We’ve all been there - you’ve got a big event coming up and suddenly that familiar tingle under the skin begins, followed by some impressive swelling, only to develop into a big angry spot that shows no sign of disappearing any time soon. Whether you suffer from constant acne, or just the odd pimple, an unexpected spot is never pleasant.
Over the counter spot cream to the rescue!
Many acne spot creams on the market promise to zap the unwanted visitor at quick speed. But do acne spot creams really work?
To find out, first of all, we need to understand the science behind spots and why we get them.
The Science of Spots
Spots are generally caused by hair follicles and skin pores becoming blocked by a combination of oil and sebum. The blockage then causes bacteria on the skin to infect the blocked follicles and pores and this leads to the annoyingly familiar spots.
There are different types of spots - from blackheads and whiteheads, which are usually found around the t-zone such as the nose, to larger pustules and cysts which generally have a red, angry, pus-filled appearance.
What actually causes the blockages that lead to spots varies from individual to individual. Some of the most common causes include stress, lifestyle, diet, hormones, and genetics. If you suffer from acne, try to pay attention to what your triggers are, for example if you’re having a stressful time at work and this leads to a breakout, you may need to look at your stress levels, or perhaps the dreaded pimples appear after you eat a certain type of food.
How Do Spot Creams Work?
You may have worked out what caused your spot in the first place, but that doesn’t change the fact it’s still taking up some prime real estate on your face. Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to squeeze, as this can make the situation ten times worse. Spot squeezing can lead to further infection and cause scarring.
So, is the answer a spot cream? If so, how do spot creams work?
Many spot creams on the market work using a two pronged approach.
Firstly they attempt to reduce inflammation, and secondly they attempt to dry out the spot. The problem with this approach, is that often the harsh chemicals used can in fact lead to scarring. Add to this the issue that you can get different types of spots and spot creams only tend to work on pustules (the type which come to a head).
Therefore, how do spot creams work? Not always in the best way…
Spot treatments to consider
Now that we’ve covered the basics of skincare and got those right, we can look at the extras that form an additional part of looking after our skin well, especially if we’re prone to spots and acne breakouts.
- The Sönd Clearing & Calming Breakout Roller uses a water-based formulation which keeps things calm, whilst gently opening pores to release the blockages that cause flare-ups. It also contains chamomile and liquorice to ease inflammation, but none of the usual fillers and nasties (aluminium, chlorhexidine, siloxanes and silicone). Find out more here https://www.sondskin.co.uk/products/breakout-roller?variant=32429535068247
- The Sönd Concentrated Ozonated Olive Oil from Sönd soothes flare-ups and restores your skin’s regenerative superpowers. Specially formulated to provide quick soothing relief during periods of flare-ups and to restore calmness to your skin. Packed with ozone, this concentrated oil is particularly effective at tackling acute symptoms due to its strong antibacterial and antifungal properties. Find out more here https://www.sondskin.co.uk/products/concentrated-ozonized-olive-oil
- Using a gentle exfoliator once (or twice, if your skin can handle it and it’s not too sensitive) a week, helps to keep the pores clear. Clogged pores can lead to acne breakouts, so keeping them as clear as possible can help to negate the need for a spot cream at all. Exfoliating removes all the things that can clog the pores including dead skin cells, bacteria, stale dirt and makeup not removed through cleansing and excess oil.
- A prescribed retinol cream applied at night (do spot creams work better overnight? Usually, yes) can help to gently clear and exfoliate the pores and stop blackheads and whiteheads in their tracks.
- If you have mild or occasional acne, using an over the counter spot cream rather than a stronger, prescribed one, may be best for you. However, for more severe acne, a prescribed spot cream is often the best course of action, along with a good skincare routine, and there’s no shame in that. It could be, that over time, your skin improves to the point that you no longer need the strongest of spot creams.
- It’s an untruth that people with acne shouldn’t wear makeup - you absolutely can - but it’s important to get your makeup right. Definitely choose an oil free, non pore blocking foundation. We recommend powder foundations as opposed to liquids and BB creams. Acne can have profound effects on our mental health, and if wearing makeup to even out your skin tone and texture and cover up your acne makes you feel emotionally better, then wear makeup. Just make sure you cleanse it away thoroughly at night.
Helping Your Skin with a Good Skincare Routine
Do anti spot creams work? With the right skincare routine, it’s entirely possible that they will. But you need to give your skin the best chance from deep within the lower layers.
Prevention is far more effective than cure. If you get into good skincare habits, you are less likely to develop spots in the first place.
A good skincare routine incorporates cleansing twice a day with a gentle cleanser that works in harmony with your skin, not against it.
Cocoa butter, chamomile and marigold extract are all excellent ingredients to look for in a cleanser as they can calm the skin.
Next, make sure you moisturise. Whether you have oily, dry, combination or normal skin, the use of an effective day moisturiser is essential to keep your skin balanced at the optimum pH level to avoid dryness or, on the other hand, excessive oil production. Then at night, apply a night cream and skin serum to replenish the skin barrier and rehydrate.
Think of a good skincare regime using high quality, gentle products as insurance for your skin. Treat your skin well now and in the future it will reward you with fewer breakouts and a clearer complexion.
Spot Treatment Mistakes
The problem with spot treatments is, you may not be using them in the correct way for your skin type and type of spots.
First up, you may be using them too frequently. More than twice a day is deemed too frequent which can lead to the surrounding skin becoming dehydrated and flakey. This will inflame the spot, causing more angriness and redness in the whole area.
Secondly, you may be using them too infrequently. While spot creams may offer a quick fix, they don’t usually make much of a difference once the spot is formed and some studies show they can actually slow down the spot healing process.
A spot cream may not be the answer at all, particularly if you have frequent flare ups or your acne is very red, angry and pus filled.
Finally, using a spot cream that isn't actually a spot cream is a big mistake. You may have heard that toothpaste or garlic paste are good for ‘drying out’ spots. But in reality, anything that isn’t meant for the skin, such as toothpaste or garlic paste, will irritate already delicate skin, making matters much, much worse.
If you find that spot creams don’t tend to work for you, perhaps a whole new approach to skincare may benefit you, one that prevents spots from forming in the first place.
Either way, unfortunately no spot cream works 100% of the time. So what is the best way to treat spots…?
Spots, Acne and Our Diet
In days and old wive’s tales, gone by, we were all told to avoid eating chips and chocolate, as we’ll wake up the next day covered in acne. But now, the science has come on leaps and bounds, and whilst a diet high in oily or sugary foods may well cause acne, the biggest trigger, diet wise, is an acidic diet.
An acidic diet is one rich in animal protein, so meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. An alternative is the alkaline diet, which is on the whole, fruits, vegetables, plant proteins and wholegrains.
In particular, one stalwart of the acidic diet is dairy. Eating dairy products also means consuming the growth hormones naturally found in milk, cheese and yoghurt. This high acidity and high level of cow hormones can play havoc with our skin, and other aspects of our health.
It’s also thought that regularly eating simple, white carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta and rice as well as cakes, biscuits and pastries can add to the skin problems caused by such an acidic diet.
Everyone is different, so it’s important to tune in to your own skin’s needs.
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.