A pimple is a pimple no matter if you’re male or female, 15 or 55, vegan or full-on omnivore. The root cause of pimples is the same: too much sebum (oil) production, layers of dead skin cells, plugged hair follicles and thriving bacteria.
So what triggers these breakouts? It’s often a mix of things. Hormonal imbalances and surges can start the chain of events by boosting oily sebum output. A less-than-clean face lets acne-causing bacteria grow (that’s where the Clarisonic Skin Cleansing System comes in!). And drugs containing corticosteroids, androgens and lithium are troublesome due to the hormones activated by their use.
“There is a very strong link between diet and acne,” says Mariana Friedman, nutritional consultant in Los Gatos. Foods to look out for: “Things with high glycemic levels like white bread, sugary drinks and highly processed food as well as cow’s milk products, high in androgen hormones and added growth hormones.”
Some skin care practices do more harm than good. Teens often attack acne aggressively by washing several times a day with strong, overly drying products. The skin compensates by actually producing more oil, Mariana explains. It’s better to wash just once or twice a day with a gentle cleanser, then tone and moisturize, and spot treat as needed. Touching is also taboo, Mariana says, so keep your hands off your face. And, of course, keep cell phones clean and don’t pick at pimples.
For adults, avoid products targeted for teens that are too drying to combination or mature skin. Instead, cleanse with gentle, hypoallergenic, fragrance-free products. Hair care products can contribute to the problem too. A condition called “pomade acne” (seriously, it’s a thing!) occurs when heavy mineral oils and petroleum byproducts in hair styling products clog pores. Shampoo ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate and ammonium lauryl sulfate have been proven to aggravate acne too.
Prevention is the best first line of defense. A diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, particularly raw veggies, and low-fat, non-processed foods benefit your whole body—skin included. Vitamin supplements can be useful too. Vitamin A helps reduce sebum production, while zinc and selenium combine to reduce inflammation. Flaxseed oil, due to its high omega-3 content, helps thin pore-clogging sebum. Many people also report success with brewer’s yeast, high in chromium and selenium.
Topical treatments can also be very effective. Nicole Hugel, esthetician at our Napa store, and Mariana guide us through customers’ (and personal) favorites.
Juice Beauty’s Blemish Clearing Cleanser is very popular with teens.Organic lemon, cherry and aloe juices, along with botanical extracts of dandelion leaf, lemon balm and sage leaf purify, detoxify and cleanse.
Sanitas’ Glycolic Citrus Cleanser is a favorite of acne-prone adults who prefer natural alpha hydroxy acids that stimulate and gently exfoliate the skin, helping with acne and providing anti-aging benefits.
MyChelle’s Fruit Enzyme Toning Mist with pineapple stempowder is an excellent toner that balances, moisturizes, gently exfoliates and provides anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Astara’s Blue Flame Oil Free Moisturizer uses totara tree essence to purify clogged pores, reduce oily shine and lightly moisturize.
Alba Botanica’s Acnedote Invisible Treatment Gel gets rave reviews. With 2% salicylic acid, arnica and aloe, it’s a very effective spot treatment, especially for teens.
Primavera’s Anti-Blemish Treatment balances, calms and reduces oil with natural botanicals like sage, grape seed, licorice and willow bark.
Pharmaca’s Tea Tree Oil has anti-bacterial properties that make it a great spot treatment. Mix with a few drops with a carrier oil (try Grapeseed) before applying to skin.
evanhealy’s Green Tea Clay Mask, used weekly, is a super skin detoxifier that draws pimples and blackheads to the surface, neutralizes bacteria, minimizes the appearance of pores and absorbs excess oil.
Talk to Pharmaca’s practitioners about the best ways to address your skin’s specific needs.