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Why the Dry-It-Out Method Doesn't Work
Read the original post at Banish here.
The other day I was watching a popular YouTuber talk about how she cleared her skin from acne in under 10 days, & the entire video was her telling people how important it is to dry out your skin - not just to reduce sebum production but to literally use harsh products that strip your skin of all its natural oils.
Seriously, that was the recommendation.
While well intentioned, the entire premise was misguided - she specifically thought that sebum is what results in acne, and sebum alone. At least this is how she made it seem, as it was all she focused on for the entire video. Bacteria eat and thrive in a sebum-rich environment, and so drying your skin out must be the solution, right?
While people with oily skin, like me, do tend to have higher rates of acne, sebum production is just the result of a problem, not the problem itself!
In fact, the composition of the sebum matters more than the quantity (although overproduction of sebum and the composition of our sebum can change and be altered by similar causal factors).
It is, in particular regard to sebum, the oxidization of the sebum on our skin that makes our skin more hospitable to acne-causing bacteria. And, not to mention, dry skin creates flaky skin that can easily become lodged in pores, blocking them and creating the very same hospitable environment for acne that we want to avoid. Dry, damaged skin is also cracked skin - micro fissures can allow bacteria and other microorganisms to invade more readily. So drying out your acne is certainly not a solution. It's more of a bandaid when you really need a suture. Yes, it may help that you can't see the problem for a little while, but once you take that bandaid off, you've already caused more damage than if you had just gotten the sutures in the first place. Why not just skip the bandaid and go right for the solution?
While drying out pimples (& your skin, as she recommends using a spot treatment all over your face) is OK for stopping a pimple in its tracks, stripping your skin of its natural oils with improper pH products and harsh products regularly & not giving it any moisture is a recipe for disaster. You'll prematurely age your skin, damage your skin's moisture barrier, & thus increase transepidermal water loss (which will only serve to add insult to injury for your skin as your problem becomes progressively worse). This can make your skin more susceptible to bacteria & other microorganisms & in the long run can even worsen your acne (not to mention it can actually make the surface of your skin even oilier).
She states that people who say drying out your skin causes oilier skin are 'wrong', and yet scientists have all come to the unanimous conclusion that it does. Sebum excretion regulates itself by surface tension; in other words, sebum excretion is regulated by the excreted sebum itself. This does seem to suggest that there is a way for the skin to “know” what’s on it. In fact, using products that are too drying and too harsh can result in excessive drying of the skin, which leads to overcompensation by the oil glands and ultimately to more oil on the surface of the skin. This doesn't necessarily mean that your skin can detect the amount of oil on the surface. No, the answer is a little bit more complicated than that.
Overcleansing, or using harsh products will damage the skin's moisture barrier, which will then trigger your skin's inflammatory response, to release the store oil onto the surface of the skin where it will sit to attempt to protect, rather than sinking in to nourish the skin and protect the way it was supposed to. So essentially, it isn't that there is more oil, it's that the oil is in the wrong place, and continuing to use harsh products will only further exacerbate this issue.
Drying out oily skin actually makes your skin oily.
This is why we tend to have oilier skin in the summer, also; not just because of the heat, but because the sun's rays dry out our skin, causing our skin to produce more oil. And when we already suffer from oxidative damage, excess sebum can be a problem.
Even on Accutane your skin is severely dry and doctors recommend that you slather on a super heavy moisturizer. Your skin NEEDS moisture! You can't deprive it of moisture & expect it to thrive.
Leaving your skin parched is not a healthy route to a clear complexion. Plain and simple. Normal skin is neither too dry nor too oily.
We need to aim for healthy skin, not perfect skin! Instead of drying out skin with a bunch of drying products you'd be better off using 1-2 treated items & a spot treatment as just that - a spot treatment. While we all want perfectly clear skin all the time, we need to come to terms with the fact that pimples are a part of life, and that it's OK to get them. If we freak out about it, we are likely to cause unnecessary damage to our skin in a desperate attempt to get clear.
Don't be misled by clear skin; clear skin does not always mean healthy skin. It may just be damaged skin laying dormant, waiting for an opportunity to flare.
Overall, this mentality that drying out one's skin is the solution to all acne problems fosters a gross misunderstanding of the human skin & how it functions & how & why acne develops. It also encourages people to dry their skin out by any means necessary, believing it's the key to clear skin. This is the type of information that encourages people to use hand sanitizer & rubbing alcohol on their skin. Unfortunately I have witnessed people doing this.
So don't dry your skin out just to be clear - do it the right way! Keep your skin nourished and healthy with lots of skin-loving antioxidants and a healthy diet filled with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, and only use spot treatments sparingly, directly on pimples.
For more information on what you can do to keep your skin healthy from the inside out, check out my eBook.