Monday, July 30, 2018

Blackheads in all the wrong places

I don’t know exactly what blackheads are. The pores on the sides of my nose are dark. I’m assuming these are blackheads. What should I do to keep them from getting worse?

Basically, blackheads (also termed comedos or comedones) are clogged pores. The pore, which is a tiny opening on the surface of the skin, can collect skin cells, excreted oil, as well as debris in the air. This mixture can oxidize, causing it to turn a dark color. That is probably what you are seeing on the sides of your nose. 

The best thing to do is to make sure you are cleaning your skin properly on a daily basis and if possible, using a clay mask once or twice a week. Clay has a deep cleansing effect, helping to unclog the pores, which is just what you need to use on blackheads. For daily maintenance do The Basics, and for some additional steps, The Extras (see links below).

What can I do about blackheads around my lips? I recently had a facial and the aesthetician removed them (it hurt!). What, if anything, can I do to prevent them?

Depending on the skill of the aesthetician, extractions can be uncomfortable. The area just at the lip line is a very sensitive area and therefore extractions there can be painful. Hopefully your facialist is preparing the skin as best she can to soften the skin before extraction.

With all that said, I do recommend having these blackheads removed professionally during a facial. As I mentioned (and as you found out), the area around the lip line is very sensitive, and if these places are not extracted properly (you try too hard or extract incorrectly), the tissue can swell and potentially cause infection, which is usually what happens if you attempt to remove the blackheads at home. If you decide to extract these blackheads yourself, follow the rules of extraction (see the “picking” article link below) and proceed with caution. In other words, go slowly.

The tissue of the lip is less flexible than the skin on your face. These blackheads are usually located right on the edge of the lip tissue and the facial skin. So the clogged pore, even if it is small, will have a harder time dislodging from this area.

Always have your fingers wrapped in tissue (Kleenex®). Also, don’t skip putting a dot of clay mask on each place you have extracted. And don’t wear lipstick immediately after extraction! If you have to extract, do it at night before you go to bed. This way the places have all night long to recuperate.

Note that wherever you extract on your lips, it will probably swell more so than when you extract places on your face. This is due to the difference in the tissue. The swelling will recede, especially with the application of clay.

For additional information, see:

Friday, July 27, 2018

What are razor bumps?

Razor bumps are basically ingrown hairs that have become red and/or infected, otherwise known as pseudofolliculitis barbae. An ingrown hair is where your (usually previously shaved) hair decides to navigate back down into the skin instead of coming out onto the surface. Because these hairs are coarse, they can wreak havoc on the tissue below.

They usually cause red, irritated bumps that resemble blemishes, but they are actually small irritations caused by the ingrown hairs. Once this sensitive tissue meets with a razor, small red bumps (razor bumps) follow. Although ingrown hairs cause inflammation and irritation, there is usually not a bacterial infection present as with true folliculitis. Pseudofolliculitis tends to happen more with curly-haired men, especially African-Americans.

The first course of treatment for ingrown hairs is exfoliation. By exfoliating the outer, dead skin layer, often the hair finds an easier path to the outside. When exfoliating, a gel-type, nonabrasive peel would be preferable to using a scrub. If a scrub is all you have at the moment, don’t get too aggressive with it or you can cause more irritation, but be on the lookout for a gentler, gel-type product.

Give exfoliation a try and see if it solves your ingrown hair problems. If you can, try not shaving so closely with your razor. This can help to alleviate some of the irritation. If nothing seems to work, another option—although maybe not for everyone—is to let your beard grow out.

If you’re having problems with skin irritations around your beard area that won’t go away, it could be true folliculitis. This is a bacterial infection (staphylococcus) in your hair follicles caused by any number of things, even contaminated washcloths. If you think you have folliculitis, you may want to consult your dermatologist, who can prescribe topical or oral antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria present in your skin.

With the following articles, you should be able to start understanding the difference between folliculitis and pseudofolliculitis barbae:
For information about exfoliation, see:
Don't be confused. Keep reading to understand the difference between these two frustrating skin conditions.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Enlarged Pores: Can they shrink?

The plain truth is this: pores don’t shrink. There is no cream, ointment, or skin care regimen that can change this fact. Pores are not little openings that can expand and contract like muscles. They do expand or stretch, but pores are not so elastic that they can contract to their former, smaller state.

Pores will naturally enlarge as you get older due to the downward pull of gravity (especially in the cheek area). Because oily skin is usually congested, this type of skin will be more prone to enlarged pores. Debris nestled in the pores over a period of time will expand the opening to support the enlarging plug or blackhead.

Exfoliating and using a high-quality clay mask on a regular basis (1 to 3 times per week depending on your skin’s condition) will help keep dead skin and oil from clogging your pores and lessen the chance of enlargement. And lets not forget your daily—twice daily—face washing routine. Without cleaning your skin (2x) daily, you are running the risk of major buildup inside your pores.

For more information on your daily and weekly routine, read:

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Problem Solvers for Problem Skin: Part 2—Breaking it down

I am always telling my clients who have skin issues that something is causing their skin issuesthey are not “just happening,” although the cause may not be apparent right now. I encourage them to be a sleuth into their own lives and lifestyles and to try to break down the different elements in your life to find possible causes for your breakouts.
  • If it’s a new breakout, what is new in your life? 
  • Are you using new skin care products, shampoo, even laundry detergent? 
  • Have you eaten new or unusual foods you don’t normally eat? 
  • Have you eaten more sugar than you ordinarily eat? 
  • Is it Halloween or your birthday? 
  • Have the Girl Scouts been coming around? 
  • Has your monthly cycle changed? 
  • Are you going through puberty? 
  • What about the amount of stress in your life? 
Try to break down your lifestyle habits to see if there is a correlation between something you’re doing, eating, or not doing, and how this may be affecting your skin. Breakout usually has multiple causes, but eliminating the ones you think might be contributing to your skin problems is a good start to clearer skin.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Age-appropriate products?

A client wrote me asking if she should change her products:

I’m pretty happy with all of my products but Im wondering if I should make a change. I turned 40 last year and Im thinking that maybe I should get something more age-appropriate.

That’s a great question. My answer is: I don’t use age as a guideline for recommendations, not initially at least. Skin at any age can have any number of issues or needs. So, if your skin has changed (due to age or circumstances other than that) it could be possible you might need to readjust your routine. However, if your products still feel appropriate, I’d stick with them.

I always go by the condition of the skin first, not chronological age. This seems contradictory to what you may hear in the media, but it truly makes sense if you think about it. You could be 50 and still have oily skin. If that’s the case and you use an “anti-aging” cream with lots of oils, etc., you could develop an oil slick on your skin!

If your skin has changed, it may call for a change in your routine, otherwise stay with the products (appropriate for your skin type) that you’ve been using.

Just because you are racking up candles on your birthday cake doesn’t necessarily mean your skin is drastically changing.

For more information, see:

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Eye Cream: Why use it?

You have no functioning oil glands directly under your eyes, so you want to keep that skin moisturized at all times. Why? So that when you express and the lines crease around your eyes, they are creasing on soft tissue.

Lines are formed after years of facial expressions and sun exposure that cause a breakdown of collagen (the supporting structure of the skin), which then creates a wrinkle. A topical cream is merely keeping the tissue soft and, therefore, the lines less noticeable—less hard looking.

Creams (even the most expensive eye cream) cannot completely repair damage incurred by sun exposure, nor can a cream stop the natural aging process. At best, with eye creams specifically, they can help to soften the blow caused by facial expressions. As consumers, we have been lulled into believing a mere man-made cream can overturn what nature, genetics, and sun exposure have caused. Don’t be fooled. Being clear about what is and what is not possible will save you a lot of time and money. However, using eye creams is vitally important in keeping the tissue around the eye area soft and supple, reducing the look of the lines.

Here are a few more articles, see: