Breakouts—they’re just like us. Unique little snowflakes.
Ok—maybe a little less special.
Regardless, breakouts come in all shapes and sizes, and they arrive for a number of different reasons. When we blanket them all under one category, it’s like throwing oil on an engine. Some may end up in the right place, but overall, we are likely making a huge mess.
We tapped Vanessa Lee, world-renowned Medical Aesthetic Provider and founder of The Things We Do, to help us break down the breakouts.
“If you are lost in trying to figure out your skin and dealing with breakouts, you are not alone! There are several different forms of acne, and the way they respond to different ingredients and treatments vary depending on what kind you have. I have been a cosmetic nurse for 14 years with a background in dermatology and plastic surgery, and I want to give you tips on what type of acne you may have, so you can make better choices with products.”
“Typically, it looks pink to red and slightly inflamed on areas like the cheeks and nose. Small bumps or pustules may be present as well. It’s usually genetically passed down, but there are steps to take to lessen flare ups and vastly reduce the appearance. The best products to use on this type of skin are calming, inflammation-reducing products. Think of ingredients like colloidal oats, niacinamide, and zinc oxide because of their ability to repair and protect the skin. Laser treatments can help minimize the appearance of vascularity, like Excel V.”
“This type usually shows up as tiny, pinpoint, raised bumps on the skin accompanied by redness and sensitivity in the area. This can be caused by an allergic reaction to a chemical or product on the skin, infected hair follicles, constant lip licking, or long-term use of corticosteroids.
“The best way to manage this condition from home is to wash the face with warm water without cleanser, avoid introducing products to skin except for a light, simple moisturizer, and slowly introduce azelaic acid because of its anti-inflammatory properties.”
“Typically, this type of breakout presents as deep, achy pustules that are large and red in surrounding tissue with a yellow ‘belly’ in the center of the pustule. This acne has been linked to genetic predisposition in dermatology, but the underlying cause seems to be several different things like stress, hormonal imbalances, different medications, smoking, and overproduction of oil in skin.
“Treating cystic acne usually involves combining internal and external remedies. Internally, response to stressors in day-to-day life should be considered. Hormones should also be taken into consideration as they have an effect on oil production if out of balance, causing an influx of cystic acne. Externally, alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids should be used in order to normalize oil production and increase cell turnover on a superficial and deeper skin level to clear the skin. Sunscreen should always be used with this type of skin because the use of acne products usually makes the skin more sensitive to sun.”
“These breakouts manifest as small, hardened white bumps under the skin that are sometimes singular, but can also present in a small cluster as well. Milia is caused by trapped oil in a hair follicle and the oil hardens, becoming a bead of sebum in the skin.
“To treat milia at home, one can use AHAs or a retinol to increase cell turnover in order to thin the layer of skin that has trapped the milia. One caveat—if the milia is closer to the eyes, it is best to avoid these products in this area and to see a professional for an extraction where a tiny lancet is used to create an opening for the bead to be released.”
“Blackheads are made up of thickened oil trapped in a hair follicle that has an oxidized top tip, creating the dark appearance. This type of acne is usually due to an overproduction of oil without the regular chemical or physical exfoliation. Chemical exfoliation can be an AHA or BHA product, and a physical exfoliation can be done by a microdermabrasion tool or washing your face with a towel or antimicrobial scrubber at home.”
“This acne is usually found on the forehead and presents as small bumps on the skin, usually in clusters, and they can itch as well. Most of us have a type of yeast living on our skin, and when we overproduce oils and sweat, our follicles get blocked, and the yeast can become overactive.
“Excessive sweating or not being able to clean the face immediately after workouts, being in a hot climate, and taking antibiotics are all culprits. Interestingly enough, antifungal shampoos work great on this type of acne. Bacterial acne and fungal acne have two very different treatments, which is why fungal acne, although usually less severe, can seem to never go away if treated by typical bacterial acne treatments.”
***This advice is not to self-diagnose, but to be used as a guide when getting to know one’s skin. Always consult a medical professional before using a new skin regimen for acne.
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