We've all been there...
That time in our lives when our bodies decide to go crazy with hormone production at the same time our mom finally lets us buy our first real makeup. Then, because we're wearing makeup now, we go to the corner drug store and buy the pretty cleanser with sparkly beads in it because we saw it in a commercial that told us a famous actress uses it (she doesn't!). That moment we look in the mirror and, for the first time, we see little red or white or brown/black dots on our chin and/or forehead. And then...
MOOOOOOMMMM!!!! I have ACNE ALL OVER my FACE!!!!!!!!
Call the presses, post it on social media, search Google, CALL THE DOCTOR...do SOMETHING!!!!
And what is there for our poor moms to do than follow the tide of other moms and order us a popular skin care system specifically designed for people struggling with a real acne condition??
I'll tell you what: STOP TREATING YOUR "ACNE"!!!
Let me clear something up for you... Turning thirteen and getting your first cluster of pimples or blackheads DOES NOT mean that you need an acne system or treatment. Turning twenty-one and getting clusters of pimples on the sides of your mouth and chin DOES NOT mean that you need an acne system or treatment. And turning twenty-eight or thirty and starting to struggle with clusters of pimples popping up on your upper cheeks and between your eyes DOES NOT mean that you need an acne system or treatment.
In the past six years of my certification as a skin analyst, I have only encountered a handful of clients that truly had an acne condition. The beautiful young woman pictured above was one whose senior photo session was my greatest challenge to date as a makeup artist. She was my first client through a new partnership with a local photographer, and when I arrived at her home it took about two seconds for me to realize I was going to have to completely re-build the tone and texture of her face as a result of the damage the acne had done. She had started one of the most intense antibiotic treatments available, and I was challenged with not only smoothing the appearance of her skin, but also creating a layer of SPF protected product that would make it safe for her to be in the sun for the short duration of time she needed to be outside for the photo shoot.
I loved every minute of that appointment!! I also learned one of the best lessons regarding skin care and acne I could have learned at that point in my business: Breakouts and Acne are NOT the same thing. The longer I do this, the more I also learn that the way we treat breakouts as acne can actually cause damage to healthy cells and age the skin. Acne skin care systems and treatments are designed to dry out oil and kill bacteria, and using them for extended periods of time without having a diagnosed acne condition can do more harm than good. That's why most people that start using acne systems don't want to stop; because as soon as they do they experience breakouts and oily skin as their skin cells over-compensate for being too dry!
SO- How can we know if the blemishes and pimples and bumps we panic about are really acne and not just a temporary breakout?
ACNE is an ongoing condition resulting from dead skin cells getting stuck in hair follicles already struggling with over-producing oil that causes a clog where bacteria can then breed and multiply at a rapid pace. It hasn't yet been determined what exactly causes this process to begin, but once it does it is hard to stop without the help of antibiotics. Acne is not an on again, off again occurrence. It's not a once every few weeks type of thing. It is an everyday battle against bacteria and oil production that always gets worse before it gets better. It is painful and leaves discoloration and scarring on the skin that can take years to correct and/or minimize the appearance of.
BREAKOUTS are an annoyance that cycle on and off again as a result of any number of factors; such as hormones, medications, diet, skin irritants and stress level. It is important to remember that our skin is an organ and part of it's job is to give an exit to toxins and bacteria that our body identifies as dangerous. In short: If our body can't figure out another way to process medicine, hormones, bacteria, viruses, histamines- it pushes it out through our skin.
So before you panic, rush to a self-diagnosis of acne and purchase an acne treatment system; there are quite a few things you can do to prevent breakouts from recurring and help determine whether or not an acne treatment is necessary.
1- BEFORE you go out and spend money on all new skin care and acne products, try looking in your kitchen pantry and supplements cabinet. There are two natural substances that can help your body get rid of toxins and kill bacteria stuck in the hair follicle: Turmeric and Coconut Oil. You can find a turmeric supplement at your local health food store; it usually comes in a gel cap. Turmeric is a spice used in cooking things like curry, but it is well known for its' de-toxing properties. If you can handle two-four weeks of breaking out (often in more areas than your face), then you will set yourself up to maintain healthy skin, and also better digestion and hormone balance. Coconut oil...one of my all-time favorite natural substances...i use it for EVERYTHING!!! Most women think that if they put an oil on their skin, they will then develop oily skin. NOT TRUE! Coconut Oil has microbial properties that kill bad bacteria. Now, I am not saying to put it on and fall asleep or put makeup on top of it and go about your day! And I am not saying to just grab any kind of coconut oil off the shelf and slather it on. It needs to be a cold expeller pressed, organic coconut oil (found in any grocery store) and you apply it to your skin for no more than an hour before washing it off with a gentle cleanser and warm water. Doing this every night for one-two weeks will yield softer, more supple, clearer skin. It's amazing!
2- Evaluate your diet. Most women don't realize that their diet is VERY involved in the body's ability to balance hormone production and regulate healthy digestion. An unhealthy gut affects every system in the body! Especially the skin and its' ability to maintain a healthy pH balance and proper oil production. SO- try eating clean for a few weeks! Or forever!! Eliminating processed, pre-prepared, and fast foods will work wonders for your skin and work toward helping your gut maintain a healthier balance.
3- Avoid irritants and be careful of what touches your skin. The order in which you get ready for your day matters! If you use hair products, body lotions, cheap makeup, a cell phone, hats or headbands, or even just have a bad habit of touching your face throughout the day...you need to be preparing your skin properly and creating a barrier between your skin and its' environment! SO- get a three-part skin care system and use it before you start using things that can irritate and add bacteria to the surface of your skin.
4- Stop squeezing your pimples, blackheads and nodules!!! Your skin is an amazing organ and has the ability to expel bacteria and toxins on its' own. Squeezing your skin to cause it to "pop" and release the plugged hair follicle damages cells and spreads bacteria. It also causes scarring and discoloration. I know that it's the hardest thing in the world to just let a pimple exist on your face like a target! It really is the best way to deal with them. Splurge on high quality skin care and allow it to do it's job!
5- Finally: Use skin care products and makeup that are oil free. No sense in adding oil to skin that is struggling to balance its' oil production! It just lengthens the time it takes your breakout to resolve.
If after trying these suggestions your breakout does not resolve or continues to get worse, make an appointment with a skin analyst or dermatologist to get a diagnosis and talk about the best course of treatment for your skin. Do not try to guess and obtain treatment on your own! Making treatment decisions without a consultation is a risk that is not worth taking. A skin analyst or dermatologist will be able to evaluate your condition, taking into account external factors, and recommend a treatment that will give you positive results.