1. Why do I get spots occasionally?
Spots are usually caused by hormonal changes in your body. The hormones that cause spots are called androgens, which are really male hormones, but both men and woman have these androgens circulating in their bodies. The androgen levels vary during female monthly cycles and also increase in response to other stimuli, such as stress and certain medications including some oral contraceptive pills.
It has been shown that varying levels of stress provokes acne spots. One study of female university students revealed they had more spots after the stress of end of term exams.However, it may take several weeks for the spots to show themselves after periods of stress.
2. Do I have more male hormones when I am menstruating or when I am stressed?
Yes the levels of male hormones increase compared to your levels of oestrogen during the menstrual cycle. These increase just shortly before you start menstruating, which is why you tend to get extra spots in the few days before the end of the cycle.
With some oral contraceptive pills that are low in oestrogen, the male hormones are more active again, causing spots.
3. Why does squeezing spots make them worse even if I am scrupulously clean with hand-washing?
Spots contain mainly acne bacteria. If you squeeze the spots this tends to force the acne bacteria into the surrounding skin where it may cause more redness and inflammation and often a much larger spot than you had in the first place. So resist squeezing, and instead apply a spot gel up to four times a day.
4. There are four causes of acne - but what are they?
1. The first is when the tube from the acne gland to the skin surface known as the oil duct gets blocked. Whiteheads and blackheads are caused by a buildup of oil beneath the skin surface.
2. The oil (sebaceous) gland is also stimulated to produce more oil by the increase of androgens.
3. Acne bacteria grow very easily in the warm oil build-up.
4. System imbalances affect the skin resulting in redness, painful spots, pus filled spots, and scarring.
5. How would these different causes be treated without going to a doctor? And how am I going to treat my four causes of acne?
I will separate this into the different causes and then the treatment. The first cause I mentioned was the blackhead and the whitehead where it blocks the pores leading from the oil glands - here we must unclog the plugged pores, and one of the best approaches for that is to use products with ingredients like Salicylic Acid, which will free up the pores by loosening the stickiness of the skin cells in the pore and thus allowing it to shed more readily.
Acne bacteria can be killed with treatments such as antibiotics. Improving blood flow to reduce inflammation can be helped by Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), found in Dr Nick Lowe's Anti-Blemish Range.
Other approaches include gentle exfoliation, particularly in conjunction with Salicylic Acid will help to exfoliate and remove the contents of blocked pores. The Anti-Blemish Purifying Foaming Cleanser exfoliates gently to assist in this process.
6. Is there anything that you can do to stop the oil production?
The surface oil can be reduced by cleansing toners containing ingredients to remove surface oil, such as the Anti-Blemish Sebum Control Cleanser, which helps to reduce further bacterial growth. There is some evidence that ingredients such as Niacinamide are highly effective in reducing the oil production, and it is a key ingredient in Dr Lowe's range. The most powerful way of reducing oil production is the oral medicate Isotretinoin (Roaccutane). This shrinks the oil glands and produces a complete reduction of oil, leading to remission in most patients. Consult your doctor on this option as it is unsuitable for some people, including pregnant women.