Why am I breaking out? Part 1 - what's the deal with sebum?

There are so many reasons why our skin breaks out, so we're taking a look at all of these in our new series - starting with the overproduction of sebum. So let’s talk acne and the role that sebum plays.

Why is my skin greasy?

Is your skin feeling shiny? Have you recently applied make-up only for it to slide off? Are you breaking out on a regular basis? These are just some of the things that those of us with oily skin have to deal with everyday. But why? Well, your skin feels greasy when it produces excess oil in your pores. Medically, this is called seborrhea, because this oil is also known as sebum.

What is sebum? 

Sebum is the natural oily and waxy-feeling stuff that is produced by the oil glands in our skin. We produce sebum because it moisturizes and lubricates both our skin and our hair, it also has weak antibacterial properties that protect our skin, the body’s largest organ, from some bacteria and fungi. So, when it comes down to it, sebum is really important for the normal functioning of our skin.

I heard that sebum leads to acne and breakouts, is that true?

It is true that excess sebum can lead to more breakouts. This is because our skin sometimes goes nuts, thanks to our hormones, and starts producing too much of a good thing. This overproduction of sebum plays a big role in the formation of acne because when your skin starts to produce too much sebum, the sticky sebum collects up the dead skin cells, debris and bacteria on your skin and starts to build up and clog your hair follicles. Your hair follicles then become the perfect breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria resulting in the nasty inflammations that we acne sufferers know so well! Blackheads, whiteheads, pimples and pustules all start the same way, so there really is such a thing as too much of a good thing!

The Skin's Layers

To understand how excess sebum can cause acne and breakouts, first we need to understand more about the skin’s layers.

Our skin is made up of three main layers. First comes the subcutaneous tissue, which is the deepest layer, this contains our blood vessels and nerves. Next comes the dermis layer, which contains our sweat and oil glands, connective tissue and hair follicles. And, finally, we have the outermost layer, which is probably the most well-known, this is called the epidermis.

The epidermis itself is actually made up of  another five separate layers, and each of those layers constantly renews themselves by pushing the dead skin cells to the surface. The outermost of those layers is called the stratum corneum. This layer is the first barrier between you and the environment and is made up of flat, dead keratinocytes, which shed. These dead cells break away to make room for newer cells growing up from below. When you put it like that, we are kind of like snakes, constantly shedding our skin!

But those dead skin cells need to make a clean getaway because if they remain attached to our face and our skin produces too much sebum, this mixture can seep into the deeper layers and clog up the hair follicles. Add to that the acne causing bacteria called P. acnes, and you’ve got an acne time-bomb on your hands.

How can I regulate the production of sebum in my skin?

Hormones, genetics, injuries, medication, environmental conditions, stress, anxiety, diet and many other factors can all be responsible for the overproduction of sebum.

Here at System Akvile, we don’t believe that any skincare routine can cure the internal reasons for the overproduction of sebum, but we can remove the dead skin cells from the acne equation. And the best way to do that is with an acid exfoliation. Our gentle yet effective exfoliant polishes away your dead skin cells and balances your skin’s texture. The blend of two acids, lactic (AHA) and salicylic (BHA) penetrates pores and fortifies your skin with anti-inflammatory properties, whilst exfoliating.

Exfoliating with acid promotes skin cell growth, which is exactly what acne prone skin needs, so we recommend exfoliating daily or 3/4 times a week for a soft, glowing complexion.

Most of the time when our skin is oily or greasy we might also think that using a moisturizer will make our skin even worse. But, believe it or not, oily skin needs moisture too. The key here is to use the right moisturizer!

Our moisturizer has been formulated for acne prone skin. It is lightweight and consists of a combination of different active ingredients which restore skin, balance lipids - otherwise known as fatty acids - and acts as a shield to protect your skin from breakout causing bacteria and dirt. We recommend applying once in the morning and once in the evening after cleansing (and exfoliating), for skin that is smoother, softer, and less greasy, oily or shiny.

Can I use oils?

The last thing that those of us with oily skin probably want to use on our skin is more oil. But, oily skin produces more oil as a defence mechanism to balance out the loss of moisture on your skin. In fact, you could counter oil with oil by using oil-based products. The oil in these products attracts the excess oil on your skin and can dissolve sebum, grease or makeup without stripping the skin of its natural oils.

Oil based products tend to stay on the skin better and spreads easily over oily skin.

Our SOS Target, uses Ictasol (otherwise known as sodium shale oil sulfonate), which is anti-seborrheic and anti-inflammatory, and Sepicontrol A5(TM), which is an active ingredient that also regulates sebum production. Apply this spot stick directly on your breakouts and blemishes and you’ll find that not only does it stay on, but it also doesn’t dry your skin out or cause irritation.

So, if you want to make your acne prone skin less oily, you can use oils, you can use moisturiser and you can exfoliate! Clear and glowing skin is often a result of hard work and diligence, but we’re working to make it that bit easier by providing you with the products you need and the routine to use them with, to help you stick at it.



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