Words by Janell M. Hickman
The dreaded “a” word: acne. For most, it hit hard during those awkward formative years between 12 to 21, then quickly became a distant memory. For others, the literal “battle scars” linger drumming up boxed away feelings of insecurity, self-consciousness, and even shame.
At Bevel Code, the team aims to strike a balance of self-improvement mixed with tactical, real life hands on advice—feeling good about yourself is much more than skin deep. We spoke with a panel of experts to truly understand acne from the inside out, and how to improve the appearance of your complexion sooner than you think.
Dark Spots Vs. Scarring—What’s Up?
According to Dr. Mara Weinstein of Schweiger Dermatology Group acne scars are classified into three different types, boxcar, icepick and rolling—which fall into two categories: atrophic or depressed.
“Depressed scars form most commonly with inflammatory (pin/red bumps) or nodulocystic acne. With both types, inflammation deep in the oil glands can disrupt the scaffolding of your skin – collagen and elastin- creating scars,” she explains. “The worse the acne, the higher chance of scarring. Another common cause of acne scars is trauma from picking/popping or squeezing your own pimples!”
Scarring often leads to dark spots (also known as hyperpigmentation) triggered by the natural melanin in your skin. Think of it like this, when your skin becomes irritated, inflamed, or experiences damage, it sets off your skin’s protective, healing process to send excess melanin resulting in darker patches of skin.
“Hyperpigmentation is a huge concern in darker skin types,” explains Dr. Weinstein. “Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation or PIH can form as a result of inflammation or redness. Usually the darker spots from old acne will fade over time if they formed organically (no picking or scrubbing to the area) but it’s very important to avoid exposure to the sunlight while your acne is healing as this can worsen PIH. Daily SPF 30 or higher is a must for acne prone skin.”
After a major breakout, texture changes such as raised skin (as in keloid scarring) or loss of depth (think like little craters or holes) can occur. While there are a variety of reasons for these issues, the tendency to form raised, keloid scars is simply hereditary Jeni Sykes, Head of Skincare and Co-Founder of Heyday explains.
“Where we see pitting/holes/craters in the skin, it’s generally because the pore or follicle affected by a breakout or blackhead was permanently stretched by what it was holding or experienced severe tissue damage in the process of healing,” she continues.
“Generally, you’ll see more discoloration behind whiteheads because they tend to involve more inflammation when they form. However, you’ll often see more scarring or holes after blackheads. This generally happens when the clogged pore when so long that it was permanently stretch out.”
In her opinion, professional treatments such as microdermabrasion generally offer the best success at evening out skin texture. “It’s also important to note here that prevention is the best defense. Regular facials and a daily home skincare routine that’s right for you can help keep pores clean and refined, “ she says. “Both will help reduce the chances of both chronic breakouts and permanent damage behind those breakouts.”
Select The Right Shaving Method
Shaving with a traditional razor can aggravate acne by cutting raised papules and causing ingrown hairs. The Bevel Shave System was designed with this specifically in mind to avoid excess irritation, razor bumps, and promote cleanliness (you receive 20 fresh blades under the subscription model.)
“If there is a bacterial infection associated with the acne, that infection can be spread by shaving,” explains Board Certified Dermatologist, Christel Malinski M.D. “Folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicle) may also be an issue for acne prone males. Keeping the beard short but not clean shaven can be beneficial for these patients. Some oils used for beard grooming and hair care can also exacerbate acne on the face and neck. “
Sykes also chimes in with “three things many guys don’t realize” when it comes to razors and acne issues:
1. Keep Hydrated
Smooth, supple skin is less likely to breakout than dry, weak skin. “It can’t defend itself as well against bacteria – using a few drops of a beard oil daily can work wonders for keeping the skin under your facial hair calm and clear, even with regular shaving.” Bevel’s Priming Oil can work double duty here as a priming before you shave and as a moisturizing beard oil.
2. Prep Work is Necessary
“It makes a big difference to prep the hair and skin with a shave gel, cream, or oil. The key here is you should actually let what you’re using sit on the skin for at least 30 seconds before going in with your razor—especially if you have very coarse facial hair.”
3. Shaving = Exfoliation
“If you’re scrubbing your skin regularly in addition to shaving (especially if you’re using a gritty scrub or pressing hard) you could be overdoing it, and your skin is far more likely to break out.”
Ingredients are King
Retinoids are the gold standard for treating acne. “They increase cell turnover and promote collagen production which is what is lost when the typical atrophic acne scar forms,” says Weinstein. “When used regularly, they help prevent acne (which is the key to preventing acne scars) and also help to smooth the skin surface, reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentary abnormalities. Adapalene 0.1% gel is now available over the counter.” She does note that retinoids can cause dryness and possible irritation as they work their magic.
Other skin care winners include salicylic acid (which helps to reduce inflammatory and clear the pores out to prevent infection) and benzoyl peroxide (a bactericidal, meaning it kills bacteria, rather than simply slowing down their growth).
For those, wanting to go a more natural route, Sykes suggests anti-inflammatory ingredients like licorice root, chamomile, sandalwood, and turmeric; all help keep skin calm and even toned. She’s also a fan of peptides, Rumex extract, and Kojic acid—all hardworking solves that inhibit melanin overproduction. And if you’re trying to ease any kind of inflammation or irritation on the skin, always reach for a more gentle after shave option. Alcohol free, and has the same cooling, moisturizing effects as other after-shave lotions, the Bevel Restoring balm is your best bet against further flareups.
“Acne is not a one size fits all disease, which is why a skin expert (dermatologist) is so important to achieving clear skin quickly,” Dr. Malinski reminds us. “For severe acne, I prescribe a medication called Isotretinoin, a game changer for patients who have failed all other treatments.”
She leaves us with the sage advice: “You only get one face—put it in the hands of a board certified dermatologist who has studied and treated skin conditions for several years.” Noted.