Beauty's role in the evolving category of acne

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.

"Acne used to be a shameful condition for your skin, but it really has become more of a self-acceptance movement," NPD Group vice president of beauty, Larissa Jensen, told WWD, 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.

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

BD has rounded up its top six acne-busting treatments to keep on your radar, click the brand name to learn more.

etat pur Propolis is dedicated to dull and acne prone skin. It cleanses, purifies, regenerates, and soothes the skin. The bio-sourced propolis extract is ideal for acne-prone skin (adult or teenage acne), or for whenever the complexion becomes dull and blemishes set in. The propolis used in this pure active is organic certified and comes from a small producer in the Auvergne region of France working with around 35 beekeepers to ensure it is ethical and sustainable.  

Azclear Action Medicated Lotion is an oil and fragrance free antibacterial lotion for the treatment of blackheads, pimples and acne. Azelaic acid is a key active ingredient that is clinically proven as an effective anti-acne treatment and gentler on the skin compared with some other commonly used topical anti-acne agents. 

Rodan + Fields SPOTLESS Acne Clearing Treatment is a unique dual-chamber system that delivers exfoliating 2.5% benzoyl peroxide directly into the pores where it can fight breakouts most effectively. This lightweight, fast-absorbing formula clears skin and prevents future breakouts.

Dermalogica Clear Start Breakout Clearing Liquid Peel is an exfoliating peel that fast-tracks your clear skin journey. Its 2% BHAs and salicylic acid is bad news for acne, and its blend of 10% AHAs, lactic, mandelic, and azelaic acids are great news for skin. This peel exfoliates, resurfaces, brightens, and clears. It’s powerful and it works.

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. The unique and innovative m.acne complex™ stimulates exfoliation while helping to reduce sebum production. The formula contains salicylic acid, mandelic acid and sodium lepargilate, which when combined, provide a unique synergistic effect that promotes deep cleansing, while brightening and helping to relieve inflammation caused by acne or seborrhoea. 

FOREO ESPADA is a facial cleansing device that combines blue light technology with T-Sonic™ pulsations to tackle acne-causing bacteria deep beneath the skin’s surface. Blue light technology penetrates beneath the skin’s surface to the sebaceous glands, destroying acne-causing bacteria at the source. Pulsations allow the treatment to penetrate even further, stimulating blood micro-circulation and facilitating the skin’s renewal. 

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