Taboo Tuesday: Breakouts and Acne

"Pimples are in"— scholar and poet Justin Bieber.

Even though you’re going through changes galore, there is one thing you can count on as you move through your teenage years: acne. And while Justin Bieber himself proclaimed that pimples are in, it might not always feel that way— especially when you’re mid-breakout! 

justin bieber pimples
📸: @justinbieber

Read on to learn more about what causes zits in the first place, and how the body positivity movement is helping us feel better about our breakouts by normalizing acne. 

What’s Acne?

First, let’s talk about how your skin works. All over your body, there are oil glands in the pores of your skin. When you hit puberty, the increase of hormones affects these glands! And particularly sex hormones called androgens. An excess of these hormones cause your oil glands to really pop off. They become overactive, they get bigger, and they often start to produce too much oil (also called sebum). 

What happens when there’s too much sebum? The pores or hair follicles become blocked with skin cells. They also result in an overgrowth of bacteria. And bam, you have a breakout. This can happen in a ton of places— your face, back, chest, neck, upper arms, you name it. But when it comes to your breakout, what’s what?

The Acne Dictionary

Whitehead:  If one of your blocked pores becomes inflamed or infected, you got yourself a pimple! These are raised red spots, usually with a white center. Whiteheads are typically raised and closed. They’re also super common, and can pop up anywhere from your face to your back. 

Blackhead: Blackheads happen when your pores clog but stay open. They look like little black dots on your skin, and aren’t inflamed or red like whiteheads are. When your pores clog, they turn black due to oxidation. Blackheads are NOT dirt. It’s just all of the clogged bacteria and skin cells reacting with air. 

Cyst: These are painful little buggers. They form pretty deep under the skin, and happen when blockage and inflammation produce large bumps under your skin. 

How can you help your breakouts? 

Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid: These are two of the most common acne treatments. You can find Salicylic Acid just about anywhere— body washes, face washes and moisturizers. These help to get rid of dead skin cells that can lead to whiteheads and blackheads. Benzoyl Peroxide is a little stronger, and is great to use as a spot treatment. It can make your skin feel quite dry, so using these products one or two times a day is usually the max. 

Sunscreen: You might be hesitant to add MORE stuff to your face if you’re breaking out, but sunscreen is an absolute must in keeping your skin healthy!

Wash your face: Gently washing your face with warm water is a super important skincare step to add to your routine. Twice a day is the magic number, any more and you can risk drying out your skin! After, pat gently with a clean towel. 

Stay hydrated: Grab that Hydroflask ya’ll! A 2015 study found that drinking lots of water helps to not only keep your skin hydrated, but also slows down the build of dead skin cells. 

Try not to pick: For a lot of us, this feels near impossible! Try out pimple patches if you’re a pimple popper. They’ll help absorb your pimple gunk and keep it covered so you’re less likely to really go at it in the mirror. If you do pop your pimples (we all do it!), you can apply something topical like Polysporin to help with scaring. 

Antibiotics: For acne that doesn’t quit, a dermatologist can set you up with antibiotics to help you out.  

Pimples are in

Mostly everyone we see on TV or in movies has clear skin. This makes it really easy to hold that as the ideal— and any blemishes are a sign that something is wrong or “unattractive”. It’s really, really easy to get caught up and feel self-conscious about your breakouts, especially because they often happen on a part of your body that’s difficult to hide. 

Some stigmas around having acne are that you’re unhygienic or don’t eat “properly”. And this isn’t true at all. It’s important to remember that pimples are wrapped up in the experience of being human. They happen to everyone! And the more we keep this in mind, the more we all collectively work towards normalizing a very normal thing happening to our bodies. 

There are so many amazing creators on social media who post photos of themselves with their breakouts, like Alexandra Breeze. When we see people celebrating something that’s often seen as “blemishes”, it becomes easier to be gentler on ourselves and our own pimples. 

Does this mean you shouldn’t wear makeup or avoid acne treatments like the ones we listed above? Not at all. Ultimately, do the things that make you feel comfortable, powerful and ready to take on the world. Skincare is a journey, and it takes time to figure out what makes you feel good. And whether that’s letting your chin zit shine or going for a full Euphoria-style makeup look, whatever you choose will be absolutely beautiful. 

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