What to do when a zit pops up.

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It happens to all of us.  Zits pop up.   And even though the only way to get rid of acne for good is to treat it from the inside out, it is necessary to know how to deal with zits so that they heal faster, you don’t get scarring, and your skin’s moisture barrier remains intact. According to me, there are three stages of a blemish that require treatment. Stage one: You can feel it coming. Maybe there’s a slight redness when you first wake up, maybe you feel a little bit of tenderness in the area. The rest of the world can’t see it yet, but you know it’s coming.  Your heart sinks into your baby toe and you’re like, “Great, another zit. Two or more weeks of a huge red blemish on my face, dealing with the pain, the inflammation, the scarring.  Great.” Stage two: It’s there. Visibly.  Red, hot and steaming.  You just want it gone. Stage three:  It’s STILL there. It’s that deep, dark cyst underneath your skin that is not budging. So, what do you do? First, some basic guidelines: Number one, do not use harsh medications when you have a blemish on your skin. Harsh spot treatments often contain ingredients such as alcohol and benzoyl peroxide which are meant to dry out your zit.  But instead, they damage the skin’s moisture barrier. And when the moisture barrier is damaged your skin is more prone to inflammation, redness and scarring. Number two, do not pick your skin.  It simply makes everything worse. It increases inflammation and spreads p.acnes, the bacteria that contributes to acne formation. Do not touch. What to do in Stage One? Your zit is just surfacing and now is the time to perform Acne Emergency 101. STAT. Take a piece of gauze – I like gauze because it’s sterile and it’s thin – and place a piece of ice in the gauze.  Place it on your blemish for about a minute. The ice constricts your blood vessels and this reduces inflammation, redness, pain, and the size of the blemish. This is hydrotherapy and it has been used for millennia. Even wild animals use cold water when they have acute injuries to bring down the inflammation fast. Let the ice remain on the blemish for about a minute, and then remove it and let your skin recalibrate for about five minutes. If you leave the ice on your skin for longer than a minute, you can cause damage. That’s also why the ice is placed in the gauze, to protect the skin. After your skin has rested for 5 minutes, place the ice on the blemish again for about a minute. Once the minute is up, take it off. You can repeat this at various times through the day. The more that you repeat it, the more effective it will be at reducing the redness, the inflammation, the eventual size of the blemish, and ultimately, the recovery time. Once you’re finished doing the icing, you are going to put my magic elixir on your blemish. Place ¼ tsp of Manuka honey in your hand and add 3 drops of tea tree oil.  Mix together and apply to your blemish. Leave this on as long as you can, ideally overnight. Why manuka honey and tea tree oil? Manuka honey contains methylglyoxal, which has a strong antibiotic action.  It is even effective against MRSA (an antibiotic strain of staph). It also reduces inflammation, draws moisture into the skin, and repairs and nourishes the moisture barrier. Tea tree oil has been shown to be as effective as benzoyl peroxide in inhibiting the formation of p. acnes (the bacteria that contributes to the formation of acne).  Manuka honey and tea tree oil is a potent combination! What do you do for Stage 2 and 3 blemishes? Basically you treat these two stages the same. This is when the blemish has fully surfaced, it’s red, it’s throbbing, it’s raw, or else the cyst is deep in your skin, and it’s not budging. For these situations we are going to call upon an ancient naturopathic technique called contrast hydrotherapy. There are two parts to contrast hydrotherapy. The first part is the application of a hot compress (not so hot you burn or damage the skin, though!) for three minutes. Then you are going to apply the ice in the gauze for one minute. You’re going to repeat this process three times in total. Contrast hydrotherapy creates a pumping action in the blood vessels. When you apply the hot compress the blood vessels dilate. When the blood vessels dilate or become bigger new blood comes to the area, along with an increase in oxygen, nutrients and immune cells. When you apply the cold, the blood vessels constrict and flush out toxins, inflammatory mediators and metabolic waste. This process speeds up the healing, reduces scarring and brings the blemish to a head. It will help speed up the resolution of the blemish. Once you’ve done your hydrotherapy three times, then you’re going to make the same manuka honey and tea tree oil spot treatment, you’re going to apply it to the area, and leave it on. That’s it. I hope these techniques are helpful.  To completely get rid of your acne (and I mean forever, that’s it) check out my 7-Week Clear Skin Program.  I truly believe that life is way too short to keep dealing with the physical and emotional devastation that comes with acne. Love, Dr. Stacey

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