When we first started Clearly, we had focused on reaching out to teens since the incidence of acne normally drops off after the age of 19. But to our surprise, adults in their 20's and 30's were signing up for subscriptions alongside teens... why?
While we know that incidence rate of acne remains high even into adulthood, we have an additional hunch. Although there haven't been large-scale epidemiological studies done in Southeast Asia, conditions here make it easier for acne to thrive.
Here are some points to consider:
- The heat and humidity that comes from living in the tropics stimulates sebum production which in turn causes more breakouts on acne-prone skin.
- High UV exposure from the sun can quickly darken spots where acne once existed, making spots more prominent.
- The Asian diet centers around refined carbs like white rice and noodles. These carbs increase blood sugar, insulin and ultimately the production of androgen hormones. Why does this matter? Harken back to those wonderful teenage years when hormones would kick sebum production into overdrive and cause a wave of breakouts. Eating all those refined carbs may create a similar effect.
- About 90% of East Asian adults are lactose intolerant, yet we see a lot of Asians consuming dairy. Every individual's response to lactose may be different but increased sebum and mucous production are common reactions.
- Towels are hard to dry due to the humidity, especially in the evenings when there is no sun. Damp towels are breeding grounds for bacteria, fungus and mildew which may disrupt our skin's microbiome when we use dirty towels on our skin.
- Eight of the top ten countries that produce coconuts are in Asia so it is common to have coconut oil in our cosmetics, creams, moisturizers and soaps. Refined coconut oil is comedogenic and should not be applied to acne prone skin.
While living in the tropics may make conditions a little more 'sticky' for acne to show up, don't get too hot and bothered.
There are simple steps we can take to reduce breakouts, even in this heat.
Back to the Basics
This may be rudimentary, but you would be surprised how many people wash their face improperly. We're inundated with marketing about soaps and cleansers and many of us wash and exfoliate excessively believing that it will help with acne-prone skin.
Unless you have extremely oily skin, washing your face with a gentle soap twice per day is the best strategy. Overwashing has little positive impact on acne and may in fact worsen existing acne if it is causing irritation.
As for acne cleansers and washes, in most cases they are overrated since the active ingredient is not left on for enough time to penetrate the skin before they are rinsed off.
Go with a simple cleanser and follow these steps:
- Using lukewarm water, get the soap wet. Do not wash your face while you're in the shower.
- Apply the soap to your skin and rub gently with a circular motion using your fingertips or a soft, clean washcloth. Do not use abrasives, loofah sponges, brushes or scrubs
- Splash your face with lukewarm water until the soap is completely gone. Expect to rinse your face for just a few seconds
- Using a clean, soft cotton towel, pat your skin until it's dry
First Line Treatments
If you are experiencing acne, Benzyol Peroxide (BP) is your first line treatment. BP has the dual function of bringing oxygen into your pores (thereby killing anaerobic P. acnes bacteria), removing dead skin cells and helping to clear blocked folicles.
High concentrations of BP may be just as effective as low concentrations with less irritation so start with a 2.5% concentration and move up in strength as needed.
Apply a thin layer of BP to areas of your skin that has acne or is acne-prone. Start out applying every other night and increase the frequency if there is no irritation. Be patient. BP takes some time before results start showing. You can pick up BP at your local pharmacy. As for brands of BP, Clearly recommends using high-quality generics since the active pharmaceutical ingredients are the same. The price premium you are paying in a branded product is largely marketing and packaging.
The Big Guns + Good Habits
If BP alone has not worked in the past, consider using the Clear Out formulation. It is packed with three active ingredients which work together to address acne from several angles: retinol to flush out the dead skin that is the material that forms clogs; AZA to calm redness and inflammation; and pracaxi oil, a potent antioxidant.
In addition to serums and lotions, we cannot over-stress the importance of the good habits that must go hand-in-hand in order to maintain healthy skin.
For the acne-prone amongst us (and we are many), watch for the points above and practice all the great stuff that does come from living in the tropics anyways: donate stress, sleep more, keep hydrated, and enjoy the bounty of local fruits and vegetables.
If you are out in the sun, remember to apply your sunblock (non-comedogenic of course)!