A lot of what we are taught to treat and prevent breakouts completely contradicts what we do to combat aging. We went to the holy grail skin specialist, Dr. Barbara Sturm, to get her top-of-the-line expert opinion on this delicate balance.
One of the many sad facts Dr. Sturm keeps in her back pocket is that clinical studies show that 40%-55% of adults age 20-40 have low-grade, persistent acne and oily skin. And according to the American Academy of Dermatology, 54% of women older than age 25 have some facial acne. If it seems we don’t ever reach that magical age that acne becomes a thing of the past, it’s kind of true. Pollution, UVA/UVB rays, hormones, work-related stress, and food sensitivities are all acne instigators.
Dr. Sturm made it abundantly clear that not all acne is created equal, nor should we treat it that way. However, breakouts are a direct result of inflammation, whatever the root cause, “and then themselves trigger more inflammation. So inflammation triggers, which can include aggressive skincare ingredients, need to be eliminated.”
Look for Double-Duty Ingredients
So what do we use instead if not aggressive zit-zapping ingredients to well, zap our zits? Dr. Sturm tells us to look for Albatrellus ovinus extract, an excellent skin-soothing ingredient. “Hyaluronic acid is [also] an important ingredient to hydrate and boost skin barrier function, which in turn helps guard against skin penetration by pathogens and other impurities that can contribute to breakouts. Purslane is an antioxidative compound that works beautifully against inflammation.”
Cut Out Environmental Influences (The Ones You Can Control)
It’s true that some of us are unfairly, genetically more acne-prone than others, i.e. those of us with oily skin and larger pores. But Dr. Sturm says, “Environmental influences [can] also affect pore size, such as UV rays, nicotine, alcohol, and unhealthy diets.” Bearing this in mind, we have some control over our own exposure to these stressors, and can avoid them whenever possible.
Seek Professional Consult About Hormones and Food Sensitivities
“Age can also play a part, through phases of hormonal conversion (menopause in older women, for example),” says Dr. Sturm. “Late-onset acne in women is typically related to discontinuing hormonal contraceptives.” Let’s face it, that’s a lot of us. “If someone has acne-prone skin, I like them to get their blood checked for lactose intolerance, hormone levels, and allergies. They should also check all ingredients in their skincare routine and take out any products containing aggressive ingredients that are pro-inflammatory.”
Protect Your Skin Barrier at All Costs
Exfoliating is crucial to prevent dead skin buildup. However, Dr. Sturm warns, “Acne-prone skin is incredibly sensitive, and over-exfoliating can do more harm than good, drying the skin out so extensively that the skin will produce more oil to try and balance itself, resulting in more breakouts.” Even the oiliest skin doesn’t need any help from drying products like extreme exfoliators, harsh pH-disrupting cleansers, or spot treatments. “It’s a myth that acne-prone skin needs harsh drying. In fact it needs the opposite—hydration, nutrition, and a gentle soothing of inflammation triggers. Combining ingredients that target blemishes together with soothing and hydrating ingredients [like in her Clarifying line] is essential.”