing in her education, she has continuously taken advanced education coursed, attended many seminars as well as training internationally, in France. She became a licensed Instructor at The Aveda Institute and was named Advanced Theory Educator. During this time, Jenna also became certified in Holistic Health Coaching.
She now integrates her background in holistic nutrition, ayurvedic wellness and clinical results oriented skin care to bring to life her very own practice Integrative Aesthetics where she enthusiastically works with her clients to achieve long term results for their healthiest skin ever.
In June of 2019, Jenna won 2nd place in the international skin competition The Skin Games inthe Acne Category.