Looking back on my own acne journey, I cringe. I think about all the years of frustration and tears that were unnecessary, and the thousands of wasted dollars spent on skincare and treatments. And out of all the things I tried on my clear skin journey, a very small percentage of them worked. Like maybe 5%. Very cringy.
If there is one thing that I really regret, it is how horribly I have treated my skin. I actually punished it for being acne prone – I dried it out, peeled it off, irritated the crap out of it, and slathered it with ingredients that damaged it and led to scarring, hyper-pigmentation and more acne.
Our skin is actually a self-regulating organ – for thousands of years it has known what to do if it is dry, oily, or damaged thanks to the moisture barrier, acid mantle and microbiome. But when the skin’s protective and self-regulating mechanisms are damaged, the skin no longer knows how to balance and heal itself efficiently.
When I start working with my patients and recommending skincare, most of the work we do is repairing the damage done from over-cleansing, over-exfoliating and using harsh acne products. Many of my patients have put an overly strong focus on skincare during their clear skin journey – and that can leave the skin even more vulnerable to acne.
The skin should always be treated incredibly gently, and one should never feel any burning, tingling, dryness, tightness or discomfort in their daily skincare routine.
What are the worst acne skincare mistakes?
As I mentioned earlier, it is critical that the skin’s moisture barrier, acid mantle and microbiome are healthy for clearing acne, preventing scarring and hyper-pigmentation.
And ironically, many skincare treatments that are marketed towards healing acne are notorious for damaging all three essential parts of the skin’s epidermis.
Over-cleansing with harsh surfactants. Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are surfactants that are used in many skin cleansers. They strip the skin of natural oils, damage the skin’s pH and upset the skin’s natural microbiome. Check your cleanser right now, and if it contains either of those ingredients, stop using it. Instead, opt for a cleanser that uses a gentle surfactant and is pH balanced.
Over-exfoliating. Assisting the skin with exfoliation is important with acne-prone skin. Often hormonal changes affect the way that keratinocytes are shed, and this can lead to a build-up of dead skin cells and sebum in the pores. But often acne patients go overboard, by using exfoliants too often, or exfoliating skin that is irritated and damaged. Over-exfoliation can damage the skin’s moisture barrier, disrupt the skin’s microbiome and alter its pH – which prevents the skin from being able to heal and regulate itself. Often I have to get my patients to stop their exfoliation routine while they repair their skin, and then begin exfoliating very slowly to find the perfect exfoliation products / cadence for them!
Overuse of topical acne treatments. Benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, antibiotics and other topical acne treatments can be harsh, irritating and damaging to the skin. But they can also work. Be cautious about stopping these treatments too quickly, before you are able to balance your body from the inside out. This can lead to a rebound break-out. Reducing the use of these treatments can improve the health of the skin, but caution against stopping completely until you have addressed the underlying causes of acne.
If you want to know more about how to care for your skin inside and out, check out my Clear Skin Masterclass. I take a deep dive into the root causes of acne and what you need to do to solve your acne for good. And in my 7-Week Clear Skin Program, I give you many resources to help heal your skin from the outside in, as well as the inside out.
Remember, acne is a temporary condition and it is a symptom that there is a deeper imbalance that needs to be solved. You do not have to live with acne, and I am here to help! You are beautiful, you are wise and you are strong. Let’s do this!