CAUSES: WHY ME?
From Physique to Psyche
I don’t remember picking at my face until my twenties. Because when I was a teen I don’t remember having real ‘severe’ skin problems.
So you have a problem with your skin… Where do you go? To a dermatologist of course. Then he or she may send you home with some topical ointments and creams or an antibiotic, or maybe you get sent to another specialist. When this treatment doesn’t work you go to another dermatologist and repeat the same routine. And all along you ask yourself the same question over and over… why me?
Mostly I would think, “I wouldn’t pick at my face if it didn’t break out in the first place.”
We’ve already discussed what your skin is doing internally that makes it break out, now let’s talk about what you are physically doing to make it break out.
Cleaning your skin may be one of THE worst things you can do for your complexion. In fact one of the most common myth about acne is that it is result of improper cleansing or not enough cleansing. Regular cleansing involves removing excess surface oils and dirt. BUT most acne sufferers usually go overboard in their attempts to cleanse using over-drying soaps, thick clay masks and scrubs. They harshly abrade the skin and aggravate breakouts.
“An abnormal desquamation process is required to produce clinical acne vulgaris. This process consists of increased sloughing of the epithelium, which becomes more cohesive and blocks the follicular orifice with the accumulation of dead cells.” *3
In other words an abnormal amount of cells are being produced at a hectic rate to give you acne. This happens when the pore lining is shedding at an increased rate. This makes the things in the area stick together more readily and eventually clogs the pore’s opening.
What causes this abnormal desquamation? Well, the more you scrub your skin, the more cells you need to replace the skin you just scrubbed off. More vicious cycles, huh?
And when you scrub your skin with face loofa, buff pad and/or granular exfoliant you break up cellular connections (acantholysis) in the epidermis. When cells mature and shed themselves too fast (Parakeratosis) you set yourself up for failure.
The topical drying agents and creams have the potential to be worse than anything. You think you are doing a really good thing by buying a product to help your skin. Once I got past the stigma of buying an acne product from the store, I was so happy that I had made the decision to DO something to improve myself. As my old pimple turned into scabs and then little pieces of dry skin flakes, new ones were popping up faster then ever.
EVEN WATER strips your skin of its natural oils and dries it out setting you up to have over-production of sebum.
So what can you do?
Cleansing – Not Cleansing
On the other hand, if your skin is dirty, not cleaning it will contribute to more clogged pores. Every day in our civilized world we ‘face’ exposure to the elements, smog (hydrogenated hydrocarbons), grime, grease oils, cosmetics, hair products… So there is a need to cleanse. You just have to find the right balance. You need to learn to do things in moderation.
If you see a relationship between a product and breakouts or sensitivity then by all means, stop using it! For years the African American community were told through advertising (and erroneous family tradition) to use special moisturizers and pomades on their hair. This has cause countless heartaches, not to mention hair-aches, because of the outbreaks these products cause. Yet, the products were still used. Only recently has information about the negative effects of these products changed their usage.
Cleansing – Arrest your Head Resting
Actually many problems can be avoided just by keeping the hands away from face. An area that can be especially affected by this is the jaw line and cheeks. If you tend to rest your head on your hands, or cradle the telephone on your shoulder (which is understandable after a long day at the computer), you are a prime candidate for breakouts there. One way to avoid this is to change your habits.
If you cannot resist the urge to rest, by all means, don’t use your hands directly. I used to use the back of my palm, or a piece of my clothing, because I felt they were less likely to carry dirt or bacteria. While this may be true, they still do carry dirt and bacteria and should be used only as a last resource to this better solution. Have a box of fresh tissue on your desk or wherever you tend to rest your head. When you feel the urge, place a piece of tissue between your head and your hand. This solves 2 important issues. No more hands touching the face AND the tissue will absorb any excess oil that just waiting there to turn into a future problem. Don’t be stingy with your tissue either. The minute it starts to feel old or used – toss it and start with a new one.
And about phone cradling, not only is it bad for your skin, it’s bad for your spine – which is bad for your skin ultimately as well. If you have to do something while you are on the phone – get a speaker phone and use it.
Cleansing – Don’t Toucha Your Hair
Next time you feel like putting your hands on your face, think twice. Remember John Travolta’s character Tony Manero from Saturday Night Fever and how obsessed he was about no one touching his hair. Think like that!
Consider where your hands have been just before you went to touch your face and all the myriad of germs and bacteria and dirt and toxins that have been gathering there, not to mention the potential natural oils. And speaking of hair, every time you touch your hair, you pick up subtle oils and grime which you don’t want to be spreading to your fair complexion now, right?
Cleansing – Wash Your Hands
Another thing you can do to help prevent the spreading of bacteria is to keep everything that comes into contact with your skin meticulously clean. Clean applicators with soap and water, boil sponges if you re-use them, soak anything else you can in alcohol so bacteria cannot proliferate. After things are cleaned they must be kept dry as well.
This cleanliness especially refers to your hands. You know you should wash them often to help prevent the spread of germs and bacteria. Get into the habit – NOW. Because as you quit the picking habit, you may still find you hands going automatically back up to your face to feel what’s going on with it. Every time you touch your face, you are potentially placing bacteria you have picked up elsewhere.
Be aware of where your hands have been – on the shopping cart, the doorknob at work, the escalator handrail, and everywhere else anyone else has touched. I don’t want to encourage obsessive compulsive washing, where you feel like you have to wash your hands every five minutes, but I do want to encourage you to be diligent about having your hands clean, if you do end up touching your face.
If you tend to pick at your cuticles, always have a small tube of moisturizing cream handy so that your cuticles won’t dry out from washing your hands.
Cleansing – How to Cleanse
There are many different thoughts about what is the right or wrong way. But most health care professionals agree on the following.
Whatever products you use they should be properly pH balanced, in other words, mildly acidic or neutrally acidic. If you are scientifically minded you can go to your local drug store and test the products you use with Litenus paper. This paper shows you the pH balance easily through color – acid turns the paper yellow pink or orange, and alkalis turn paper green or blue. Anything to either extreme (too alkaline or too acid) can harm the acid mantle of the skin.
Cleansing – Soaps
Regular soaps often contain tallow, the animal derived wax which holds the bar together. Wax and oil will not rinse away from your skin easily and will act just like sebum and clog your pores. Read labels, especially on cream-type soaps and if oil is listed as one of the top ingredients, don’t use it.
Cleansing – Astringents
Astringents are often used to dry out the skin’s surface. We have already talked about how this is not necessarily the best thing for you. Drying oily skin only makes it want to produce more oil.
Cleansing – Scrubs
Scrubs can be detrimental to problem skin due to the fact that they can open and spread infection. The best way to open a pimple is to use a gentle spot treatment of 3% hydrogen peroxide.
Cleansing – Hair
‘Keep it short or away from the face.’ I always read this in self-help articles about acne. But this is difficult to tell a person who picks, because you are so self-conscious about your complexion that you don’t want to show off your face. You want to cover it up with hair and makeup and whatever else you can to camouflage your injuries.
The truth is that hair does hold on to bacteria and the really bad news is you are going to have to suffer the embarrassment of revealing who and what you are and what you have done before you are going to see long-term dramatic results. I am sorry, but this is the only way. Either cut your hair short and away from your face or pull it back with bands or clips. Try to take the positive approach here. Go on a shopping spree and treat yourself to the nicest hair clips you can afford. Buying hair clips is a lot cheaper than seeing a dermatologist regularly. So splurge on the best for yourself. You deserve it!