Back in the day, you’d be drying your skin with benzoyl peroxide, exfoliate with salicylic acid twice a day every day and add a witch hazel toner to the mix… and then you wondered why your acne came back with a vengeance.
Truth bomb: drying out acne dries out skin, too.
When skin is dry, it plays all sorts of tricks on you. It stings and flakes. Your skin’s pH level goes through the roof. Your protective barrier breaks down so that everything irritates it. Cue inflammation, excess oils and breakouts.
Those days are over.
Don’t get me wrong. You can still use your salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide – they do get the job done. But they’re not enough. If you want to make acne heal faster and keep the breakouts away, you need to give them a helping hand.
Here are 3 little known anti-acne ingredients that help you clear up your skin faster:
Little Known Acne-Fighting Ingredient #1: Zinc
Zinc is a trace metal found in meat, nuts, whole grains, legumes and… your body. It helps wounds heal faster, protects broken skin from external, harmful stimuli and kicks acne’s ass.
Zinc fights acne in two ways:
- Regulates oil production: When your skin pumps out too much oil, the excess gets stuck in the pores – together with dead skin cells and bacteria. The clogged pore ruptures and a pimple rears its ugly head. Zinc tells the hormones that make sebum to slow down production to keep that from happening.
- Soothes inflammation: zinc has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce inflammation. Guess what acne is? An anti-inflammatory disease!
Now, here’s the catch: zinc alone can’t kill P. Acnes, the bacteria that is making your life miserable. If you’re dealing with active acne, you’d still need benzyl peroxide or another of the acne killers below.
BUT, if you’ve got acne-prone skin, adding zinc to your skincare routine helps the breakouts heal faster and prevents them from coming back.
- Credentials Clinical System Azu-Zinc Soothing Mask ($27.00): available at Dermstore.
- EltaMD UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 47 ($25.00): available at Dermstore and Walmart.
- The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% (£5.00): available at Asos, Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty and Feel Unique.
Related: Does Zinc Help Treat Acne?
Little Known Anti-Acne Ingredient #2: Azelaic Acid
Azelaic acid is the unsung hero of skincare. A dermatologist’s best-kept secret, it’s only now starting to get the recognition it deserves.
Made by the bacteria and yeast that live on your skin, azelaic acid is one of the most effective acne-treatments out there. Just to give you an idea, here’s how it compares to other common acne remedies:
- Accutane: Accutane is the most powerful acne treatment in the world. After 6 months, it completely clears up cystic acne, reduces whiteheads and papule by 97% and clogged pores by 83%. In comparison, 20% Azelaic Acid reduces whiteheads and papule by 88% and clogged pores by 70%. Plus it completely clears up cystic acne, too and is gentler on the skin.
- Benzoyl Peroxide: 15% Azelaic Acid is just as effective as 5% Benzoyl Peroxide. In a 2004 study, they both reduced acne by 70%. But Azelaic Acid didn’t leave skin a dry mess.
- Tretinoin: 20% Azelaic Acid cream is just as effective as 0.05% Tretinoin. But – again – Azelaic Acid is gentler on the skin.
What makes Azelaic Acid such a great acne-fighter? Let me count the ways:
- It has antibacterial properties that kill P. Acnes, the bacteria that gives you acne
- It has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce inflammation (acne is an inflammatory disease, remember?)
- It helps exfoliate skin so dead cells don’t get stuck in the pores
- It regulates the free fatty acid content (the food P. Acnes eats) on the skin – reduce them and you’re starving the acne bacteria.
The best part? Azelaic Acid works for all types of acne, including fungal.
- Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster ($36.00/£37.00): available at Dermstore, Net-A-Porter and Paula’s Choice
- The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% (£5.50): available at Asos, Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty and Feel Unique
Little Known Anti-Acne Ingredient #3: Linoleic Acid
Linoleic acid is an omega-6 essential fatty acid. Essential means your skin can’t produce it.
And that’s the problem. You see, healthy skin has a lot of linoleic acid. But when you have acne, its linoleic acid content plummets to the ground.
It makes sense that adding linoleic acid back into the skin helps you fight acne. Here’s how:
- It promotes exfoliation: Linoleic acid plays a key role in the natural exfoliation process. When your skin doesn’t have enough, dead cells get stuck on your skin and into your pores. There, they mix with excess oil, get infected with bacteria and erupt in pimples.
- It regulates oil production: Sebum production gets out of control when the enzyme 5α-reductase turns testotesrone into α-dihydrotestosterone. Linoleic acid can inhibit the activity of 5α-reductase, keeping oil production under control.
- It has anti-inflammatory properties: Linoleic acid can soothe inflammation, the main cause of acne.
Like zinc, linoleic acid can’t single-handedly rid you of acne. But, together with azelaic acid (or another P. Acnes killer), it helps acne heal faster and keeps it from coming back.
So where do you find linoleic acid? Oils. Here are the best ones for the job:
- Evening Primrose oil (75%)
- Grapeseed oil (72%)
- Hemp seed oil (55%)
- Rosehip oil (45%)
- Safflower oil (68%)
For the love of your skin, avoid oils high in oleic acid. If in doubt, stick to the list above. If it ain’t there, don’t try it!
- Kiki Health CBD Oil 5% (£40.00): available at Cult Beauty
- Now Foods Grapeseed Oil Sensitive Skin Care ($5.79): available at Walmart.
- Trilogy Certified Organic Rosehip Oil (£19.50): available at Feel Unique and Look Fantastic
The Bottom Line
Fighting acne isn’t all about killing the bacteria P.Acnes. If you want to make the breakouts go away faster and keep them gone, you also need to regulate oil production, soothe inflammation and exfoliate skin regularly. These little known anti-acne ingredients will help you do just that.
Have you tried any of these little-known anti-acne ingredients? Share your experience in the comments below.