Skin 101: Causes and Types of Breakouts

We would all rather live without it, but the odd breakout is totally normal. Acne comes in a few different shapes and sizes and also can be caused in different ways. Below is our breakdown on breakouts:

What is Acne? 
Acne is when the hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells. All acne starts off with a trapped pore.

There are 6 different types of acne and it is common to have more than one type of acne at a time.

1.    Blackheads (open comedones) 
Blackheads form as a result of oil and dead skin clogging pores and oxidizing. Oxidizing means that it has been exposed to air which turns them black. Blackheads are a common and mild form of acne. 

2.    Whiteheads (closed comedones) 
True to its name, whiteheads are round pimples with white tops. Unlike blackheads, whiteheads are closed at the surface of the skin as they do not come into contact with air and oxidize.
Inflammatory Acne

3.    Papules 
Papules are collections of small raised red spots which don’t form a head. Compared to blackheads and whiteheads, papules are more of an inflammatory type of acne.  

4.    Pustules 
When a papule accumulates pus/fluid it becomes a pustule. A pustule is similar to a whitehead except the pore is extremely clogged, begins to swell and is also red and inflamed.

Nodulocystic Acne
5.    Cysts
On the surface, cysts can look like boils. They are large, sit deep within the skin and are filled with pus that has nowhere to go. Cysts are softer than nodules.  

6.    Nodules
Nodule growths are also large, they remain intact deep under the skin and feel like hard knots. They are stubborn and can last weeks or months. While inflamed and painful, the surface is often skin colored. 

What causes acne? 
Acne is not only for teenagers! It can develop at any stage of our lives, for various reasons. Often it is a combination of factors that contribute to acne flare ups. Some common acne triggers include: 

6 common causes of acne include: 

Our skin has many kinds of bacteria living on it, making up our natural skin flora. Sometimes when there is an imbalance in the skin, the bacteria can cause blemishes 

Dead Skin Build Up 
The outer layer of our skin is made of many layers of dead skin cells that serve as protection for the underlying skin. When these cells build up they can block pores leading to blemishes forming.  

Loss of Skin Homeostasis
Homeostasis in the skin means it is healthy and balanced. When there is an imbalance in the skin it can lead to different skin conditions, including acne. 

Our internal health can impact the appearance and health of our skin. This is why it is important to understand how lifestyle choices can make our skin clearer and healthy.  Poor sleep and fatigue can lead to an increase in a hormone called cortisol – also know as the ‘stress’ hormone. Cortisol can cause the sebaceous gland to increase production of sebum which can lead to acne flare-ups.  

Day-to-day things you can do to influence your skin health:

  • Clean your phone daily. We touch the environment, then touch our phone and then put the phone to our face, potentially spreading bacteria.
  • Clean makeup brushes regularly and don’t share them with friends. The bristles on brushes have a combined surface area that is very large, meaning that they can hold a lot of potentially infectious bacteria.
  • Clothing/Fabric in contact with your face, Workout gear, especially gear that sits on your face, (such as masks) should be clean. This might mean needing to wipe down the inside of helmets or having extra gear if you don’t have time to wash it.
  • Wash your face before and after working out. This will prevent makeup and dirt from entering pores when you are exercising and will remove sweat and debris afterwards.
  • Pillow slips should be changed weekly as the oils from our hair and skin will create an environment for bacterial growth.
  • Make up Free, Give your skin a break from makeup. Even if it is only on the weekend or one day a week.
  • Clean Face Cloths. Each time you wash your face use a fresh face cloth. This might mean buying a stack of face cloths so that you have a new one for each time you wash your face during the week. This will help decrease the re-spreading of bacteria on the skin.
  • Do not pick or squeeze scabs or pustules. This will spread bacteria and cause scarring. Try using a chemical exfoliator instead or put a warm face cloth on the skin.
  • Do not allow your skin to become dry and do not sunbathe. Both of these will cause the sebaceous gland to grow and lead to increased sebum production and acne breakouts.

There are many different opinions on the best diet to help acne. 

  • Generally, a diet that is good for the heart is good for supporting healthy skin.
  • Foods rich in antioxidants, whole grains, clean proteins, vegetables and fruits are great for the health of the body and the skin.
  • Highly processed foods and sugary foods have been implicated in being bad for the skin.
  • Omega 3s are really good for the skin
  • Diets rich in Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for sensitive, irritated or acne prone skin.
  • Omega-3 decreases inflammation, has antibacterial properties and helps regulate hormones.
  • Omega-3 can be found in foods like oily fish, seaweeds and algae.

Hormones can play a large role in acne development. Many acne flare-ups occur at the most hormonally active times in our lives like puberty and pregnancy, periods, and post oral contraceptive pill.
The increase of hormones at different times of our life is natural and normal. It is important to note that while we can help regulate hormones, we can’t fix them.

Hormones that affect acne in particular include: 

  • Androgens - known as “male sex hormone”, both males and females produce this hormone, which leads to an increase in size of the sebaceous gland.  Cortisol hormone has the same effect;
  • Cortisol - as mentioned under Lifestyle causes - Poor sleep and fatigue can lead to an increase in a hormone called Cortisol. This ‘stress’ hormone can cause the sebaceous gland to increase production of sebum which can lead to acne flare-ups. 

Other acne causing factors can include: certain medications, using oily products, non-comedogenic make up and certain shampoos, not washing your face regularly (congested skin) as well as genetic factors! 

Acne can be persistent, but our Blemish Bootcamp and skin conditioning treatments have been formulated to help you control and manage it as much as possible.