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When it comes to skin woes, breakouts are at the top of the list for many — yes, we’re talking pimples, blackheads, pustules, full-on acne, and any other form of congested skin. They can happen to nearly all of us and at any age.

You don’t need to fret though, says Ashley Brevik, an esthetician with LifeSpa at the Life Time in Savage, Minn., who spends her days helping people on their journeys to their best skin. “Breakouts are a part of life — you are not alone in them,” she says. “The No. 1 thing you can do to help prevent these inflammations is to identify the root causes and then begin to change habits to combat those causes.”

We talked with Brevik, along with Jasmine Martinez — a LifeSpa esthetician at Life Time Happy Valley in Peoria, Ariz. — about why the skin breaks out, and what we can do to achieve healthy, beautiful skin.

Getting to the Root of the Problem

The cause of your breakouts can run the gamut, but the more you know, the more power you have in approaching the issue. “Poor hygiene, diet, hormones, allergies, stress, the use of the wrong skincare products, and even small things such as putting a dirty phone against your face are just a few of the causes for skin breakouts and irritations,” Brevik explains.

Martinez concurs: “There really are so many contributing factors as to why someone might breakout and determining that may take time, but it’s always worth it. Make an appointment with an esthetician so that the source can be pinpointed more easily. We can ask you the right questions while taking a close look at your skin to determine the type of breakout that’s happening.”

Picking Products

A skincare retail aisle of promising quick-fixes and elixirs may seem alluring, but Martinez says that less is often more. “I always tell my clients, let’s start simple and then add in products once it’s determined a product is not causing any issues. This is an easy way of course-correcting to eliminate any products that may be causing a problem or not working.”

Martinez has four skin-clearing favorites from the Éminence line she often recommends for clients. These include a cleanser, exfoliator, moisturizer, and the Birch Water Purifying Essence product (which she refers to as “liquid gold”).

She suggests, “Wash your face with a cleanser that’s designed for acne-prone skin, then follow up with Birch Water Purifying Essence, as it further helps to cleanse and detoxify and its ingredients of snow mushroom and reishi mushroom help to bind water to the skin and bring down inflammation. Then seal in the goodness with a moisturizer. The rule of thumb when it comes to skincare treatment products is to use the thinnest products first, such as liquids and serums, and then thicker products last, such as moisturizers, so your skin best absorbs each product.”

For exfoliation, Martinez recommends swapping out your cleanser three times a week for the Charcoal Exfoliating Gel Cleanser from Éminence. “It’s designed to mechanically wash away impurities, which helps clear away dry skin and build-up off the skin,” she explains.

It’s important to note that product ingredients can work wonders for some, but skincare needs are individualized. “Skincare routines are not one-size-fits-all,” says Brevik. “You’ll likely try a few different products until you find the best system for you.”

Determining the right products is another good reason to meet with an esthetician — they can help steer you toward the right ones for you so you’re not wasting money. “We will recommend high-quality products based on your specific skin type and needs,” Brevik explains.

Being Smart About Sweat

Sweat and overexercise is another possible cause for your breakouts. While you’re getting your body and mind in top form, it’s vital to employ these tips during your workouts to curb breakouts:

  • Skip wearing makeup. “It traps bacteria released from sweat and creates a breeding ground for unwanted pimples,” Brevik notes.
  • Avoid touching your face. This keeps germs from equipment and anything else you might touch during your workout off your body. And if you’re using a towel to swipe off sweat, make sure it’s been resting on a clean surface. “Sometimes putting your towel on high-traffic areas like handles or the floor can spread bacteria to the face when wiping,” say Martinez.
  • Don’t overexercise. “High stress in the body can lead to breakouts,” explains Brevik.

Sweat, in general, is great to help detox the skin. “I say sweat it out! Don’t suppress the body’s natural function, but rather use it to your advantage,” Martinez says. “Sweating is a great way to get rid of toxins and eliminate what needs to go.”

Once your workout is complete, immediately wash your face of the sweat and bacteria so it doesn’t clog your pores. And if you wear a sweatband or hat to help soak up sweat, clean them between each use.

Avoiding the Pop

Last, but certainly not least: Don’t pick pimples, no matter how tempting. “I see many cases where breakouts are made significantly worse by picking,” Brevik says. “This can also lead to scarring and pigmentation issues, which are two conditions that take the longest time to treat.”

Overall, keep in mind that clear skin won’t happen overnight, Brevik stresses. “Healing your skin is a journey,” she says. “Have patience with yourself, ask for support from a trusted esthetician, and practice self-love to keep those stress hormones in check.”

Jolene Turner
Jolene Turner

Jolene Turner is a beauty writer and social media strategist focusing on the salon, spa, and professional hair care industries. She currently works with the Life Time LifeSpa team on social media marketing and content development. Turner’s background includes working as the senior editor for American Salon, as a head writer for beauty blogs, and as a communications and consumer engagement professional for a global beauty brand. She’s worked with leading beauty brands including Aveda, Hotheads Hair Extensions, HiBar, Wella, and more.

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