I thought this post would be a great companion to the post last week about the best acne fighting ingredients. Treating acne effectively and holistically and sustainably requires the right products and also the right routines. When I first learned more about how the skin works, I was surprised at how easy it is to fall into bad habits even with the best of intentions. Let's get into the 6 most common mistakes people make when treating their acne.
1. Picking & Popping. The most obvious offender is also one I'm guilty of sometimes! When you pick at your blemishes, you are more likely to cause scarring and potentially spreading of acne-causing bacteria on the skin. And if you have darker skin, you are much more likely to experience those spots of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. If you absolutely must do an extraction yourself, there is a right way. For extractions, skin should be warm and clean. It should also be oiled - use something like our noncomedogenic Makeup Remover or plain jojoba oil on the face so your fingers will glide easily on the skin. Then wrap your index fingers in a soft, disposable cloth. Extractions should be done in an in-and-down-then-up-and-out kind of motion. Excessive pressure must be avoided. After doing extractions it's best to use a toner with a natural antibacterial agent like witch hazel to kill off any acne bacteria that have come to the surface of the skin. All Bright Body toners have alcohol-free witch hazel hydrosol.
2. Over-washing. It becomes so tempting to over wash your face when you're dealing with a flare of acne. After all, you're usually oilier, and isn't that going to cause more acne? It's more complicated than that! Of course, washing your face twice daily with a non-stripping formula is important, but washing more than that is going to cause more problems than it solves. Continually washing away all of your skin's natural oils will actually cause your sebaceous (oil) glands to produce even more oil to keep up with your wash habit. Also, many face washes have an alkaline pH, while the skin is actually acidic, usually about a 4.5 on the pH scale. If you are over-washing with an alkaline wash, you are also disrupting the skin's acid mantle and therefore making it harder for your face to fight off acne-causing bacteria. Twice a day is enough, trust me! All Bright Body facial washes are non-sudsing and help clean the skin without stripping the face of essential natural oils.
3. Over-exfoliating. Many people dealing with acne just want to scrub it into oblivion. And I get it! But unfortunately, over-exfoliating will make your acne worse. By over-exfoliating, you are aggressively breaking down the skin and causing worsened redness and inflammation and compromising your skin's ability to heal your breakouts. If you're using something gentle like our Facial Exfoliant, you can exfoliate once daily, and for products with a larger grain and/or more powerful ingredients, try every other day or even 2-3X weekly. Regardless of the product you're using, be mindful of the pressure you use! Light circular motions are all you need - you don't need to push exfoliants into your skin.
4. Over-drying & Under-moisturizing. These two problems go hand and hand. Many conventional skincare products for acne are highly drying, especially if used on a daily basis. Salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, alcohol, and similar agents can turn your skin into desert-face. While salicylic might be effectively used during a bimonthly facial by a skilled aesthetician (if you're in RVA, check out the ladies at Luna), for most people, regularly using a product with these super drying agents is going to cause more problems than it solves. I would argue that while some people might benefit from more regular use of a salicylic agent, I don't think that anyone benefits from regularly using a product with alcohol or benzoyl peroxide - there are just so many options that do the job better and without the side effects of these in particular. Okay, now that's off my chest, let's talk about why over-drying is such a problem - when you strip all of your natural oils, your sebaceous (oil) glands work overtime to make up for your habit. When you over-dry with products like alcohol-based toners, you'll find that your skin is both scaly/flaky and oily at the same time - no thanks. Under-moisturizing is the other side of the coin - many people think that "starving" the acne of a moisturizer will help treat it. While of course you want to make sure you're using noncomedogenic oils on your face, depriving your mug of all moisturizers is just plain ol' neglect. Your skin needs oils in order to effectively heal breakouts and keep your acid mantle healthy and happy.
5. Forgetting or forgoing sunscreen. Regardless of acne, this is a common one! Sun exposure is the #1 cause of early skin aging, and can promote further inflammation in acneic skin and can make those post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation spots worse. Plus, many products designed to treat acne (especially prescription ones) leave the skin extra sensitive to UV rays. Unfortunately none of our Bright Body products have SPF because of the exorbitant insurance cost for a small start-up like us. Most conventional beauty products with SPF in them contain known hormone disruptors, and many mineral sunscreen products are very thick and gloopy. However, I'm happy to recommend a few of my favorite safe and effective mineral sunscreen options. I am personally a fan of powder sunscreens when it comes to everyday wear, whereas when I'm planning to spend extended time outside I go for the full-on cream or non-aerosol sprays. For everyday use, check out these silicone-free, safe options: SuperGoop SPF 45 100% Mineral Invincible Setting Powder & Sun Protection, ILIA SPF 20 Flow-Through Radiant Translucent Powder, and Eminence SPF 30 Organic Sun Defense Minerals. For days when you'll be spending time outdoors, check out these cream and non-aerosol spray safe sunscreen options: Badger SPF 30 Unscented Tinted Sunscreen, Supergoop SPF 30 100% Mineral Sunscreen Mist, Coola SPF 30 Cucumber Matte Finish Moisturizer.
6. Skin Gadget Addiction. I see this a lot in skincare-loving people in general, but usually those with more finicky skin tend to be extra excited about the newest skin gadget. And I totally understand - you want to try everything under the sun that might possibly help. Everyone becomes so excited about the newest facial washing brush, jade roller, LED mask, etc. It's not so much that these gadgets are "bad," but the truth of the matter is that there is no one magic bullet. Adding time and expense to your beauty routine for the latest thingamabob isn't the best way to go about healing your skin and, best case scenario, might just leave you more frustrated and with less quiche in your wallet. Worst case scenario - especially with facial washing brushes - your skin might become more inflamed and irritated. Focusing on good routines with good products containing safe & effective ingredients is what is most important. If you must indulge your inner whatsamacallit-lover, then invest in a good lymphatic dry brush for your face like this one. Check out our blog on lymphatic drainage (which by the way, you can do with just your hands, too) to read more about why this is an effective addition to your routine & how you can do it.
I hope this post was helpful & enlightening! As always, holler with any questions.
Until next time,