We’ve all been there– everyone and their mother has suffered from a zit or two; some of us more than others. There’s truly no worst feeling than when you wake up with a pimple or even feel the pimple coming on. There are so many different ways to treat and cure acne so we asked Shani Darden, esthetician to some of your favorites in Hollywood, her most effective methods to get rid of the bane of our existence.
Let’s talk about acne! Tell us about the different types of acne & how do you treat each type?
Whiteheads are small blemishes that appear with a white “head” at the surface caused by an overproduction of oil. In addition to incorporating a retinol serum at night and regular use of a chemical exfoliant with salicylic acid, try switching to a lighter moisturizer like Weightless Oil-Free Moisturizer to hydrate the skin without causing congestion.
Blackheads are blemishes that are caused by a build up of dead skin and oil. They’re an “open” blemish as opposed to whiteheads which are closed. The black appearance comes from the oxidation that happens when the build up is exposed to oxygen. Regular use of a retinol as well as a chemical exfoliant with salicylic acid can help to keep pores free of congestion.
Papules are a form of more severe acne. These are red, inflamed blemishes without a white head that are sore to the touch. Topical or oral medication from a dermatologist may be necessary for treatment.
Pustules are very similar to papules, except these inflamed blemishes do have a white head. It’s best to not attempt to pop these painful blemishes as this can cause scarring. It’s best to see a dermatologist if you’re experiencing pustules as they’ll likely need to prescribe a topical or oral medication to treat it.
Cystic acne are the hard, painful blemishes that appear under the skin, typically around the chin and jawline. Cystic acne is often hormonal and I recommend eliminating dairy from the diet to see if that helps. It’s best to leave cystic acne alone as they do not come to the surface. A ZitSticka blemish patch can help to get rid of a cystic blemish quicker as they have microdarts that penetrate the skin to deliver salicylic acid and other acne-fighting ingredients directly to the source.
Do you prefer topicals or medications?
It really depends on the type of acne. If it’s more severe, a dermatologist may prescribe a combination of both to help clear it up. For mild to moderate acne, a combination of diet, regular facials, and using all of the right products for your skin type can make a big difference in the skin.
What should someone do if they start breaking out again in their 20s, 30s or 40s?
Try to determine the source of the breakouts. Have you started using a new product recently? Try taking that product out and then slowly start to add it back in to see if you experience breakouts again. Are the breakouts concentrated to your chin or jawline? It could be hormonal. Determining the best course of action really depends on the type of breakout you’re experiencing.
Mask-ne is a huge topic right now… acne caused by the masks we’re wearing. How do you suggest that we treat it?
If you can, avoid wearing makeup or heavy moisturizers underneath your mask because they can cause congestion along with the build-up of sweat and oil. The humid environment underneath a mask is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, so keeping skin clean and hydrated can help to minimize this.
Underneath the mask, make sure you’re still keeping your skin protected with sunscreen. I prefer one that is lightly hydrating, yet won’t cause any congestion like Supergoop’s Play Everyday Lotion with SPF 50.
Alternating nights with a retinol serum, a targeted acne treatment serum, and a chemical exfoliant can all help to clear up breakouts, but you have to introduce these products slowly if you’re not already using them.
What lasers or medical treatments do you recommend someone with acne to do? How often? And how can you maintain this at home?
One of my favorite treatments in studio and at home is LED light therapy. Blue LED light kills acne-causing bacteria to minimize current breakouts and prevent new ones from forming. I love to use my Deesse Pro LED Mask daily for all of the anti-aging and skin-clearing benefits.
What are your favorite products to treat acne?
I am a big believer in the transformative effect retinol can have on the skin. I use Retinol Reform almost every night and recommend it to all of my clients. It’s a retinol and lactic acid serum that has amazing anti-aging benefits like boosting collagen in the skin, minimizing fine lines and wrinkles, and reducing pigmentation. However, the cellular turnover process that helps to minimize fine lines and wrinkles also contributes to keeping skin clear and blemish-free. Dead skin cells can build up inside of your pores which can lead to congestion and blemishes, but also will make your pores appear larger as well. Retinol can help to offset that to keep skin clear and bright.
I also recommend incorporating iS Clinical’s Active Serum and the Dr. Dennis Gross Peel Pads into your night. These products will all work together to gently exfoliate the skin, minimize breakouts, and even out the skin tone. If you’re new to those products though, you have to add them in slowly so that you don’t cause further irritation. With Retinol Reform, I recommend starting with 1 night a week and building up slowly, adding just one additional night each week, building up to as often as your skin can tolerate.
What’s your favorite way to spot treat acne?
I love to spot treat with a little sulfur mask. Sulfur is incredible because not only does it help to draw out impurities, it’s also great for calming inflammation which is much needed with acne.
I also love the ZitSticka blemish patches. They contain salicylic acid which goes deeply inside the pore to target the blemish and clear it up quickly. They also have niacinamide which helps to reduce inflammation and even out the skin tone, helping to minimize the appearance of the blemish overall. These are great for really stubborn or cystic blemishes.
How much does your diet effect acne? How should do you pinpoint that ? Should you start to slowly take certain types of food out of your diet? If so, which foods ?
What you eat can definitely have an affect on your skin. If you’re eating a lot of processed, fast food, it’s going to show up on your skin. However, there are also a couple of other things that also contribute to acne that may not be as obvious. Dairy, Caffeine, Shellfish, Chocolate, Sugar, and Refined Carbs are things that can all lead to acne. Certain hormones in dairy can lead to acne-causing inflammation. If someone is dealing with acne, I generally recommend they first remove dairy from their diet to see if it helps. Stick to milk alternatives to see if that helps clear up your skin. Caffeine, sugar, and refined carbs can lead to a spike in cortisol. This spike can cause your body to overproduce oil, resulting in breakouts. Cortisol is also what your body releases when it’s stressed and why there is a link between stress and acne as well. Reducing your caffeine intake and eating a balanced diet full of fruits, veggies, healthy fats, proteins, and good carbs will result in brighter, glowing skin! Fast foods and/or processed foods are higher in refined carbs, which means the sugar content is higher and the nutritional value is lower. Refined carbs cause a spike in blood sugar and insulin that causes inflammation and increased sebum production, which can all contribute to acne. Whole, unprocessed foods are better for overall health in general, which will also help to keep your skin glowing.
Once you get the acne under control, there’s scarring… how do you treat that ? What should you stay way from?
There are a handful of things that work to minimize scarring and even out the skin tone. In the morning, make sure you’re using a vitamin c serum like iS Clinical’s Super Serum which has vitamin c along with centella asiatica, another powerful antioxidant, that will help to brighten the skin and minimize the appearance of scars. Most importantly though, you have to wear sunscreen every single day! If you’re not keeping your skin protected, your scars will take that much longer to heal.
At night, I always recommend to use Retinol Reform along with exfoliating 1-2 nights a week with the Dr. Dennis Gross Peel Pads. Retinol Reform will speed up cellular turnover to bring fresh, new skin to the surface, resulting in more even-toned skin. The Dr. Dennis Gross Peel Pads will help to remove dead skin on the surface, which will not only reveal brighter, smoother skin, but will also ensure that treatment products are able to absorb deeply into the skin.
10. What’s your #1 advice to someone who is struggling with acne?
You want to make sure you’re using the right products for acne-prone skin. You can’t use the same products everyone else uses. Also, you have to stay away from a lot of oils because they can cause a lot of congestion.
photo courtesy of: @shanidarden