Blemishes or spots are very common skin problems. While some people are lucky enough to enjoy clear, unblemished skin all the time, most of us will notice a breakout every now and again, while others will experience spots more frequently.
Blemishes are completely normal and mostly harmless, though it is important to remember that some moles, freckles, and bumps could be first the sign of skin cancer1. But most of the time a blemish isn’t anything to worry about. That doesn’t stop us feeling upset or uncomfortable, of course; breakouts can be emotionally challenging, especially if they happen on a regular basis.
So how can we stop them? And what causes them in the first place?
Why we get spotsThere are many types of skin blemishes. These include spots, scars, discolouration and rashes. The blemishes we’re looking at specifically are acne spots or pimples. Some skin types are much more prone to these breakouts, and they are also more common at different stages of life.
Spots are caused by a build-up of sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria, which block the pores. When we have an oily skin type, our sebaceous glands produce too much sebum, resulting in more spots than usual.
Our sebaceous glands are sensitive to hormones. During puberty, we produce more androgens, which is a group of hormones including testosterone (both men and women produce them). That’s why oily skin is more common in young people, and the reason that teenagers are more likely to experience breakouts.
But other hormonal shifts can also lead to blemishes. This includes the menstrual cycle, menopause, pregnancy, and conditions like PCOS, which change our hormones and make our skin more susceptible to breakouts.
External aggressors such as harsh weather, air pollution and smoking can trigger breakouts in the skin. When it’s hot outside, we sweat more and oil production increases, which clogs our pores and creates blemishes. On the flip side, the shock and stress of very cold weather can also cause inflammation and breakouts2. Other environmental factors may also impact your skin condition. For example, pollution aggravates the skin and amplifies existing skin conditions like acne. There’s also strong correlation between smoking and skin health, with cigarette smoking having a harmful effect on our skin cell DNA3.
The things we eat and drink also play a part in surprise breakouts and worsened skin conditions. We’ve all been told that sugary food causes spots, and while this is an oversimplification of the science4, there’s truth in it. Research has also found a correlation between adult acne and the consumption of high-fat foods5. What’s more, too much alcohol can be a trigger, because it causes oxidative stress, inflammation and dehydration, which in turn lead to spots.
The impact of stress on our skin comes back to hormones. When we’re under stress, our nervous system produces higher levels of adrenaline and cortisol. These lead to increased oil production and a higher risk of breakouts. It’s also been found that while stress itself doesn’t cause acne, if you already have the condition, stress can make it worse6. That’s because our skin heals more slowly when we’re under stress, which means pimples hang around for longer.
How to prevent breakouts
With all of this in mind, how can we combat blemishes and feel more confident in our skin? While it’s impossible to have perfect skin all the time, there are steps you can take to help minimise breakouts.
Avoiding smoking, minimising alcohol consumption and eating plenty of fruit and vegetables will certainly make a difference, as well trying to get more sleep and lower your stress levels.
In terms of your skincare regime, try to avoid washing your face too often, which can dry out the skin. We also recommended choosing soap-free products over ‘normal’ soaps, which tend to have a high pH that irritates the skin7. Light, fast-absorbing products are also recommended for blemish-prone skin, because greasy products can block the pores.
Try to avoid squeezing any spots, too. While this offers short-term relief, it can force congestion deeper into the skin, leading to even more inflammation. Squeezing spots can also lead to scarring.
The latest Biretix bundles from Heliocare can also help to prevent blemishes, treating the skin to a sophisticated and powerful combination of ingredients that target every stage of the cycle of spot-prone skin. Biretix is brought to you by Cantabria Labs, the skincare geniuses behind Heliocare 360°, and we’re delighted to offer some fantastic savings on these clinically proven product pairings.
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1 dermnetnz.org. (n.d.). Spot the difference. About melanoma | DermNet NZ. [online] Available at: https://dermnetnz.org/topics/spot-the-difference [Accessed 25 Apr. 2022].
2 Time. (n.d.). Here’s Why You Get More Acne in the Winter — And How to Fix It. [online] Available at: https://time.com/5454229/acne-skin-breakouts-winter/ [Accessed 25 Apr. 2022].
3 Drakaki, E., Dessenioti, C. and Antoniou, C. (2014). Air pollution and the skin. [online] Frontiers in environmental science. Available at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fenvs.2014.00011/full [Accessed 25 Apr. 2022].
4 Quora (n.d.). Does Eating Sugar Really Cause Acne? [online] Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/01/20/does-eating-sugar-really-cause-acne/?sh=77d1ef065af4 [Accessed 25 Apr. 2022].
5 MD, R.H.S. (2020). Does diet really matter when it comes to adult acne? [online] Harvard Health Blog. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/does-diet-really-matter-when-it-comes-to-adult-acne-2020081920726.
6 Healthline. (2017). How Stress Affects Acne. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/stress-acne#how-stress-affects-acne.
7 Information, N.C. for B., Pike, U.S.N.L. of M. 8600 R., MD, B. and Usa, 20894 (2019). Skin care for acne-prone skin. [online] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279208/.