I recently had a ‘cry for help’ tweet after my Wednesday night Alison Young’s Beauty Night In (#AYBNI) for persistently very spotty, problematic skin from someone in their 20’s, which has sparked me to write this to try and give you my overall knowledge of how to best approach this problem, to lead to a solution.
In consultation as a therapist and with my 30 years of qualified experience, I have gained insight into the triggers that can cause extreme spots and also the different families of ingredients that can and sometimes don’t work, and why.
Firstly, what causes the spots? Most commonly is hormones during puberty, pregnancy and menopause but it can also be a symptom of hormone changes such as polycystic ovaries or a side effect of the contraception pill, so if this is the case and your skin has got unmanageable then it is worth mentioning to the doctor as a symptom that you are concerned about. On the contraceptive pill, it may be as simple as switching to another one, under medical advice.
Spotty skin can also be caused by excess stress and it’s important to understand that this is a medical condition, and stress chemically affects the body and that your hormones are your chemical messengers that are originally derived from the brain. Hence your oil gland, which causes the spots, is controlled by hormones.
You may have spot breakouts due to exposure to harsh and unbalancing products. For example, if you over-strip and dry your skin out, your oil gland will produce more oil to try and balance the skin out, so sometimes strong and harsh products are not the way to go. You can also have spots due to sensitivity. Often these might show only on one side of the face for example, or in a funny position like on the hairline and the jaw line. This means you need to change your hair products.
When choosing a product regime for spotty skin, I wanted to share my thoughts of the different families of ingredients and explain how to best get the results:
Firstly, its important to note a result on this type of skin takes time, especially if you are female because your hormone cycle on a monthly basis stimulates the oil gland naturally. Which is why I always say, unless you are getting an adverse reaction i.e. more spots, don’t change your routine for at least three months or until you have finished the products.
With oily/problematic skin, less is always more – physically you can stimulate the oil gland by doing too much so I would definitely back off, if not stop completely things like scrubs or masks, or at maximum use them once/twice a month.
Your key products or brands would be, if you think that the spots could be allergy or sensitivity induced, Josie Maran Cleanser and Moisturiser with Argan Oil, which has calming and healing benefits. This brand doesn’t contain any SLS, parabens, preservatives, colours etc. All of of which in other products may have triggered a reaction and given you spots.
If its infection-led spots, then your key brand is Australian Body Care skin wash and moisturiser and this is also excellent if you have a spotty chest and back. If you are not sure and you think you may have a combination of both sensitive and infected then definitely use the Propollis range from SBC which is designed to address both these issues.
If you have a younger skin (teenage/20’s) and you have spots that are quite aggressive and you are worried about scaring, a great proven combo that I’ve used over the years is wash with ABC Tea Tree Skin Wash and then moisturise with Decleor Prollegen Gel, which has fantastic healing qualities, am and pm. As an acne sufferer as a teenager myself, this combo has definitely worked for me over the years.
In recent times, spotty skin has become more prevalent due, I think, to a combination of all those situations I discussed at the beginning, with increased hours of work and poorer quality eating being a contributory factor as well.
Very persistent spotting that seems to get trapped blackheads and white pustules with lumpy congestion that is prone to pigmented scaring, often responds, especially if it hasn’t got a result from any of the above situations, to peeling ingredients. These are often the glycolics, glactics etc. which release the dead skin cells that are plugging up the oil glands to help with the free flow of oil.
Ranges that specialise in this would be Ole Henrikson, Alpha H and Murad. The differences being; Murad is based on the research of the Dr. Howard Murad, research and private practice. Ole Henrikson’s are based on his face-to-face, hands-on treatment results as a facialist, and Alpha H’s are based on the knowledge of the salons and therapists that they supply, which is especially good if you find that the sun causes you to have more spots, as they are the leading salon supplier for problem skins in Australia.
Certainly a great combo from this range that worked for Michelle, the founder with very problematic skin, was the Balancing Cleanser and Balancing Moisturiser.
Post spots – if you treated them very harshly and you are left with pitting and pigmentation, then this can be treated successfully especially with Liquid Gold from Alpha H or the Ole Henrikson Power Peel and also if you wanted to, electrical machinery – things like the Tria Home treatment.
Over the years of treating tens of thousands of clients, I have also noticed a direct correlation with diet and spots. For example, cut down on too much acid fruits and juices and fatty, greasy foods and junk food.
Another quirky thing is that a very fit person can have a very spotty skin because sporty people sweat more. The sweat gland in the skin works in conjunction with the oil gland to produce the natural acid mantle, so exercise-conscious people unbalance their skin which causes the oil gland to produce more oil to try and keep up with the sweat gland. The answer here is definitely, after exercise immediately use an antiseptic wash such as Australian Body Care to remove the sweat, then apply moisturiser to balance the skin.
Just to finish, all spotty skin can become more oily (men and women) during sun exposure although this is not always initially obvious because a sun tan can hide the redness of the spots. My best advice would be to keep a high factor on your face (30 or 50). A once a day SPF like Ultrasun is beneficial because, with no repeat application it is not as greasy as standard sunscreens.
An occasional or weekly self-tan application does act on both men and women like a waterproof, semi-permanent make-up that helps to tone down the look of the spots and scars. Also, fresh scaring shouldn’t receive sun exposure for at least a year as this causes deeper pigmentation and thickening.
I hope this has shared as much of my knowledge as I can without seeing you face to face and given you an insight into how you can help control this problem – and certainly, my skin doesn’t have any pitting or scaring by following this advice that I have learned over the years.