Blemished skin can affect anyone—teen or adult, royalty or everyman. Following Dr. Laszlo’s university studies of skin pathology, one of the first notable women who benefitted from his research-based formulas for blemished skin was Princess Stephanie of Hungary. In 1925, Dr. Laszlo was able to help heal the princess’s acne by developing Phormula 3-1.
Since then, experts have built upon decades of research to benefit blemish-prone skin. Inspired by our founder and his science-backed approach to skincare, we at Erno Laszlo continue to develop new formulas that work toward improving skin health and clarity. These formulas begin with a deep understanding of why blemishes occur and the ways they manifest on skin’s surface.
What Are Blemishes?
Blemishes are any marks, spots, or discoloration on the skin, including hyperpigmentation and acne. Common acne blemishes include:
Blackheads: Clogged pores from surface debris and oil that are exposed to oxygen, turning these spots black after oxidation.
Whiteheads: Similar to blackheads, these are clogged pores that have not been exposed to oxygen.
Pustules: Larger bumps filled with fluid due to bacterial growth and clogged follicles. There is a visible whitehead, and the area tends to be red and inflamed.
Papules: Similar to pustules, these are bumps filled with fluids but no visible whitehead. Often, it’s caused by dead skin cells clogging the pores and increasing inflammation.
Cysts: Deep acne under the skin that is highly inflamed. These tend to be painful and filled with pus.
Causes of Blemishes
From oil production and environmental debris that clog pores to diet and stress levels that cause inflammation, understanding the root cause of blemishes is the first step in addressing them.
Hormone changes can contribute to oil overproduction, especially around puberty and menopause. Stress can also cause the hormone Cortisol to increase oil production and lead to breakouts.
Dehydrated Skin That’s Overcompensating
Dry skin will attempt to rehydrate itself by producing an excess amount of oil. Skin can become excessively dry due to factors like sun exposure, traveling (the air on airplanes is notoriously drying due to the high altitude), even using skincare products with overly-drying ingredients. All of these scenarios can cause skin to ramp up oil production and exacerbate blemishes.
Our environments are full of pollution, debris, and bacteria that can lead to blemishes. For example, touching your face can introduce bacteria that sits on the skin's surface, clogging pores and causing complexion problems. Sweat also coats the skin in dirt and debris. Between environmental factors and our skin’s own sebum (an oily substance produced in skin’s sebaceous glands), the right daily skincare ritual is essential to properly cleanse, nourish, and balance the complexion.
Diet & Inflammation
Studies have shown that dairy products may cause acne in some people. One theory is that certain hormones in milk can cause inflammation inside the body, leading to blemishes on skin’s surface.* Diets high in sugar or carbohydrates have also been linked to blemished skin. Studies show that when blood sugar spikes, it causes inflammation throughout the body. These spikes lead to increased sebum production, which can cause blemishes.
Lack of Sleep
Just as stress can cause a rise in the hormone Cortisol, so too can a night of tossing and turning. Lack of sleep increases Cortisol production, which not only affects skin’s oil production but also triggers inflammation.
While many lifestyle choices can be adjusted to improve blemished skin, a proper skincare ritual can also support skin wellness and appearance.
Common Ingredients for Treating Blemishes
Below are some ingredients to look for when shopping for skincare products that will help target blemishes and clarify skin.
Salicylic Acid: This beta hydroxy acid (BHA) gently exfoliates dry, dead skin cells, retexturizing skin.
Benzoyl Peroxide: This topical treatment works by decreasing inflammation and eliminating or preventing the growth of bacteria on the skin.
Lactic Acid: This exfoliating alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) helps promote the shedding of dead skin cells to soften and smooth skin texture over time. Less buildup of dead skin cells on the surface of your skin can mean less congestion in your pores. Lactic acid is more mild than Glycolic Acid, making it suitable for sensitive and dry skin types.
Glycolic Acid: This alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) exfoliates the skin by dissolving dead skin cells and oils. It absorbs more quickly into the superficial layers of the skin than Lactic Acid and is best for normal to oily skin types.
Our Blemish-Prone Skin Solutions
Developed and backed by science, our experts recommend these proven solutions for blemish-prone skin:
Clarifying Gel Mask
Mask to promote clear skin. This clarifying treatment mask targets blemishes and surface oil, diminishing the appearance of pores while infusing skin with refreshing hydration. The gel formula brings a cooling sensation, revitalizing the complexion.
BlemishCare Balancing Complex
(Featured in our Clarifying Gel Mask)
To support a healthy skin microbiome, our BlemishCare Balancing Complex with active ingredient polylysine helps with shifting skin’s balance toward healthier strains of bacteria and away from blemish-causing bacteria. The complexion is left balanced with diminished surface oils for a healthy, shine-free look.
Freeze Dried Targeted Blemish Treatment
Show skin targeted, fast-acting care. Powered by mix-to-activate technology for maximum potency, this weekly treatment blends freeze-dried powder actives with a soothing liquid ampoule to resurface and address uneven skin tone without drying.
BlemishCare Resurfacing Complex
(Featured in our Freeze-Dried Targeted Blemish Treatment)
To preserve maximum potency of our BlemishCare Resurfacing Complex, powerful actives are freeze-dried for a powder phase of resurfacing salicylic acid, a combination of five revitalizing peptides, and moisturizing amino acids. Over a three-day period, this powder phase is frozen at -40° celsius, then dehydrated and dried. This freeze-dried process optimizes the dissolving of these highly-concentrated actives.
Your Complete Ritual for Blemish-Prone Skin
Step 1: Cleanse with Detox Cleansing Duo
Start with our lightweight clarifying oil to dissolve surface impurities and makeup without leaving skin feeling tight or dry. Next, our detoxifying cleansing bar works to purify, unclog pores, and absorb excess surface oil for smooth, refreshed-feeling skin.
Formulated With: Charcoal + Dead Sea Mud
Results: Skin is left looking and feeling smooth and soft, clarified and refreshed.
Step 2: Tone with Light Controlling Toner
This clarifying facial toner sweeps away surface oils while lightly exfoliating and binding moisture to the skin for a fresh-faced, more-clarified complexion.
Formulated With: Cosmetic Grade Alcohol + Glycerin
Results: Skin is left with matte-finish moisture—refreshed, conditioned, and prepared for the rest of your ritual.
Step 3, Option 1: Mask with Clarifying Gel Mask
Designed to address blemishes and reduce surface oils, our mask’s microbiome-balancing BlemishCare Complex and hydrating Apple Extract actives work together to refine the look of pores while refreshing skin with nourishing hydration.
Formulated With: BlemishCare Balancing Complex + Apple Extract + Sea Water
Results: Skin is left clarified, moisturized, and routinely revived.
Step 3, Option 2: Treat with Freeze-Dried Targeted Blemish Treatment
This dual-phase treatment targets blemished skin with advanced mix-to-activate technology. To preserve maximum potency, powerful actives are freeze-dried for a powder phase. These freeze-dried actives come to life when mixed with the liquid phase.
Formulated With: BlemishCare Resurfacing Complex + Peptide Complex + Hyaluronic Acid
Results: Improves the look of skin blemishes, gently exfoliates, and soothes signs of redness.
Step 4: Moisturize with Mattifying Gel Moisturizer
Formulated for all seasons and skin types, this daily moisturizer saturates the skin with hydration, leaving the complexion with all-day, matte-finish moisture and a smooth, satin finish.
Formulated With: Squalane + Hydrating Sugar Complex
Results: Skin enjoys instant and long-lasting hydration in one.
Step 5: Finish with Shake-It Tinted Skin Treatment
Your last step to skincare, Shake-It is 80% treatment and 20% pigment. This iconic tinted treatment leaves the complexion supported, shine-free, and prepped for a natural look and feeling of skin confidence.
Formulated With: Cosmetic Grade Alcohol + Powdered Pigment + Glycerin
Results: Shake-It evens skin’s tone, refines the look of pores, and reduces excess surface oils for a soft, filtered effect and flawless matte finish.
Explore our Blemish-Prone Skin Collection and bring home our Blemish-Prone Skin Trial Kit to set your complexion on the path to clearer-looking skin.
* American Academy of Dermatology Association