Acne is such a complex, multi-dimensional skin condition that can be hard to understand and manage. It can be detrimental to our mental health having us believe that all someone sees when they look at us is our breakouts. Which is far from the truth.
Whether you’ve experienced acne in your teenage years where you would try every supermarket scrub under the sun because that’s what you thought your skin needed, or you’re experiencing it in your adulthood where you research every skincare active out there… It's never an easy skin condition to manage alone.
Chances are, if you are reading this you have experienced acne in your teenage years and attempted to ‘exfoliate the pimples away’ with a product that shan't be named. Or perhaps you are currently experiencing acne as an adult and find yourself spending your evening scrolling through ‘skintok’ trying to find the magic cure.
Luckily, here at Zebrafish Collective we understand acne, it's like our bread and butter. We see it day in, day out and have helped hundreds of clients over the years to regain their confidence.
Let’s break down what is actually happening beneath the skin, to help you better understand your acneic skin type and finish off with our top products to help you manage your acne.
Acne formation is due to 4 key factors;
- Upregulation of (the hormone) testosterone
- Upregulation of sebum (oil) production
- Inflammation of the hair follicle
- Formation of P.acne bacteria, recently changed to ‘C-acne.’
Acne vulgaris is the most common type of acne we see. Around 85% of individuals will experience this at some point in their life .
There are several key ingredients that can aid with the reduction of these elements and they work perfectly in conjunction with regular skin treatments. Some key ingredients for management at home include;
- Salicylic acid – a BHA (beta hydroxy acid) which is typically formulated around 2% for at home use. Salicylic acid reduces sebum production, is anti-inflammatory and effectively exfoliates dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. Salicylic Acid Chemical Peels, performed in a professional setting with a higher strength percentage can be extremely beneficial for controlling acne, and is often one of the first steps for tackling the condition from a clinical perspective .
- Niacinamide – commonly referred to as B3, niacinamide is a powerhouse ingredient that can aid with many factors of acne. Mainly responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties and oil regulation. This is due to niacin, which is also known as nicotinic acid, being the forerunner for two factors that are needed for your cells to repair damage and function normally .
- Retinol – Commonly referred to as Vitamin A, the most well researched ingredient in the world. Retinoids can aid with preventing follicle blockages and reduce inflammatory cells which can be responsible for persistent acne inflammation. Retinoids can also reduce oil flow .
It is important to note that while it would be great if we can use salicylic acid and retinol together, often the two mixed can be a cause for skin irritation, decreased absorption of salicylic acid and an impairment in the conversion of retinol to its final form; retinoic acid .
Our advice? Use the two on alternating nights. It will reduce the risk of any adverse reactions from occurring. Be sure to ALWAYS apply an SPF daily due to an increase in sensitivity from using ingredients such as salicylic acid and retinol.
Our 3 top products for acne:
- Medik8 Blemish Control Pads ($62) – An alcohol-free formulation with 2% salicylic acid. Dissolving oil and dirt within the skin leaving your skin feeling soft and exfoliated. Formulated with no alcohol to aid with protecting the skin's natural moisture and reduce the risk of dryness and sensitivity. We recommend using 2-3 times a week at night after cleansing and before moisturising.
- Skinceuticals Retinol 0.3 ($97) – At 0.3% stable retinol, the Skinceuticals Retinol 0.3 is proven to reduce the appearance of pores, control oil flow and reduce breakouts. This product also contains bisabolol to minimise irritation within the skin. We recommend using on nights you’re not using your salicylic acid, after cleansing and before moisturising.
- The Skincare Company B3 ($125) – A light serum formulation to normalise oil flow, reduce inflammation and effectively treat acne. Formulated with salicylic acid to aid with exfoliation of dead skin cells. We recommend using it in the morning after cleansing and before sun protection.
If you want a full tailored skincare routine based on your concerns, reach out to us. We have a team of Dermal Clinicians on hand to guide you with your product choices, ensuring you get the most out of your skincare routine. Which means no more attempting to scrub away your pimples or mindlessly scrolling skintok.
Written by Dani - Dermal Clinician.
 Tan, A. U., Schlosser, B. J., & Paller, A. S. (2018). A review of diagnosis and treatment of acne in adult female patients. International journal of women's dermatology, 4(2), 56-71. doi: 10.1016/j.ijwd.2017.10.006
 Decker, A., & Graber, E. M. (2012). Over-the-counter acne treatments: a review. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 5(5), 32. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3366450/
 Gehring, W. (2004). Nicotinic acid/niacinamide and the skin. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 3(2), 88-93. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1473-2130.2004.00115.x
 Kraft, J., & Freiman, A. (2011). Management of acne. Cmaj, 183(7), E430-E435. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.090374
 Villett, M. How to Use Salicylic Acid and Retinol in Your Skincare Routine to Clear Your Skin and Fight the Signs of Aging. Retrieved from https://theskincareedit.com/salicylic-acid-and-retinol#gid=ci02946a88400026c3&pid=can-you-mix-salicylic-acid-and-retinol