What is Acne?
Acne is a skin condition that occurs when hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. It presents in different forms including pimples, whiteheads and blackheads.
Acne can be inflammatory (papule, pustule) or non-inflammatory (blackhead, whitehead).
Whiteheads vs Blackheads
Whiteheads (closed comedones) and blackheads (open comedones) are non-inflammatory and caused by clogged pores. They form when dead skin cells, oil and bacteria become trapped. In the former case, the pore opening is obstructed and remains sealed, the latter breaks open, darkening because of exposure to the air.
There are two types of inflammatory acne which result when a blocked hair follicle becomes inflamed or infected by bacteria. A papule develops when whiteheads or blackheads cause so much irritation that they damage some of the surrounding skin. They present as small red tender bumps. A pimple (pustule) is a papule with a centre of pus.
Why Do I Get Acne?
Acne can be very persistent and some people are more vulnerable than others. Although acne cannot always be prevented, in many cases, it can be reduced or even eliminated depending on the principle cause and severity.
There are many triggers for acne. Common ones include high oil production, bacteria, excessive hormonal activity and lifestyle (poor diet, stress).
How Do I Manage Acne?
Sometimes, acne needs to be managed using prescription medicine that can provided by a dermatologist to ease severe conditions. For most however, skincare can reduce acne and also accelerate healing.
Acne is a serious focus for Korean skincare producers. Major Korean brands are introducing entire lines dedicated to acne care. These include Pyunkang Yul, Cosrx and Somebymi. Within these lines, cleansers are designed to remove excess sebum without disrupting the moisture barrier while toners clear and minimise pores. Then there’s also targeted solutions which effectively treat the blemish in the form of a mask pack or spot treatment. Finally, antibacterial creams and serums reinforce the skin barrier while also providing a strong defence against new breakouts.
With an entire acne line, Pyunkang Yul has created products that exploit the power of White Willow which contains Salicylic Acid and tannin to effectively remove dead skin cells and debris from pores.
COSRX have recently introduced the AC Collection, a range containing ingredients to mildly yet effectively help control excess sebum production, enlarged pores, dead skin cells and inflammation. Centella Asiatica Extract (aka Cica or Gotu Kola) and its active compounds Madecassic Acid, Asiatic Acid and Asiaticoside work to soothe acne while also reinforcing the moisture barrier to prevent bacteria penetration.
SOMEBYMI has released a line of products that use the acne combating power of Centella Asiatica and Green Tea Extracts together with Alpha, Beta and Poly Hydroxy Acids to gently exfoliate dead cells, for clearer pores and smoother, healthier skin.
What About My Routine?
In a multi-step Korean skincare routine, no matter how many steps you choose to incorporate, you should adhere to the following general rules to help you clear your skin of acne.
Double cleanse every night to remove makeup, sunscreen and pollutants.
The Laneige Perfect Pore Cleansing Oil uses the power of virgin coconut oil and the soothing properties of mugwort extract to effectively clear pores of makeup, sunscreen and impurities. Ideal for acne suffers and oilier complexions, it helps to absorb excess oil with aloe, chamomile and centella.
The Cosrx AC Collection Calming Foam Cleanser relies on salicylic acid to unclog pores of dead skin cells, dirt and sebum. Centella asiatica extract and its active compounds madecassic acid, asiatic acid and asiaticoside work to soothe acne while also reinforcing the moisture barrier to prevent bacteria penetration.
Exfoliate a few times a week to encourage cell turnover and keep pores clear.
The Neogen Real Cica Pads are perfect for inflamed and sensitive skin. Soaked in an essence formulated with centella asiatica extract and its active compounds, they’re designed to soothe without irritation while also promoting collagen production and hydrating with hyaluronic acid. Lactobionic acid is a PHA that doesn’t penetrate as deeply into the skin as AHAs and BHAs. As such, it delivers a very gentle exfoliation effect without irritation.
Apply toner to prepare your skin for actives and add the first layer of hydration.
Once again employing the soothing and healing power of centella asiatica, the A’Pieu Madecassoside Fluid is perfect for sensitive skin types. Niacinamide is also present to brighten while ceramide reinforces the moisture barrier.
Essence is a key step in the Korean routine.
The Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence is a popular choice that nourishes and hydrates the skin using bee venom to promote healing and collagen production. A whopping 90% snail secretion filtrate helps to repair acne scars and improve skin tone.
Sheet masks offer soothing hydration.
The Papa Recipe Bombee Honey Mask uses the healing power of honey, propolis and allantoin to reduce inflammation while brightening and nourishing with licorice root and ginger.
Highly concentrated, serums are able to deliver active ingredients to target specific needs. They can be applied alone or layered.
The repairing and soothing nature of the Dr Jart+ Cicapair Serum makes it ideal for acne prone and sensitive skin types. This fast acting serum employs centella asiatica to help calm red, inflamed and irritated skin, assisting to return it to a healthy state.
The iUNIK Tea Tree Relief Serum utilises 67% tea tree leaf water, a powerful anti-inflammatory ingredient to calm inflammation. Almost 20% centella asiatica contributes to the soothing effect to heal troubled skin while niacinamide and adenosine are included for brightening and wrinkle care.
Choose eye and face creams, sunscreens and oils that provide plenty of moisture without congestion.
The Somebymi AHA BHA PHA Miracle Cream helps to clear the complexion with over 70% centella asiatica extract, madecassoside and tea tree leaf extract. It moisturises the skin and strengthens the moisture barrier while also treating acne and easing inflammation.
There are additional, bonus steps that can be incorporated too.
A hydrating and soothing mask can provide boost healing process.
One in particular, is the luxurious I’m From Honey Mask. Enriched with 38.7% natural Jirisan honey to hydrate and clear the skin, it also contains antibacterial propolis to encourage acne healing.
A sleeping mask can deliver deep nourishment overnight.
A deeply nourishing night treatment can be beneficial a few times a week. The iUNIK Propolis Vitamin Sleeping Mask harnesses the healing power of propolis to reinforce the skin’s barrier while also adding intense hydration. Calming and brightness are promoted by centella asicatica and niacinamide.
Spot treatments for targeted relief.
The Rovectin Cica Care Balm is effective at treating acne, redness, inflamed and troubled skin, a calming formula rich in madecassoside, calamine and the brand’s famous repair complex. It helps to accelerate healing of the blemish at the site.
In summary, make sure you choose products that target acne with proven ingredients such as Salicylic Acid, Tea Tree and Centella Asiatica. Remember the key objective is twofold. Firstly, try to keep pores clear of debris that can cause congestion and lead to acne. And secondly, when acne occurs, soothe and calm inflammation for faster recovery.
More blog posts with skincare tips can be found below
How to achieve glass skin can be found here.
The importance of incorporating double cleansing into your skincare routine can be found here.
A review of the Neogen Green Tea Cleansing Stick can be found here.
An in-depth post detailing all 10 steps of the Korean skincare routine can be found here.