We all know the feeling - you have an important event coming up, and low and behold you feel a spot brewing under the surface - ready to break into full bloom for the occasion.
What not to do:
1. Don’t panic
2. Don’t frantically apply a clay mask to draw it out - this could make the situation worse as you draw out extra bacteria which can lead to quick turnaround breakouts. (clay masks are best used as part of a regular weekly routine to keep skin in check - if used out of the blue, their action of drawing impurities towards the surface may result in breakouts you weren’t expecting.
So - what do I do?
Spots can occur a result of so many things - hormones, stress, diet, inflammation, but ultimately can be boiled down to a simple equation:
Spots = blocked pores + bacteria + sebum
Step 1: Deep clean the skin
The first step is to do a thorough cleanse of the skin, ideally using an oil or cream based cleansers so as not to disrupt the natural skin barrier. Oil-based cleansers work by dissolving sebum, SPF, makeup and then emulsify on contact with water, to rinse it all away without stripping any of the natural skin lipids (which could throw the skin off-balance, causing skin to dry out, or over-produce oil to compensate).
Step 2: Exfoliate the area
Acids are the best way to do this (don’t be afraid). They work by dissolving the keratin between the outer surface skin cells (corneocytes), which results in their removal from the skin’s surface. This reduces blockages of the pores, so the bacteria/sebum/skin cell mix inside can’t continue to grow. Of all the acids, salicylic is queen for this purpose. It is a BHA (beta hydroxy acid), and is oil soluble, so can penetrate inside the pore, removing dead cell build up inside it as well as on the surface. Leave this treatment on for 5 minutes then remove with a washcloth or micellar water.
Step 3: Oxygenate the area
The type of bacteria that causes spots (known as Propionibacterium Acnes or P.acnes) is anaerobic. This means that it can only survive in oxygen-free environments. Hence why it thrives inside the blocked pore, as there is no oxygen getting in. If we can deliver a shot of oxygen into the skin, it kills the anaerobic spot-causing bacteria, and voila - goodbye spot. (This is also how benzoyl peroxide works which is often prescribed for treating acne.)
The best non-prescription product on the market right now for this is the Karin Herzog Oxygen Mask. It contains Hydrogen peroxide, which on contact with the skin breaks down into water and oxygen. The technology in the formulas pushes the oxygen into the epidermis, killing off the p.acnes bacteria.
Apply to the whole face, or just the affected area. Leave on for 10-15 minutes, then remove with a washcloth or micellar water.
Step 4: Reduce inflammation
The fourth and final step is to reduce inflammation in the area. One of my favourite soothing ingredients out there is niacinamide, which has the added benefit of regulating sebum production and improving microcirculation (which in turn also promotes oxygen flow to the area as oxygen is carried by the blood). Other popular anti-inflammatory ingredients include centella asiatica, liquorice extract and oat.
I would recommend applying either apply a niacinamide based-serum if you’re oily/combination skinned, or look at a soothing mask if you are normal-dry.
And these are my four steps to killing those pesky breakouts overnight. I would recommend this as a short-term emergency solution, rather than a daily routine, as it would be too strong for daily use.
For those fighting consistent breakouts, you may be better off with a daily dose of retinol or salicylic acid each evening to get them in check.
If you’d like to learn more about your skin and what products could help you reach your goals, please complete our free skin analysis.