The words ‘acne’ and ‘pimples’ (aka breakouts) are often used interchangeably, but these terms have different meanings. Acne is a chronic skin condition, and pimples are a sign of this condition, however, not everyone who experiences an occasional pimple or ‘breakout’ has acne-prone skin. Pimple is an informal term that refers to closed comedones (whiteheads), open comedones (blackheads), and inflammatory lesions. These blemishes can occur when a pore becomes blocked with sebaceous matter, dead skin cells, or other bacterial impurities. Blemishes of this kind occur close to the surface of the skin in the epidermal layer. Whiteheads have a core covered by a very thin layer of skin. In contrast, blackheads have a core that’s exposed to the air, hence their dark, oxidised appearance.

“All skin types, but particularly oily and combination, are susceptible to occasional non-inflammatory acne lesions. However, they can be treated with a mindful skincare routine, that considers efficacious, decongesting ingredients. Acne-prone skin is characterised by various types of lesions including closed and open comedones, inflammatory papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts. Acne typically affects areas of the skin with a high number of sebaceous glands, including the face, neck, and back – some individuals may experience tenderness, erythema (redness), and oedema (swelling). Acne-prone skin requires targeted management, preferably via a dermatologist or doctor, who may prescribe a combination of topical and oral medications”, explains dermatologist, Dr Stephanie Rea (Bulimba Dermatology, QLD).

Inspired by a quest to regulate an oily, blemish-prone T-Zone, and my faith in a dedicated, dermatologist-approved skincare routine, this Editorial Feature unveils a deep dive into caring for oily-to- combination skin types prone to occasional, mild inflammatory, unsightly breakouts. Understand the science, take note of the expert dermatological insights, and discover the recommended ‘tried and tested’ products, to regulate excessive sebum production, control shine, deter breakouts, and diminish imperfections.


Esteemed skincare professionals advocate the use of a facial cleanser, as the first and most fundamental step, to create and maintain a healthy, radiant-looking complexion. Gel and foaming cleansers are ideal for combination-to-oily skin types prone to breakouts.

“Squeaky clean skin is not the goal – the ideal cleanser should lift and sweep away impurities, without stripping the skin to avoid impairing the protective skin barrier. Consumers should commence with identifying their skin type, and key concerns via a qualified skincare professional, and seek out formulations that optimise the health of the skin barrier”, says Dr Rea.

Like all CeraVe products, the brand’s Blemish Control Cleanser has been developed with dermatologists, is fragrance-free, non-comedogenic, and includes three skin-identical Ceramides, to fortify the skin’s natural barrier. Powered by 2% Salicylic Acid to unclog pores, Purifying Clay to absorb excess oil, and soothing Niacinamide, the refreshing foaming gel texture provides a thorough, non-stripping cleanse for oily skin prone to mild acne. Designed for oily, blemished skin, Bioderma Sébium Gel Moussant Actif combines hardworking Salicylic and Glycolic Acids to decongest pores, Zinc Gluconate to fight bacteria and regulate shine, and moisturising Glycerin to promote skin hydration. The refreshing, pH-balanced gel formula assists to refine skin texture, and can be utilised 1-2 times a week, as a maintenance cleanser to reduce the occurrence of breakouts.

Masks? Facial skincare masks occlude the skin – in simpler terms, they create a temporary barrier between the external environment (air), and the formula’s ingredients. This barrier inhibits evaporation, and encourages key ingredients to penetrate the outer layers of the skin, to deliver targeted benefits. Dermalogica’s Sebum Clearing Masque is formulated with gentle, oil-absorbing clays to detoxify, Salicylic Acid to unclog pores, and Niacinamide to promote an even skin tone. Oat Kernel Extract and Bisabolol provide soothing benefits, and Safflower Seed Oil (rich in Vitamin E and Linoleic Acid) combats ageing free radical damage, and minimises the onset and look of pimples. Mecca Max Zit Strategy Clarifying Mask’s key ingredients include Kaolin Clay, Bamboo Charcoal, 5% Sulphate, Lactic Acid, and Glycerin to gently draw out impurities, combat acne-causing bacteria, and reduce the signs of inflammation. Aside from assisting to draw out excess oil and impurities, the weekly usage of a caring, clay-based mask will also amplify the penetration of your anti-blemish skincare arsenal, including serums and moisturisers. Win!


“Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) such as Glycolic and Lactic Acids, primarily exfoliate the surface of the skin. Penetrating Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) including Salicylic Acid, propel cell turnover, and can unclog pores. Aside from decongesting pores, and removing excess oil, BHAs possess anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, that can reduce erythema (redness), and edema (swelling) associated with acne”, explains Dr Rea. Paula’s Choice best-selling Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Gel Exfoliant (also available as a liquid), is a leave-on exfoliating treatment that unclogs pores, and gently removes layers of dull skin. Powered by Salicylic Acid, the innovative formula is also infused with antimicrobial Phytosphingosine, soothing Bisabolol (a key derivative of German chamomile), and a combination of antioxidant-rich Grape Seed and Green Tea Leaf Extracts. This is my essential, daily AM ‘go-to’ product to control shine and inhibit breakouts – particularly across my oily T-Zone. Allies Of Skin Prebiotics & Niacinamide Pore Refining Booster (available at MECCA), is supercharged with 10% Niacinamide, brightening Licorice Root Extract, soothing Centella Asiatica Leaf Extract, and Vitamin E to visibly refine skin texture, boost radiance, and fortify the skin barrier. The formula also contains Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid, and a Prebiotics & Probiotics Complex to promote beneficial microbiome activity, whilst reducing sensitivity and redness.

SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense Serum combines a clinically proven blend of exfoliating AHAs and BHAs, including Dioic, Glycolic and Salicylic Acids, to address the concerns of dull, blemish-prone skin. The corrective, dual-action gel formula, also acts to visibly reduce the signs of ageing, including fine lines, wrinkles, and pigmentation. Bioderma Sébium Serum Anti- Imperfection Smoothing Concentrate is expertly cocktailed with exfoliating Salicylic Acid to decongest, Acetyl Glucosamine to clarify and brighten, and Hyaluronic Acid to hydrate and plump. FluidActif Technology prevents sebum oxidation and thickening, and restrains the appearance of new imperfections to promote a healthy-looking complexion. It Cosmetics Bye Bye Breakout Salicylic Acid Face Serum showcases a combination of 2% Salicylic Acid to target active breakouts, 3% Lactic Acid to propel cell turnover, and a Postbiotic Ferment to comfort blemish-prone skin. The dermatologist-tested serum is lightweight and non-drying, and has been designed to be layered with the brand’s Confidence In A Gel Lotion Moisturiser – a weightless, oil-free formulation infused with skin-loving Ceramides, Glycerin, Niacinamide, and calming Cactus Flower Extract to address inflammation. Pioneering skincare Founder, Emma Lewisham believes that a healthy microbiome is at the heart of clear, balanced, and radiant skin. The brand’s new Supernatural Blemish Serum harnesses 20 years of scientific research to deliver a world-first patented ‘live’ skin probiotic – Micrococcus luteus – that was discovered on healthy human skin. This specialised strain inhibits pathogenic bacteria including C. acnes – a key contributor to the development of acne and blemishes. Emma Lewisham is independently certified carbon positive, and is a circular-designed brand – all products are refillable and recyclable, via the brand’s mindful ‘Beauty Circle’ initiative. Applause!


Moisturising oily, blemish-prone skin might seem counterintuitive, but it’s crucial. Dehydrated skin can overcompensate by producing more oil, potentially leading to further breakouts. “The skin barrier is part of our first line of defence – it protects us against infections, irritants, and environmental pollutants. A damaged skin barrier results in increased Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL), that can lead to inflammation and irritation. As inflammation can worsen acne, maintaining a healthy skin barrier is essential to prevent breakouts”, explains Dr Rea. Moisturisers that incorporate skin- loving ingredients such as Ceramides (naturally found in the skin barrier), Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid, Panthenol (Pro-Vitamin B5), and antioxidant-rich Tocopherol (Vitamin E), strengthen and protect the natural skin barrier. Seek out lightweight, fragrance-free, non- comedogenic formulations to avoid irritation, and consider those that contain Salicylic Acid and Niacinamide, to address congestion and uneven skin tone. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo+M Anti Imperfections Moisturiser is powered by microbiome science, to visibly soothe skin, target blemishes, and reduce the look of post-acne marks. The fast-absorbing, gel-cream is formulated with Phylobioma, a blend of Lipohydroxy and Salicylic Acids, and Zinc PCA, to purify blocked pores and control shine. The ‘made for sensitive’ formula also includes Glycerin, Mannose, and Niacinamide to support the health of the skin barrier. Avène Cleanance Mattifying Emulsion is a multi-benefit moisturiser that regulates the hyperproduction of sebum, and provides long-lasting 24-hour hydration with a matte finish. The lightweight, antimicrobial formula is infused with Glycerin, Vitamin E, and Comedoclastin – a plant-based active to diminish the look of blemishes, and prevent their reoccurrence.


Facial cleansing and moisturising – ideally AM and PM – are fundamental to maintain the health of oily, congested, blemish- prone skin. Dermatologist-approved, non-comedogenic, fragrance- free formulations powered by BHAs (particularly Salicylic Acid), and skin barrier-loving ingredients including Ceramides, Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid, and Niacinamide reign supreme. Facial skin is delicate – abrasive, physical (granular) scrubs can irritate and amplify inflammation. Dr Rea advocates the use of leave-on, chemical exfoliants formulated first and foremost with BHAs, and secondly AHAs, to gently unclog pores, regulate the hyperproduction of sebum, and create a smoother, unified- looking complexion. It’s tempting, but never ‘pop’ pimples – it will increase the risk of infection and scarring. Consider introducing a decongesting mask into your weekly skincare routine. Always apply leave-on exfoliants and masks onto cleansed skin, and follow with a minimalist, skin barrier-loving moisturiser. Targeted spot treatments? Many new-age, BHA-powered leave-on treatments can be applied as spot treatments, but if you’re seeking a gentle, nature-inspired alternative, I recommend Weleda S.O.S. Spot Treatment. The anti-bacterial, gel formula is loaded with organic Willow Bark and Licorice Root Extracts, and Witch Hazel Water to combat impurities, soothe, and visibly reduce inflammation. Complement your topical skincare routine with a healthy, balanced diet, and lifestyle. The gut-skin axis is crucial – a healthy, nutritious diet will assist to maintain a balanced skin microbiome, control inflammation, promote hormonal balance + hydration, and provide antioxidant protection. Renaissance – a skincare revival to address the concerns of oily, congested, blemish-prone skin. Embrace the ‘light’, and love the skin you’re in.

This article was first published in the Summer issue of Retail Beauty:

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