Knowing how to take care of your skin is pretty much an art form, but it's especially tricky if you've inherited particularly touchy skin. I'm not just talking about your face (though that's hard enough to deal with), but back, chest, and bikini line, too -- the kind of skin that's breakout-prone, blackhead-housing, and blazing with razor burn every single time you shave. Everyone's experienced one, two, or all of the above before, but I spoke with dermatologist Dr. Kally Papantoniou about ways to care for skin to keep those everyday annoyances from happening.
If you're checking your reflection on a regular basis and noticing the telltale signs of clogged pores, the problem could come down to your exfoliating methods — or lack thereof, according to Dr. Papantoniou. While that shiny new face-cleansing gadget you just got might work wonders on your friend, your skin might not react the same. "I tend to prefer chemical exfoliants over physical exfoliators, like the electronic scrubbers that are very popular," she said. Or if you're frustrated by one too many shaves ending with itchy red bumps, the irritation-solving hacks could be much simpler than you thought. (Though continuous razor burn can also be solved by special prescription aftershave lotions, Dr. Papantoniou says).
Ahead, five gross and annoying skin problems that are totally fixable with a few simple skincare tweaks.
The Problem: Clogged Pores On Face, Chest & Back
The Fix: Exfoliating No More Than Twice A Week
"Exfoliating will prevent clogged pores, build up of oils, dead skin, impurities and debris, and can help produce more youthful skin that has a glow and radiance," Dr. Papantoniou said. It can also cut down on the chances of a breakout happening in the first place, whether it's your face, neck, chest, or back — providing a more-even skin tone. Be sure to use a strong exfoliate no more than twice a week (though if using a gentle exfoliator, you can do so daily). Dr. Papantoniou said, "Body cleansers that contain salicylic acid are great for exfoliating, or a salt scrub can be substituted for the chest and back."
The Problem: Red & Inflamed Ingrown Hairs
The Fix: Shave With Fewer Blades & Use Sensitive Skin Foam
The secret to a bump-free shave? "The best advice is actually to not shave too closely to the skin," Dr. Papantoniou said. Shaving against the grain increases the risk of hair retracting into follicles, producing the dreaded red and inflamed razor bumps. "I recommend that people who suffer from this try to shave with the grain, not against it, and to use razors that have fewer blades," she says. Plus, shaving foams that are for sensitive skin will also be helpful.
The Problem: Dried-Out Skin With Dark Spots
The Fix: Treat With Chemical AHA/BHA Washes, Not Scrubbing Sponges
Sloughing off dead skin is an important skincare step — but it's important you choose the right method. "I prefer chemical exfoliation with glycolic, salicylic, or lactic acid because this will exfoliate more uniformly and gently," Dr. Papantoniou says. "When you try to physically exfoliate by rubbing and scrubbing the skin, your skin can actually respond by becoming rougher and thicker in response — it can darken skin and can dry skin out." She prefers Murad's AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser for the face and neck, and for additional daily exfoliation, she says, "In our office we carry glycolic/salicylic acid pads, which come in different strengths and work great for daily exfoliation."
(Pro Tip: Dr. Papantoniou says it's a good idea to get chemical peels every month or every other month, if you notice your complexion and skin tone are becoming dulled.)
The Problem: Dulled Complexion & Enlarged Pores
The Fix: Don't Ever Skip Your Nightly Facewash
The magic face washing number? Dr. Papantoniou says twice a day is adequate for most. She says, "If you do not wash your face regularly and wear makeup you, will risk an acne break out, and will likely notice a dulling to your complexion from the buildup of oils and dead skin cells, which can clump on skin and inside pores." Pore size can appear to be larger, too, she said, which is why it is especially important to wash your face off at night.
The Problem: Scratched Skin & Scarring
The Fix: Popping Pimples The Correct Way
I asked Dr. Papantoniou if there was ever a correct way to pop a pimple because, let's be honest: Everyone does it. Turns out, if it's a blackhead or non-inflamed pimple with a whitehead, you can try to pop at home — but don't use your fingernails! "Wrap your fingers with tissue paper, and apply pressure from the sides. If it does not come out, do not force it," she cautions. And for any tender spots that haven't yet formed a whitehead, Dr. Papantoniou says to leave them alone. "You will likely get nothing out and will create a mountain out of a mole hill." Visit your dermatologist instead, as they can inject medicine to quickly resolve the pimple. "When in doubt, don't bother your skin," she said. "We often create bigger marks on our skin by trying to get things out."
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