The Perturbing Pimple Puzzle

Ah.  The formidable adversary.  The smallest thing that can ruin your day.  The tiny spot in just the right nook or cranny that causes you mental and physical pain.  It shouts at everyone you come in contact with.  “LOOK AT ME!” I’m talking about….the pimple.

If I know about one thing, it’s the pimple, or pimples to be more accurate.  I have spent enough money to feed a small country on trying to solve for them and is largely the reason why I have such a passion for skin care.  I am not a dermatologist, but I am a life-long acne sufferer so I hope that my trials and tribulations over the years help to save you some dough and heartache.

To the pimple popper.

We all know that at it’s most basic term, a zit (formal term is comedone) is when dirt, skin cells, oil and bacteria get trapped inside the pore.  Your body’s reaction is to get it out of there, so it inflames, causes a zit which may or may not turn into a white head, and heals itself. That sentence right there is very important.  That is how zits work.  Notice I didn’t say “Your body’s reaction is to get it out of there, so it inflames, causes a zit which may or may not turn into a white head, you scrub at it like hell with a facial brush, pick at it for days before you just can’t take it anymore and dig your nails in to pop it, then slather on tooth paste to dry it out, cover it up with 10 lbs of concealer and heals itself.” The #1 hardest rules of pimples is that you should never pop them.  Ohhhhh but it’s just so satisfying to do.  TRUST ME I know.  But you can’t.  Sit on those hands darlings because doing so will cause way more harm than good.

Here’s 5 reasons to fight the urge to pop those pesky pimples:

  1. Our hands or instruments are full of bacteria.  An open comedome can get severely infected.
  2. Causing irritation can prolong the healing process, not to mention make that pimple look angry and worse.
  3. Your skin can become scarred, which can be permanent.
  4. Popping a pimple can occur both on top and/or under the skin, causing the infection to spread to healthy skin.
  5. You can cause other harm like bruising or the dreaded squiggly red or purple broken capillaries that never go away. <— hate.

What your pimples are trying to tell you.

There are all sorts of pimple types.  Since I’ve been at this for quite a while I have learned how to tell what’s going on by what my pimples look like, and pick the appropriate treatment.

  • Scenario #1: Red pimples that crop up suddenly and quickly become a white head, usually after a heavy makeup day or wearing something I got out of the closet (i.e. a scarf).
    • Assessment: Likely bacteria that got trapped in the pore.
    • Fix: something with bacteria-fighting properties like benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil, sulfur and salicylic acid to get into the pore.  Also a reminder on why it’s important to wash your face every night, and to be sure to wash the pillowcase and makeup brushes which are all very likely culprits.
  • Scenario #2: Small pimples that look more like a rash and make the skin texture look rough, or lumps.
    • Assessment: Likely a skin care or makeup product that caused irritation or clogged my pores.
    • Fix: Discontinue the product and go back to basics while my skin calms down. Less is more here, and the trick is to let your skin heal itself.  Patch testing and not introducing more than one new product at a time, and checking the product’s ingredient labels for known acne triggers with this website will help.
  • Scenario #3: Break-out city that take a long time to become a white head, if ever, especially around my chin.
    • Assessment: Hormonal acne usually manifests itself in the chin area and can show up with your hormone levels change.
    • Fix: This can be helped with birth control pills, or other hormone regulators.  Talk to your doctor.
  • Scenario #4: Consistent acne not caused by products or bacteria and does not respond to topical acne medications
    • Assessment: Could be related to something going on internally like a vitamin deficiency, diet high in fats/dairy, too much biotin, or internal infection
    • Fix: This one is best handled by a dermatologist.  If you have changed your diet and you’re still breaking out, you may need prescription-strength acne medication like Accutane or antibiotics.
  • Scenario #5: Blackheads or whiteheads + dull-looking skin
    • Assessment: Likely caused by congestion due to slow skin cell turnover, trapping debris in the pore
    • Fix: Exfoliators – AHA or BHA acids, physical scrubs – to remove the top layers of the skin to help skin breathe and acne-fighters reach deep into the skin.

For the occasional bumps or lumps, these assessments and fixes ring true time and time again. To ReadHead readers, I hope you found some helpful tips that will bring you confidence and believe in SkinLove again.

Have a product you swear by or scenario you’ve come across?  Drop us a line in the comments.



Product Review: Boots No7 Total Renewal Micro-dermabrasion Exfoliator

A few months ago I ran out of my trusty Boots No7 Total Renewal Micro-dermabrasion Exfoliator and although it’s a product near and dear to my heart, I have largely replaced manual exfoliators (those with physical particles that essentially sand the skin) with acids.  It continued to fall off my online basket radar.  I got it back in and realized just why this product is so fantastic and I had to apologize to Boots for leaving it behind like the old toy on Christmas.  Read on!

Physical exfoliators are not all created equal and should be taken seriously.  When looking for one, do your research to see what types of particles they use.  Those like St. Ives Apricot Scrub which was all the rage, use things like pieces of shells that are jagged and can tear the skin.  Please, if you use this product, time to toss it.

Boots No7 Total Renewal Micro-dermabrasion Exfoliator is a Certified ReadHead Best.  With a drugstore price, it is in my opinion, the best bang for your buck out there today.  Fine particles gently scrub your skin, and it’s hypoallergenic formulation is both gentle and effective.

Texture: is like a mixture of a lotion and gel.  Gritty particles feel a bit like sand and are evenly distributed in the lotion.  It has no smell and no other ingredients to cleanse so there’s no foaming or tingling.  It’s a basic formula designed to do all it says it will do. And it does it well.

Application: is easy.  Using it on dry skin will give you more friction and a deeper exfoliation.  Putting water on your skin first will soften the skin and is likely a better option for those with sensitive skin. A dime-sized amount of the white gritty product is all you need.  I squirt it on my two fingertips, rub them together, then distribute some on my forehead, cheeks, nose, chin and neck. I then gently use my fingertips in circles across my face, bringing the little dollops of product together.  Then rinse!

Packaging: is a white, no frills squeezable tube (yay!) with a flip top lid.  The hole in the top is large enough to not gunk up, but small enough that you can easily control the amount you distribute.

Overall: this product is excellent.  It won’t replace a professional microdermabrasion session, but it’s pretty darn effective.  At less than $18 for a tube that can last you a long time, it’s safe for most skin types and is also incredibly economical.  Just be careful to not overuse the product.  Those with acne can benefit from this, if your acne is caused by clogged pores and slow skin turnover.  Hormonal acne will likely not see much difference.  You also must be careful when using this or any physical exfoliator on active acne as scrubbing and breaking open the comedones will distribute all the icky stuff to your skin (which could cause more bumps) and irritate it.

Overall Rating: 5/5

*Certified ReadHead Best

Price: $$$$$

Packaging: 5/5

Have you tried this exfoliator? Drop us a line in the comments!


Under the Eyes of the Beholder: Wrinkles, Expression Lines and Wine

For those of us who tend to be at a baseline moderately joyful in our everyday lives, it seems completely unfair that we would be tapped with the sad sight of our happiness etched upon our eyes and cheeks – the dreaded crow’s feet, or laugh lines. Expression lines like those in your forehead can also become part of the package. Lame.

First, let’s talk a little bit about wrinkles.

Think of your skin as a rubber band.  When you get that rubber band out of the package it is taught, has resistance when you stretch it, and snaps right back into shape.  Over time as you keep stretching and keep stretching, it loses it’s elasticity and original shape, or strength to hold the thing it’s wrapped around tightly.  I’m currently eyeing one of my hair ties that looks like a loaf of French bread and the elastic showing.  Sad.

Now, no matter what we do, over time that rubber band will reach the same result.  But, let’s say that we left the rubber band in the elements (sun, cold) and then pulled on it.  That elasticity would break down much faster over time as the rubber dries out and starts to crumble. Or the dirt and debris would hinder it from stretching as it should.

Conversely let’s pretend we continued to yank on that rubber band as a stress reliever, stretching and relaxing it over and over.  You only get so many stretches out of the life of a rubber band.  As they say in Indiana Jones – “choose wisely.”

The same thing happens to our skin as collagen begins to break down. We raise our eyebrows while pleading with our children to stop fighting, smile big at your friend’s inappropriate yet hilarious joke, forget the nighttime moisturizer 362 days out of the year and yet expect a miracle the 3 times you use it, and sleep with our faces smashed in our pillows after a glass or 4 of dehydrating wine (BUT IT HAS ANTIOXIDANTS…!).

Wrinkles are not created equal, nor is the treatment.

If you take my example above, this will give you some insight into the different types of wrinkles, how they are caused, and how to address them. Generally I’d say that preventative measures like diet, proper sun and prescription glasses to reduce squinting, hydrating moisturizers, and sun protection are the basics.  If you won’t commit to those things, it will be really hard to treat or prevent wrinkles. There is no magic potion out there.

Dehydration lines – if I wanted a favorite wrinkle (similar to a favorite patch of cellulite…), this would be it.  That’s because it’s easily treatable. Dehydration lines are thin and light.  You may see that one day you look a bit haggard and tired after a night out, but a weekend of proper hydrating and those lines are gone.  Moisturize both inside and out to prevent those lines becoming permanent.  Moisturizers high in fatty acids, ceramides, humectants and antioxidants are key.  Oils can also be used.  There’s tons on the market.

Expression & Laugh Lines – I have a love/hate relationship with these.  I think that people who smile and are expressive are beautiful and look natural. These are caused by raising your eyebrows, squinting, smiling, etc. Proper hydration with good moisturizers day and night will help (remember that rubber band). Peels to remove hardened skin that has lost elasticity and retinoids to help resurface the skin will soften the look of lines.  Injectables like Botox and Dysport weaken or freeze the muscles, and lasers can help with the look and future creation of wrinkles with resurfacing and building of collagen.  This can be pricey and has health risks (not to mention is a frozen face with no expression better than a few lines?) so make sure to find a reputable doctor and be ready to open the wallet.

Stubborn wrinkles – these come about as we age and become permanent lines on our faces. The above measures will stave off the process, keeping your skin looking fresher and plumper.  If you get to the point where wrinkles are a permanent piece of you, your options may need to be more clinical.  This includes options above like Botox or Dysport, and also fillers like Juvederm to literally fill in those lines.

With all this said, at the end of the day be proud of your experiences in life.  It’s OK that they show a little!  Besides, there are studies that show that women who have sun damage/dark spots but no wrinkles look much older than women of the same age with minimal sun damage and wrinkles – so laugh it up over a glass of wine!

Do you have a favorite that keeps wrinkles at bay?  Drop us a line in the comments.