What causes skin outbreaks
Any change in the texture of your skin can be referred to as a blemish and spots are when the pores on your skin become blocked and inflamed. When the spots cover a larger area on your skin and themselves are much bigger and angrier, that is more commonly referred to as acne. The truth is all adults will get blackheads or whiteheads (blocked pores) at some point in their lives. Sometimes it is because we might have skimped a bit on the cleansing, been exposed to an area of pollution such as walking on busy roads or using the underground, or have touched and scratched our face with dirty fingers; sometimes during hotter weather excess perspiration may also lead to blockages. Sometimes skin care products can be the culprit, especially those based around petrolatum, a petroleum derivative which is a relative of the other super cheap and widely used ingredient, SLS, also a petroleum derivative. The problem with petrolatum is that its chemical molecule is far too large to penetrate the skin, so instead it just sits on the surface of your skin, suffocating it and preventing it from breathing and functioning properly, in turn leading to blocked pores and spots. But most often outbreaks are simply due to change in hormonal levels, similar to what most of us go through during puberty. Hormonal fluctuations continue to occur throughout our adult lives for various reasons.
How to deal with your outbreaks
When spots and blemishes are of the more persistent type, we become more aware and are eager to do something to make them go away. There is loads of advice out there on this and i will not be trying to re-invent the wheel with this article. The truth is as a teenager I didn’t get many spots, my spots started in my late teens and more into my very early 20's. And I was plagued by spots until I made my very first cream, the balancing face cream, and the spots literally went away overnight (with slight exceptions now and again during that time of the month). In my time I have tried every single advice out there, literally. Eating certain foods, avoiding certain foods, cleansing with nearly every type of cleansing product dedicated for spots, drying them with alcohol, putting toothpaste on them, ha ha yes, also scrubbing my face with various scrubs, I tried cheap creams, and expensive creams. I tried make up and not wearing make up. Nothing seemed to be helping me much. The reality was and I only realised it years later, I was over cleansing my face, literally stripping my skin of its natural protective barrier and wasn’t giving it any high quality moisture back to compensate for what I took through vigorous cleansing. The effect of this over cleansing was that skin is a little clever like that, when it sees oil is missing, it makes more, so the more I cleansed, the more my skin produced. That excess serum was what was causing my outbreaks and my skin, without its natural protective layers, was exposed to infections from pollution and the wrong type of skin care I was using back then.
“You are what you eat” - Eat your way to Health
I know this has become a bit of a cliche, but it is true - you eat processed foods with too much sugar, starch and yeasts (bread, cakes, sweet dough products etc) and too much unhealthy fats (chips, takeaways etc) your body will attempt to cleanse itself and that soon becomes visible on your body’s largest organ, your skin. If you are plagued by spots, it may be wise to take a look at your diet and see if there are any changes you could make to help things along. That could include keeping hydrated by drinking water, eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, modest consumption of healthy fats and wholesome carbohydrates (grains, pulses, beans, sweet potatoes) . Eating foods so rich in natural vitamins and minerals could make a lot of difference, especially those rich in vitamin E & C, as well as foods rich in vitamin A (orange coloured fruits like carrots, oranges, orange peppers, squash, sweet potatoes) as that will convert to retinol and help your skin heal faster, even if lack of hight quality food itself wasn’t the main cause of the outbreak.
Get your Beauty Sleep
They don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing. Making sure you sleep for at least around 7-8 hours each night, means you are reducing your stress and your ability to deal with infections, even as minor as spots, would be much higher than if you were sleep deprived. Also stress itself can be a major contributor to outbreaks, the effects of stress on the human body are more than evident and have been proved time and time again, stress can lead to a whole host of illnesses, that is a medical fact.
Take a look at your Make-Up Products
When we have an outbreak we automatically reach for the concealer wanting to cover up so that it isn’t seen by anyone else. But make up, especially when based on talc and petrolatum, can block your pores and lead to more outbreaks. It is wise to review what is in your makeup bag and replace it with mineral based make upand if you prefer liquid or pressed make-up products then look for make-up without petrolatum. Make sure your make-up brushes and sponges are cleaned at least weekly, as dirty sponges or brushes can infect your pores too. When you are back home, don’t forget to take all make-up off and allow your skin time to breathe uncovered so that it can heal. If you are in the mood, give your skin a face mask, more on that further down.
Cleanse Your Face Gently but Throughly
I did mention me over cleansing my face throughout most of my adult life prior to launching Handmade Naturals. Similarly to many like me and even the youth of today, I was brainwashed in a way by brands such as Clearasil, that I should be scrubbing my face to cleanse and using an astringent alcohol based toner to follow up to dry my spots and then go about my day, or if absolutely needed to never use an oil-based moisturiser and go for an oil-free one instead. Your skin doesn’t need, or even deserve such harsh treatment. A gentle wash or cleanse is all that it is needed. You can use one of our Foaming Face Washes, or just plain water, or plain water and a wash cloth, or perhaps you like our Face Cleansing Lotions or Face Cleansing oil. None of these methods will over cleanse your skin, nor it will leave your face super tight. This gentle cleanse means your glands will not be going into overdrive to make more sebum that your skin needs, or can even cope with. Our face washes do not use SLS, which strips the skin of its protective moisture layers. Take a look at your cleansing product and if it has SLS, best get it swapped to a sulfate free face wash without synthetic colours and fragrances as they are also a known skin irritant. If you know essential oils do not agree with your skin type, then go for a fragrance free face wash - we developed these especially for customers with very sensitive skin. If your skin is very dry as well as spotty, then our Moisturising Face Wash will take care of your cleansing. For problem skin we have a number of flower water toners which are the next step once you have cleansed your skin. The hydrolats used are a by-product of essential oil distillation therefore contain all the benefits from the plants they come from. Chamomile is calming for all angry and inflamed skin and is usually the first choice for sensitive skin. For spots in particular you can try the Tea Tree & Aloe Toner or the Lemonbalm & Witch Hazel Toner, both have natural antiseptic and antibacterial properties which will help heal your skin.
Treat your Skin to a detoxing face mask rich in minerals and vitamins
It doesn’t have to be done every day, but your skin will love a treat once or twice a week if you can manage it. It is also an opportunity for you to have some me-time and relax. Remember we covered the effects of stress on the skin, so me-time is essential. Oily skin and green clay are a match made in haven. Green clay is very detoxifying and has the ability to draw the toxins from underneath the skin, helping reduce your outbreaks. If you have tried green clay before and found it a little too harsh, try a white clay based mask as that is more gently. Some of our masks have added fruit powders like mango, cranberries and strawberries, these fruit powder add vitamin C and you can also make the masks with a freshly squeezed citrus juice for added enzymes. Add a teaspoon of raw honey as that has amazing enzyme activity and natural antibacterial properties. Of course, if you are vegan, skip this step or may be add a little maple syrup (it is loaded with minerals!), plant milk or a teaspoon of your favourite nut butter. After the recommended time simply wet your face and slowly and gently remove the mask from your face. Using a washcloth is the easiest way I found.
What about Exfoliating the skin on your face
To be honest, I am in two minds about this. I agree with the science behind it, that regular exfoliation removes the dead skin cells which in turn prevents blocked pores and blackheads/whiteheads. But at the same time, skin which is already inflamed as a result of an outbreak might not react in a very positive way to being harshly exfoliated. My personal advice would be for you to skip this step until your skin is no longer angry and infected. Then you can use gentle exfoliation, which may help limit future outbreaks before they have even began. We offer facial loofah pads (please make sure both your face and your pad have been thoroughly wetted and you apply some sort of foaming ingredient to avoid scratching your face), our own brand creamy facial scrub or Alba Botanica’s foaming Detox Scrub. Both these are SLS free, use biodegradable beads and contain nourishing ingredients to cleanse and exfoliate your face without overdoing it.
Don’t skimp on Moisturising, even if you have a problem or oily skin
I mentioned earlier that over-cleansing leads to your glands producing excess sebum in response to removing too much oil through cleansing and not replacing some of it by using a moisturiser. Many years ago I was told to stay clear of all oil products as they are bad for oily skin and I should only be using oil free moisturisers. Well, that didn’t work out very well for me and also for many, many people I have met through Handmade Naturals, most of them now returning customers forever grateful for all the advice they received in the shop. I was very anxious trying near Jojoba oil on my oily spotty face for the first time, expecting a huge outbreak the next day. But that did not happen. Jojoba for example has a chemical structure very similar to that of the sebum (oil) on our face. My skin not only didn’t break out, but also healed and balanced out so it was no longer oily. Jojoba did feature in my first cream, the Balancing Face Cream, for this very reason. I also added organic shea butter for its unbelievable vitamin and fatty acid content, Rosehip for it’s vitamin A and ability to heal the skin and nourish it at the same time, and a few other essential oils to help along. For years this was our best selling cream for spots and outbreaks. Now it proudly shares this spot with it’s lighter version The Ultra Light Face Cream. Many customers wanted a really light facial moisturiser to wear in the day and one that was suitable for the more oilier types, so the Ultra Light Face Cream caters for this group, including the younger users of our products. My own children currently going through puberty are both using the Ultra Light Face Cream sparingly and it does help manage the outbreaks.
Other Helpers in dealing with Skin Outbreaks
For isolated treatment of spots, you can try our Antibacterial Roll on - it contains essential oils of tea tree, manuka and lavender in a base of a light, non comedogenic grapeseed oil. Apply directly to your spots. If you happen to have a tin or jar of our Care Jelly lurking about in your cabinets, that is also suitable for individual spot treatment due to the Calendula oil, the Shea Butter, Lavender and Manuka, all super heroes at fighting inflammations and mild infections such as those accompanying an outbreak.
You are doing all the right things to prevent spot outbreaks but they are still making an appearance
Occasionally no matter what you do, the outbreaks will keep coming back. Unfortunately, in these cases the reason for the excess oiliness would most likely be hormonal and your may need to consult your GP for further help and advice. Eating a diet rich in pre-biotics (kefir, live yoghurts, fermented foods, prebiotic supplements) has been linked to improved skin health, and that includes not only dealing with spots but also for obtaining relief for inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis. It definitely is worth having a look into adding these to your diet.