Photographed by Nina Westervelt.
Wherever you turn, there's some kind of product to help you remove dead skin so your new, shinier skin can burst forth. Scrubs, peels, acids, lasers — there are a lot of messages out there that say a little irritation to your skin in the short-term can lead to your best skin ever. But, it turns out that logic may be a bit flawed — some even say that irritating your skin is kind of wrecking your face.
The issue appears to be that these methods set up a vicious cycle of irritation with potentially disastrous results. "The reason the skin looks better after (those treatments) is due to the inflammation; it gives the false sense of being 'plumped up,'" says Marianne Kehoe, a top Los Angeles aesthetician and skin-care expert. "When the inflammation goes down, it means that it's time to start all over again because you miss the plumped-up look. It's a vicious cycle."
Ok, but just how bad can a little skin irritation be? Evidently, more than we realize. "When you have inflammation on the barrier of your skin, it reacts similarly to the inside of your stomach, which is that nothing further can be absorbed," advises Kehoe. "Products can't sink into the skin when the barrier has been compromised."
"Laser treatments or acid peels create a barrier by causing inflammation to the skin," she continues. "The products you're going to use after those treatments won't be absorbed." In other words, that fancy cream you're slathering on your visage is basically null and void.
If that wasn't bad enough, prolonged and continuous inflammation can build up into bigger problems. "It ages the skin, because it's not being nourished," warns Kehoe. "It will start to thin out the barrier of the skin, showing more broken capillaries, sun damage, and the overall texture of the skin will become compromised."
How do you know your skin is inflamed? "By looking at the texture and feel of your skin. It will appear very dull and almost swollen because the pores will be enlarged," explains Kehoe. So, the "plumping" effect we love so much may be a clear indicator that all is not well under the surface.
The best ways to avoid all this is to step away from the harsh stuff. Kehoe advises using soothing products with natural, calming ingredients (she swears by Osmosis.) She also suggests a diet filled with green foods. "Avocado, kale, cucumber, celery, spinach, broccoli, etc., as well as starting the morning off with a cup of warm water and a squeeze of fresh lemon." She's also a big fan of aloe-vera juice for the skin. "(It) has many healthy benefits — it promotes digestion and it's naturally detoxifying."
According to Kehoe, reducing the use of harsh products as well as removing foods from your diet that cause inflammation will increase the production of collagen in the skin, which will allow you to start looking more plumped up — naturally. "When you don't have irritation under the barrier of the skin, it will look healthy and have a better glow."
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