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Blemish-prone skin: a four step approach with Medik8

Posted on January 15 2018

Medik8. Blemish-prone skin: a four step approach

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Whether you suffer from occasional breakouts or ever-lasting flare-ups, the struggle of calming inflamed, irritated skin is one we have all undergone. For many, this battle can seem never-ending, but relief can be obtained once the contributing factors are identified and addressed.  

So, what are blemishes? Simply put, a blemish is a clogged pore caused by a triad of circumstances: excess sebum, the build-up of dead skins cells and the accumulation of acne-causing bacteria Propionibacterium (P. acnes). In theory, successfully eliminating just one of these circumstances, should help to treat blemish-prone skin. But the best treatment actually comes from targeting all three:

“The best way to target the build-up of dead skin cells is to exfoliate regularly.”

Excess sebum
Excess sebum can be characterised by an oily, greasy complexion. It occurs when the sebaceous glands go into overdrive, producing more natural oils than the skin requires. This is quite often the result of hormonal change, specifically an increase in androgenic hormones, and is most common during puberty, before the peak of the menstrual cycle and in premenopausal women. The trouble starts when the excess sebum starts to clog pores rather than flowing freely onto the skin’s surface. This marks the birth of a pimple and it can happen weeks before you actually notice a blemish appearing.

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Although sebum regulation is first and foremost down to an individual’s hormone levels, there are still steps you can take to reduce excess on a topical level. Dioic acid, for instance, has been shown to inhibit the production of sebum at a cellular level. And cinnamon helps to reduce the presence of insulin, one of the key hormones responsible for sebum creation. With regular application, both actives can effectively combat shine and oiliness from the very first application as well as long-term.

Dead skin cells
The skin cells within the walls of the pore are constantly renewing themselves. As new cells are formed, the old ones begin to shed and are eventually expelled through the pore opening. When excess sebum gets trapped inside the pore, however, this process is disrupted. The dead skin cells bind themselves to the clogged-oil, creating an airtight blockage. At this point, oxygen can no longer flow freely through the pore, and as a result anaerobic bacteria – the infamous P. acnes – begins to thrive.

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The best way to target the build-up of dead skin cells is to exfoliate regularly. While mechanical exfoliation is the most common form of skin renewal, it is not always the best option for problem skin. Using abrasive materials, such as beads and facial brushes, can aggravate blemishes causing further inflammation. The alternative is to use chemical exfoliants such as L-mandelic acid. These acids work by breaking down the ‘glue’ that binds dead skin cells together, allowing them to shed on their own. The holy grail of chemical exfoliants has to be salicylic acid. This beta hydroxy acid actually penetrates deep within the skin to clear dead skin cells and hardened sebum from the inside of the pore as well as from the surface of the skin.


Acne-causing bacteria (P. acnes)
In normal, healthy skin, P. acnes live happily on the epidermis without causing a problem. Inhibited by oxygen from the environment, their growth rate remains consistently low. In the midst of an air-tight, clogged-up pore, however, the P. acnes begin to rapidly multiply. As their presence increases, they begin to feed on the clogged up sebum, converting it into irritating free fatty acids. These acids are what triggers the body’s immune system and consequently the red, sore inflammation that we refer to as blemishes.

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Reducing the presence of P. acnes in the skin can greatly reduce the risk of a breakout. To do this, you can adopt two approaches. The first involves the topical use of antibacterial agents that either inhibit bacteria growth or destroy the P. acnes all together – look out for ingredients such as lauric acid, tea tree oil and chlorhexidine digluconate. The second method is to increase the levels of good bacteria on the skin using pre and probiotics. This allows the skin to retain its natural balance as the good bacteria overpowers the bad, keeping P. acnes at bay.

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