Blemishes seriously bugging you? Follow our guide to getting rid of the rotters...

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Spots. They spring up out of NOWHERE at the most vital of moments. Job interview coming up? Welcome to the party whiteheads. Hot date? Not if that pustule on your chin has anything to do with it. From holidays to key life events, zits just love to congregate when the pressure’s on. According to ELEMIS  director of product development Noella Gabriel , living in the city, along with high levels of anxiety, makes apparently rogue breakouts all the more common, even if you’ve never suffered with more than a few spots in the past:

“We must keep in mind that the skin is the largest organ of the body and is cleansed daily by the exhale breath. What we breathe in has a direct effect on the skin, so the first impact the city has on the skin is through pollution by the inhalation of toxic air.”

“The second effect of city living, or even the pace modern life in general, is higher stress levels. Statistics show that we run on much higher stress levels these days, and as a result the skin gets very depleted- tired, dull and lifeless. This increased level of stress can also dictate how and what we eat, for example breakfast quickly bought and wolfed down at your desk, lunch on the run and a general absence of fresh food. Another factor affecting our skin is that tap water is no longer as pure as it once was (just look inside your kettle for proof- limescale buildup is off the charts). In summary, our skin can change dramatically due to city living and our environment, and these changes can be seen in higher levels of acne amongst mature women especially.”

So what can you do to keep blemishes at bay if you live in the big smoke or an equally smoggy, stressful city? Noella suggests starting off by addressing your skincare:

“In the past, products designed to treat acne were almost universally very medicinal, not particularly either skin or user friendly and certainly not a pleasure to either wear or apply. If you want to really heal skin that’s suffering due to the stress of city life, protection comes high on the list. You need a good quality night cream with high levels of nutrients to feed the skin, but keep in mind that richer doesn’t always mean better, and heavy creams are likely to aggravate acne.”

“City skin in particular should be cleansed correctly to dissolve makeup and daily grime which can block pores. Cleanse and tone morning and evening to prevent a buildup of toxins and keep acne from becoming all the more severe. Try introducing a powerful antioxidant to enhance the skin’s natural detoxification, and I’d also suggest you make sure you have regular, prescriptive facials, as this will result in good skin management.”

“In the meantime for a home treatment, apply ELEMIS Herbal Lavender Repair Mask , £30, and leave it on overnight. It’ll help to reduce redness and improve the overall appearance of the skin.”

“To treat individual spots, apply a warm compress with tea tree oil over the affected area; this will help to soften the skin and in some cases ease out a spot without any finger pressure, which is a much better solution in the long time and a million times more effective than picking at it. Make sure that dab each spot with a localised application of tea tree oil on a cotton bud after treatment, as this will help to prevent cross infection and should also speed up the healing process. Don’t be tempted to get to work on blackheads, however, otherwise you could end up with permanent damage to the skin. Leave that to the pros.”

If you’re a gym bunny and bacne is your bugbear, tea tree could come to the rescue in that department too…

“An increase in heat causes the skin to sweat at the top and in the middle of the back in particular, which can lead to acne and spots in these areas. I’d recommend switching your body wash to a gentle yet medicated formula, as harsh detergents strip the skin and increase oil flow in problem areas, which only makes matters worse. To really target spots on the back, ELEMIS Tea Tree S.O.S Spray , £24, is a highly effective antiseptic which can be sprayed directly onto the problem area.”

Talking of stripping, if your skin has taken on a lot shine along with the spots (JOYS), don’t be tempted to overwash or avoid oil completely in your skincare regime, as counterintuitive as that sounds:

“Oily skin needs oil! I know that it can be a difficult concept to get your head around when you feel a bit greasy, but ‘oil on oil’ actually results in a stabilising of the skin’s natural oil flow, which results in calmer skin. Treating skin with harsh products and washing too often or too vigorously only feeds the issues associated with oily, blemish prone skin.”

“If you’ve got the time and can afford it, a specialised facial such as ELEMIS S.O.S Purifying Facial  will really help to soothe congested skin and clear things up quicker. Also look out for ingredients such as moringa oil, lavender, myrrh, willow, nettle and silver birch, which all stabilize oil flow, reduce shine and help to alleviate blemishes.”

Beyond skincare, it’s seemingly a universal truth that you are what you eat, and that our diet is having more of an effect in the skincare stakes than we perhaps realise:

“It’s important to highlight that we no longer classify skin with age. It’s now analysed according to lifestyle, for instance we’re seeing accelerated premature ageing in the early 20s, and upsurge in mature acne in the mid 40s and into the 50s and an increased prevalence in acne rosacea across the board. Nutrition is so important in terms of maintaining skin radiance and health, and vitamins are a catalyst that help the skin to function well.”

To help to spirit away spots, nutritionist Dale Pinnock has compiled a handy list of acne-fighting nutrients in  The Clear Skin Cookbook :

“Vitamin A regulates sebaceous secretions and improves skin tone.”

“In the case of vitamin C, it seems to have gained a certain panacea/ cure-all status for virtually every condition, and it certainly does have an important role to play in fighting infection and encouraging wound-healing. A little extra vitamin C will help active, infected acne lesions heal faster, helps in scar tissue formation and also gives the immune system a supportive boost.”

“Zinc regulates the way in which androgen hormones influence the sebaceous glands, reducing excessive sebum production. Zinc also helps in wound healing because it regulates the activity of white blood cells that fight bacterial infection."

“Omega 3 fatty acids are probably the best nutrients to reduce the appearance and speed up the healing time of active acne lesions. This is because they help the body to manufacture its own intrinsic anti-inflammatory compounds called prostaglandins. These are by-products produced in the body from metabolizing dietary fatty acids, and are involved in the management of inflammatory response. Omega 3 fatty acids enable us to produce the types of prostaglandin that actually reduce inflammation, so can help to rapidly reduce the redness and swelling of an active spot.”

“Fat soluble antioxidants are also vital for helping to manage the inflammation in any active skin lesions. This is because there’s a certain percentage of inflammatory response that’s instigated by a localized free radical release by white blood cells, so additional antioxidants will help to buffer this. the fat soluble antioxidants are the only ones that can deliver this activity through dietary consumption alone. these are compounds such as carotenoids (beta carotene, alpha carotene etc), which will naturally begin to make their way into the upper layers of the skin where they can deliver their activity.”

“Top acne fighting foods are pumpkin seeds, as they’re a great source of zinc and essential fatty acids. Prawns pack in zinc, selenium and the powerful carotenoid astaxanthin, while red peppers are a source of anti-inflammatory beta carotene. Sweet potatoes are also a rich source of beta carotene, plus immunomodulating proteins to help support immune function.”

If you’ve stocked up on prawns and protective skincare, but are still curious as to where giant pimples have popped up from in the first place, Noella has a general guide:

“Breakouts on the chin are more than likely hormonal, for instance a result of the menstrual cycle, menopause or pregnancy. If you’be had a breakout on your cheeks, it’s more likely to be bacterial, and blemishes on the forehead are very often associated with stress or digestive imbalances.”

In order to give spots the best chance of shrinking and skulking away, no matter what their trigger, take heed of Noella’s final blemish banishing checklist:

“Clean makeup brushes regularly as they accumulate a lot of dirt and bacteria.”

“Prioritise a healthy diet and include nuts where you can, especially walnuts, as their omega 3 fatty acids help to lower the inflammation associated with breakouts.”

“Get to sleep earlier. Lots of beauty sleep quite literally helps the skin to regenerate at night.”

“Drink extra water to help to eliminate toxins.”

“Don’t touch your face if you can help it, and definitely stop picking! Every time you pick at a spot, it causes more damage, stress and inflammation.”

“Be patient with products. It takes your skin a good month for new cells to come to the surface and for real results to be visible.”

This feature was written in partnership with  ELEMIS

What’s worked for you when it comes to getting rid of breakouts? Comment below or tweet us  @GetTheGloss

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