We've all been there - you're just getting ready for that big life-changing moment (insert: date/job interview/wedding day as appropriate) and you look in the mirror to find that you've got huge white spots on your face. What exactly are they and what's the best way to get rid of spots?
Spots are part of a condition called acne, which affects up to 95% of the western adolescent population. There is no real difference between spots and acne, but some people classify spots as a few breakouts on the skin, whereas acne is more serious and widespread, and is found on the face, chest, back, shoulders and even buttocks.
A spot is the blockage of a gland near the surface of the skin called a sebaceous gland. These glands secrete a substance called sebum, which is an oily substance used to lubricate the hair follicle. Occasionally they can become blocked by excess sebum which mixes with dead skin cells at the opening of the gland, resulting in a blackhead. If bacteria living on the surface of the skin works its way into the blocked gland, the area can become red, swollen and produce a white pus, which result in those whiteheads.
Spots can be caused by hormonal changes such as those at puberty, around your period or during pregnancy. There is also a strong link between increased breakouts and stress, as stress can trigger fluctuations in hormone levels. This is why we always seem to suffer a breakout just before that big event.
There are many over-the-counter spot treatments available claiming to treat or reduce the severity of spots. More severe cases may require a trip to a GP or dermatologist to prescribe something stronger, like a topical antibiotic or product containing benzoyl peroxide, which has a gentle drying and peeling effect on skin.
However, natural spot treatments are cheap and easy to use. Tea tree oil is a fantastic anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory treatment. Apply it very sparingly to the spot - dilute it with a bit of water first as it's highly concentrated and could irritate your skin. Rosewater is also naturally anti-inflammatory and the aroma of rose has been used for centuries to lift spirits and ease stress and tension.
If you frequently suffer from spots, especially around the mouth and chin, it is advisable to seek the advice of a health professional. If you are female and also suffer from facial hair and infrequent periods, there is a small chance that the underlying cause to your spots could be polycystic ovary syndrome.
Don't squeeze spots if they're red and have no head. Squeezing spots can actually make things worse by driving bacteria deeper under the skin and, in some cases, can lead to scarring.
Some experts recommend that if the spot has come to a noticeable white head you can squeeze it, but make sure your hands are very clean (wrap your fingers in tissue to prevent your nails damaging your skin). Pop a bit of tea tree oil or an antiseptic cream on top of the squeezed spot to make sure it stays clean.