Oh, acne! It’s one of those frustrating things that we thought we’d be able to leave behind with the overly plucked eyebrows and pencil cases of our school days. Sadly, acne doesn’t disappear with age, and it’ll pop up no matter how much we seem to spend on skincare and pimple solutions. The thing is, it’s really hard to understand what’s causing your acne and decipher what’s best for your skin without being a skincare expert. Fortunately, we know queen of skincare and legend in her field, our wonderful surgical dermatologist, Dr. Doris Day. Recently, we asked you to send your beauty problems to our incredible Panel of Experts, and now we have the answers to the questions you wanted to know: from acne scars and combination skin to supplements and anti-aging. Here’s Dr. Doris Day’s expert opinion on the things every pimple-popper should know:
How can you keep acne-prone skin balanced?
Many people have skin that is oily but also dehydrated, and this is often made worse by many acne medications, which are drying to the skin. The key is to use hydrators and to stay hydrated. Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid to help add and hold water in the skin without clogging pores. An easy way to know if a moisturizer is going to hydrate without adding to acne is by looking for these words on the label: non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic. Oil-free is not the same thing and it doesn’t mean it will work for your skin.
It’s also super important to stay hydrated by drinking enough water and eating foods with high water content like fruits and vegetables. This will help your skin and acne from the inside-out! Another important factor is to not over-scrub or over-wash your skin, as this will also dry it out and make acne worse.
What are the best ways to remove acne scars?
This is a complicated issue because there are different types of acne scars. A true scar is a change in the texture of the skin. This means that if you close your eyes and rub your hands over your skin, you will feel a difference between normal skin and the scar. After acne, there is often discoloration where the skin may be red or hyperpigmented (darker) compared with healthy skin. The discoloration will clear with time and with the right skin care products.
Actual scars are harder to treat and take time. Ingredients like retinol are helpful, along with antioxidants like peptides to help the collagen layers of the skin heal and regrow. LED red light can be helpful too, but I would be very careful with dermarollers. The ones available for home use are not deep enough to really help scars and if you don’t clean them properly they may cause infection or make acne worse. Also, if you have one that is not well-made or not stored properly, some needles could be dull or become dull, and these will also lead to scarring in the skin. Ideally, dermarolling or micro-needling should be done by your dermatologist, they may also add micro-needling with radiofrequency energy, which I have found to be very effective in treating many types of acne scars and in a broad range of skin types. Do not use a derma-roller on suntanned skin, as that may also lead to severe discoloration.
What are the best moisturizers for acne-prone skin?
The best thing is to look for ones tested for acne prone skin. These will have on the label: non-comedogenic (the product will not block your pore) or non-acnegenic (the product has been tested for acne-prone skin, and doesn’t contain fragrances, oils or harsh ingredients that could cause breakouts). Oil free does not mean much, and there are now even oils used to help hydrate skin in acne patients. Look for the same things on the labels to know they are okay for acne-prone skin. Coconut oil, in particular, is very popular right now, and it does have antioxidants and some anti-acne properties, but it is occlusive (creates a greasy layer on skin that prevents water loss through your skin), so I would not recommend it as a moisturizer for most people who have or are prone to acne.
How can you treat both acne and aging?
For many of my patients, acne starts after their teenage years, so we focus on anti-aging as well as acne. Fortunately many of the treatments I use for acne also help with anti-aging. Ingredients I like are retinol, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid. Retinol is a vitamin A derivative and helps your skin to produce more collagen and fill fine lines. Though completely different, both Niacinamide (more details below) and hyaluronic acid can work to rewind the aging process and help to improve acne. For the pigmentation that is often left behind, I like tranexamic acid as an ingredient in products that brighten skin, but I also use it in a pill form as well. This should only be taken when under the supervision of your dermatologist.
What are the best supplements for improving acne?
I LOVE niacinamide. It works to minimize sebum production, brighten and improve skin texture, stimulate collagen, and it’s anti-inflammatory. Be careful because this is not the same as niacin, so don’t get them confused. Niacinamide is also great for anti-aging. One formulation I like is called Nicomide (I often recommend two pills per day), it has: Niacinamide 750 mg, Zinc 27 mg, Folate 500 mcg, Copper 2 mg, Selenium 50 mcg, Chromium 100 mcg – this is a supplement I prescribe to my patients, and it can’t be bought over the counter. You can, of course, use Niacinamide by itself and get amazing results.
Zinc is another great supplement you can take that’s great for healing and regulating your immune system, and I do like it as a supplement for acne, especially along with niacinamide and other B vitamins.
Check out the interview with Dr. Doris Day for even more mind-blowing skincare advice for acne and aging here – seriously, she is a genius!!