Few things can ruin your day like iOS updates, jury duty and acne. Most people will struggle with pimples, zits or, boutons as we say in France (cute, right?) at some point in their life. But that struggle can be hard to talk about and, therefore, hard to overcome.
We checked out a study on the NCBI site in which the “anxiety and depression [of people with and without acne vulgaris] were evaluated by [a] Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) questionnaire.” The results concluded that “psychosocial problems such as low self-esteem, anxiety and depression, and decrease in social relationships” are prevalent in patients with acne, and that “even a minor lesion may be unpleasant for the patient and seem large.”
So true. All it takes is one juicy pimple to stop us from going out with friends, on a date, etc. Plus, there’s that consequentially awkward moment where you have to reschedule and invent some weird excuse, because we’re pretty sure no one ever told a Tinder babe, “can we rain-check? I have to tend to the crater on my chin.”
What are the steps to beating a breakout? Is it ever okay to pop a zit? What’s the difference between benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid? WTG decided to sit down with Parisian Dermatologist Dr. Anne Laure Breton to ask her all our acne questions, so you don’t have to.
“Blackheads and whiteheads are often easier to deal with than cysts. You can pop a mature white-head and expedite the healing process, but it has to be done the right way," Dr. Breton explained. "First, place a hot towel over the pimple so that the steam opens up the pores, and then, with tissues [wrapped around your fingers], gently pop it. You certainly don’t want to force a pimple that’s not ready, and you should not try to pop cysts.”
Cysts are fatty, deep rooted pimples that, according to Dr. Breton, should never be popped or drowned in benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid creams. “Tons [of benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid] will only dry it out and cause the skin to create even more oil. I would say, keep your face clean. Keep it hydrated with a non-perfumed lotion. Keep your hands away from your face.”
Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid might sound intimidating, but they're just chemicals commonly used in gels to treat mild-to-moderate acne. When it comes to picking between the two, because they "aren't so different," according to Dr. Breton, who said it's "simply a matter of whatever works for you... You just have to see. I have some patients who swear by using diluted tea-tree oil for spot treatments. If none of those work, usually [a dermatologist] will treat the acne internally through what we call, 'King Accutane.'" If you haven't already heard of it, Accutane is a potent prescription medication used to clear up skin. We also asked her about the hype of Milk of Magnesia, the laxative beverage that estheticians (and Iman, so, yeah) are swearing by. “Applying [Milk of Magnesia] before bed – you can even sleep in it – and then rinsing it off the next morning can help calm your skin, because it contains magnesium hydroxide.”
Before leaving, she gave us a few parting words of (the most French) advice: “remember that you’re not the first person to have acne, and you will not be the last. People are too concerned with themselves to care as much as you think.” Touché, madame.
Here are a three of Dr. Breton's tips for getting better skin, and 10 products that have helped others conquer acne:
A lot of people try to treat their acne according to whether they've got "overactive" or "underactive" glands, when, in truth, our skin is complicated and ever-changing. The real trick, Dr. Breton explained, is "carving out a regimen that works for you after consulting a dermatologist. You have to be patient, as it’s usually a process of trial-and-error."
People tend to think topical treatments will solve anything. But – spoiler – what you put into your body is reflected in your skin. Eating your fruits and veggies and drinking lots of water, for example, are important first steps towards a fresh face.
Especially if you wear a lot of foundation. Always remove your makeup before you start cleansing and exfoliating. Dr. Breton recommends using a light oil with cold water, then going in to cleanse and exfoliate gently with a towel.