Beauty's role in the evolving category of acne

The evolution of acne products

With acne being one of the few skincare categories formulated with ingredients that are medically regulated, there has always been a fine line between health and beauty when it comes to acne products.

However, in recent times, it has become apparent that the category has moved further towards wellness, with a focus on self-acceptance rather than shame surrounding skin conditions.

“With the mask-wearing of the last year, it’s shifted in the consumer mind-set,” NPD Group vice president of beauty, Larissa Jensen, told WWD. “Acne used to be a shameful condition for your skin, but it really has become more of a self-acceptance movement,” she said, noting that acne-oriented products saw strong sales increases in a year where treatment products overall performed well.

This means that despite people becoming more accepting of acne, they haven't stopped buying products to treat their breakouts. In fact, skincare grew 13% in the first quarter of 2021 and acne grew 20% during the same period, according to the NPD Group.

Jensen believes this isn’t necessarily by choice, and “it is also more cross-generational than pre-pandemic,” adding that “people who may not have had acne for years are now getting it, and you’ve got a broader consumer base that brands have to fix the problem for.”

In turn, more holistic and long-term products are being formulated, as opposed to the immediate, short-term fixes with harsh ingredients that many of us became accustomed to growing up.

“We’ve been seeing a lot of success with daily products, regular routine products that have realistic and sustainable amounts of acids, and more awareness around how, for example, willow bark could be more of an alternative to salicylic acid,” CEO and founder of Follain, Tara Foley, said.

Tips to help combat acne

Shoshana Eisner, founder, and pharmacist of QED Skincare (a pharmacist formulated luxury skincare for sensitive skin using plant-based ingredients), recommends the following measures to treat and manage acne, based on her own experience and those of her teenage clients.

1. Do not touch or pick at pimples.
2. Choose a gentle cleanser.
3. Exfoliate, but not too much.
4. Embrace oil in your cleanser (the right oils are actually good and will help remove the bad oils).
5. Beware of temperature (rinse with warm water only).
6. Don’t sleep with makeup on.
7. Don’t over moisturise.
8. Beware of the hair (breakouts around the hairline are very common).
9. Get a specialised facial treatment.

If despite following these steps, acne is not improving, Eisner recommends seeing your GP, as persistent acne can be caused by internal factors, such as hormones.

Products to help combat acne

Kosmea Clarifying Facial Wash is a mild, yet effective wash that rids skin of impurities and build-up. Ideal for all skin types, especially young or acne-prone skin. 

tbh Skincare acne hack cleanser is a gentle cleanser, perfect for all skin types. Formulated with both cleansing and conditioning agents, the cleanser not only cleans the skin, but leaves it feeling silky smooth too. 

Azclear Action Medicated Lotion is an oil and fragrance free antibacterial lotion for the treatment of blackheads, pimples and acne.

Rodan + Fields UNBLEMISH Dual Intensive Acne Treatment is a dual-chamber system that delivers 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide into your pores to help clear and prevent blemishes while hydrating and visibly plumping skin.

Essano Clear Complexion Rapid Action Blemish Gel is a treatment gel that supports skin against blemishes and visibly reduces the appearance of inflammation and redness.

The Secret Skincare Acne Formula is a treatment that is designed using three prescription ingredients and topical antibiotics for the effective treatment of acne vulgaris.

Clémence Organics Repair Face Serum is an organic super serum. Antiseptic, astringent and anti-inflammatory properties will help those that struggle with acne, inflammation and/or skin redness.

Panemorfi Skincare Glycolic Acid Cream Cleanser is an exfoliating, soap free cream cleanser that is great for all skin types, especially acne-prone skin and open pores.

Dermalogica Sebum Clearing Masque is a clay-based masque that purifies, refines skin texture, calms inflammation and absorbs excess oil. Great for adult acne.

mesoestetic acne one is an acne cream with all-round effect. It is specifically designed for the regular treatment of blemish-prone and seborrhoeic skin. 

Header image sources: @ivyblooms, @theacneaesthetic and @madeleineedwards