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Notes on Congestion

Clogged pores, bumpy t-zone, excess oil, whiteheads, blemishes, imperfections, cysts and blind pimples are the main culprits I see when treating clients – wreaking havoc on skin in solidarity or in combination. Unsure whether you suffer from congestion? Lightly run your hand across your face. If it feels bumpy, oily, rough and textured, chances are it is.

Congested skin can strike at any age, though it is most common in menopausal women, teenagers and those with oily or combination skin types. Congestion isn’t limited solely to the face, either. It can extend all the way from the face to upper and lower back, shoulders and chest.

What causes congestion? There are a variety of factors that can come into play here. Though often hormonal, it is usually exacerbated by external factors like pollution, grime, insufficient cleansing (particularly after wearing makeup), diet, poor gut health, a buildup of excess oil/sebum and excessive sweating.

Though congestion is complex, to say the least, managing it doesn’t have to be. As with most skin issues, the most effective way to treat congestion is with a 360 degree, holistic approach.

  1. Diet (is everything)! I always discuss food with my clients, as it’s absolutely integral to optimal skin health. The old adage reigns true when it comes to skin: you are what you eat. Of course, it is important to treat yourself, but for the most part, I recommend sticking to an anti-inflammatory diet (think: minimal dairy, red meat, sugar, caffeine and maximum fruit, vegetables, oily fish and organic food).
  2. Keep your hands off your face. Touching your face repeatedly spreads bacteria, dirt and grime which, as we know, leads to congestion. I also recommend wiping your phone down daily with an anti-bacterial wipe.  
  3. Implement an effective skincare routine. Ensure that you are cleansing and exfoliating properly with products formulated for oily or combination skin. Always, always double cleanse (once to remove dirt, sunscreen, pollution and make-up, and once to cleanse) and subsequently exfoliate to clarify and refine the complexion. I recommend incorporating an exfoliant formulated with AHAs (I love Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 lotion – a true facial in a bottle and Cosmedix Detox Scrub which works as both a chemical and physical exfoliant).
  4. For any active blemishes or imperfections, use a spot treatment formulated with a BHA (salicylic acid in particular).
  5. Avoid any comedogenic makeup and skincare products, like mineral oils and lanolin, as these can clog pores – the last thing congested skin needs. 
  6. If you can’t commit to regular in clinic treatments  see my notes on DIY facials and be sure to include a gentle peel or enzyme treatment along with a targeted mask.