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Soothe, Don't Strip: Treating Oily Skin with Love & Science

Breakouts (including acne) and "problem skin" are an inflammatory condition. And it can be difficult to remedy because there are usually many factors to consider within the condition as well as the fact that it’s unique in every person.

If you’re randomly bombarding your skin with a combination of products that contain retinol, salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, you might experience some decent or good results for a while, but probably not long term.

Instead of quick fixes, or “throw it on the wall and see if it sticks” solutions, the esthetician and the client need to assess the root causes of breakouts or acne to accurately assess how to reduce (and hopefully eliminate) the severity of the symptoms before it’s necessary to try harsher treatments or medications.

There are three fundamentals that any healthy skin needs:

· An intact barrier

· A balanced microbiome

· A healthy skin pH

It’s possible that addressing these alone can normalize problem skin!

For instance, to maintain the skin barrier, it’s important not to strip natural oils from the skin. But that’s often the first reaction when breakouts occur – remove all oil! When the skin is over stripped, it starts working overtime to produce more oil to replace what’s been lost. The key is to not get rid of all oil, but to help regulate production since the oil in our skin (sebum) protects the skin (it’s full of natural antioxidants).

The best way to treat oily skin is gently. Look for products such as gentle foaming cleansers and avoid products that contain harsh ingredients that can dry the skin and irritate it. Once you’ve started a skincare regimen, give it time to work. Constantly switching up products can accelerate oil production.

And don’t scrub! Be gentle with your skin and use gentle products.

What exactly is a balanced microbiome? This techy term simply refers to the micro-organisms that help form a protective layer on the skin surface. They protect against yeast, mold, and bacteria. Imbalance to the microbiome means a reduction of the number of the kinds of organisms available to fight the bad bacteria. And that can lead to breakouts, acne, atopic dermatitis, and other inflammatory conditions. We all have our own unique, individual microbiome - so what works for you may unbalance me. Over the past several years, the science of how to balance the microbiome with targeted pre and post biotics has evolved tremendously. (We won't get into the biotic thing in this post - more on that another time!)

For example, benzoyl peroxide kills bacteria – but like some antibiotics it can kill the good bacteria along with the bad. Read product labels and note whether the product is intended to kill bacteria and research ingredients.

Most of us are familiar with the term “pH” or “pH balanced” – it's used everywhere in descriptions of skincare products on the market. pH measures the alkalinity and acidity of the skin. We all have different natural pH ranges in our skin, but the optimal level is now generally agreed to be in the range of 4.5-5.0. So why does it matter? If skin pH is high, it affects the balance of the microbiome which can cause an overproduction of bacteria. This can impair the skin barrier and lead to inflammation – breakouts.

There's so much to say on this fundamental trinity for healthy glowing skin, but since this is a blog post - not a book - let's close with a few tips on how to treat oily skin with the love it deserves!

1. Wash twice a day and after sweating. Perspiration, especially when wearing a hat or helmet, can aggravate problem skin, so wash your skin as soon as possible after sweating.

2. Use your fingertips to apply a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser. Don’t use washcloths or mesh sponges as they can irritate. Stay away from harsh skin care products (astringents, toners containing alcohol and harsh scrub exfoliants).

3. Rinse with lukewarm water, not hot.

4. Let your skin heal naturally. Try to avoid picking. (nuff said)

5. Keep your hands off your face. Touching your skin throughout the day can cause irritation and flare ups.

6. Avoid sun and tanning beds. Tanning = skin damage. And if you’re taking medications, they can make the skin overly sensitive to ultraviolet light. Using tanning beds increases your risk for melanoma (skin cancer) by 75%, and the risk increases with every session.

Remember the magic three of healthy skin – they are all highly interdependent. Barrier, microbiome, pH. Here’s to being your unique, beautiful self from the inside out.


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