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How to get clear skin for the back to school season

We explore the best way to get clear skin and a clear mind to start school in top form.

How to get clear skin for the back to school season

During the back-to-school season, clear skin and a healthy-looking complexion are usually a priority to face the new semester. But late-night parties, sleepy mornings, overindulgence and stress about the year ahead can cause your skin to break out.

What effect does sleep deprivation have on skin and its function?

You may not be aware, but fatigue is one of the major factors that can affect the quality of your skin when heading back to school. Yes, the abrupt change from late nights to early alarms can shock your system and your skin!
Studies have shown that sleep plays a role in restoring collagen and, therefore, not enough sleep can result in impaired skin integrity(1) and skin barrier function. This is because inadequate sleep disrupts the collagen function, which can cause transepidermal water loss (TEWL)(2), leaving it less able to retain moisture and protect itself, and therefore more dry and vulnerable to harmful factors such as pollution.

sleep plays a role in restoring collagen

A solution to rectify this? Regular exercise, even when you don't feel like it.

It can be a good way to tire both the body and brain and promote better quality sleep(7), which results in an easier morning wake-up and fresher-looking skin.

How does stress affect the skin?

In addition to a weakened skin barrier, a lack of sleep can also cause breakouts when associated with stress(3). This is due to stress releasing a substance in the body known as cortisol. In turn, cortisol causes the skin to secrete more sebum, which results in acne(4) - a problem that is more than skin deep. In fact, studies have shown that breakouts can make teenagers less likely to lead an active lifestyle, to socialize(5) or participate in activities(6).

Aside from resolving the issues that cause stress, there are other ways you can help calm a worried mind. Research shows that alternative medicine such as aromatherapy may help with skin confidence(10), particularly concerning acne. Diluted tea tree oil and thyme(11), for example, are reputed to have highly effective anti-acne properties, and lavender and chamomile are known as relaxants. Simply applying a few drops to the underside of your pillow could help you get a good, worry-free night's sleep.

How does diet affect skin?

To clear blemishes, it's also important to adopt a healthier diet(12) after school vacation and over-indulgences, like sugar and processed food. When it comes to diet, there's no one solution for everyone.
Evidence suggest that a diet rich in hyperglycemic foods and milk may have an effect on insulin-like growth factor levels, thereby promoting the development of acne(13). So it’s a good idea to consult with a dermatologist, and also consider minimizing your dairy intake to see if this has an effect on your breakouts.

Other ways to keep your complexion glowing? Start by paying attention to what you eat every day. Here, balance is the keyword. A plant-based diet, rich in antioxidants like fruits and vegetables, can help with healthy skin. In any case, the most effective way to prevent breakouts when back at school is to see a nutritionist and dermatologist to diagnose your skin and help find you the most adapted solutions.
Sleep, exercise, reducing stress and a healthy diet are all key components to acne-free skin.

What’s the best skincare routine for clear, back-to-school skin?

A good night of sleep and the right diet can go a long way to help with your complexion, but don’t forget your skincare routine too. Cleansing your face with a gentle soap before going to bed is an essential step for those with acne or acne-prone skin: it not only keeps your pores unclogged and protects skin from sebum overcompensation, but also does not damage the skin barrier(14). This is important because an intact skin barrier keeps the skin and its natural oils in balance, meaning that sebum production is controlled, and you’re less likely to experience an acne outbreak.

Salicylic acid and glycolic acid can also be incorporated into your skincare routine to help with breakouts and anti-acne care. Products with these ingredients are specifically designed for those with oily and acne prone skin, as they help keep oiliness and blemishes at bay, without irritating the skin.
Back to school, back to good skin.


1. Kahan, V. et al, 'Can poor sleep affect skin integrity?' in Med Hypotheses 75.6 (2010) pp. 535-7 [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20678867]
2. Oyetakin-White, P. et al, 'Does poor sleep quality affect skin ageing?' in Clinical and Experimental Dermatology 40.1 (2015) pp.17-22 [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25266053]
3. Zeichner, Z.A. et al, 'Emerging Issues in Adult Female Acne' in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology 10.1 (2017) pp.37-46 [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5300732/]
4. Kubota, Y. et al, 'Community-based epidemiological study of psychosocial effects of acne in Japanese adolescents.' in Journal of Dermatology 37.7 (2010) pp. 617-22 [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20629827]
5. Pruthi, G. et al, 'Physical and Psychosocial Impact of Acne in Adult Females' in Indian Journal of Dermatology (2012) 57.1: pp. 26–29. [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3312651/]
6. Hazarika, N. et al, 'The Psychosocial Impact of Acne Vulgaris' in Indian Journal of Dermatology (2016) 61.5: pp- 515–520. [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5029236/]
7. University of Georgia. 'Regular Exercise Plays A Consistent And Significant Role In Reducing Fatigue' in ScienceDaily (2006) [Accessible at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061101151005.htm]
8. Chiu, A. et al, 'The Response of Skin Disease to Stress Changes in the Severity of Acne Vulgaris as Affected by Examination Stress' in Arch Dermatol. 2003;139(7):897–900 [Accessible at: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/fullarticle/479409]
9. Zari, S. et al, 'The Association between Stress and Acne among Female Medical Students in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia' in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology 10 (2017): pp. 503–506. [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5722010/]
10. Parker, J. et al, 'Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies in Acne, Psoriasis, and Atopic Eczema: Results of a Qualitative Study of Patients' Experiences and Perceptions' in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2006) pp.451-457. [Accessible at: http://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2006.12.451]
11. Sinha, P. et al, 'New Perspectives on Antiacne Plant Drugs: Contribution to Modern Therapeutics' in BioMed Research International (2014) 301304. [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4132408/]
12. Dréno, B. et al, 'The influence of exposome on acne' in Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology 32.5 (2018) [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29377341]
13. Makrantonaki, E. et al, 'An update on the role of the sebaceous gland' in Dermato Endocrinology 3.1 (2011) pp. 41-49
14. Draelos, ZD., 'The effect of a daily facial cleanser for normal to oily skin on the skin barrier of subjects with acne' in Cutis (2006) Jul;78(1 Suppl): pp- 34-40. [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16910029]

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