While no man wants to experience the embarrassment of having blemishes on his face, preventing and treating them without a little assistance can prove to be tricky. We at MadeMan are prepared to help you to better understand what blemishes are, why they develop, and how to protect yourself against them.
What Is a Blemish?
A blemish is technically any spot, discoloration, or defect on the skin. However, the word blemish is most commonly used to refer to acne and the scars it leaves behind.
The formation of acne stems from the sebaceous glands. Sebaceous glands are glands that cover almost the entirety of a person’s body and are mostly concentrated on the face. They secrete oil called sebum into hair follicles to lubricate the surface of the skin.
Problems arise when these follicles become clogged with a buildup of sebum, dirt, and dead skin cells. When bacterias feed on the substances clogging the follicles, they can multiply and irritate the skin, resulting in acne.
Types of Blemishes
There are different types of blemishes. Though similar, each develops differently and can require its own unique form of treatment.
Whiteheads are small clogged pores. Whiteheads develop when the follicle wall bulges, but the pore remains closed on the surface because of oil and dead skin cells. Whiteheads appear as small white bumps on the skin.
Blackheads are produced when follicles fill with excess oil and dead skin cells and become clogged but remain open to the surface. The small pores earn their black hue when the trapped buildup is exposed to the air.
Papules are bumps that result from redness and swelling. The bumps are small and usually less than 5mm in size. The redness causes the swollen bumps to appear pink or red. Papules are typically tender and sensitive to the touch.
Papules are extremely similar in appearance to papules except that they contain a core of white or yellow pus visible at the tip of the bump. Similar to whiteheads, there is typically a red ring around the bump. The swollen pimple is usually raised and can range from 1mm to 5mm in size.
Cysts are considered the most severe individual form of acne. When dirt, bacteria, dry skin cells, and sebum clog your pores, they may form a cyst deep beneath the skin. The cysts are red and swollen, and located deep beneath the skin’s surface. They are filled with pus and appear similar to boils. The swollen bumps tend to be tender.
Severity of Blemishes
In addition to there being different types of blemishes, there are also different levels of severity. Acne can be mild, moderate, or severe. The severity of your acne will play a major role in selecting the safest treatment option for you.
Your acne will usually be defined as mild if you have just a few pimples, papules, whiteheads, or blackheads close to the surface. Typically less than twenty whiteheads or blackheads or less than fifteen swollen bumps will be a small enough amount to be considered mild.
If you have more than a few papules or pustules, you probably have moderate acne. Moderate acne is more likely to be red and swollen. If you have twenty or more whiteheads or blackheads or fifteen or more bumps, your acne is likely to be diagnosed as moderate, if not severe.
For treating moderate acne, your dermatologist will likely prescribe you a medication.
Severe acne is defined as having many clogged pores and pimples, and cysts equal to or greater than 5mm in size. Two of the most severe forms of acne are nodulocystic acne and acne conglobata. Severe nodulocystic acne results in multiple cysts and nodules, while severe acne conglobata involves swollen nodules connected to each other below the skin.
In addition to any other form of severe acne, both of these require attention from a dermatologist. Treatment may include prescribed medications or corticosteroid injections.
What Are Common Acne Triggers?
Though blemishes are sometimes unavoidable, certain triggers for acne can help you better understand blemishes and how to treat them.
One of the top triggers for acne breakouts is hormonal changes. With men specifically, increases in androgen, which is a hormone that increases during male puberty to support their growth, can lead to sebaceous glands enlarging. This then increases the production rate of sebum.
Another common trigger is stress. When you repeatedly experience a lot of stress, an increase in stress-related hormones will be released into your body. This process is known to increase the rate at which sebaceous glands produce sebum, once again risking a buildup of sebum and the clogging of pores.
One other trigger to consider is diet. Though some argue that there is not enough research to confirm that altering one’s diet can cure a person’s acne, studies suggest that the overconsumption of harsh ingredients rich in carbohydrates can exacerbate the condition of one’s black whiteheads.
There are a few simple alterations that you can make to your typical lifestyle routine to help prevent the formation of blemishes on your skin. Some of these changes involve using the right skincare products or adjusting your methods for application.
In general, when selecting the various elements of your skincare routine, it is always best to consider products that are lightweight, water-based, and non-comedogenic. Non-comedogenic products are specially designed not to clog your pores. This is the standard that you should abide by when choosing a safe and effective cleanser.
We recommend trying The Resetter. This cleanser is designed to provide you with a deep but gentle cleanse that can properly clean out your pores without causing any damage to the epidermis or moisture barrier. The Resetter is not filled with harsh chemicals that leave your skin red or dry, but rather is water-based and uses all-natural ingredients that provide you with a refreshing wash.
Whichever cleanser you choose to use, we advise you to avoid excessive washing. Overwashing can lead to irritation. Washing your face once in the morning and once before bed should be sufficient. Add an additional wash after any intense and sweaty workouts.
Using a moisturizer every day is important for providing your skin with the protection it needs to treat sensitive skin and keep buildup from clogging your pores.
Fragrance-free moisturizers are less likely to cause irritation, and, as previously mentioned in the cleanser section, non-comedogenic moisturizers can be best for avoiding blockages in the skin.
Similarly to cleanser, you are welcome to moisturize both in the morning and at night.
Implementing an exfoliator into your routine may also help prevent blemishes from developing in the skin due to the buildup of dead skin cells, dirt, and sebum.
Exfoliating is a popular method for removing dead skin cells from the outer layers of your skin. The two central methods of exfoliation are called mechanical and chemical.
Mechanical exfoliation involves using a tool to remove dead skin cells from your skin’s surface, such as a sponge, brush, or glove. Some tools are designed to be used on dry skin, while others are meant to be accompanied by a cleansing agent.
Chemical exfoliation involves using chemicals to remove dead skin cells from the epidermis by applying an exfoliating product like a scrub, toner, or tonic that contains chemicals to dissolve dead skin cells from the skin.
Typically the main chemical component in these exfoliating products is a BHA (beta hydroxy acid) like salicylic acid or AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) like glycolic acid.
How To Treat Blemishes?
When it comes to treating blemishes that have developed on your face, you have a few different options.
One of the most well-known and successful methods for treating blemishes is using retinol. Retinol is a type of retinoid made from vitamin A that can be used to treat breakouts and fade dark spots.
Once the skin absorbs a retinoid, it moves deep beneath the outer layer and neutralizes free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that are missing an electron and attempt to balance themselves by stealing one from stable molecules. This typically results in damage to skin cells.
It is safest to apply retinol at night because the product increases the skin’s sensitivity to light. If you plan to use retinol products throughout the day, you must apply sunscreen every morning to protect yourself from sun damage.
Sunscreen uses ultraviolet filters that help to block the ultraviolet rays that can damage your skin. You are welcome to use either mineral and chemical sunscreen, but make sure that the product you select is broad-spectrum, meaning that it defends against both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of at least 30.
As previously mentioned, there is not enough research to prove that abiding by certain diets will cure your breakouts. However, there is evidence that suggests that by implementing certain ingredients into your diet, you can support your skin’s overall well-being.
Applying more antioxidants into your diet can make a great improvement to your skin’s health. Antioxidants reduce redness and give your skin the chance to correct itself. Foods rich in antioxidants include red beans, blueberries, and artichokes.
Applying more vitamins like vitamin A into your diet can also be helpful. Vitamin A can promote natural moisturizing, support the skin’s immune system, and prevent breakouts. Foods rich in vitamin A include milk, eggs, and liver.
Applying more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet can also create a positive shift in the quality of your skin. Omega-3 fatty acids can regulate the skin’s oil production and subdue breakouts. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, flaxseed, and walnuts.
In conclusion, blemishes are natural. While unwanted, some are simply unavoidable, whether they are caused by hormonal changes or a couple of stressful days at the office.
However, what you do have control over is how you choose to treat your skin before and during a breakout. There are several options available to you for preventing and healing your blemishes. With a little effort and self-discipline, your skin should be clear in no time.
Acne vulgaris: pathogenesis, treatment, and needs assessment | PubMed
Acne and sebaceous gland function | PubMed
How to safely exfoliate at home | AAD
Sunscreens | PubMed