Skin Health 101
Unsure of your skin type? Wondering what is an exfoliant and why do you need one? Curious about an ingredient? Does skincare confuse you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this page is the one for you!
Welcome to Nia Imani.
As many of you know, I am a licensed and practicing esthetician. My goal as an esthetician is to provide my clients with the tools they need to support the treatment. I believe the most valuable tool they need is skin knowledge– skin health knowledge that is.
I want my clients to understand what effects of ingredients, skin care tools, and more. My goal is to arm them with the knowledge to protect their skin's health. I feel that arming them with skin health knowledge will empower them to make good skin care choices even when I am not around or available to provide guidance.
I want to use that same philosophy here on Nia Imani. I believe all people, not just my clients should have access to information pertaining to skin health. I wanted to share my passion for skin health and skincare competency. I believe skin should be taken care of and maintained like all other organs. I also believe that as a licensed professional and skin care enthusiast I have a fantastic opportunity to share the knowledge, tips, and tricks that I have acquired with everyone (not just my clients). So, with that welcome to skin health 101.
Skin Health 101 is a series of skin care related posts; this series is about all the various kinds of skin care tidbits that only licensed professionals and skin care enthusiast know. This series is for people who just are in a skin care runt, or need a little help navigating skin care, or even just someone looking to know a little more about skin care. I will be breaking down everything from ingredients to hot tips and more! Awesome, right?
Ok, today's 101 is going to cover acne and blemished skin. So, without further ado let's jump into it!
Acne is an annoying, frustrating skin concern. For some it can be long-lasting, painful and acutely obvious; for others, it can pop up at the most importune times. No matter which side of the spectrum you are on, acne isn’t cool. Acne has a way of lowering one’s confidence and make someone feel alone. I know that feeling all too well; I recall feeling that way when I suffered from chronic acne.
Even though acne suffers can feel very alone, about eighty percent (Worlds Population) of people between the ages 10 and 30 have at least one acne breakout in their lifetime. Over sixty million Americans have acne and twenty percent of them suffer from severe acne. See you’re not alone.
Various types of acne and blemishes
Now that you know you aren’t alone you may be asking, “how do I get rid of this pesky acne”? Well hold your horses, we need to start at the beginning. We first need to understand the several types of acne, then we can move to the ways to get rid of them. Not all acne is created equal; acne comes in many forms. Not knowing what type of acne, one has can hinder getting the proper treatment.
The first and most common form of blemishes is comedones. Comedones are painless, pore-clogging blemishes. They are most commonly known as blackheads and whiteheads. Blackheads are open comedones meaning they are not covered or closed off by layers of dead skin or skin debris. Ironically, blackheads do not start off black, due to the fact blackheads are exposed to the air often oxides them causing them to burn black. Whiteheads, on the other hand, are closed comedones; they are covered in layers of dead skin. Since whiteheads are not exposed to air they appear white and pearly. They are usually found on the tops of cheekbones or thin-skinned areas such as the under eyes. Comedones can be treated with weekly exfoliation. Whiteheads can be quite difficult to get rid of, in the event exfoliation isn’t helping I would consult a professional about lancing.
Comedones, unfortunately, aren't the only types of blemishes. They are just the tip of the iceberg. The other types of blemishes are active due to inflammation and bacteria. These types of blemishes are called moderate to cystic acne. There are four types of moderate to cystic acne: papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts. The different forms of acne are placed into categories based on their severity; these categories are called stages. Stage one is mild acne which is comedones. Stage two is moderate acne. Moderate acne is a mixture of comedones, papules, and pustules. Papules are inflamed, red lesions that are sensitive and excrete clear liquid. Pustules like papules are inflamed, red lesions, however, pustules are pus-filled and much more painful than papules. During stage two acne is frequent and can leave hyperpigmentation. Stage two acne can be treated with antibiotics and over the counter acne medications.
Stage three is comprised of severe acne; the skin is red, inflamed, and painful to the touch. Stage three is made up of pustules, nodules, and/ or cysts. Nodules are painful, hard, under the skin lesions that contain pus and cysts are large, extremely painful pus-filled lesions. Stage three acne should be treated by a dermatologist. Stage four is comprised of mostly of nodules and cystic acne. This is the worst type of acne one can have. The lesions are painful, large, pus-filled, and inflamed. Stage four must be treated by a dermatologist.
In addition to the various stages of acne, there are acne conditions . These acne conditions are rare, but it is important to know about. The first acne condition is acne fulminans. Acne fulminans is a rare skin disorder that causes painful cystic acne. It also causes bone lesions and laboratory irregularities. The source of this disorder isn’t known, it is believed to be triggered by high dosages of isotretinoin which is a commonly prescribed acne medication. The other skin condition is called acne mechanical; acne mechanical is a skin condition that is triggered by excess heat, physical pressure, or friction. Most commonly associated with athletes, students, and soldiers. Small comedones become inflamed resulting in papules and pustules. During the beginning stages, the skin may look and feel bumpy and rough almost like eczema. As the condition persists the skin with have small breakouts, then larger, more obvious, inflamed blemishes.
Various causes of acne
Now that we know “the what” let’s talk about “the why”. There are a million and one reasons for acne, but let’s touch on the most common. The first and most common reason for acne is called acne vulgaris. Acne Vulgaris is a common acne condition is caused by clogged and inflammation of the hair follicles and their sebaceous glands. The formation of comedones, papules, pustules, nodules and/or cysts. Usually treated with topical antibiotics, enzymatic exfoliation, and/ or salicylic acid. The other common causes of acne are hormone imbalance, puberty, stress, poor diet, environment, genetics, and/ or medication.
Various Treatments for acne
All of these reasons and types of acne can be treated, but the question is what treatment works for what type of acne. There are five sources of treatment for acne; the first is over the counter products, the second is natural ingredients, the third is prescription treatment, the fourth is dietary changes, and the fifth is services.
Over the counter products are the most common and easy to obtain acne treatments. These treatments can come in the form of cleanser, toner, lotion, spot treatments, masks, etc. There are three major ingredients that treat acne; salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and sulfur. Salicylic acid is the most commonly used acne treatment on the market; it unclogs pores by creating a tornado-like action in the glands in an effort to dissolve debris from the inside out. It exfoliates dead skin as well. Benzoyl Peroxide is another commonly used treatment. Benzoyl Peroxide treats acne by drying out the surface of the skin thus drying out the acne. Last, but not least is sulfur; sulfur acts similarly to benzoyl peroxide. Sulfur dries out the blemishes and thins the epidermis in efforts to push comedones out of the skin.
On to treatment option numero dos: natural remedies. There are tons of natural ways to treat acne, but tea tree oil, clove essential oil, juniper berry essential oil, and willow bark are my favorites. Tea tree oil is anti-bacterial and anti-microbial. Tea tree oil is also great for controlling excess oil and drying out active acne. Juniper Berry is also anti-bacterial and anti-microbial; it is less drying which makes it perfect for normal and dry skin types. Clove is perfect for reducing inflammation. Clove pairs beautifully with either juniper berry or tea tree oil. The last natural ingredient I like is willow bark. Willow bark is a natural form of salicylic acid.
The third treatment option is all about what I would like to consider last resort options.
Prescription treatments are great, and all don’t get me wrong, but they aren’t to be used or taken without much consideration. And in my opinion, they shouldn’t be taken without exhausting all other treatment forms. Now that I got my warning out of the way, let’s move onto the four most common prescription treatments. The first are retinoids. Retinoids shed dead skin cells by speeding up cellular turnover. Retinoids treat active acne like blackheads, papules, and pustules. This drug can cause dehydration due to stimulus. The second prescription is antibiotics; antibiotics reduces inflammation . Reducing inflammation is perfect for anyone experiencing widespread active acne.
Birth control is the third prescription treatment. Birth control is perfect for reducing hormone factors. Isotretinoin is the last prescription treatment to bring up. Isotretinoin is another word for Accutane. Accutane is a drug that reduces the size of the sebaceous glands, reduces cell shedding. Popular for younger people with severe acne. Accutane is unlike any other acne medication; it has serious side effects. You should consult a doctor for all these prescriptions.
Moving straight into treatment option four: dietary changes. These I believe are pretty understandable; just in case they aren’t let’s make this explication quick… changing the diet can change the levels of excess sugar, sodium, etc. Excess can spike hormone levels and create acne. Anything from reducing the amount of gluten you eat to the amount of meat you consume can change the overall condition of the skin.
Last, but never least my favorite treatment option of them all: services. As an esthetician, I believe in the power of facial services. There are tons of facial services chemical peels, laser, lancing, light therapy, and facials. All of which can do wonders for acne.
The first service treatment is chemical peels are great for all skin types (except sensitive). They use various acids to speed up cellular turnover and deeply exfoliate the skin. Next up: laser can quite literally use light and heat to remove blemishes. In addition, lancing drains debris and pus from under the surface of the skin. Another service treatment is light therapy uses non-invasive lights to reduce blemishes. Blue light helps to kill bacteria and red light helps with inflammation. Last, but not least is facials. A basic cleansing facial deep clean, gently exfoliating, and extract comedones. These coupled with at home care help to reduce clogging and excess oil.
Speaking of home care… my last bit of information about acne is self-care. Self-care simple, inexpensive and easy to do. I have a few tips on how to care for acne:
That’s all folks!
Thank you for stopping by Nia Imani. I hope you enjoyed today’s post. If you have any questions, comments or concerns feel free to reach out. Make sure to follow me on social media. You can find all the various ways to contact or follow me in the “Contact Me” tab above. Make sure to subscribe to the newsletter for monthly updates on all things Nia Imani. Thank you again for your support. Til next time.