It has been reported that nearly 85% of people will suffer from some sort of acne in their lifetimes according to the Journal of the American Medical Association and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic. Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting up to 50 million Americans annually, yet 40% of people do not do anything about it.
Although the figures aren’t in, acne and breakouts are on the rise due to stress. Since January, 2020, 55% of Americans report an increase in stress, according to a study by Harvard Medical School and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and stress is a known trigger of acne. It does this by triggering our bodies to release cortisol, our fight or flight hormone, which in turn stimulates oil glands to increase production and inflammation of the skin which can lead to acne.
Treating breakouts and problem skin has become a pandemic in itself these days, and with restricted availability to professional skin care services in the beginning of the year, the problem has only gotten worse. Maskne—breakouts and skin irritation from wearing protective face masks—is one way that skin has been affected. As for other forms of breakouts, the good news is that the problem can be solved with expert advice and proper treatment and product usage.
Here, we’ve culled the advice of two leaders in the health/beauty field, Lydia Sarfati, CEO and Founder of Repêchage Skin Care, pioneers of sustainably-harvested, seaweed based skin care, and Natalya Fazylova, DNP of ReBalance Integrative Medicine and Anti-Aging Center in NYC to help sift through the conflicting information on the causes and treatment of breakouts, and to help you have clean, clear skin at any age.
Take a Holistic Approach
“There is connection between the hormone fluctuations and acne, and you will find these more prevalent during times of stress such as now, and during teenage years, during pre-and-post pregnancy and during pari-menopause—really all through-out your life,” says Dr. Fazylova. “The only way to treat acne successfully is with a holistic approach. Your beauty comes from inside, so we have to look at their hormones; their GI or gut health issues. This has to be combined with nutrition as well as topical care to see real results.”
Sarfati agrees. “My approach has always been based on chemistry and biology coupled with a holistic approach, looking at the skin from within as well as what you put on topically.”
According to Sarfati, one clue to the systemic reason for the acne is where the breakouts are occurring on the face. If acne cysts appear on the lower face, for example, there is a likelihood that the breakouts are related to gut health and hormone imbalances. If the breakouts are on the upper face, it may be related to food sensitivities. If acne is manifesting as a red mask across the nose, it may be rosacea related.
This means taking time to manage stress, address hormone and gut health issues, and maintaining a good diet and exercise regime in addition to topical treatment.
Don’t Make It Worse
With increased sebum production from changing hormonal levels, pores get filled with dead skin cells. This is when bacteria starts proliferating within the pores, and setting off an inflammatory response that causes infection and breakouts.
According to Sarfati, over-irritating the area from aggressive treatments can only exacerbate the problem more, even in oily skin types. “Very often, people will use harsh surfactants such sodium laurel sulfate that strip the skin,” says Sarfati. “Then, they use hydrogen peroxide based products, which can be super irritating. On top of it they will use scrubs that are highly alkaline and physically aggravate the condition.”
The key is to be sure to use the right products for your age skin type and condition, rather than just aggressively attacking the acne. Sensitive skin types need to use products formulated to help to soothe and calm the skin.
Always First Get Professional Advice
Because acne and breakouts can be caused by so many different factors, it’s essential that you seek out a holistic doctor and esthetic practitioner to get an individual work up and recommendation.
“Especially with exfoliation, it’s essential to consult a professional who can advise what is appropriate for your own individual needs,” says Sarfati.
Considerations such as whether or not your skin qualifies for a professional peel, or needs a milder enzymatic exfoliation, whether it needs a deep mud mask versus an abrasive exfoliant, all need to be considered.
Once you engage a professional’s help, you will be recommended a course of action, which then can be reevaluated in the next three months, and as seasons change, to adjust the skin care routine as needed.
The Right Treatment for Oily, Problem Skin
With so many products available for different skin types, it can get confusing. An esthetician can help cut through the clutter and even look into skin care regimes that go beyond your own skin type, including products to to help reduce the appearance of breakouts, even-tone skin and reduce the appearance of redness.
What is important in a skin care regime is that it balances the skin pH, gently cleanses while providing for the maintenance of the proper moisture level.
For a basic, overall regime, Repêchage Hydra® Medic Collection for Oily, Problem Skin combines Seaweed extracts with ingredients like Salicylic Acid, Willow Bark, Kojic Acid, an antioxidant tea blend, clays and muds, and herbal extracts to help gently deep cleanse the skin while leaving skin feeling soft and smooth.
“I love Salicylic acid,” says Sarfati. “In low doses, it works well, and when combined with Willow Bark extract, it’s like magic on the skin. It has a wonderful ability to help reduce sebaceous activity.”
One product that contains this combination is the award winning Hydra® Medic Beta Hydroxy Acid, which can be used nightly on the affected areas to help reduce the appearance of breakouts. Another miracle product is the Hydra Medic® Clear Complexion Drying Lotion which combines Salicylic and Multi-Fruit Acids with Kojic Acid and Colloidal Sulfur to target breakouts overnight.
For exfoliation, Sarfati recommends Rapidex® Marine Exfoliator With Phyto-Marine Actives, a mild AHA peel based on marine actives with a pH of 3.8. In a fourteen day unidose program, it provides a pre-measured and hygienic treatment and contains Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids combined with Seaweed extracts.
For deep cleansing and reducing the appearance of pores, the Hydra Medic® Sea Mud Perfecting Mask is a creamy sea mud mask deep cleanses and helps absorb excess oil, reducing the appearance of shine with Kaolin clay while Seaweed and Allantoin help to leave the skin feeling refreshed.
Sarfati recommends you follow up with a sheet mask that contains Seaweed extracts Alpha Arbutin, Glutathione and Diglucosyl Gallic Acid to help prevent hyperpigmentation or darkening of the skin in the area of the breakout.
And, don’t forget moisture. Sarfati recommends clients with problem and oily skin to avoid emulsion type moisturizers, which are combinations of oil and water and can be comedogenic. Opt for a lightweight serum, such as C-Serum® Seaweed Filtrate Face Serum which contains a high level of nourishing Seaweed extract, or Vita Cura® B3 Serum Complex with Seaweed, Niacinamide and Hyaluronic Acid.
What are some of the ways you have been dealing with stress and breakouts? Let us know in the comments!