We all covet beautiful, clear, glowing skin. It’s the holy grail of beauty and no wonder – our skin tends to be the first thing people notice about us. Furthermore, it tends to say a lot (accurately or not) about our health, self-esteem and even personality.
Sadly, skincare issues are on the rise, according to the American Academy of Dermatologists. We’re developing more and more embarrassing skin problems like eczema and, perhaps worse, we’re breaking out even in our 40s and 50s. Products containing retinoids, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are being handed out like candy at dermatologist offices all over the country. Yet many of us don’t see the results we want.
What are our dermatologists not telling us?
1. If a treatment doesn’t work after 3 months, it’s not going to work.
I have seen countless women refill prescriptions for retinoid-based products year after year, and still complain about their acne and/or wrinkles. I was one of these women. Multiple dermatologists encouraged me to continue using Retin-A for over ten years, despite seeing no improvement with my skin. And like so many other women, I believed it would magically start working “someday.” If a treatment is not working after three months, it’s time to move on, whether your dermatologist approves or not.
2. Treating your skin like a war zone won’t heal it.
When it comes to modern-day acne treatment, the typical course of action is to pull out the big guns first. Lay on the retinoids, the salicylic acid, the benzoyl peroxide and the alcohol-based toners. Nuke the hell out of your skin. The truth is, treating your skin like a war zone is going leave it looking like one. Your skin is not going to heal if you regularly coat it with products that were designed to cause redness, flakiness, itchiness, irritation and inflammation.
3. Oil is a friend, not a foe.
We’ve been taught to fear oil. The warnings seem to come in from everywhere – doctors, magazines, books, friends. Oil is bad, these sources tell us. It will cause more breakouts and will ruin your complexion.
The fact is, oil is not inherently bad. Our skin produces oil in order to protect the skin and keep it supple. If our skin is on the oily side and we take every step to remove the oil with harsh products, our sebaceous glands are simply going to go into overtime, producing more oil in order to replace what we stripped off. Conversely, if we add a little oil to our skin (in the form of a moisturizer or oil cleanser), then our sebaceous glands will calm down a bit and stop over-producing oil. Regulating our skin’s oil production is a key factor in maintaining healthy, glowing skin.
4. Self-esteem matters.
No self-respecting dermatologist would ever be caught dead saying this because it sounds a little too close to New Age nonsense. New Age-y sounding or not, self-esteem plays a huge part in the maintenance of healthy skin.
On the practical side, low self-esteem tends to promote unhealthy choices: bad dietary decisions, lazy hygienic habits and lack of exercise, all of which can contribute to skin problems. On the emotional side (and admittedly, a bit New Age-y), low self-esteem perpetuates negative thought patterns and self-criticism that can manifest as pimples, irritation and rashes. Our thoughts and feelings affect our health, whether our dermatologists admit this or not.
5. The skin can heal itself.
Of course, you won’t hear this one. There are some parts of the old-fashioned, illness-centered medical institution that still like to assert their authority. One way of doing this is by perpetuating the false notion that your body is prone to damage and disease, and further, that only your doctor has the power to fix you.
Thankfully, a new medical model is establishing itself, one based on the ideas of inherent wellness and personal empowerment. Even if you still feel bound by the chains of the old system, you cannot deny the natural healing ability of the body. Broken bones mend. Hangovers end. Cuts heal. Illnesses recede.
The same is true of the skin. It can heal itself and often without dramatic intervention. All we need to do is create and maintain the conditions in which healing can flourish.
It’s not essential that your dermatologist believes any of these things. As long as you have this information, you are empowered to make the wisest choices for your body by taking the best of what your doctor has to offer and balancing it with your own knowledge and intuition.