How to Get Clear Skin: Clearing Up the Myths ----- Back

05.11.19 - How To, Knowledge

How to Get Clear Skin: Clearing Up the Myths

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Words by Antoinette Barnardo

Clear skin is a beauty ideal, especially among women. We’re constantly trying products and methods in the search for how to get clear skin. But what constitutes clear skin?

Many associate clear skin with a face free of acne and other blemishes. Others view it as lacking fine lines, wrinkles, and pigmentation like freckles. In some studies, clear skin refers to skin that is without chronic conditions such as psoriasis or rosacea. The common link among these definitions? “Clear skin” is supposed to be flawless and without imperfections.

Unfortunately, you’re reaching for an ideal that doesn’t exist due to the magic of photo editing, airbrushing, heavy makeup, and genetics. As a result, you are falling victim to misinformation and pressure to look acceptable in the eyes of your peers.

We want to clear up the myth that is clear skin. What we should be aiming for instead is healthy skin. 

Clear Skin vs. Healthy Skin

Most times, clear skin is conflated with healthy skin. The former centers on the unrealistic goal of getting imperfection-free skin. The latter does not seek to eliminate flaws but maintain a more radiant and clear complexion by focusing on the whole being, rather than the skin alone. It's important to understand the role genetics play in the overall make-up of your skin.

For instance, the MC1R gene is associated with freckling. While sunlight can increase pigmentation, freckles are otherwise a natural hereditary occurrence. Outside of laser treatment, freckles cannot be removed.

Meanwhile, according to a 2018 study by Jonette E. Keri for the Merck Manual, acne affects 80% of the population at least once in their life. Acne can develop for several reasons. Common factors are fluctuating hormones, using the wrong skincare or cosmetic products, or not eating a balanced diet.

And let’s not forget about the fear many have when it comes to developing wrinkles. We can delay the aging process by protecting ourselves from the sun and avoiding bad habits like smoking. More surgical attempts like Botox® injections and dermal fillers are also sought-after treatments to hold back the hands of time. But it's something we all must deal with eventually. 

Healthy skin doesn’t mean being totally free of wrinkles, freckles, or even acne. It means embracing a healthy attitude towards your skin’s natural changes and acknowledging that many skin conditions are temporary with proper treatment. But how can you achieve this?

For Healthy Skin, Work With What You Have

Understanding your genetic predisposition, developing good habits, and being aware of your environment can help you take the best measures in caring for your skin. Proper treatment starts inward. The results will appear on the surface. 

Here is how you can nourish and maintain healthy skin:

Exercise Regularly

Exercise can promote a radiant complexion. Regular physical activity improves circulation and blood flow to the skin, which results in a natural glow. Exercise also aids in the lymphatic system moving toxins out of the body. 

Be sure to wash your face and the rest of your body properly after exercising, especially if you’re acne-prone, to prevent clogged pores and wipe away dead skin cells. 

Be Mindful of Your Diet

There are many studies that support your diet's influence on your skin. For example, a high glycemic diet has the potential to increase oil production, resulting in breakouts. With the rise of the Clear Skin Diet, there is interest in the link between what we put in our bodies and pimples forming. An article from Medical News Today says there is evidence that food rich in omega–3 fatty acids — for instance, kale, soy, and some fish — can reduce inflammation and clear skin of acne. However, the research is still ongoing.

Everyone has different dietary triggers. Keep track of your meals to help you determine if a certain food is triggering flare-ups or breakouts.

Wash Your Face but Not Too Much

Contrary to popular belief, using a cleanser that makes your face squeaky clean is not a good thing. Doing so compromises the moisture barrier, which leads to excessive dryness and easy access for bad bacteria to spread breakouts. Instead, try a deeply hydrating cream cleanser or a gentle, low-foaming gel cleanser. Over-exfoliating can be just as harmful as a harsh cleanser, as it can make acne worse or skin drier. It's recommended you exfoliate only once or twice a week.

The skin itself is a microbiome that counts on a varied collection of microorganisms to help fight off the bacteria that leads to acne, inflammation, and disease. Good skin bacteria is necessary to keep skin balanced and healthy. For example, in 2018 researchers from the University of California, San Diego found a strain of Staphylococcus epidermidis, which is a good bacteria, can help prevent the spread of skin cancer cells. 

Stay Hydrated to Help Flush Out Toxins

Moisturizer and other hydrating products can only do so much for your skin if you’re not drinking enough water. Be mindful of your water intake. The recommended amount can vary based on sex and other factors like physical activity and environment. 

Not only does water keep your skin supple, but it also helps your organs flush out toxins. If you come across diets or products that promote detox and cleansing, do not give in to those. You already have a built-in filtration system.

Be Aware of Hormonal Changes

For women, menstruation can trigger acne because of the fluctuation of hormones. This is because of an increase in sebum production. The excess oil results in breakouts, typically on the jaw or chin. Pimples usually develop about a week before a cycle starts then clear up when it’s over. 

Other hormonal changes due to menopause or pregnancy can either cause breakouts to become worse or sometimes improve, depending on the individual. Track your cycle or pregnancy via journal or app. Talk with your dermatologist or gynecologist if anything seems unusual with your skin during your cycle.

Wear Sunscreen and Avoid Smoking or Vaping

Prevent premature aging and skin cancers by wearing sunscreen every day of the year, not just summertime. Aim for formulas that promote broad-spectrum coverage. This means protection from UVA rays, which cause wrinkles, and burn-causing UVB rays. While there are cosmetics that contain SPF, they're not strong enough to protect against sun damage alone.

Smoking contributes to the formation of fine lines due to the nicotine narrowing blood vessels. They specifically develop around the mouth (also known as “smoker’s lips”). Smoking and vaping limit the distribution of vitamin A to your skin. Products with retinoids will help reduce fine lines, but they won't do too much if you have a smoking habit. In addition to that, smoking also depletes the body of vitamin C, which is essential for protecting the arteries. Seek healthy ways to leave the smoking and vaping behind.

Develop Good, Clean Habits

Practice good hygiene when it comes to products your face touches often. Washing your pillowcase or makeup brushes regularly will keep acne-causing bacteria away. 

Meanwhile, don't pop whiteheads or other blemishes with your fingernails as that will spread germs and lead to more acne. Instead, consider using a spot treatment containing exfoliating ingredients like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or a vitamin B3 formula combined with tea tree or salicylic acid. 

The Overlap Between Clear Skin and Sensitive Skin

When discussing clear skin, there often is an overlap with sensitive skin. This skin type is reactive, hyper-reactive, intolerant, and/or irritable because of physical, chemical, hormonal, or environmental factors. Those who have sensitive skin deal with itching, burning, stinging, and/or a feeling of tightness. 

Structural, genetic contributors to sensitive skin may include:

  • A thin outermost layer of skin
  • An increase in sweat glands, which can influence permeability
  • Hyper-active nerve endings
  • Increases or decreases in fatty acids (called lipids)
  • Skin barrier impairment, which can result in trans-epidural water loss 

Sensitive skin is often self-diagnosed but not always correctly. Receiving an official diagnosis from a dermatologist upon a series of allergy tests will serve as a good starting point in creating an effective skincare routine. Knowing which ingredients to avoid will be beneficial in treating common skin concerns. 

While it's easy to get caught up in cleansers, toners, and other new and popular skincare products, keep in mind that they won't always be right for you. Be especially considerate of ingredients lists if you have sensitive skin.

Adopt a More Wholistic Approach to Skin Today

We hope you have a better understanding of what it means to embrace the skin you’re in by adopting a truly wholistic mindset. The beauty we experience on the surface is contingent upon the health and vitality of the whole being. Keep track of what external factors may be negatively affecting your skin. Resist the urge to self-diagnose issues and visit a healthcare professional, especially if your skin concerns may be the result of underlying medical issues.

Totally clear skin is a myth, but healthy skin is a realistic goal. By knowing your body and taking care of it inside and out, you will achieve a more radiant and clear complexion without resorting to products or methods that will damage your skin in the long-term.

Words by Antoinette Barnardo

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