Problem Skin? Solved! – Flare, November 2010
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Problem Skin? Solved! – Flare, November 2010

By Wing Sze Tang

How to beat BLEMISHES – on the spot – and say goodbye for good

The ability to ace “no makeup makeup” is beauty’s Holy Grail. After all, who doesn’t covet the naturally perfect skin required to pull off a look with nary a speck of cover-up in sight? But even if you’re beset by chronic breakouts, congested pores and oil overload, clearing up your complexion – once and for all – need not be a mythical quest. Just follow our experts’ sure-bet ways to get your skin in spotless shape.


Fact of life: the more noteworthy the special occasion, the more likely you are to wake up resembling Rudolph. Treat it like the pros: “I’m a big fan of benzoyl peroxide. Put a bit on a Q-tip and apply to the pimple,” advises Dr. Lisa Kellett, Dermatologist at DLK on Avenue in Toronto. The ingredient is one of the most reliable blemish busters around, and acne-causing bacteria don’t build up resistance to it (whereas the power of antibiotics-based products can wane over time). “It helps dry things up,” explains Dr. Kellett, noting that superficial spots should shrink within 24 hours. If your skin is too sensitive for benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acids another perennial favourite and is less likely to irritate. It works by sloughing off dead skin cells and cleaning deep into pores. To keep breakouts at bay down the road, add either gold-standard ingredient (or both if your moody skin needs extra help and doesn’t get irritated) to your daily skin care-routine. “The best way to treat acne is to prevent it because once you start breaking out, it’s kind of too late,” says Dr. Kellett. “Instead of waiting for acne to come, you should use benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to prevent it in the first place.” 

Less is more: contrary to popular belief, slathering on these ingredients won’t ratchet up the effectiveness but just aggravates your skin. “The best way to use an acne preparation is to put a pea-sized amount on your baby finger, then dab it on your forehead, nose, and cheeks and rub it in.” 

FLARE picks: Neutrogena Rapid Clear Sore Pimple Gel, $10. Kellett Skincare Clear Acne Clarifying Treatment Cream, $75.


Oil on its own isn’t the villain; its more like the misunderstood hero. “We should get away from the idea that all oil is bad. Oil is made by your body to protect it from microbes and dirt in the outside world,” says Dr. Catherine Orentreich, guiding dermatologist at Clinique. Stripping it all away doesn’t just leave your face feeling parched and flaky (not to mention vulnerable to infection); it can motivate your skin to crank up its oil production to compensate.

Wash no more then twice a daily using a cleanser with pore-unclogging salicylic acid, and don’t neglect to hydrate. Skin that’s abundant in oil can be thirsty for water, and parched cells won’t regenerate properly, increasing your odds of seeing more breakouts. Opt for a gel-based moisturizer or light weight, oil free, non-comedogenic lotion, since rich creams (especially ones designed for dry, aging skin) can be too pore clogging for you. If it’s so thick that it won’t pour out of a jar, take a pass. 
FLARE picks: St. Ives Naturally Clear Blemish Fighting Apricot Face Wash, $7. Vichy Normaderm Tri-Active Anti-Imperfection Hydrating Care, $30

Once weekly, purify skin with a clay-based mask to absorb grease. Prepping with a mattifying primer that contains silica before applying foundation will also help subdue shine, but resist the urge to overpowder. “It’s important to remember that you don’t want to look artificially matte,” cautions Lori Taylor, L.A.-based lead makeup artist for Smashbox. “Healthy skin does have some luminosity.” And instead of piling on more and more powder throughout a day, eliminate sheen without adding product by touching up with blotting papers. 
FLARE picks: Clinique Acne Solutions Oil-Control Cleansing Mask, $26. Fusion Beauty Prime Results Acne Control Primer, $45. 

Most methods to rein in your skin’s oil factories require your doctor’s say-so. Certain types of the birth control pill, for instance, can lower your body’s level of shine-producing hormones (androgens). Heavy-duty prescription Retin-A can also curb the shine factor, but if you prefer over-the-counter options, look for skin care with retinol (a form of vitamin A also touted as a wrinkle-smoother), which has a similar but milder effect, notes Dr. Kellett. “Vitamin A is one of the only things that’s really good at trying to normalize the cells that line the pilosebaceous unit [pore].” She also endorses photodynamic therapy, particularly treatments with blue Levulan light, to calm over active oil glands. For effects that last yearlong, expect to undergo at least two or three sessions at a dermatologist’s office (at approximately $650 per visit). 
FLARE picks: SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.5 Refining Night Cream, $58. RoC Retin-Ox Wrinkle Correxion Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Serum, $50.


We all know prodding, picking or popping a pimple is strictly off-limits since they can open the door to infections, scarring and hyper pigmentation, which lingers far longer than a fleeting pimple. But an equally big no-no is the spa facial that’s squeezes till you see red. “Dermatologists are very anti-extraction,” says Dr. Kellett. Any kind of inflammation raises your odds of developing a dark mark in the aftermath. Plus, “the more you extract, the more you traumatize the pilosebaceous unit. And when you do that, you interfere with its structure, and the pore actually gets bigger.” To help fade discoloration, try serums with vitamin C (which gently brightens skin) or kojic acid (which hinders over production of melanin, the splotch-causing pigment). You’ll need to bide your time since it can take 28 days before you see a difference. 
FLARE picks: Elizabeth Arden Intervene Skin Tone Perfecting Capsules, $49. LaRoch Posay Mela-D Serum Anti-Dark Spot Concentrate, $49.50.

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