I’m a Holistic Esthetician and These Are The Most Common Misconceptions I See About Acne

By Hayley Wood @therapeuticskincoach for Apoterra Skincare

Since becoming an esthetician in 2006, my focus has shifted towards a holistic and functional approach to supporting my clients with their skin care needs. This shift towards a more holistic approach came after I recognized that some of the most devastating skin conditions really deserve to be healed instead of just quickly treated. One of those devastating skin conditions I’m referring to is acne. Most causes of acne are complex and very misunderstood which is why it can be such an isolating experience for those experiencing it. 


First, what is acne? Acne Vulgaris is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that causes congestion in the form of everything from blackheads to cysts and disruption of a few of the skin’s many functions such as holding a protective barrier and working as a filter of waste. These disruptions can create a lot of inflammation and irritation to a person’s skin and cause what we know as acne. 

Acne has a grading scale to measure the severity of the condition:

  • Grade 1 is a mild case of papules (raised blemishes without fluids) and comedones (whiteheads and blackheads). 
  • Grade 2 is more progressed with congestion of comedones, papules, and pustules (small infection filled blemishes) throughout the face. 
  • Grade 3 is more progressed with congestion of comedones, papules, pustules, and nodules (swollen and hardened clusters of skin cells). 
  • Grade 4 is painfully inflamed due to the spread of nodules, papules, pustules, comedones, and cysts (infections that are under the skin causing irritation on the barrier on the skin). 

How this acne develops is usually rooted in a few causes which include:

  • disruption in hormones
  • microbiome imbalance
  • environmental triggers 
  • other stressors to the central nervous system

The truth is that acne is not a one time breakout due to misuse of products or eating greasy foods. Acne is a condition that often develops slowly in the body as a response to one or more of the above mentioned causes. If acne was a simple condition that could be fixed with just the right skincare products, it would make life so much easier for those living with it. However, that’s not the case. Today, I want to talk about some of the most common misconceptions about acne to help better understand this complex condition & what causes it. After reading this, my hope is you feel empowered by this newfound knowledge to help you support yourself with loving and compassionate care.  

MISCONCEPTION NUMBER 1 | Self-Diagnosing Acne

Unfortunately most people with signs of acne are usually forced to navigate their condition with little knowledge of skin health and how to treat it. This lack of true skin health education often leads to a lot of trial and error on how to care for the skin.

It’s important to understand the difference between treating a breakout vs. treating acne. A breakout happens periodically and can be a result of any of the causes I mentioned above, or simply due to a product mishap. Having breakouts periodically doesn’t mean you have acne. This misconception really stems from the poor marketing of most skin care products by companies who choose to interchange the language used for acne sufferers with those who  experience a common/occasional breakout. An acne routine is not necessarily for someone who may just have a breakout. For example, Apoterra has a curated skincare routine designed for occasional breakouts in the Nourish ritual. The Clarify ritual is for those with more chronic acne and is a skincare routine for those with acne-prone skin. 

Self-diagnosis of acne can become the start of a greater issue if you’re not careful. The best way to remedy this is by getting a proper diagnosis from a dermatologist and assessment from a qualified esthetician who specializes in acne and causes related to acne. Here is a list of our Apoterra Stockists so you can find someone local to you. Naturopaths and acupuncturists who specialize in skin conditions can also be an essential part of the acne healing journey. It often takes a village of people to help navigate the root causes of a person’s acne case and it can also save a lot of time, money, and confusion. Persons who have acne often have to do a lot of internal support to have long-term results and truly heal. Much like any other healing journey in life, acne can be difficult to navigate with just how deep and long you have to work on it in order to truly heal the cause. It’s not always a linear path with a final destination. 

If you don’t have access to a person like this in your community, start by taking your own self-inventory by tracking your symptoms and keeping your skincare routine simple. Nowadays, there are many professionals offering online support to those in need as well. You don’t have to go through this condition alone so make sure to get the proper diagnosis of what your condition is and how to support it through the help of a qualified licensed esthetician or dermatologist. 

MISCONCEPTION NUMBER 2 | Over-Treating

When it comes to treating acne, more doesn’t equal better. In fact, one of the most common misconceptions of acne is that it is a condition whose causes can be fixed by over-treating skin. Over-treating skin means trying out too many products that can harm the skin to solve an imbalance while potentially creating another imbalance such as irritation or drying the skin out. 

The desire to feel like something is “working” on the skin is also a common reason why folks with acne tend to over-treat. Pain and discomfort in skincare is often misinterpreted as positive activity when it can be dangerous to the integrity of your skin. When it comes to your skin care at home, there should never be burning, irritation, or stinging. If you feel any of those things, the formulations of your products could be causing damage to your skin. 

The key to treating most acne causes at home is in simplifying your skin care routine while keeping it consistent. The way I usually explain this to my clients is by comparing their skin to their digestive system (which coincidentally both have a microbiome to measure its health but we can get into that another time). If your digestive system was irritated, would you add in a ton of different acids to try and make it better faster? Not necessarily. Most digestive problems need time and space to heal while simplifying your nutrient intake to more bland foods to prevent further inflammation and irritation. 

When in doubt, keep your skincare simple with an anti-inflammatory routine that consists of the following:

  • A gentle cleanser such as Activated Charcoal and Dead Sea Salt Complexion soap. You can use this both AM and PM to help balance your skin while gently cleansing it. 
  • A simple hydrating toner such as the Neroli Clarifying Mist. This step is often missed or replaced with a harsh astringent. Instead, this is the drink of water your skin needs to better absorb nutrients and stay calm. 
  • Lastly, you need a facial oil serum like the Herbal Balancing Serum that is formulated to help hydrate and moisturize acneic skin. The instinct for many is to dry out the oil in the skin, but it’s much more important to keep the skin balanced and calm in order to reduce inflammation. REMEMBER - If you are only experiencing periodic breakouts, the Rose Nourishing serum may be a better fit for daily use. 

Extra products and their frequency are only to be added once you have your simple, calming regimen down.  

MISCONCEPTION NUMBER 3 | Holding the Acne Identity 

Once an acne sufferer, always an acne sufferer? Not exactly. Acne is an incredibly uncomfortable and unpredictable condition which can have lasting psychological effects on a person even after it’s gone. Sure, if you’ve had acne at some point in your life, you may be a person that could experience it again as your health and stressors fluctuate. However, once your skin is cleared and you’ve moved out of any grade of acne, you don’t need to keep treating your skin as if it will just come back. If you’ve truly done the work, you will discover that there is no such control with our skin. The skin is a wonderfully communicative tool and doesn’t have to be assigned a condition forever. It can grow past it but what’s important is that you learn from your experience with it. 

The stigma with acne is still very real, so it’s important to discuss in order to continuously normalize it. Acne is a very human condition and the more we understand it & its causes, the more we can support ourselves when faced with it. 

In conclusion, the work needed to support your internal health can be supported by the village of skin professionals who are trained to help you. In my professional opinion, what I love about clients who have had to battle acne at any stage is that they end up learning so much about themselves and their resilience. From my experience, anyone who currently has or has had acne doesn’t take their skin care game lightly nor do they take a good skin day for granted.

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