No matter where in the world you are, there’s one coveted physical attribute that every woman wants: clear skin! Unfortunately, glowing, flawless skin is not always possible to have. Acne is the most common skin condition afflicting the US, with over 50 million people effected in one way or another. Not only can acne cause physical damage in terms of breakouts, blemishes and potential scarring, it can have an emotional effect, especially in terms of your confidence. Although it’s found mostly on the face and neck, it can also develop on your arms, back, shoulders and chest.
While makeup can cover many of the usual spots that acne upsets, it can also exacerbate the problem. That’s why it’s best to get to the root of the problem: removing the dead skin cells and regulating the oil buildup that clogs your pores. As summer is just getting started, and tank-top and bikini season begins, there’s no better time than now to begin working on our skin.
Here are five ways to keep your skin clear during the summer.
1. Non-abrasive Exfoliation
Scrubbing at your skin is never the right way to fight and prevent breakouts. Topical exfoliating tools and products can damage your skin and cause scarring. They can also strip away the natural oil that your skin needs to stay soft and moisturized. Removing the oil from your skin in this way will actually make your breakouts more frequent as it forces your body to overproduce oil to replace what was lost.
The good news is, there are plenty of exfoliating ingredients out there that can help remove dead skin cells from your pores as well as generate new ones. In some cases, these ingredients will even help your body regulate its production of oil. They can be found in over-the-counter products but your best bet is a product that’s left on the skin for a period of time – the longer your skin is exposed, the better it will work.
AHA’s like glycolic and lactic acid are powerful non-abrasive exfoliants that loosen the bonds between dead skin cells and your top layer of skin. They boost cell regeneration to allow fresh and healthy skin cells to grow and they also help regulate your natural oil production. Glycolic acid is especially potent because it inhibits Propionibacterium: bacteria that causes acne to form.
BHA’s like salicylic acid are another option in terms of non-abrasive exfoliants. Salicylic acid is a mild exfoliating ingredient that can be used on all skin tones and everything from normal to oily skin. This BHA is particularly great for oily skin because it removes the dead skin cells from inside your pores as well as the surface of your skin.
2. Cosmological Treatments
One sure-fire way to ensure your skin stays clear is to visit your cosmetician or dermatologist for a treatment. The down-time for recovering from these types of treatments is a bit longer that at-home products and solutions, but they are far more effective. What kind of treatment is dependent on how bad your acne is and, to some degree, your skin tone.
Chemical peels use strong acid and other ingredients to peel away the top layer of your skin – taking with all the built-up dead skin cells and oil in your pores. A chemical peel reveals fresh, bright skin below the top layer and, besides preventing acne, can help restore skin tone and reduce the appearance of scarring.
Microdermabrasion exfoliates your skin with tiny crystals while suctioning the dead skin cells it lifts from the surface at the same time. It’s a tried, tested and true skin-rejuvenation treatment that is minimally invasive and chemical-free. Every skin tone can benefit from microdermabrasion without the chance of scarring and it can help clear your complexion.
Laser treatments are a more invasive, but more effective, method of fighting acne. What type of treatment depends on the type of acne you have. Blue, red, blue/red and infrared lasers treat pimples but not blackheads, whiteheads, cysts or nodules. Photodynamic therapy is an excellent option for severe acne while photopneumatic therapy removes excess oil and dead skin cells and treats blackheads, whiteheads and some pimple but not nodules or cysts.
3. The Right Products
When picking your skin products, look for those labeled non-comedogenic. Non-comedogenic doesn’t cure acne but it indicates that the formula helps reduce the risk of clogged pores and uses ingredients that promote clear skin.
Oil-free and alcohol-free products are another safe bet. Products that contain oil and alcohol are the exact opposite of non-comedogenic – these tend to clog pores and inflame acne-prone skin.
Makeup is a bit trickier. Water-based makeup is a good replacement for the pore-clogging makeup you currently use. But remember that oil-free doesn’t always mean non-comedogenic (you should always be looking for that specific label).
Skipping moisturizing is tempting because, thanks to humidity, your skin may already feel like it has plenty of moisture. Do not be fooled! It’s extremely important to moisturize after you’ve cleansed your skin (which you should be doing at least twice a day – once in the morning and once at night). This is because cleansing your skin strips it of natural oils, and your moisturizer replaces those natural oils.
That may sound counterintuitive: if your skin is overproducing oil and that contributes to breakouts, then why would you add moisturizer to replace the oil? The answer is two-fold. First, you have to cleanse your skin everyday to remove built up skin cells and oil that clog your pores. Second, you have to replace the oil that is stripped away otherwise your body thinks it needs more oil, and overproduces to replace it. If the overproduction of oil is what is causing your breakouts, then the key isn’t to skip moisturizing, it’s to find a product that helps balance sebum production (like the AHA’s and BHA’s listed above).
5. Manual Extraction
If you have a steady hand and are willing to invest the time to learn how to properly use it, a blackhead removal tool can help you with your blackheads (and some with whiteheads as well). A blackhead removal tool (aka a round loop extractor), removes the plugs that cause blackheads.
One type of blackhead removal tool will have a side with a small spoon-like fixture. The hole in the middle of that fixture fits over blackheads and releases what’s inside your pore when gentle pressure is applied. The other side of this type of blackhead removal tool is a lancet which can be used to puncture whiteheads and release the oil trapped inside.
The other type of blackhead removal tool has differently-sized spoon fixtures on both ends. You can choose which side to use based on the size of the blackhead you are trying to remove.
Check out this guide if you’re interested in learning more about the best blackhead removal tool.
No matter what method you choose to achieve clear skin this summer, resist the temptation to remove blackheads and whiteheads with your fingernails. Picking at zits can transfer bacteria from nails to your skin, causing more breakouts and potentially damaging your skin. Wishing you a flawless summer season with great skin!