Acne 101: All About Breakouts

Acne 101: All About Breakouts

June is Acne Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to brush up on all your breakout need-to-know info. Here at Current State, we know how stressful (and emotional!) dealing with acne can be and we are here to help you discover some of the most effective tips, tricks and solutions out there to achieve clear, healthy-looking skin.  

In this “Acne 101” guide, we'll explore what acne is, its common causes, do's and don'ts, and some of our favorite ingredients that can help send those annoying breakouts packing.  


What is Acne? 

Acne (aka Acne Vulgaris) is a skin condition that occurs when hair follicles become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria forming a “plug” or comedone. The biggest perpetrator here is the P. Acnes bacteria which infects these comedones and the inflammation cycle begins resulting in a breakout.  Just like skin concerns though, acne can look different depending on the person but we’ll break it down into three main categories for you: 

Comedonal (Non-Inflammatory) 
  • Blackheads & Whiteheads 
  • These are the plugs we were talking about earlier and appear more as hard bumps and nodules vs poppable pimples 
  • Lower risk of scarring/dark spots 
  • Papules & Pustules 
  • Both above and below the surface, these can be more swollen, painful bumps that you’re likely wanting to pop (P.S. DON’T) 
  • Higher chance of scarring/dark spots 
  • Nodules & Cysts 
  • Severe bumps deep within the skin and commonly referred to as cystic acne 
  • Can lead to significant scarring and uneven skin texture 

What Causes Acne? 

We know that surface buildup and clogged pores are one of the main culprits but understanding some of the additional causes can help you take a more active approach to prevention. 
  • Hormonal Imbalances: During key life changes (puberty, menopause, etc.) hormone levels fluctuate, leading to increased oil production and clogged pores. 
  • Bacterial Growth: Propionibacterium acnes (P. Acnes as mentioned before), a type of bacteria that thrives in clogged pores, can worsen acne by causing inflammation. 
  • Diet: Some studies show that consuming excessive amounts of sugar, dairy products, and inflammation-inducing foods may exacerbate acne for certain individuals. 
  • Stress: High-stress levels can stimulate hormone production, leading to increased sebum production and acne flare-ups. 


Do’s & Don’ts for Acne-Prone Skin 

Pretty sure we’ve ALL been guilty of a few of these “don’ts” but let’s cover them anyway… 


  • Keep your face clean 
    • Gently cleanse your face at least once daily using a mild, balanced cleanser to clear away excess oil and impurities. 
    • We recommend: Balancing Gel Cleanser 
  • Hydrate 
    • Both internally and externally. Drink plenty of water and incorporate lightweight serums & moisturizers into your daily routine to keep your skin hydrated and healthy. 
    • We recommend: Hydrating Serum
  • Find an exfoliator right for you 
    • Exfoliation is key to eliminating blemishing-causing buildup and allowing better absorption of your active treatments. Just make sure it’s gentle enough for your skin needs. 
    • We recommend: Exfoliating Cleanser
  • Keep your skin barrier in check  
    • A stressed-out skin barrier means an increased risk of inflammatory response and breakouts. Keep it calm, nourished and balanced at all times. 
    • We recommend: Lightweight Gel Cream
  • Practice stress management techniques
    • Engage in activities like yoga, meditation, or hobbies to reduce stress levels and keep those breakout-causing hormones in check. 


  • Avoid touching your face 
    • Touching your face can transfer bacteria and irritants, leading to breakouts. 
  • Don't pick or pop pimples 
    • Popping pimples can lead to scarring and further inflammation. 
  • Stop stripping your skin 
    • One of the biggest misconceptions is to over cleanse or dry out your skin when it reality this just compromises your barrier and makes your more susceptible to inflammation 
  • Limit sun exposure 
    • While sun exposure can temporarily improve acne (thanks, vitamin D), it can also lead to skin damage and worsen acne in the long run. 
  • Avoid harsh scrubs and exfoliants 
    • Over-exfoliating can irritate the skin and aggravate acne so make sure you’re using a gentle one. We recommend chemical exfoliants like BHA & AHAs. 

Top Ingredients for Helping Treat Acne 

While there are plenty of prescription and over-the-counter products out there that will absolutely get the job done, here are a few of our favorite go-to ingredients, both botanical and clinical. 
  • Salicylic Acid
    • A powerful Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) that penetrates deep into the pores to help clear away congestion while simultaneously exfoliating. Best part is that it also has anti-inflammatory properties making it a great choice for sensitive skin. 
  • Retinol
    • Derived from vitamin A, retinoids regulate cell turnover, prevent clogged pores, and reduce inflammation, making them effective against acne and post-acne marks. 
  • Vitamin C
    • Rich in antioxidants, it helps keep less susceptible to inflammation by warding off environmental stressors that can lead to breakouts. Also an amazing brightening solution for post-blemish spots. 
  • Hyaluronic Acid
    • This hydrating ingredient attracts and retains moisture in the skin, promoting a healthy skin barrier and preventing excessive dryness or irritation that can leave skin susceptible to inflammation. 
  • Algae Extract
    • Rich in antioxidants and minerals, algae extract soothes and nourishes the skin while reducing inflammation, aiding in the healing process of acne breakouts. 
  • Probiotics
    • By balancing the skin's microbiome, probiotics help control acne-causing bacteria, strengthen the skin barrier, and reduce inflammation, promoting healthier and clearer skin. 
  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids
    • AHAs, like lactic, glycolic, citric, and those that are naturally occurring in certain fruits extracts, exfoliate the skin's surface, remove dead skin cells, and help prevent future pore clogging, resulting in smoother and less congested skin.
  • Green Tea Extract
    • Packed with antioxidants, green tea extract helps reduce inflammation, control sebum production, and fight acne-causing bacteria, promoting clearer skin. 

Just like most other common skin concerns, acne doesn't have to hold you back from looking and feeling your best. It’s our philosophy here at Current State that you CAN take charge of your skincare routine and experiment with different products to discover the perfect combination that works for your unique skin that day.  

Are any of the products or ingredients we mentioned already in your current rotation? Share your Skintuitive routine on Instagram or TikTok and tag us  @currentstateofbeauty  
** Important Note: we always encourage talking to your dermatologist or medical provider when it comes to the treatment of chronic skin conditions including (but not limited to) eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, and acne. 

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