Fight Breakouts with Kindness

Fight Breakouts with Kindness

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It turns out the four-alarm-fire, zap-it-now approach many of us take to the occasional breakout can actually make our skin worse. Counterintuitively, the best way to clear problematic skin is to treat it as gently as you can. Harsh drying agents, high concentrations of powerful treatments like benzoyl peroxide, or intensive scrubbing can aggravate your skin. Not only does this create an ideal breeding ground for more breakouts; it can also compromise the skin’s barrier function (so bacteria, dirt, and oil can potentially get deeper) and cause dryness that makes skin look and feel less resilient and elastic, accelerating the visible signs of aging.

“I see this scenario in my office,” says Dr. Robert Anolik, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the NYU School of Medicine. Using too-harsh ingredients, even ones designed to treat acne, can make things worse, he says. “It can lead ultimately to the patient having two problems: the acne he or she is treating, in combination with drier, irritated, pink skin. This is particularly the case when a patient is already using products that can be irritating, such as a retinoid.”

The solution, Anolik continues, can be as simple as using a moisturizer, changing the amount or frequency of potentially problematic ingredients in your routine, or using a gentler routine overall.

It’s also important to note that the most potent ingredients aren’t necessarily the harsh ones. The combination of ingredients (salicylic acid, sandalwood hydrosols, and helichrysum to name several) in True Botanicals’ new Clear Collection actually outperformed benzoyl peroxide preparations in a study the company did.

A gentle routine is often easier to maintain, and a routine is key in keeping your skin clear. It’s an odd aspect of human nature that we assume that as soon as our skin finally clears, we are done with that breakout-prone chapter of our lives. But the reality is that preventing breakouts is about (gently) removing dirt, oil, makeup, and dead skin cells, on a daily or even twice-daily basis.

With those principles in mind, craft a routine and stick to it. Cleansing, toning, treating, and moisturizing are the principal ingredients in most good routines, but depending on your skin, you may skip steps or change the frequency of different elements. Breakouts can take weeks to resolve completely, and when you start on a new regimen, it may be a few weeks before existing breakouts even make it to the surface, so give any new routine a good two months.

True Botanicals designed its new Clear Collection with a gentle routine in mind, with a mild exfoliating cleanser, serum, toner, and oil all created around the idea that skin needs balance, not overdrying; that oil is part of healthy skin; and that avoiding aggravating skin is paramount in treating problem skin. You can get the collection as a set, but the company also offers custom consultations, in which an advisor can help you tailor a routine for your skin. (Some people aren’t into toner, for instance, while some might benefit from additional antioxidants, either inside or out, or need deeper exfoliation on occasion.)

Whatever product lineup you choose, keep it as simple and easy to execute as possible, and refuse to panic when the going gets rough. Slow and super steady wins the race.

More gentle products for problem skin, on goop and off: