As a skincare expert, one question I’m asked a lot is, how do spots and pimples actually form?

With the recent heatwave and many more gorgeous sunny summer days ahead, it’s a great time to talk about summer skin, and the fact that ANYONE can get summer acne - eek! 

In addition to the three stages of how a pimple forms below, excess sebum, dirt, SPF and dust stick to sweat during the summer and clogs pores.

Pimples are small skin lesions or inflammations of the skin, which form when hair follicles (canal in the skin containing a single hair) become clogged and infected, leading to swollen, red lesions often filled with pus.

Every hair follicle on our bodies is formed from 3 parts, the sebaceous gland (which produces oil to condition our hair and skin), the sebaceous duct (moves sebum and dead skin cells from the sebaceous gland into the hair canal) and thirdly, the hair, which helps sebum travel out of the pores and up through the skin layers.  

Did you know that we have between 2-5 million hair follicles on our bodies? These hair follicles run through the epidermis and dermis (the two layers of skin) which is bad news for acne sufferers, as blocked hair follicles are the primary cause of acne.

 The 3 stages of the formation of a pimple 

  1. Pore becomes blocked: We shed millions of dead skin cells every day, which exit via our skin’s pores (tiny openings on our skin’s surface. When the hair follicles becomes blocked with excess sebum (a typical problem in acne sufferers), dead skin cells and keratin (protein found in nails, hair and skin) clump up and further block the pore
  2.  White or black head formation: The combination of trapped sebum, keratin and skin cells block the inside of the hair follicle, causing pressure behind the skin pore. Over the next few days, the pressure builds resulting in the hair follicle blowing up and becoming a pimple (also called a comedo). Blackheads are formed when the pimple grows bigger, which starts to pop above the surface of the skin. Blackheads are visibly darker in colour due to the melanin found in the dead skin cells, which turns black when exposed to oxygen. Whiteheads form when the comedo stays below the skin’s surface, remaining light cloured due to the melanin not becoming exposed to the air.
  3. Inflammation When spots become inflamed, a bacteria called propionbacterium acnes triggers an immune response stimulating the body to send white cells to the hair follicle to defend against infection, resulting in inflammation and pus.

One of my favourite skincare tips is the mighty double cleanse. I recommend using this skin ritual daily, but even more so in the summer. Discover more about why you should be double cleansing here.