What is a problem skin?
For most people, blemished skin is a phase to get through, mainly during puberty – the clearest possible indicator of changing hormones. For some, though, spots, blemishes and out-of-balance skin persist for life, while others see it recur at particular times of hormone change, such as during pregnancy. Signs of impure skin include pimples, blackheads or white pustules, dilated pores and a shiny skin. It’s most commonly seen on the skin of the face, but the neck, shoulders, chest and back can also be affected.
All of the visible signs of problem skin develop because pores on the surface of the skin have become clogged, allowing sebum – the oil that keeps the skin supple – to build up in the sebaceous glands, along with dirt and dead skin cells. The back-up becomes visible as blackheads or white spots under the skin and when these, in turn, become infected by proliferating bacteria, pimples arise. Because this is usually accompanied by increased sebum production, we usually class problem skin and oily skin together.
What are the causes of a problem skin?
Blemished and oily skin is a direct result of increased sebum production, which is often hormonally determined. But other factors can also pre-dispose people to blemished skin:
1. Hormones, especially the male hormones (androgens), which occur in both women and men, stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum.
Female hormones (oestrogens and progestogens) counterbalance androgens, which is why boys have more problems with blemished skin than girls. It is not so much the amount of hormones that determines whether you get pimples, but the imbalance between the hormones and the increased sensitivity of the sebaceous glands. This also explains why puberty and pregnancy are flare-up times for problem skin.
The stress hormones testosterone and cortisol increase sebum production. Your skin is likely to get spottier when you're going through a stressful period.
3. Skincare products and make-up
When you use a cream that is too oily for your complexion, the pores of your skin become clogged. In addition, some products can irritate skin, so that oil production is disrupted. The use of makeup such as foundation or opaque powder can also clog up the pores.
4. Inadequate or careless cleansing
Getting your skin clean, especially if you wear makeup, is very important. When the skin is not cleaned properly, the pores become clogged.
Some medications, including anti-epileptic medicines, sedatives and cortisone creams can cause skin to break out or flare up.
What to do about a problem skin?
Blemished, oily skin and spots can be annoying, embarrassing and sometimes a real cause of insecurity. A flare-up or a big, noticeable spot is the last thing you want for a date or a job interview. When hormones are the cause, blemished skin is fortunately transient and will resolve itself if you treat your skin well. In any case, you can follow a few simple steps in skin care and lifestyle, which will do a lot to bring your skin back into balance:
1. Opt for mild, natural products
To counter increased sebum production, it is important to use mild products that don’t further irritate the skin or ‘overfeed’ it. Choose mild, fragrance-free skincare, with a light base containing only natural ingredients.
2. Make time for your daily cleansing ritual
Clean skin is crucial when caring for your face. Not everyone likes the time this takes, but it’s well worth setting aside the time for daily cleansing before applying your day or night cream. With blemished skin, use a mild cleanser applied with a cotton ball or just with your hands. Rinse off with lukewarm water and gently pat your face dry (hard rubbing stimulates sebum production). Eye make-up can be removed with a mild facial oil, again on a soft cottonwool ball.
3. Use a soothing lotion
A light, balancing lotion will soothe inflamed skin and bring the metabolism back into balance, regulating sebum formation. Use this lotion immediately after cleansing the skin and before applying day or night cream.
4. Do not squeeze
It may be tempting to squeeze spots or blackheads, but this can increase inflammation and cause unsightly scars, as well as encouraging the spread of spot-forming bacteria on the skin surface.
5. Be careful with makeup
Smothering spots and blackheads under a thick layer of make-up is not a good idea. This seals up the pores and may cause even more pimples. Use the right kind of make-up, preferably with natural products, and try to leave times when your skin is completely clean so that air and light can get to the pores.
6. Be careful with sun exposure
Although exposure to sunlight can seem to help pimples, this is usually only temporary. UV rays stimulate the production of sebum and, in the longer term, symptoms will worsen. Enjoy sunshine in moderation.
7. Nourish your skin from the inside
For a long time it was thought that something as simple as eating chocolate could cause an outbreak of spots. Nowadays we have a much more nuanced approach to the impact of diet on the skin, but we do know that a healthy diet contributes to a healthy complexion. For problem skin, it is especially important to make sure you take in enough vitamin A, found in salmon, carrots and spinach, vitamin C from fruit and tomatoes and vitamin E, plentiful in sweet potatoes, nuts and olive oil. Also important are the minerals zinc, in turkey, almonds and wheat germ, selenium, in wheat germ, oily fish and brown rice and omega-3 fatty acids from salmon, flax seed oil and sunflower seeds. Drink plenty of water – 1.5 to 2 litres per day – and where possible avoid dairy foods and sugars.
8. Give yourself plenty of rest and relaxation
Stress hormones can be a major trigger of pimples or a troubled complexion, which is why teenagers find their skin gets worse during exams. Adequate rest and relaxation are very important.
Weleda’s skin products include ranges specifically designed to help soothe and balance troubled skin. For an ideal facial routine, use Aknedoron Cleansing Lotion with natural essential oils, and Aknedoron Purifying Lotion to treat spotty areas. Once your skin has settled, maintain cleanliness with our One Step Cleanser and Toner – with moisture balancing iris root extract and mildly astringent witch-hazel. Moisturise with balancing Iris Hydrating Facial Lotion, and take advantage of iris’s unique ability to reconcile optimal moisture with calming action on over-active sebum.
Problem skin isn’t a life sentence, and you can do plenty to help it get back into balance. Allow nature to lend a hand through good diet, fresh air and 100% natural skin-care products.