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A Kinder Approach to Acne Treatment: Why I Avoid Conventional Methods

If my teenagers had experienced mild to moderate acne, I wouldn’t have headed straight to the GP or dermatologist. Likewise, I wouldn’t have turned to high-street acne skincare products. Why? Both offer harsh, drying treatments to fix oily acne, but healthy skin should NEVER be dry. If you take away one thing from this, that's the important message. 

But most people get acne skincare routines all wrong. It’s like go big or go home and that’s my issue. My approach 9 times out of 10 swerves the doctors and the dermatologists, or continues from that point, and is super effective, super essential, and super kind to your skin, a bit like me (?!!!). 

It might be counterintuitive and contradict conventional acne treatment routines. But all the people I’ve been treating for acne say that it feels like a breath of fresh air in an overcomplicated tricky market, so I’m extra happy. 

The Problem with Conventional Acne Treatments

Acne sufferers want to dry up spots and have squeeky oil-free clean skin. Most skincare companies know this and create drying, stripping 'people-pleasing' products. They dry up spots and make you feel like you are winning the battle. This approach to skincare products for acne seems logical since oiliness is a big factor in spots. But if you have blocked pores, red, inflamed, maybe painful spots, it's no use getting to work on these. That ship has already sailed. You need to work on spot prevention. And that's where keeping sebum comes in. Sebum (natural skin oil) is essential for several reasons:

  • It nourishes beneficial microbes.
  • It assists in regulating the passage of substances across the skin.
  • It protects against pollutants and pathogens.
  • It retains necessary moisture in the skin.

Stripping the skin of these key functions can lead to various skin conditions, including acne, eczema, rosacea, dermatitis, sensitivity, dehydration, redness, soreness, inflammatory skin markings, and scars. 

The Result of Conventional High-Street Acne Skincare

The reality is harsh chemical-laden, drying products damage the skin, creating a harmful cycle where more products are needed to address the resulting poor skin function. The more these products are used, the more the skin is damaged. This cycle harms both the skin and the environment and does nothing to treat the underlying causes. This approach might work for a short period but then the skin experiences a downward cascade.

My Alternative Acne Approach

I offer skincare and acne skin treatment plans that are often missing from typical skincare clinics: gorgeous, clean, medical-grade skincare and non-traumatic treatments that change your skin and empower you to look your best. It's about changing your mindset to change your skin.

Prescription Acne Treatment Solutions

Typical medical acne treatment solutions include tretinoin (retinoic acid), oral antibiotics, benzoyl peroxide spot serums, the contraceptive pill, and hydroquinone (often from the Dr Obagi or ZO range prescribed to suppress post inflammatory skin marks).

While these prescriptions are powerful and science-backed proven, they can be harsh and irritating. No question they work, it’s why non-prescription skincare companies mimic this approach and include a type of retinoid, antibacterial spot cream and skin lightening treatments in their skincare range. 

The question isn’t do these work, rather is there a kinder, less irritating way that’s just as good or better and works for the long-term?

Here’s a brief look at these treatments:

  • Tretinoin (Retinoic Acid): Effective but drying and irritating. You need to go slowly to minimise the effects. Some people just can't tolerate it. Isotretinoin oral medication is the next step up from Retinoic acid for when your skin has severe forms of acne (such as nodular or conglobate acne or acne that is at risk of causing permanent disfigurement). Then I make an exception - you would need to speak to your dermatologist to consider this treatment because it's a considered option with lots of benefits but also potential severe side-effects. If you are at this point don't read on, book an appointment with a dermatolgist asap.
  • Oral Antibiotics: Effective but can cause antimicrobial resistance and disrupt the healthy microbiome. Acne returns when you stop a course.
  • Benzoyl Peroxide: Kills bacteria and dries out spots. Please don’t dry out your spots with this. By the time you have a full-on pimple or spot that ship has already sailed. At this point it is all about reducing any potential scarring so do not pick at it. Just let it be and it will go away in roughly 2 weeks. Pick it and it becomes a wound for 30 days.
  • Contraceptive Pill: Only for girls, affects the whole body, not designed specifically for acne.
  • Hydroquinone: Cannot be used long-term due to risks of inflammation and toxicity.

Acne Skin Routine: The Better Way

Instead of waging war on oiliness, we recommend feeding the skin with healthy microbes and skin-identical oils and milder but effective retinoids and actives. Here's how you can adopt a kinder, more effective acne treatment plan:

  1. Switch Your Cleanser to a sensitve or creamy type like Esse Senstive Cleanseror GFYS Warm Up: Most conventional degreasing products including skincare and shampoo, still use foaming sulfated surfactants like sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate. They are known to cause skin irritancy and sensitivity, and they can enhance allergic responses to other toxins. These harsh surfactants are known to disrupt the pH of the skin, break down barrier function, negatively impact the microbiome and dissolve valuable sebum of the surface of the skin.
  2. Avoid Abrasive Exfoliators: Use a gentle salicylic acid exfoliator once a week at most. Try Synergie Reveal or GFYS Reboot
  3. Use Beneficial Ingredients:
    • Salicylic Acid: Reduces pathogenic microbes and unblocks hair follicles.
    • Niacinamide: Boosts barrier function and promotes ceramide production and reduces overactive sebocytes (to reduce oil at source). Try Synergie Vitamin B or GFYS B-Hit or C27 Concentre 27
    • Skin-Identical Oils and Ceramides: Aid in wound healing and scar management. Found in our moisturiser selection 
    • Gentle Retinoids that reset the skin and rebalance: Choose non-drying retinoids like HPR or Bakuchiol or Reneseed with transforming growth factors. Found in Synergie Acceler-A (the new GFYS Rest serum coming soon) and Esse Bakuchiol
    • Choose stabilised Vitamin C and Azelaic acid for antibacterial and lightening results. GFYS C-HIT
    • Hyaluronic Acid: Choose moisturisers that increase hydration not oiliness. Try Synergie Hydrogel, Esse Light Moisturiser or Hyalavive
    • Probiotics and Prebiotics: Improve the skin barrier and minimise water loss. Esse is the best range for this.
    • Pro Vitamin D: Supports overall skin health. You can take oral vitamin D or find it in Esse Vitamin D serum
  4. Take Oral Supplements: Magnesium and Zinc support hyaluronic acid production.
  5. If you have indented boxcar, icepick or rolling scars, where the light reflects poorly off these, one of the most successful methods for building up collagen and smoothing skin is skin needling. We add solutions targeted at acne marks or pigmentation to boost your treatment. Book HERE. If you are under 22 talk to us about saving with a bespoke combination series of treatments. 
  6. With active acne. Book a session on our Byonik laser HERE.   Our nine intense but skin-changing cold lasers have an antibacterial, antiviral action, detoxifying the skin from the inside and minimising purging. We also exfoliate to unclog the pores and can use a deeper no-peel peel, clearing your skin and giving it a reset.

Understanding Acne in Teens and beyond

Acne is driven by hypersensitivity of the sebaceous glands to androgens (hormones). Hormonal fluctuations during puberty or pregnancy or menopause often trigger acne. While diet and lifestyle (like reducing sugar, stress, and getting enough sleep) play a role, hormones are the primary drivers.


The Detox Period

When you stop using conventional skincare products, your skin will go through a normalisation phase. Expect small breakouts, skin sensitivity, excess oil, or dryness as your skin repairs its protective barrier. This detox period can last from days to weeks, depending on your previous chemical load.

Good Skincare For Teenage Skin and beyond

Adopting a gentle, thoughtful approach for your teenage skin routine and adult acne routine can break the harmful cycle of conventional skincare. By understanding your skin’s needs and supporting its natural functions, you can achieve healthier, clearer skin without the harsh side effects. Change your mindset, and you’ll change your skin.

If I can help answer any questions you may have about acne and teenage acne do contact me HERE. I'll create your bespoke acne skincare plan with pleasure.