Some sunscreens can be occlusive (trapping of moisture) to hair follicles and pores in the face. Especially for acne-prone skin, this can result in the overgrowth of bacteria and an increase in inflammation. While some sunscreens are occlusive, on the other hand, many options are not. Check out our article: (Is Sunscreen Bad for Acne?)
If breakouts are a concern, then not wearing sunscreen and over-exposure to the sun should also be a concern. Overexposure to the sun is a proponent of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is when there is an imbalance between the presence of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) and antioxidant defenses. When this imbalance occurs, your skin’s barrier is compromised, and breakouts can occur at an increased rate. When you have acne, it’s important to keep your skin barrier strong.
Astringents like alcohol, lemon, or vinegar can be very drying for the skin. If you have acne-prone skin, an astringent may further irritate breakouts and cause peeling, more oil production, and additional redness.
Instead, you can prep the skin with active ingredients like salicylic acid, azelaic acid, and niacinamide to increase the penetration and the potency of your cleanser. Having acne does not mean that your skin is dirty, and excessive face washing like piling on a cleanser, letting it sit, mixing it with astringents, and washing it too intensely can be very drying and compromising for the skin’s barrier. So, if your double cleansing, you don’t have to put loads of cleanser on your face both times just because you have acne. As mentioned before, this can be really irritating, and the last thing acne needs is further irritation.
All skin needs moisturization, but there are different types of moisturizers. Moisturizer can be used as an umbrella term for occlusives, emollients, and humectants. While there’s not a market standard for what defines a hydrator and a moisturizer, brands use these terms to differentiate between how the product delivers moisture to your skin (thickness or wateriness of the texture, how penetrative it is, and whether or not it forms a barrier). Each one works best depending on the skin condition it’s applied to.
Emollients normally come in the form of creams, ointments, and lotions. People like to layer those on instead of applying straight occlusives because its less sticky. While occlusives coat the skin, emollients penetrate it, and they make the skin feel soft and flexible. For example, shea butter, linoleic acid, and cocoa butter are emollients while petroleum jelly is occlusive. Shea butter and cocoa butter will penetrate the skin, but the Vaseline will form a barrier.
Emollients soften, smoothen, and replenish the skin because by filling in gaps between cells/skin flakes with droplets of oil. Fortunately, when layered on, they can also act as occlusive agents without being as clogging.
Lastly, humectants pull water from the air and into the skin. They help with the production of ceramides too. Humectants are associated with water while emollients are associated with oil. Waters and oils both play an important part in moisturizing your skin. Here are some humectants you can look for in moisturizers:
- Glycerin (Vegan is nice!)
- Sodium hyaluronate
- Hyaluronic acid
- Propylene glycol
- Butylene glycol
- Sodium PCA
- Allantoin (Vegan is nice!)
- Aloe Vera
- Seaweed, algae
As for humectants, when you’re in dry weather or a dry room with the AC blasting, humectants can draw moisture from the lower and younger layers of the skin instead of the air. This is called trans epidermal water loss. You can prevent TEWS by pairing a humectant with barrier-forming, non-comedogenic emollients like jojoba oil to seal in the moisture.
Acne-prone skin must stay hydrated, and it can do so, without getting clogged. Each person just has to find the right combination of ingredients for their skin.
There are three different layers of the skin: the outer layer (epidermis), middle layer (dermis), and lower layer (hypodermis or fatty layer).
Lipids and water (moisture) are delivered to each layer through blood vessels. However, moisture is only supplied to the dermis or the middle layer of the skin. From there, water travels upward to the epidermis before it evaporates into the air.
Because of the way our skin is composed, moisturizers work in one of two main ways: they either trap hydration in your skin to keep it from escaping or they replenish hydration. However, to trap hydration, hydration needs to be applied. Add hydration to your skin, and then seal it off with a good non comedogenic, occlusive-like emollient to prevent breakouts.