Managing acne: The 3 factors you need to understand

If you struggle with acne, you might know that severe or ongoing breakouts are often notoriously difficult to treat. Why? Because acne can be triggered by several different factors, so identifying the cause of your acne is a big part of finding the right treatment approach for you.

Acne is an inflammatory disease, but it affects everyone differently and needs to be treated in a personalised way. You might find short-term relief with a combination of topical treatments and medications, but this won’t provide a long-term solution.

There are three basics of healthy skin which must be considered before embarking on an acne treatment plan: an intact skin barrier, a balanced microbiome, and a natural skin pH. Optimising these three factors can slow the progression of acne and reduce its severity.


Skin barrier

Your skin barrier regulates the moisture leaving your skin and protects your body from potentially harmful toxins. If this barrier is impaired, your skin can become dehydrated and inflamed. Your skin barrier must be healthy before you use topical acne treatments, as these can cause more damage if the barrier is damaged.

Many over-the-counter acne remedies can actually degrade the skin barrier which leads to a worse inflammatory response. Once a healthy skin barrier is achieved, other acne treatments will be more effective.



The skin microbiome is a community of microorganisms that form a protective layer on the skin’s surface, protecting against bacteria, yeast and mould. Everyone has a unique skin microbiome, but an imbalanced microbiome can reduce microorganism diversity, leading to many common skin problems including acne. Certain pre-, pro- and post-biotics can help facilitate the proper balance of skin microbiome.


Natural pH

You might have heard of pH-balanced products, but what does that actually mean? The skin pH is the measure of its alkalinity or acidity. The skin’s natural pH level is around 4.5 – 5.0. If it becomes too high, the microbiome can become imbalanced which leads to an over-production of bacteria. Changing pH levels can also impair your skin barrier, resulting in skin inflammation and dehydration.


It is important that your Skin Doctor considers your overall skin health – and particularly these three factors – when prescribing a treatment plan for your acne.

Understanding the skin barrier, microbiome and natural pH creates the optimal foundation from which to begin a treatment regime, therefore delivering more effective results.

If you would like to speak to a Skin Doctor or Skin Therapist about your skin concerns, please call us or book your appointment online.

Written by National Skin Cancer Centres