3 ways to keep blemishes to yourself
-Lois Joy Johnson
Breakouts rank #1 on my things-I-can’t-control beauty list, although cold sores, belly bloat, and bangs cut too short are up there too. Once thought to be strictly a teenage thing, blemishes now transcend age. Women in their 20s, 30s and 40s who never had acne before are experiencing pop-ups.
To backtrack, pimples are caused by a combination of excess sebum (this sudden oil surge can be attributed to all kinds of hormonal changes) and dead skin cells that block your pores and become a breeding ground for bacteria. Every woman I know thinks stress is partly to blame, although dermatologists usually deny breakouts are in cahoots with your emotional wiring. Picking and squeezing are out of the question, so don’t you dare, no matter how tempted you are. You’ll end up exacerbating the inflammation and slowing the healing process. There are far better solutions available to control or eliminate the problem. Here are three things I always suggest to friends:
Get a pre-packaged routine in a box: If you’ve never heard of Proactiv Solution, the line of anti-acne skin care by Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields, just where have you been? This brand is available online and has grown-up celebrity fans from New York to California, including Jennifer Love Hewitt, Alyssa Milano, Vanessa Williams, Serena Williams and Jessica Simpson. Proactiv revolutionized adult acne skin care and established a format for kits that take the guesswork out of combining products. Since the cleanser, treatments and moisturizer are calculated to be compatible, your chances of overdrying your skin or experiencing redness and irritation are eliminated. Look for similar effective combos like Neutrogena Advanced Solutions Complete Acne Therapy System ($24), Peter Thomas Roth Acne Treatment Kit ($35) and Clinique Acne Solutions Clear Skin System ($32.50). The brilliant idea here is the balance of skin-clearing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, glycolic and salicylic acid (which fight bacteria, remove dead skin cells and unclog pores) with beneficial de-aging antioxidants so you get to treat pimples and prevent wrinkles simultaneously.
2. Light and Heat Therapy. Birth control pills can be an effective part of fighting acne, and some women have success with the prescription retinoid Retin-A or the controversial drug Accutane. Now there are two more doctor-based solutions gaining popularity that use light therapy as an alternative. One uses blue light therapy to destroy acne-causing bacteria while the other uses a combination of pulsed light and heat energy therapy to shrink sebaceous glands and decrease oil production in the dermis layer of the skin. Ask your dermatologist if either would be an option for you. At home, a portable heat-therapy device the size of a cell phone called the Zeno MD Acne Clearing Device ($129, myzeno.com) uses targeted heat to treat big unexpected zits and kill bacteria that promise to ruin your weekend plans. It has a loyal cult following and is a good Friday night emergency tool.
3. Targeted Spot Treatments. Sometimes it’s that one occasional blemish smack in the middle of your cheek or chin that promises to drive you mad. In that case, a concentrated dose of salicylic acid can be effective in quickly diminishing redness and inflammation while you maintain cover during the day with concealer. Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment by Johnson & Johnson ($6.49 drugstores) or Bliss Change Your Spots ($32, bliss.com) won’t leave you peeling and crusty. For coverage and medication in one, try Murad Acne Treatment Concealer ($21, sephora.com). To keep mild to moderately bumpy skin under wraps, trust cK Calvin Klein Infinite Matte Oil- Free Foundation ($32, sephora.com), which leaves skin feeling clean, controls oil and has collagen-stimulating peptides or Neutrogena Skin Clearing Oil-Free Makeup ($10.29, drugstores) with a combination of salicylic acid and vitamins A and E. Yves Saint Laurent Matt Touch Foundation ($48, saksfifthavenue.com) offers more coverage in a velvety cream. For extra cover directly on spots, Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage applied with a brush has the opaque texture you can depend on.