9 steps to improving acne-prone skin

Acne can affect anyone at any stage in their lives. These top tips will help you improve the look of your skin without the use of any lotions or potions.

Acne is not limited to affecting the face - many people suffer from painful, uncomfortable and unsightly spots on their backs, necks and chests too. In fact acne can affect people anywhere other than the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. 

There are many myths about acne, including its origin. Acne is not caused by ‘being unclean’ or ‘eating greasy foods’.  It is caused by a genetic tendency to form both blocked pores and greasy skin. The blockage prevents sebum (naturally produced oils) from leaving the pores and this feeds and multiplies bacteria trapped in the follicle.  Your body reacts by sending white blood cells to fight the bacteria and this causes inflammation. 

For some, acne can be a relentless condition that needs medical treatment, for others changing lifestyle and nutrition may provide an antidote or help ease the condition. 

The following tips could help improve the look of your skin and boost your confidence in the process: 

1. Lightly exfoliate regularly

Regular exfoliation will help to unblock pores and prevent new spots from occurring. Use a light, natural, nut-shell based body scrub once or twice a week and avoid harsh or chemical scrubs as they can aggravate spots. It’s important not to exfoliate too much as that can also aggravate your skin causing greater inflammation, and avoid using mitts or brushes as they build up bacteria that will make your skin worse.

2. Exercise

Don’t give up on exercise. Many acne sufferers stop exercising because sweating seems to make it worse. Exercise will keep you healthy and can help unblock your pores by making you sweat. Just make sure you wash straight after exercise, preferably before the sweat has had time to dry. 

3. Eat these foods 

Almonds, blueberries, avocados and kidney beans are among a range of foods which may help to reduce and prevent inflammation. This may make your skin less likely to develop the painful and inflamed spots that can make life miserable. 

4. Enjoy the sun (but avoid sunbeds)

Exposure to the sun is essential for people’s wellbeing as this is how we absorb vitamin D which helps strengthen our bones. And just 15 minutes of sun exposure a day could help treat the symptoms of acne by drying out the sebum. However, any longer and the drying effects could be counteractive, blocking the pores further with dry skin. It’s important to always wear sun protection with UVA and UVB protection when in the sun and avoid sunbeds at all costs as they emit huge levels of UV rays which are very damaging to your skin. 

5. Don’t shower more than once a day 

Over washing can irritate the skin and cause more inflammation which can exacerbate acne.

6. Drink lots of water

Water is essential for all of your bodily functions and this includes the liver which controls hormone production. Hormones play a part in acne by increasing sebum production, this is why acne often presents in teenagers who go through hormone spikes in those years. Drinking water will help keep you in optimal health. Drink two litres a day or more as appropriate if you are exercising.  

7. Go make-up free, or use mineral-based make-up

If possible, wear no make-up as make-up may block your pores further. But if you feel the need to cover up marks and scars, use mineral-based foundation and concealer which doesn’t contain additional oils. The natural substance won’t aggravate your skin or cause additional inflammation and is less likely to clog your pores.  

8. Wash make-up off before bedtime

Just because you are asleep at night, doesn’t mean your skin is. Washing make-up off with water and ph-neutral soap before bedtime will unblock your pores allowing your skin to breath and reducing the likelihood of skin eruptions. 

9. Don’t touch!

As tempting as it can be to poke and prod at spots, don’t. Touching your spots not only introduces new bacteria to the area, it can break the seal of the pore, causing the bacteria to spread into your skin causing inflammation, turning blackheads and whiteheads into red, sore spots. Instead keep following your natural skin cleansing routine.   

Last updated Monday 22 February 2021

First published on Friday 19 June 2015