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Client success comes down to not only their commitment, but the expertise of their professional. Acne can be a difficult skin condition to get under control even for licensed professionals, especially when you have not been able to dedicate time to studying it. Clients are becoming increasingly savvy about their own skin and acne, but they are not always looking in the right places. Many take to social media platforms like Tik Tok to get skincare advice from influencers who are using a plethora of different products and prescriptions that they claim helped clear their skin. As we know, influencers are just that: influential. If clients see this kind of content, they may believe that those products will clear their skin too.
The key is to educate yourself and your clients on what acne really is and how we, as licensed skincare professionals, can help them manage their acne long-term. The real reason your clients have acne is a process called Retention Hyperkeratosis. A normal, healthy pore sheds about one layer of dead skin cells per day, the body has no difficulty keeping up with that rate of skin cell shedding. When someone is suffering from Retention Hyperkeratosis, their pores are shedding five times the normal rate and the body cannot keep up. This excess shedding of skin cells coupled with the oily, waxy nature of sebum creates the microcomedone, the beginning of all acne lesions.
There are certainly exacerbating factors that can influence Retention Hyperkeratosis and breakouts. Main factors include an inflammatory diet, hormone fluctuations, and pore clogging ingredients. Lessening the effect of these exacerbating factors through conscious lifestyle changes is extremely helpful for those who experience acne, but the cause of acne itself is unavoidable. Retention Hyperkeratosis is a hereditary disorder of the pore so regardless of lifestyle, microcomedones will continue to form.
Now that we know that Retention Hyperkeratosis is the culprit behind acne, let’s discuss how to control it. Acne cannot be cured, so we must educate our clients on their skincare routine and lifestyle choices so that they can continue to keep their acne in check. One very tried and true ingredient for this is benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl Peroxide acts as a preventative product in an acne home care regimen. It oxygenates the pore, killing any bacteria present and exfoliates away that build-up of dead skin cells. Essentially, it halts the formation of the microcomedone. As great as benzoyl peroxide is, it cannot do it all alone.
Another amazing acne-fighting ingredient is l-mandelic acid. This alpha hydroxy acid is anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, exfoliating, and brightening. Not only will this help to heal and improve acne, but it can also be used to combat acne imposters such as Malasezzia Folliculitis. Together, l-mandelic acid and benzoyl peroxide help to prevent, correct, and soothe acne prone skin. When working with active ingredients such as these, it is also extremely important that clients are properly hydrating and moisturizing their skin. An impaired barrier can lead to breakouts and unnecessary discomfort.
Many times, when clients are treating their acne with harsh OTC products, they are trying to “dry out” their acne lesions thinking this will clear their skin—which is the opposite of what anyone should do with acne. Treating acne is about creating balance that is lacking in the skin. Ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and l-mandelic acid should not be used without accompanying hydrators and moisturizers. Our skin barrier requires a balance of oil and water to remain healthy and to function properly so it can protect us from pollutants, irritants, and so on. When the barrier is impaired, it can lead to skin conditions such as acne, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis.
Favorable hydrating and moisturizing ingredients to incorporate around these active products are hyaluronic acid, beta-glucan, glycerin, and allantoin. Antioxidants are also important for acne-prone clients, especially if treated with benzoyl peroxide because it is an oxidative product. Green tea extract, syringa vulgaris (lilac stem cells), gluconolactone, and mushroom extract are among the most helpful. All these ingredients can be found in the form of serums, gels, creams, etc.
Whether you have been licensed for years or are just graduating from your esthetics program, continuing education will always be important for your career. Treating acne is not a one size fits all process and it takes dedication, from us and our clients. There is so much to learn about acne and how to treat it, more than what can be shared in esthetic school curriculum. If you are interested in helping those dealing with acne, find a credible source to provide that knowledge and training for you.
Alex Hernandez, LE Education Manager of Face Reality Skincare
Face Reality Skincare