PSA: You Should Focus On Hydration To Help Clear Breakouts, Says A Celebrity Esthetician
When a pimple arises, you might reach for a drying spot treatment to zap the zit in its tracks or—better yet—exfoliating formulas to keep pesky breakouts at bay. For good reason: Many exfoliants can help promote cell turnover, unclog those pores, and keep the skin looking bright.
But according to Alicia Yoon, celebrity esthetician and founder of Peach & Lily, people might not pay enough attention to what she deems "the key to life for our skin": hydration. In fact, she says having a well-hydrated base is what keeps her skin glowy and breakout-free. And there's a very clear (mind the pun) reason why.
How hydration can help acne.
First and foremost: When your skin is dehydrated, inflammation tends to follow. That inflammation, says Yoon, "can release CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone)1, a hormone that can actually tell your sebaceous glands to produce more oil." That's why a tell-all sign of dehydrated skin is often oiliness: Your skin might overproduce oil to compensate for that lack of moisture.
It doesn't stop there: According to Yoon, CRH can also kick-start what's known as retention hyperkeratosis2—where dead skin cells become cohesive and don't shed as normal (almost like they're "stuck" to your face). And when those dead skin cells become trapped within your pores (along with the excess sebum mentioned above), that can lead to concerns like sebum plugs, blackheads, even inflamed pustules.
The solution? An intensive focus on hydration—even if your skin runs on the oily side. "Hydrating the skin really well can help with those breakouts," Yoon explains. If you keep your skin amply hydrated, you can better manage inflammation, stabilize oil production, and keep CRH from wreaking havoc—not to mention skin full of moisture looks plump, supple, and youthful, yet another reason to slap on a sheet mask or invest in some hyaluronic acid.
Of course, you should still keep exfoliants (salicylic acid, retinol, and the like) in your skin care lineup—those can penetrate into the pore and promote skin cell turnover, which undoubtedly helps with breakouts. You just might want to focus more attention on hydration than you're used to: Perhaps throw some hydrating ingredients into the daily rotation (think hyaluronic acid, squalane, and ceramides) to calm inflammation from the get-go.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.