What is congested skin, and what are the causes? A dull and sallow complexion, uneven skin-tone, whiteheads, blackheads and some spots are all potential signs of congested skin. Below we explain in more detail just some of the daily processes that can contribute to these common problems.
Part 1 - The Causes
• Oil and sebum: Though naturally occuring on the skin surface as a way to protect us from the environment, they can contribute to causing clogged pores and stimulating the growth of bacteria on the skin surface if skin isn’t cleaned regularly. When combined with other external factors such as pollution and dirt, blackheads can form. It’s so important to seek advice from a professional on which cleaning products you should be using to suit your skin type to reduce the likelihood of these symptoms.
• Toxins: Skin cells are supplied with the nutrients they require by the blood and the lymphatic system, which we need to consume in our diet so they are readily available. Look out for notes from our nutritionist throughout this post to learn more about the nutrients our skin needs daily! Another important job that the blood and lymphatic system carry out is transporting toxic materials to the skin surface for elimination via your sweat. However, if your skin has become congested, meaning there’s no clear pathway for the toxins to reach the skin surface, they will clog the pores further and may result in large, potentially painful, spots.
• Dead skin cells: Our skin cells regenerate every three to four weeks (we have a brand new skin surface every month!). This natural process causes a layer of dead cells to shift to the skin surface. Dead skin cells covering the skin surface do not have a flow of nutrients to them, which means they can make your skin appear dull and lifeless. This is why exfoliation - in the form of a facial or part of your weekly skin care routine - is key to your skin having that ‘glow’ effect (see part 2, ‘the solutions’ for tips on exfoliation!).
• Skin care and make-up products: Many highstreet makeup & skincare brands contain oil-based petrochemicals, which can create a film over your pores (think; cling film) and prevent the skin from breathing. Make-up and skin care are often part of people’s daily routines, so investing in good quality products that suit your skin is imperative. Other products that may contain chemicals that stop the skin breathing are talcum powder, and some lower quality creams.
• Pollution and waste: There are pollutants in the air around us all the time; even in your own home! These tiny particles, which are naked to the human eye, slowly build up on the skin surface throughout the day. Inevitably there’ll be a greater build up on your face and areas of the body exposed to the the air, than the parts of your body covered by clothing. We can actually exacerbate this process by putting our phones to our faces when making calls and touching our own skin without really thinking about it. If a consistent skin care routine isn’t adopted (beyond using just water to wash our faces), areas where waste products from the environment have built up on the skin can be the perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria. A note from our nutritionist: Want to nourish your body so it can better protect you from the negative effects of pollution? Try adding in foods that have antioxidant properties! Protective effects of antioxidants are associated with diets high in fruit and vegetable consumption. All of us should be aiming for at least 5 fruit and veg a day, with an emphasis on vegetables taking priority. Speak to Alexandra for some tips on how to increase your fruit and veg intake in an enjoyable and sustainable way!
Part 2 - The Solutions.
Now for some simple steps to help keep your skin healthy!
Step 1: Establish a consistent cleansing routine. It is essential to keep the skin clean each day to remove excess oils, pollutants and dead skin cells as mentioned above, and allow your skin to pass toxins out of the body via the lymphatic system. Top Tip: Avoid products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, as in some cases this can increase your skin’s pH level and as a result cause the skin to overproduce oils. A note from our nutritionist: Our liver is the true hero behind the detoxification of our body (trust me on this one, a juice cleanse or a ‘teatox’ are not the way to go and actually can have some seriously negative effects on your health). It is responsible for neutralising potentially harmful compounds we ingest and removing them from our body. Look after your liver by not over-doing it on alcohol intake. If you know you can’t stop at just 1 drink, try sipping on water in-between sips of your alcoholic drink. People with excessive alcohol intake may experience a more uneven skin tone.
Step 2: Gentle exfoliation. To reduce clogged and congested pores, the top layer of your skin should remain clear of dead skin cells. Regular use of scrub or facial exfoliants can help to achieve this and allow other products in your skin care routine to benefit your skin at a deeper level. It is recommended to use a scrub 2-3 times per week or after spending all day in a polluted environment. Why not try one of our facials for a deeper exfoliation? Top Tip: If inflammation and redness occur after using a scrub, you should switch to a product that has no abrasive cleansing action. Speak to G for help choosing! A note from our nutritionist: Inflammation is key to our survival, think of it as our body defending itself from harm. However, excessive inflammation is a core player in many chronic diseases including arthritis, diabetes and respiratory diseases. Omega-3 and other compounds found in unsaturated fats, along with fibre, are excellent in aiding your body’s ability to reduce inflammation if you do get a reaction on the skin. Try consuming fish several times a week and trying a variety of nuts and seeds in small portions to reap the health benefits!
Step 3: Use professional chemical peels, enzyme facials and dermaplaning. These are all amazing methods for removing dead skin cells and reinvigorating your skin! Enzymes are active compounds that not only accelerate the skin’s natural regeneration process, but also make it easier for you to remove the dead skin cells from the skin surface. This leads to greater skin elasticity and reduces the formation of flaky, dry patches of skin. Products containing fruit enzymes can be used up to 2 times per week as part of your skincare routine, professional treatments have longer lasting effects. Speak to your therapist on deciding which treatment is best for you. Top Tip: Glycolic, alpha hydroxy acids, pineapple, pumpkin, and papaya all contain a specific type of enzyme called protease. Look out for products containing one or more of these ingredients as protease can help to shift those dead skin cells and tighten your pores, and is a great type of topical nutrition for the skin!
Step 4. Hydrate your skin topically in the way that’s best suited for you. Many moisturisers that contain waxes, oils, creams and petrochemicals may make congestion more likely to occur, leading to a greater likelihood of the formation of blackheads, whiteheads and spots. Note that creams and waxes are certainly useful for combating dry skin, but for oily skin and skin suffering from congested pores, lightweight moisturiser should be used instead of rich cream. For people with congested combination skin and dry skin on certain areas, hydrochloric acid and oil-based serum should be used to increase the skin moisture. Top Tip: Like your personality, everyone’s skin is individual. If you’re struggling to determine which approach is best for you, speak to G for some professional advice.
A note from our Nutritionist: Do you suffer from dry skin? Another reason for dryness of your skin is general dehydration. Remember to drink at least 2 litres of water daily, and extra rehydration on top of that after exercise.
Step 5: Invest in your skin: It is so so important to invest in good quality makeup, especially if you’re layering it on your skin daily. Mineral based make-ups allow the skin to breath in a way that other makeups don’t. Instead of filling in your pores, where they may likely inhibit the skin’s ability to effectively remove waste products from the body and regulate oil production, the pigment particles in mineral makeup sit on the skin surface, which allows the skin to breathe and function well. Lastly, invest in an SPF, and wear it daily (rain or shine!). The higher the Sun Protection Factor, the better the protection- from the sun and toxins.
Top Tip: Why not speak to G about the products you're currently using and see if they may be a reason why you're experiencing some of the symptoms of congested skin. We can then make some constructive suggestions in order for you to look and feel your best by using the correct makeup for you! If you have any questions at all after reading this about your skin health or nutrition adequacy, please reach out to either G or Alexandra who are always there to help.
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