Ijeoma Chimezie

SkincareYour Skin Cares Series

Finding the Best Cleansers for Oily or Acne-Prone Skin: 3 Things to Consider

If you’re wondering why your skin has been off balance lately, and more breakouts are appearing, you may want to look into what you’re using to wash your face. It might come as a surprise, the cleansing step of their skincare routine may be wrecking more havoc than good especially if you have oily skin or prone to breakouts. If you’ve read the earlier post, Keeping Your Acne Under Control, one of the many factors that can contribute to developing oily skin, and worst “adult-onset acne” is over-cleansing.  Like everything in life, balance is key. The ideal cleanser for all skin types should provide a deep cleansing without dramatically altering the skin’s natural moisture balance.

SKINCARE SCIENCE 101: Skin pH matters

Our skin is a delicate organ and like everything else in our bodies, it has its “sweet spot” for optimal results. The normal pH of the skin’s outer layer hovers between 4 and 6 (slightly acidic) because of what’s called the “acid mantle”– which is a thin, protective layer or shield on top of skin’s outer layer that helps to regulate moisture, keeps bacteria out and allows it to function like the protective organ it is. There are so many factors that affect how well this layer of protection works, including increasing age, diet, pollutions and skincare products, especially cleansers. Let’s do a quick basic chemistry 101 recap on the pH scale.   The pH scale is a numeric scale (typically between 0 and 14) that measures how acidic or [neutral] something is. When the skin’s pH shifts from its normal level (remember a little acidity is healthy), the protection function of that acid mantle gets disrupts and predisposes the skin to inflammation and other skin conditions, including acne. In fact, research shows that acne-prone skin tends to have a slightly higher skin pH, or alkaline starting point, which contributes to the ideal environment for acne breakouts. What does this mean? In other words, without the right level of acidity, excess sebum production and overgrowth of the acne-causing bacteria, P. acnes becomes an even bigger problem for acne-prone skin.  In general, using a pH-balanced cleanser is really important for all skin types. When it comes to acne prone skin, this is particularly important because you want to avoid shifts in pH to prevent worsening breakouts.


When it comes to beauty and skincare, formulation matters and each type has its benefits and ideal use. For those who are acne-prone or have oily skin, gels and gentle foams are ideal to cleanse dirt and sebum without leaving the skin dry. While you may be tempted by trendier products like cleansing balms and oil cleansers, my recommendation would be to proceed with caution since these may not ideal for acne prone skin (of course, there are exceptions to this rule).

However, if you insist, be sure to avoid those with mineral oil and opt for products that fragrance-free, wash away easily without leaving any residue behind (because that can make matters worse).


Cleansers with at least one of these key ingredients work miracles for acne-prone skin: salicylic acid, mandelic acid, glycolic acid or benzoyl peroxide. These ingredients penetrate the pores to eliminate pore-clogging impurities like dead skin cells, excess oil, and bacteria. In addition to sloughing away dead skin cells, they also help reduce the size of existing blackheads and slow (or stop) the formation of new ones. Benzoyl peroxide is often recommended by dermatologists and pharmacists alike, since it treats the acne-causing bacteria, P. acnes. While benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are great for acne, they can also be drying so pay attention to how your skin and adjust how often you use the cleansers with this ingredient.  Not only does mandelic acid helps slough away dead skin cells, it tends to be less irritating than glycolic acid and address hyperpigmentation (a major plus for women of color). Sulfur, zinc and tea-tree oil are a few other great ingredients that also help reduce oil production and control acne breakouts.

Here are six of our favorite cleansers for oily or acne-prone skin:

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Your Skin Cares Series

Keeping Adult Acne Under Control: Answers to 5 Questions You Need to Know

If you’re dealing with acne well into your 20’s or 30’s or even 40’s, you’re not alone. And I’m sure you also have a laundry list of questions… probably starting with why me? I know it’s easier said than done but don’t worry. The clear skin you want is absolutely achievable, but it starts with being informed and working with your dermatologists to get the best regimen together for you. So, we’ve got answers to some of those questions that I’m sure are floating in your head.


We often think of acne as a teenage or puberty problem, and there’s a valid reason for it. ” During our teen years, our bodies have an upsurge of androgens, also known as “the male hormones, like as testosterone.” [FYI:  Don’t worry ladies, we all have a certain level of these hormones in our bodies….it’s perfectly normal. However, there are instances where some people have higher than normal levels, which warrants a full assessment from your physician)– but that’s beyond this conversation]. Essentially, these hormones crank up the skin’s sebum (or oil) production. For some, acne does clear in the early twenties, but for many people, the acne drama persists past the teenage years. We asked Dr. Tanasha Simela, a cosmetic and medical dermatologist and she shared that “adults can develop acne well into their 30s, 40s, and even 50s.” According to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 54% of women above the age of 25 have some form of acne. To add to that, more and more people are getting acne for the first time as adults– this is what dermatologists call “adult-onset acne.” The way adult acne shows up is quite different compared to teenage acne. The breakouts happen more along the lower chin, jawline and neck areas (but of course, your dermatologist would be the best at defining this).  Now, let’s couple the fact that adult acne can sometimes be challenging to treat with the unpleasant realities of dark spots from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that many women of color face. You get overbooked dermatologists and a lot of money spent skin care products at your Sephora’s and Walgreens. Why? PIH is one of the main reasons why most women of color with acne-prone skin seek out a dermatologist.


Source: modified from drbimages / Getty Well, we don’t fully understand why adult women develop acne, what we do know is that “adult-onset” acne is multifactorial” say Simela. She cited fluctuating hormone levels, stress, family history, medication side effects, and high glycemic index diets as common causes contributing to acne. Dr. Simela also shared over-cleansing can cause breakouts, which is typically overlooked as a causal factor. Sometimes counterintuitive, there are certain beauty, hair, and skincare products we use that can also cause or worsen breakouts. For example, using heavy, oil-based makeup and foundations on already oily or acne-prone skin types creates the perfect storm for breakouts. Certain hair care products are known to cause what’s called “pomade acne,” or breakouts around the forehead and temple areas.   So as you can see, there’s no ONE way to treating adult acne. It requires a holistic approach and is very individualized— you have to look at everything, from diet to genetics to hormone levels and even your beauty and personal care habits. 


“I don’t think acne is more prevalent in women of color, but PIH is a common problem in skin of culture as a whole” Simela shared. In both men and women of color, the development of inflammatory acne lesions can often lead to PIH, scarring, and keloids, all of which adds another layer of complexity for treating acne in skin of color. 


Before listing skincare products, ingredients or even prescription options, let’s quickly review how the following four factors or changes in the skin contribute to breakouts.  

  1. Hyperkerinatization
    Usually, the skin cells that line the hair follicle shed and are brought to the skin’s surface by the sebum. When these dead skin cells don’t shed at the proper rate, they tend to stick together with the help of excess keratin, a natural protein found in the skin. This causes the follicle to be plugged/blogged or clogs the oil duct, leading to acne.
  2. Increased sebum production
    Our bodies naturally produce sebum or oils to lubricate our hair and skin. It made up of a combination of fats, lipid, wax, and squalene. Oil production is very normal, but people with acne-prone skin tend to produce more sebum, which happens to be an ideal breeding ground for overgrowth of the bacteria known to cause acne, P. acnes
  3. Excess P. acnes
    For the record, P. acnes found on the surface of our skin and in most cases causes no problem. In fact, certain strains of this bacteria help to protect our skin from being colonized by other bugs that can cause infections, etc. However, in an environment of increased sebum, clogged pores (which means limited access to oxygen), P. acnes flourishes (and not in a right way). 
  4. Inflammatory response
    The overgrowth of P. acnes causes the body to release white blood cells to fight the bacteria, which cause the inflammation associated with acne. This is what is called an inflammatory response. Dr. Simela adds that research shows that this elevated inflammatory response may be a significant reason why African Americans with mild to moderate acne still develop hyperpigmentation. 

Ok, now that you have a general understanding of what happens to the skin that leads to breakouts, let’s highlight some treatment considerations. (we’ll go into detail about treatment options in few other posts as part of the series). A well-round regimen is important and should target the different skin factors mentioned above as well as include products with anti-inflammatory properties. “Since there are many factors that can contribute to adult acne, it is imperative to visit a dermatologist so that together, an effective regimen can be created that fits your lifestyle,” Simela adds.  Dermatologists tend to use a combination of products, whether OTC or prescription, as well as topical and oral treatments. Additionally, products to reduce PIH are also important when creating a regimen for patients with skin of color. 


 SAY NO TO STRESS AND GET YOUR BEAUTY SLEEP.Well, we did mention stress contributes to acne– this is because when are stressed out, our bodies ramps up the level of the hormone, cortisol in our blood. This hormone, like testosterone, can increase oil production as well as inflammation. Additionally, cortisol levels tend to be higher in those who don’t get enough sleep. So reducing stress, chilling out and getting your beauty sleep can go a long way regarding minimizing breakouts. 

While the debate around the actual relationship between diet and acne is still ongoing, what we do know is milk consumption and foods with a high glycemic index are associated with acne. Studies have shown that high glycemic index foods cause excess insulin levels, which leads to changes in the circulating hormones that contribute to acne. Additionally, consumption of dairy and milk proteins (i.e., whey) are known to increase insulin levels and other growth-stimulating hormones, all of which play a role in the effects of androgens and sebum production, and ultimately acne. So, if you’re looking for ways to keep breakouts under control, skip the dairy, pass on the simple sugars and sweets (which can be very hard to do), and opt for diets low in saturated fat and high in whole grains, fruit, and vegetables. 

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6 Skincare Tips For Makeup Artists To Share With Their Clients

Calling all makeup artists… What’s better than making women feel and look their best? Helping them preserve that glow even after the makeup comes off.  Here are six tips (and some extra deets) to help YOU help your clients care for their skin under the makeup.


Beautiful makeup starts with beautiful, healthy skin and the best way to achieving that is having a good skincare routine. Here are some of the essential skincare steps to share with your client: If she’s already got the basics down, products with a blend of antioxidants are guaranteed to take her skin to the next level. For example, a serum with the combo of vitamin C + ferulic acid can help with hyperpigmentation as well as fight the free-radial damage that contributes to skin aging. Retinol containing products will help with collagen production, skin smoothing and evening out of dark spots. 

Other great ingredients to look for include: green tea extract, grape extract, resveratrol, vitamin C, vitamin E,  superoxide dismutase, quercetin, willow herb extract, feverfew extract, and licorice extract. For extra hydration, a hyaluronic acid serum/gel is a great add-on before the moisturizer step (especially in the winter months when the air tends to be dry and old).  And of course, she can never go wrong with weekly facial masks and the options are endless.

All cleansers are not made equal so be sure to choose based on your skin type

Using the right cleanser is more critical than most of us think. The cleansing step sets the tone for the rest of the skincare routine. If a cleanser is too rich for the skin, it can leave behind an oily residue which may lead to clogged pores. If a cleanser strips the natural oils of the skin, it leaves the skin dry, irritated or even sensitive. Even worse, it can cause rebound sebum production, making the skin more oily than it would usually be its own. With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to figure out which one would be ideal, so there’s a quick guide you can share with your clients.


Never go a day without a moisturizer and sun protection

If there’s one skincare tip that cannot be overstressed, this is definitely it. A daily moisturizer and sunscreen is a must for all skin types. Here’s a previous post where I cover three important things to keep in mind when choosing a moisturizer.  Sun protection is required all year round, rain or shine—check out the post on the basics of sun protection to learn why.   As much as we would love to believe it, the SPF in some foundations is not enough to adequately protect the skin from the aging effects of the sun. Whether your client chooses a moisturizer with SPF or decides to apply facial sunscreen as a separate step, it should be SPF 30 or higher with both UVA and UVB protection. Don’t forget to take the climate consideration when picking a moisturizer. For example, in hot and humid weather, a gel formulation would be great— it offers the right amount of hydration minus the oily appearance. In dry weather, creams work wonders for the skin and wearing a moisturizer at night makes the world of a difference. 

Exfoliate but make sure you don’t overdo it

Exfoliating is essential to achieving a beautiful, radiant and even complexion. In general, our skin is continually turning over, generating new cells at the lower level (the dermis) and sending them up to replace dead skin cells on the upper layer (epidermis). As we age, this natural process slows down which lead to dull-looking skin. So whether you go the opt for the mechanical or chemical route (or both), exfoliating helps to remove dead skin cells that build up on the surface and reveals a smoother and brighter complexion.   Although exfoliating is important, sometimes we tend to overdo it, and that has its problems. It can break the skin and cause more loss of hydration and inflammation— and thus more breakouts. In general, you want to build up to exfoliating three times a week overtime, especially if you’re using chemical exfoliants like AHA or salicylic acid. One more thing to add, it’s always good to do a small patch test to gauge your tolerance. 

The order of how you apply your skincare products matters

In order the get the most out of any routine, it’s important to know the right order for using your products. A quick rule of thumb to share with clients is to apply products with the thinnest consistency first and then work your way up to the thickest, or go from liquid to oil. 

For example, you want to apply serums as close to the skin as possible because they are usually super-concentrated with ingredients that address specific concerns. If you use sunscreen as a separate step, make sure it’s applied after moisturizer otherwise you may water down the sunscreen and dilute its efficacy.

Beautiful skin requires patience, consistency and time

Sometimes we don’t see results from our skincare hauls because we aren’t using the products regularly or long enough. For any skincare product or routine to work, it requires time and consistency. For the best results, you want to consistently use that routine at least 6 to 8 weeks. There are exceptions to this rule: retinoids or retinol containing products can take up to 12 weeks to produce any noticeable changes to the skin. 

It’s also important to know how often to use different products. For example, products like cleansers, toners, and certain serum should be used twice a day (day and night). Other products like chemical exfoliants, or targeted treatments for concerns like hyperpigmentation or retinol products, may only need to be used every other day or once a week.

Share these 6 tips and, you’ll be sure to get a whole lot of client love.   

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