Your guide to acne

Eeeeverything you need to know about acne. Well, almost. Read about acne, what it is, why we get it, different types of acne and how to deal with it.

What does acne look like - picture of acne

Acne is a very common skin condition and a concern for many people. Skin issues are never-ever nice to deal with, but the upside of acne being such a common skin condition is that there’s tons of information about it.

The downside is, ironically, that it can be super confusing and difficult to navigate all the information.

Luckily for you, we know quite a lot about it. Acne is the number 1 skin concern among our NØIE users, which means we help people deal with it on a daily basis. 

In this post, we’ll try and cover as much ground as possible about acne, but honestly, you’d probably still be here in a few days if we tried to go into detail about it all.

Nevertheless - let’s get to it.

First things first: What is acne and why do we get it? 

Acne is a skin condition known to most people in the form of pimples, whiteheads and painful red bumps on the skin (these are called nodules, but we’ll get back to that). 

To understand why we get acne, we need to know a little bit about what’s going on beneath the surface of the skin. 

In our skin, we have sebaceous glands, which are small pockets within the skin that produces sebum (also known as that greasy thing that makes your skin oily). 

The oil is released to the surface of your skin through your pores. And normally, this greasiness is great for your skin, keeping it flexible and making sure it doesn’t dry out. But if your pores are clogged, the sebum can’t get out from under your skin and.. Well, you probably guessed it.. Acne happens. 

Some people naturally produce more sebum than others, for example people with oily or combination skin. And that’s why some people barely experience any acne throughout their lives, while others fight a long and tiring battle against it for many years.

Besides the amount of grease being produced in our skin, other factors such as genetics, lifestyle, diet, hormones and environmental factors in general, are often linked to having an impact on acne. 

And though some people believe that consuming less dairy or exercising more will keep their acne at bay, the brutal truth is that some people just get acne and some don’t *crying on the inside*. 

What does acne look like - acne illustration

Types of acne

Acne comes in many different shapes and sizes (yay, lucky us). And you probably already know about pimples and blackheads, but have you ever heard about nodules and papules? 

If you have, you’ve done your research! We’re proud. And if you haven’t - well, that’s why we’re here. 

It can be difficult to differentiate between each type of acne, so we’ve made a list (and checked it twice) that hopefully will help you identify what kind of acne you’re dealing with.

Pimples are probably the most known type of acne. But it’s probably also the most misused term, as we’ll often refer to any type of red and white bump on our face as a pimple. 

But (surprise!) that’s not the lay of the land. Pimples occur when our pores clog with dead skin cells and the sebum then gets infected by the acne bacteria propionibacterium acnes (so easy to remember).

Usually, pimples are red lesions filled with pus (which is the white-ish-yellow-y stuff inside). 

Papules are often located under the skin’s surface, making them super uncomfortable and sometimes painful to deal with. Although they’re under the skin, they will pop up as an elevated and solid lesion on the skin (no pus though!) - typically red or the same color as your skin. 

So, remember when we talked about glands and sebum and clogged pores? Well, a whitehead occurs when dead skin cells, oils and bacteria get trapped within a pore, resulting in a white spot on top of a clogged pore.

Whiteheads are annoying, but unlike pimples, they aren’t red, infected or swollen (yay). 

If you understand what a whitehead is, then this will be a piece of cake. When the pore gets clogged but is left open, the top will oxidize and turn black - hence the name, which makes them super easy to identify and differentiate from other types of acne. 

Nodules are not for the faint of heart. This type of acne is usually very inflamed and very painful. Besides the inflammation and the pain, you’ll recognize them on the skin as large, red skin bumps. 

Nodules are a more severe type of acne that unfortunately may require antibiotics prescribed from your doctor or dermatologist in order to calm down the inflammation. 

Along with oral medication, topical treatments to the skin such as retinoids are often a good idea to use when trying to manage the acne.

Cystic acne 
Like nodules, cystic acne is a serious type of acne that occurs when cysts form deep underneath the skin barrier. 

Like we mentioned in the beginning, the name of the game when it comes to acne, is that although everyone can get acne, people with certain skin types are more likely to struggle with it than others. And since cystic acne happens as a result of a combination of bacteria and dead and dry skin cells being trapped within the pore, this type of acne is usually a (way too common) nightmare for people with combination and oily skin.

Hormonal acne
Hormonal acne is exactly what it sounds like - acne tied to the ups and downs of your hormones. Which is why hormonal acne is super common amongst teenagers (hint: raging hormones) and probably why acne in general is thought of as a teenage thing (it isn’t, by the way). We’ll say it one more time for the crowd in the back: Acne can affect anyone at any age. Annoying, but true. 

Which is why you’re also likely to experience hormonal acne at the beginning and end of your period or during perimenopause or menopause. As for men, high production of androgen hormones (androgens are a group of sex hormones that play a role in puberty and the reproductive health of men) can also cause a overproduction of oil and lead to slow shedding of dead skin cells - which by now you’ve probably guessed if you’ve read all the way through to here - is the perfect breeding ground for acne. 

If you’re a teenager and you’re experiencing acne in the T-zone (the forehead, the nose and the chin - it makes the shape of a T hehe), there’s a good chance that your acne is hormonal. 

If you’ve reached adulthood, but still didn’t manage to dodge it, you’ll probably notice it around your cheeks and jawline.

So... how do you deal with acne?

The main thing about dealing with acne is that it sucks. And sometimes it more than sucks. Which is why people with severe (like, life-quality-affecting severe) acne, are at risk of poor self-esteem, social isolation and depression

You can’t really hide acne. It’s in your face. Right there. The first thing people see. And it leads to a lot of frustration which we often experience when talking with our NØIE users (and the reason why we work every single day to optimise our products, skin test, algorithms, everything, to provide NØIE users with the best customised skincare products). 

So what do you do?

Dealing with acne can be an overwhelming task and the lineup of products and treatments and information can be a lot to take in. What ingredients should you use? What kind of product is best? And how many products do I even need? 

We got you. 

When dealing with a skin concern, you’ll usually benefit the most from using products with active ingredients in them. Active ingredients are ingredients that are backed up by science and actually do what they say they’re gonna do. And the most frequently used include keratolytics, alpha-hydroxy-acids (AHA), benzoyl peroxides, retinoids, azelaic acids, and topical antibiotics. While skincare is often the first step towards battling acne, people with severe cases of acne

are often treated with prescription oral isotretinoin or antibiotics. 

Phew. That was a lot. 

Are you ready for some more? ‘Cause then we wanna talk a little bit about what types of ingredients you should look for in your skincare routine when looking to manage your acne. A hot tip though, would be to take our skin test and let us take care of it for you 😉

Also known as AHA because, honestly, who has time for saying alpha-hydroxy-acids? AHAs are organic acids derived mainly from the acids of fruits. AHAs work by peeling away the dead skin cells of the face, making way for new and fresh ones to appear. If you want to add AHAs in your skincare, look for products with glycolic acid, malic acid, citric acid or lactid acid. 

Also known as BHAs and pretty much also known as salicylic acid, which is one of the gold standard ingredients for treating various skin concerns. It exfoliates both the surface of the skin and deeply in the pores (which is like, really amazing) AND reduces the sebum production.  

Retinoid is a vitamin A ingredient that works towards not only preventing breakouts but also unclogging pores. Usually, the skin needs to get accustomed to vitamin A but it can be found in various strengths, so we recommend just giving it a going and taking baby steps, since vitamin A is known as a true powerhouse when it comes to fighting acne.

Azelaic acid
This one is a champion, too! It has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and also helps prevent buildup of keratin, a protein that can cause clogged pores (we’re really excited about unclogged pores, in case you couldn’t tell by now).

Licorice extract
Last, but definitely not least, licorice extract is an anti-inflammatory antioxidant with the superpower to lighten the skin and evening out the skin tone. Super cool and amazing for dealing with those dark spots and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that often appears on the skin after acne. 

Does this mean that you should use all of these ingredients in your skincare routine? That’s a big no-no. Some active ingredients are conflicting, and may just cancel out the effectiveness when used together (but don’t worry, our skin test takes this into consideration when you get your recommended NØIE products).

There’s no final answer to what your routine should look like. However, we do have a few recommendations

to try when it comes to dealing with acne. 

We’ve already mentioned incorporating active ingredients in your skincare (actually we talked about it quite a lot), so we won’t do that again. But besides those active ingredients that we will not mention, cleansing is a huge part of keeping a good skincare routine. We recommend cleansing twice a day to remove makeup and general impurities building up through the day and night. If you use sunscreen and makeup during the day, double cleansing can be a really effective way to get it all off. Also, a spot treatment with a high concentration of an active ingredient can also be an effective way to calm your skin when breakouts happen. 

Phew. That was.. A LOT. Hopefully, you made it all the way through (don’t worry, we totally get it, if you skipped a few parts here and there). 

If you have any further acne-related questions (or other skincare-related questions in general) - we’re here to help! Feel free to reach out or simply take our skin test to see what kind of routine we recommend for your skin. 

Customised skincare that works. Really.

It's time for a new approach to problematic skin:
one that's smart, helpful,
and above all - honest.

Start skin test