Skin Tip 101: Acne

Have you ever struggled with acne?  If you answered yes, then you know first hand how much it can zap your confidence and just make you feel uncomfortable in your own skin, no matter how old you are.  Those spots that  no amount of make up will camouflage or how long you grow your hair will let you hide behind it.  But what makes it worse is that everyone,and I mean everyone tells you it is just a phase and you’ll grow out of it.  Well hello 30’s and I’m still struggling with break outs, so no I did not grow out of it.  The only difference is I finally found a product that really worked for me.  No it’s not drugs prescribed by the doctor, it is definitely not some organic “natural” tincture that requires me to dance around under the moonlight each full moon and pick wild daisies.  Instead thanks to a friend and colleague I was introduced to a range of products specifically designed to treat the complete acne cycle, by two Stanford trained Dermatologists.  Yup full blow skin doctors.

Now let me put this out there for you, because the products worked so well for me, I mean I have real personal results, I became a consultant for this brand so that I could get the products at the cheapest possible price.  Because I don’t know about you, but if someone tells me there is a pretty simple way to get my every day necessities at a cheaper price and there are no draw backs then SIGN ME UP!!

So these two doctors, they are the doctors who created ProActive, you know the acne wonder product sold through infomercials back when we were teenagers?  That’s the one.  These doctors took all that info they’d learnt from building a worldwide super successful acne brand and then decided to do it again using new and improved research.
So these two doctors, they are the doctors who created ProActive, you know the acne wonder product sold through infomercials back when we were teenagers?  That’s the one.  These doctors took all that info they’d learnt from building a worldwide super successful acne brand and then decided to do it again using new and improved research.
You’re not interested because you tried your friends ProActive when you were at a sleepover and your face got worse?  I hear you!  That stuff did NOT work for me, at all.  In fact I used to run away from it.  Let’s just chalk it up to another failed attempt in my teens to try and get on top of my acne.
But this system, it really does seem to work for me and many other people I know.  Why?  How?
So I did some research of my own and this is what I found out.

There are 3 main topical acne-fighting ingredients:
benzoyl peroxide,
salicylic acid, and

Did you know that each does a different thing? Here’s a little summary to explain the differences.

Benzoyl Peroxide kills the bacteria that causes acne (the bacteria is called P. acnes, which stands for Propionibacterium acnes). It works by releasing oxygen into the pore, which kills the bacteria because it cannot live in the presence of oxygen.

You will see Benzoyl Peroxide products at up to a 10% concentration, but be careful if you use a product that contains more than a 2.5% concentration. It can irritate pores, causing inflammation – exactly what you don’t want to do if you have a breakout!! (An active breakout is a case of full blown inflammation.)

Sulfur also kills bacteria. Like Benzoyl Peroxide, it is an ingredient considered a drug (i.e. active ingredient) that is regulated by the FDA. Max concentration is 2% (for OTC).

Salicylic Acid exfoliates inside a pore, which loosens up a clog and allows sebum to flow out more freely. It does not kill bacteria but has an antibacterial effect (e.g. inhibits their growth).

Salicylic Acid comes in a range of concentrations, sometimes as low as 0.25%, and up to a maximum of 2%. Like Benzoyl Peroxide and Sulfur, it is also a regulated drug ingredient. This means the concentration should be stated on the label.

Willowbark is a gentle plant-derived alternative to Salicylic Acid but is weaker. This is the ingredient that appears in many natural/organic brands.

Which Ingredient Should You Use?
If you have acne, it is recommended to include at least two:
– Benzoyl Peroxide or Sulfur (to kill bacteria)
– Salicylic Acid (to unclog pores)
If you have blackheads but no breakouts, you need only one:
– Salicylic Acid (to unclog pores)

Why do we love Sulfur so much?
Sulfur is a naturally occurring amino rich mineral that can be found in high concentrations around hot springs and volcanic regions. This mineral is also present in our bodies. Our hair, skin and nails contain high concentrations of the ingredient since they contain keratin, which is rich in sulfur compounds. “Sulfur has both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, making it useful in skin care,” says Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City “It can help reduce levels of acne causing bacteria on the skin, which explains its effect in treating acne.”

What makes sulfur so special is that it combines the benefits of other major acne fighters like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid into one singular product. Benzoyl peroxide helps kill acne by inhibiting the growth of acne-causing bacteria and salicylic acid works by deep cleaning pores. Sulfur does both because it’s an effective antibacterial agent that also helps to slough off dead skin cells. This is all thanks to its keratolytic activity. This essentially means that when sebum and acne block your pores and the skin cannot properly shed the excess dead skin cells, sulfur helps by regulating that process through the breaking down of the keratin.

Plus, it’s a more gentle alternative to benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid so those with more sensitive skin will want to give it a try. “It’s non-irritating, making it useful even in people with extremely sensitive skin,” says Zeichner. “Sulfur can be combined with products that contain benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid for optimal results in treating acne.”

The Klog has a great article that highlights the benefits of sulfur, especially for sensitive skin people.

So why is this important to you as a person struggling with acne?

Because there are so so many “acne” products on the market how do you work out which one is right for you?  Because after all, everyone has skin, but no two persons skin is exactly the same.  So sadly a little bit of trial and error has to take place but now that you know the difference between the most common ingredients you can really compare products and work out which one is for you.

What do I use?

If you are at all curious what I use personally it is the UNBLEMISH Sulfur Facial Mask.  Now that I have been using the products for over a year and thanks to my lovely consultant discount I do do a little bit of mixing and matching.  By go to regimen each day is the REDEFINE regimen for general anti aging, but then if I am working out, sweating or it’s that time of the month I trade out step 1 of my regimen, the REDEFINE Kaolin Clay Mask, and replace it with the UNBLEMISH Sulfur wash (did I tell you its purple? It is, it goes on purple which always makes MrBrewVan and I giggle to each other as we stand in the bathroom with our purple faces brushing our teeth).  Then I follow this with the REDEFINE Pore Minimizing Toner, Then I follow it up with the ENHANCEMENTS Active Hydration Serum, and finally in the morning I apply the Triple Defense Moisturiser because it helps add moisture to my skin and has spf 30 so I don’t need to every worry about leaving the house without sunscreen ever again.  Or in the evening I use the REDEFINE Overnight Cream, it is so light weight and massages in quickly without leaving my skin feeling sticky or greasy.
Did you notice I mentioned adding extra products that add extra moisture?  Yup I did and I’m sure you think I’m crazy right now but there is a reason why.  Stay tuned for our next Post looking at oil control, moisturisers and hydration serums.