Beauty Clinic: acne advice for post-teenage skin problems
Q. My skin has always been prone to oiliness with lots of breakouts even though I am in my thirties. A range of foaming cleansers has mostly kept spots at bay. However, after a few big breakouts recently I used a leading brand’s special cleansing gel, which stripped my skin completely. I now have very dry tight skin with lots of dry, flaky patches and a couple of big painful boils. Do I switch to products for dry skin, or continue with oily skin products? A. One of the big problems with many conventional acne products is exactly this. In a bid to stop the flow of spot-forming sebum (oil), the products contain ingredients that dry out skin initially and sometimes dramatically over-dry it, as in your case. However, what tends to happen then is that the skin over-reacts to being so dry and produces lots more oil, and so lots more spots. It’s a vicious circle.
We don't know whether the product you mention contains benzoyl peroxide but many do (especially ones for teenage acne) and it is one of the big villains. You also say you use foaming cleansers: these usually contain sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), which can be highly irritating to troubled skin.
The key thing now is to calm your skin. Pharmacist Shabir Daya recommends Collective Wellbeing Corrective Cleanser, which is non-foaming and oatmeal-based. Oats are very soothing, as is aloe vera, which is another ingredient in this product. It's priced £16 for 142 grams - buy here.
The pharmacist also recommends taking a blood-cleansing herb, such as Swanson Burdock Root, an ingredient that is often used for skin inflammation in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Price £11.50 for 100 capsules - buy here.
Since sugar of any kind contributes to skin inflammation, we do suggest cutting down on sugary foods and drinks. Sip plenty of still pure water between meals. Some people find it best to avoid dairy (cows milk) products: there are oat-based milk alternatives if you wish, or try coconut milk, which works very well. Consume lots of fresh vegetables, avocados, nuts and seeds, oily fish and – where possible – home-cooked food without additives.
When it comes to make-up, you may find that using a pure mineral foundation helps, as minerals are naturally anti-inflammatory and calming, and also allow skin to breathe. The BareMinerals range is excellent so we suggest popping along to one of their counters (they are at most big stores nationwide) and discussing your make-up needs with a consultant. Mineral make-up is also very good at camouflaging inflammation and blemishes. Do get them to demo the products they recommend as there are some useful tricks. Their website, www.bareminerals.co.uk, has a How To Find Us section with UK Store Locations - click here to find it. Their Customer Service telephone is 0800-652 3362.