Acne 101

Acne. If I knew then what I know now, I would do a lot of things differently. I suffered from acne as a teenager, all the way into my late twenties. To say the least, it’s was all a bit problematic and sometimes quite literally, a pain. Perhaps, that’s why I hold my acne clients so near and dear to my heart. I understand that, whether you’re a teen or adult, Acne can result in low self-esteem and self-confidence, poor body image, social withdrawal, depression, anger, and anxiety.

I remember the first time I went for a consult with an esthetician and I didn’t realize how much it affected me until I was crying my eyes out in her office. I never went back out of (misplaced) embarrassment and the fact that I was a poor college student but, I never forgot it because it was the first time that I faced my physical insecurities about it (wellness workers for the win!).

So, Acne, you might be interested to know, is classified as an inflammatory skin disorder. When you have a retention in oil secretions and cells, they back up in the pore (follicle), bacteria begin to feed on this sebum, and you get inflammation. The resulting blemish is the body’s attempt to fight off the invasive bacteria.

Guidelines for your acne treatment is as follows:

Find the right cleanser and wash morning and night

  1. Don’t wash with a bar of soap or high-foaming gel cleansers, they have high pH balances with harsh ingredients that strip the water out of the skin, creating layers of dead, dry skin cell buildup. These cell layers act as a barrier to keep oil and bacteria trapped under the skin’s surface causing an increase in blemish activity. It’s also so important to cleanse both morning and evening as it will control stubborn breakouts by removing makeup, dirt, oil and environmental debris that builds up on the skin. I recommend Sundari’s Gentle Gel Cleanser.

Use a toner after cleansing (but make sure it’s alcohol-free)

  1. Toners are an excellent way to keep skin cells healthy, hydrated and performing effectively, as long as they don’t contain drying alcohols. After cleansing, apply toner over the skin and leave damp before applying a moisturizer to seal in hydration. Bonus, it can also remove excess cleanser residue and impurities from tap water. I recommend: Sundari’s Rose and Lemon Tonic Water.

In the morning, wear sunscreen to protect the skin and help fade post-breakout scars

  1. I realize that the least of most teenager’s concern is to prevent damage from the sun, but sunscreen has a significant role in helping with acne. You know how when you get a blemish, it leaves a red, dark scar? Sunscreen will help these fade faster by keeping pigment cells calmed down so the fading process can begin. You’re also preventing the appearance of lines and wrinkles as well as potentially warding off skin cancer. I recommend Image’s PREVENTION+ daily matte moisturizer SPF 32+.

In the night, use a lightweight lotionHydration is key to keeping young skin in a healthy balance but adding a lot of oil is not always the best choice. Since your skin has it already built right in, and at this stage in your life, it’s flowing at a rapid rate, you don’t need to add much more. Your skin does need water so using a lightweight lotion with a high water/low oil ratio will give your skin exactly what it needs. Make sure your lotion has soothing ingredients and your skin will be perfectly in balance so it can act in a healthy way. I recommend Sundari’s Neem Night Cream.

Perform weekly mask treatments.

  1. For anyone who is dealing with clogged pores and or breakouts due to hormones, you really need to put in some extra effort to get your skin clear. Cleansing, toning, and moisturizing is usually not enough. Your skin requires extra benefits above and beyond what those products will deliver to increase the results. Once a week, it’s very beneficial to use a deep pore cleansing and disinfecting treatment. I recommend Sundari’s Neem and Green Tea Cleansing mask.

Get a Facial


  1. This is a very important one. When it comes to clogged pores and breakouts, skin care products can only do so much as homecare only helps reduce clogged pores. What is missing is the need for manual extractions to remove blocked pores and bumps with professional extractions. It takes a professional esthetician to properly prepare and soften the skin before manual extractions can take place in a safe and effective way. Also, facials are geared to problem solve. An esthetician can offer advice on the best way to address a teen’s specific skin concerns. Part of getting a facial is receiving a lesson from experts on how to care for the skin properly.

Try limiting dairy in your diet, especially if you’re prone to cystic breakouts.

  1. Avoid dairy products if your skin is prone to breakouts. Since most dairy cows are given growth hormones, the consumption of milk, cheese and yogurt become factors that influence endogenous hormones and mimic the hormones that trigger oil production in the skin to ignite the acne process. Consider eliminating all dairy for two weeks to determine if this is the cause of your breakout activity — especially cystic acne.

Change pillowcases often.

  1. For problem skin, bacteria and oil can build up on your pillowcase and be reintroduced to your skin the following night. Clean skin can result in clear skin so invest in a nice stack of pillowcases and make sure to wash them with a dye-free and fragrance-free laundry soap to avoid any potential irritants touching your face.

Don’t pick at your skin.

  1. I know it’s tempting, but you can make problem skin a lot worse by forcing bacteria deeper into the skin, resulting in scarring and further breakouts. Consult or see your esthetician for removal.

Keep hair clean and take care with applying hair products.

  1. Products that come in contact with your face may further clog pores and make your acne flare. Keep hair off your face and forehead. Also, I find it helpful to rub a cotton round with toner along the hairline. You will be surprised as to how much residue gathers there.

If severe seek help.

  1. Consider going to a dermatologist and using a prescription retinoid, but only use if you have the right type of acne. You might be aware of how using a prescription retinoid can be beneficial for clearing acne but in truth, not all types of acne will find these topical treatments beneficial and can be quite drying and harmful to the skin. Still see your esthetician for help.

Overall, like any good skincare regime, consistency is key. One of my favorite Estheticians, Renne Rouleau, said it best “Perhaps acne is genetic [for teens], but no one really knows why some will develop acne, while others do not. What you need to understand is that controlling acne is just like maintaining your weight. You don’t just lose a few pounds and then go back to eating anything you like. Acne is the same way — it requires constant care and discipline.”

Until next time, I wish you peace love, joy health and happiness.

By Gillian Herbrandson is spa director and esthetician at Sivana Spa & Boutique.