Clearing acne is all you dream about.
That’s what I wanted—dreamed of—in the 14 years that I’ve struggled with acne.
Unfortunately, while it seems like we’re the only one who suffers, acne is one of the most common skin issues both men and women suffer from.
And forget about the myth that acne disappears after puberty. Adult acne is the proof that often it doesn't go away. Sometimes, even when it does, it’s only to return worse than before.
But we can’t just let acne kick our butts. In fact, it should be the opposite. Let's explore how we can make that a reality.
After years of struggling with acne and getting nowhere, I decided to be mentored by real skin therapists—people who’ve worked with acne patients for decades. And only then was I able to really figure out how acne works.
And I’ll share a simple concept with you called the Clear Skin Circle that’ll make it much easier to focus on what really matters for clearing your skin.
So, if you’re currently struggling with acne, you’ve come to the right place. Stick around as we learn more about this circle and how you can use it to clear acne.
Before I reveal this concept, though, it's to look at the main roadblocks that keeps causing your acne.
Sounds fair enough?
So what's actually stopping us from clearing acne?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one cause for acne. It’s a multifaceted problem that has many aspects and sides.
I've found the 3 biggest causes of acne in no particular order are:
- Damaged skin barrier
Let’s inspect each and find out how they’re stopping you from clearing acne.
Genetics plays a large part in acne.
Have you ever noticed how acne seems to run in the family? Yep, that’s genetics behind the wheel.
Science now tells us that there are two genetic factors in acne-prone skin: cell buildup and excess sebum.
Skin cell buildup
This happens when our dead skin cells fail to shed normally from the skin. That’s the effect of the inherited genetic condition called retention hyperkeratosis.
And when dead skin cells get stuck, they pile up on the cell walls and result in clogs. Not good!
This happens when we produce more sebum than normal. Sebum is our skin’s natural oil.
And that excess is something we can thank (in this case, blame) genetics for.
The amount of oil we produce; the size of our oil glands, as well as the number of oil glands we have—we can inherit all that from our parents.
So, when people inherit more and bigger oil glands (sebaceous glands), they’ll be producing a lot more sebum.
Since sebum is basically fat, it’s capable of solidifying (hardening).
Just like how chicken broth, which is mostly chicken fat, quickly hardens once in the fridge. Sebum does that too.
So, when excess sebum and cell buildup combine, they harden and form an impaction in the pores.
As if these two mixing wasn’t enough, acne bacterium joins the “acne formation party.”
Acne bacterium or C. acnes is native to our skin, usually existing in small amounts. But it multiplies like crazy inside the pores that’s been closed of by the cell buildup—excess sebum impaction.
The result of this meetup between the three is what we know as the start of acne breakouts.
A lot of skin changes are connected to a fluctuation in the sex hormones—testosterone, estrogen, and to a lesser degree, progesterone. And yes, those skin changes include acne.
Women produce small quantities of the male hormone testosterone, also known as androgen. And this hormone is responsible for stimulating the sebaceous glands.
What happens when sebaceous glands are stimulated?
Well, it’s something we don’t really want.
They start pumping out sebum. Ugh, more sebum??
So, what causes these hormonal imbalances, which in turn contributes to our sebum production?
The most common causes are:
- Menstrual cycle—Progesterone, produced during the menstrual cycle, can stimulate sebaceous glands in an androgen-like manner.
- Puberty—A person starts to produce more sex hormones, androgens and estrogen, during puberty.
- Pregnancy—Usually in the first trimester, progesterone levels increase.
- Menopause—During the menopause transition, estrogen levels start to decline and androgen levels become more dominant.
- Birth Control Pills—These pills contain hormones (estrogen and progesterone) that interrupt the normal pattern of hormonal activity. Good news is pills today have lower levels of hormones and are less likely to cause acne.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)—PCOS is what we call the condition caused by severe hormonal imbalances—including high levels of androgens.
- Stress—When we’re stressed, we produce cortisol, the stress hormone, and androgen. So, stress can trigger but not directly cause acne breakouts.
Damaged Skin Barrier
According to a 1995 Japanese study, when skin suffers from acne, it means the skin has an impaired protective barrier.
So, it doesn’t really matter if you use the best acne treatments out there. If your skin barrier is impaired and unhealthy, you’ll just keep on getting breakouts.
If you’re a lucky duck, existing blemishes may seem to go away for a while. But they often come back with a vengeance—taking you very far away from clearing your acne once again.
In short, the skin barrier is the skin’s outer surface, which is made up of three lines of defense: the skin microbiome, acid mantle, and lipid layer (in the stratum corneum).
Much like how a damaged wall in your house can lead to lots of—um, complications, a damaged or compromised skin barrier will cause you all kinds of trouble.
The skin will be more susceptible to external aggressors, allowing UV rays and pollution to penetrate the skin more easily. Your skin will also experience a loss of nutrients and water, throwing of its moisture balance.
Transepidermal water loss or TEWL is one result of a damaged skin barrier. TEWL is when water on the uppermost layers of your skin evaporates. The result: dehydrated skin.
As you experience TEWL, the skin struggles to stay strong and healthy, which is needed to fight acne.
Here’s what TEWL does to your skin:
- The skin looks dull, appearing less bright, lacking color, and almost grey/ashy.
- The skin texture worsens, becoming bumpy, uneven, and flaky.
- The skin feels tight, with little to no plumpness or “bounciness” present.
- The skin is sensitive, making even the gentlest products irritating for the skin.
- The skin shows very early signs of aging, such as fine lines, sagging, and wrinkles—the works.
This is obviously bad news, but with the Clear Skin Circle, we can turn it all around.
How to Clear Acne: The Clear Skin Circle
The best thing about knowing the problem is that it’s a step closer to fixing it!
So, now we know the big three factors affecting our acne, we can now look at the big three solutions you can use to clear acne.
The big three I’m referring to is what makes up the Clear Skin Circle.
We’ll inspect each to see how they can help you clear acne.
1. The Clear Skin Circle: Skin Care
In my experience, skin care is where you’ll see results the fastest because right now, your pores are likely clogged, and the acne bacteria is eating away at your excess sebum.
My guess is that you’ve tried a bunch of treatments already. DIY solutions, skin care products, face washes, acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide, and more.
But I’m telling you, that’s all wrong.
The only thing you should focus on initially is this:
- Keep your skin clean using a cleanser that’s effective enough to do its job but gentle enough to avoid hurting the delicate skin barrier. Other benefit is you’ll keep the excess sebum in check.
- Keep your skin nicely hydrated with a non-comedogenic moisturizer to repair the small “cracks” in the skin barrier. (Yes, even if you’ve got oily skin 🙂
- Keep your skin protected from the sun by using a 30+ SPF. Sun damage can dry out your skin and weaken your skin barrier even further.
That's step 1. And NOT to be skipped because the Japanese study revealed that our skin barrier is functioning from a weakened state. And this simple routine, because it's simple, is doing the repairing.
Common Acne Skin Care Mistakes
If you’ve already got a routine in place, you need to make sure you’re not making the problem worse.
- Stripping products can push your skin to produce more sebum. Like a cleanser that leaves your skin tight and squeaky clean is a no-go. Yes, it removes excess sebum. But it also takes away the normal amount your skin needs to be healthy.
- Irritating products can dry out your skin and cause more faking dead skin cells. That’s also bad news for your skin barrier.
- Comedogenic (pore-clogging) products will contribute to acne formation, making your problem worse.
Only once the basics are down, you can focus on expanding your skin care routine. That includes exfoliation to keep skin cell buildup at the minimum. And targeted treatments like benzoyl peroxide can sometimes be useful for dealing with stubborn acne bacteria.
Healing acne, and making sure that it stays away isn't guesswork. It requires a systematic approach. A step-by-step plan.
If you after reading this today are curious about how I help my clients, you can see if the S.O.F.T. Method ™ skin care system sounds like a good fit for you.
2. The Clear Skin Circle: Diet
Eating well and maintaining a good diet is essential for not only our general well-being but skin health too.
For example, multiple studies prove that dairy and sugar have a direct impact on acne formation.
How? By affecting the hormones.
Hormonal imbalances can stimulate sebaceous glands, resulting in more sebum, which then contributes to acne formation. It can be such a vicious cycle once triggered.
Dairy contains a hormone (IGF-1) that clogs pores. To make matters worse, dairy products prompt a large insulin response from your body. High insulin levels mean bad news for acne as it contributes to overproduction of oil.
Clogged pores plus excess oil equals an awful time for your skin.
Sugar affects insulin secretion.
Food loaded with sugar makes blood sugar spike. Your pancreas responds to the sugar in the bloodstream by pumping insulin to your blood.
Okay, insulin is just doing its job, so what’s wrong with that?
Well, research links insulin to oil production, and interactions with hormones called androgens. You know by now how androgens can stimulate sebaceous glands, which then leads to excess sebum. And you know what can come next, acne!
That’s why what you put in your body is very important. Your diet can affect your hormones—and in turn, your skin.
So, remember that glowing, clear skin is often unlikely to be achieved by skin care alone. What you put inside your body needs the same care and thought as what you apply on the outside.
What you can do is to:
- Eat a low glycemic-load diet (less sugar!)
- Exclude/limit dairy
- Fed your gut healthy probiotic foods
- Eat skin-friendly foods
- Stay hydrated
3. The Clear Skin Circle: Lifestyle
So, you’ve got a proper skin care routine in place, hopefully something like the S.O.F.T. Method.
And you've introduced skin-friendly food into your diet. But for some odd reason, you’re still not 100% clear. What’s going on?
Chances are, it’s your lifestyle.
Lifestyle is basically how you live your life.
- Do you have a good sleeping routine?
- Do you keep your stress in check?
- Do you stay active?
- Do you have any bad habits that need to be changed?
All this can affect your skin and your acne. So, if you’ve implemented a solid skin care routine, and made mentioned changes to your diet, here’s what you can do.
We often blame stress for many problems with the skin and the body. And rightfully so. It doesn’t cause acne directly but can definitely contribute to triggering acne fares.
Stress causes hormonal fluctuations that cause acne to fare, especially in women.
Stress causes a stimulation of the adrenal glands, which produces cortisol (stress hormone) to help the body deal with the stress.
In women, most androgens are also made in the adrenal gland, so when the gland is stimulated as a response to stress, androgen production is also stimulated.
An increase in androgen ends up stimulating the sebaceous glands, causing inflammation in the follicle, and eventually acne breakouts.
So, if you’re thinking you’re experiencing stress-related breakouts, consider stress-reducing exercises like yoga, meditation or hobbies as a first step.
Lack of sleep causes the stress hormone cortisol to be released, which encourages inflammation and acne fare-ups.
Not only that. According to a study, chronic poor sleep quality is associated with increased signs of intrinsic aging, diminished skin barrier function (which decreases the skin’s ability to keep moisture), and lower satisfaction with appearance.
We need to get good quality sleep. Try your best to sleep 7-8 hours each night, and if possible, go to bed at the same time.
You’re missing out on a lot of skin-related benefits if you don’t exercise.
Regular exercise can:
- Give your skin a rosier, healthier color
- Help inflamed skin heal quicker and occur less
- Help your body better receive the benefits from nutritious foods
- Reduce stress—something that can trigger acne
Of course, if you already exercise, it can create some skin issues if you’re not careful.
Often affecting the back, chest and sometimes the butt, body acne is common in those who exercise frequently. Heat, sweat and occlusive clothing tend to block pores. Bacteria can then act on this to create acne.
A form of acne known as acne mechanica can also develop in those who do sport that requires wearing a helmet, backpack, or tight-fitting workout clothes. Friction, occlusion, sweat and heat from raised body temperature. These factors combined can surely cause you some unpleasant breakouts.
To remedy this, make sure you take a shower right after your workout. And also keep your workout clothes clean, so they don’t cultivate any acne-causing bacteria.
So, add a dose of exercise to your day and enjoy the results. Everybody will notice the change. Better looking skin, better mood, and more energy. Even just 30 minutes a day can make a sizable difference.
And with that, we’re done!
Hopefully, this introduction to the Clear Skin Circle has opened your eyes, and empowered you to focus on the right actions ahead.
Focus on ONE thing at a time.
It can be tempting to tackle every part of the cycle head on. But you might end up biting of more than you can chew.
If I had to rank them in the order of importance, I’d say skin care frst, then diet, then lifestyle. This is how my clients get the best results.
For example, if you’re interested in getting started with skin care, I recommend using the S.O.F.T. Method. It’s a 12-week skin care system designed to clear up mild-moderate acne in less than 90 days. Severe acne may take longer, depending on diferent factors such as a poor diet and stressful lifestyle.
Now, no promises, but this simple, 4-phase skin care method took me from a 14-year acne battle, to healthy skin in just 58 days — without diet or lifestyle changes.
And it seems to work for almost anyone who tries it.
If you’re curious about how the system works, and how I might help you experience the same amazing results in your life, sign up for the newsletter and I’ll forward a free case study that reveals the mistakes I made, plus exactly how I went from a 14-year acne battle, to healthy skin in just 58 days.
Frequently Asked Questions
Forget about the myth that acne disappears after puberty. Adult acne is the proof that often it doesn't go away. Fluctuating hormone levels during this time is one of the reasons acne comes back with a vengeance.
There isn’t one cause for acne. It’s a multifaceted problem that has many aspects and sides. The 3 biggest causes of acne in no particular order are genetics, hormones, and damaged skin barrier.
Multiple studies prove that dairy and sugar have a direct impact on acne formation. How? By affecting the hormones. Hormonal imbalances can stimulate sebaceous glands, resulting in more sebum, which then contributes to acne formation. It can be such a vicious cycle once triggered.
The known triggers of acne include hormonal changes, skin oil (sebum) build-up, diet, external factors, exfoliating (too much or not at all), stress, and internal health issues.
When we're stressed, we produce cortisol, the stress hormone, and androgen. So, stress can trigger but not directly cause acne breakouts.