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Notes on Congestion

Congestion is a skin condition that occurs when our sebaceous glands produce excess oil (otherwise known as sebum). Our pores become clogged with this excess oil along with dead skin cells, dirt and debris, resulting in a bumpy congested complexion. Congestion presents itself in a myriad of imperfections, everything from whiteheads (closed comedones), blackheads (open comedones), and blemishes to cysts and blind pimples. 

If the surface of your skin feels uneven to the touch and/or you have visible whiteheads, blackheads or break-outs across your T-zone, chin and cheeks, your skin is likely congested. While diet, gut health and hormone levels can all be root causes of congestion, thankfully it’s something we can treat topically with the right products and a simple skincare routine. Adhere to these simple guidelines and your skin will thank you.

Double cleanse to deep-clean

I’m a big fan of the double cleanse in the evening, especially for those experiencing congestion. It helps to shift any environmental aggressors encountered throughout the day (such as pollutants and bacteria), while really clearing out the pores. Start with an oil or balm cleanser to remove make-up and sunscreen, then follow with a water-based cleanser in either a gel or milk consistency to really hydrate the skin.

Exfoliate, but don’t overdo it

Our skin cells renew roughly every 28 days but encouraging this natural renewal process along by using a gentle exfoliator a few times a week can yield incredible results for congested skin. I’d suggest a salicylic, glycolic or lactic acid — there are some incredibly intelligent formulas that combine all three acid groups in perfect ratios for a comprehensive exfoliation. Ensure you stick to only two to three times a week as over-exfoliating can actually worsen congestion and damage the skin.

Avoid heavy creams and pore-clogging ingredients

Congested skin types are best off choosing lighter, thinner textures in their skincare products as opposed to heavier, richer creams. Avoid dense ingredients (like coconut oil, shea butter, glycerin, beeswax, lanolin), sulphates (sodium lauryl sulphate and sodium laureth sulphate), and volatile alcohols (benzyl alcohol, SD alcohol, denatured alcohol, isopropyl alcohol) as these can irritate and clog the pores. 

Key ingredients

Look for clarifying and correcting serums and lightweight moisturisers that contain non-comedogenic ingredients which won’t clog the pores such as hyaluronic acid (which deeply hydrates), niacinamide (regulates oil production), retinol (promotes cell turnover), clay (absorbs excess oil) AHAs and BHAs (clear out the pores) and a lightweight sunscreen during the day.

Gut health

Congestion and our gut health are directly linked so following a healthy balanced diet full of anti-inflammatory ingredients are paramount for skin health. For the most part try to avoid refined sugars, overprocessed foods and greasy and fried foods.

No picking

A difficult task but one that is essential in treating congestion. While arguably satisfying, non-professional extractions (in other words, picking!) can cause more than good, resulting in scarring and other conditions that are a lot harder to treat. So try to keep the hands away and let your skincare products do all the hard work.