Daily Archives: October 25, 2011

My Skin Battle: Dermatologist vs Estheticians

(Photo source)

This summer has wreaked havoc on my skin.  Hands down the worst summer for my skin in the last few years. 😦  I’ve been having bouts of breakouts with some calm in between, only to have another bout of break out.  And I don’t mean just a zit, I either get huge cystic acne or clusters of pimples (like 6 – 10 at a time).

It’s really putting a damper on my self esteem, and I feel pretty self conscious when I go out.  Although I’ve been using make-up and it’s not as noticeable, I notice it, and that’s enough for me.

It all started in April when my skin would get super oily during the day, and then it would feel super dry after I washed it.  It was a pretty unpleasant cycle, and my dermatologist just kept prescribing more drying lotions.   Then I read Fabulously Broke’s review on Pure and Simple spa and decided to give it a try.

I was really impressed with Pure and Simple’s philosophy and their approach and decided to splurge on a 5-package of facials ($695 + tax & various products $$$ later…), and my acne was also still in bouts.

It would get worse after my facial, and then better.  Even BF noticed!  But as soon as I stopped getting facials, it would act up again.  (When I say stop, I mean if I didn’t got for 2 months or so).  Or if I ate certain foods, my acne would just get out of control and the natural products that I was using couldn’t control it.  In fact, my acne seemed to get progressively worse, a bit better, and then worse. Now it’s in its “worse” stage. 😦

I’ve also tried the Oil Cleansing Method, as so many of your have sworn by in my last skin post.  Reader Sonia was so kind as to send me a mixture of her oil cleansing potion!  It was working great the 2 weeks or so, and then my bout of acne came (likely due to consumption of way too much cheese!), and I felt like it was doing more harm than good, and have gone off of it.  I would like to try it again, after my skin calms down.

During this time, I wanted to further educate myself on my skin since I was getting conflicting recommendations from my esthetician and my dermatologist. I’ve summarized the information I’ve gotten from each below.

Esthetician: Use natural products and instead of trying to dry out your skin – plump it up with lots of moisturizer products.  Natural products work best as it is more easily absorbed into the skin.  Come for facials often to regularly clean out your pores.

Dermatologist: Use the glycolic acid toner in the mornings to keep sloughing off dead skin cells and kill bacteria on the surface of your skin.  Use moisturizer only in dry areas – do not moisterize everywhere.  Use a retinoid and Vit A cream at night to control oil and treat active acne.

Further Readings

I’ve also read the “Skin Type Solution” by Leslie Baumman, M.D. (dermatologist), and Beauty Pure and Simple by Kristen Ma (co-founder of Pure and Simple holistic spas).  I will be doing a review on each of the books, so I don’t want to go into too much detail here.  They are both great reads, and I highly recommend them to anyone, but especially those of us who deal with acne and other skin problems.

There are a lot of similarity and overlap in the approach that both ladies take.  For instance, I have oily and sensitive skin.  In both books, I need to address the bacteria on my skin surface, and slough off dead skin cells so that they do not eventually clog more pores.  The difference is in the products and the types of treatments each recommend.


My dermatologist has prescribed a regime similar to that recommended by Dr. Baumman’s book, including the following. 

Glycolic acid (all over face and neck): check;
Retinoid (all over face neck): check;
Spot treatment: check;
Sunscreen and gentle cleanser: check and check.

Moisturize only in dry areas: check.  Chemical peels over abrasive exfoiliation.  No steaming of face. No fancy treatments required.  (Sidenote: Baumman does not shy away from recommending more intense treatments where she thinks it’s needed, such as botox and intense light treatments).


My esthetician approaches treating acne (and other skin problems) in a holistic manner.  Instead of using drying solutions, she recommends more moisturizing which she says will bring back the balance of oil in our skin. She argues that when there is balance in my skin, it will stop producing so much oil and blackheads.   She also recommends monthly facials to purge or clean my pores.

There is a part of me that wants to use more natural products – maybe it’s the hippie or romantic in me – being one with nature and whatnot.  Wanting to use products from our earth instead of chemically manufactured.

But then, I know it’s not all working because I keep getting breakouts, and it’s really getting to me.  And I always feel a little it’s a bit of a conflict of interest that an esthetician encourage their clients to do monthly (or more frequent) facials.  They are expensive – mine are ~$120 (+ tax + tip) each.  Of course, you’d want them to come back more often, right?

Finding my Medium

Maybe there can be a happy medium for me – things are never just black and white, right?

I’ve also read that dermotologsits should be consulted for more severe cases of acne or skin conditions and an esthetician can be consulted for more moderate cases since they do not have the same training or background as dermotologist.


I’m going back to using what my dermatologist prescribed to clear out my skin.

I find that when my skin is good, it’s really good, but when it starts to break out – the bacteria on my skin just grows exponentially and then everything is out of control.

However, I will also be moisturizing my skin with more natural products (I do find they are absorbed more easily into my skin).  And when my skin gets better, maybe I will go to using the glycolic acid and retinoid every other night instead of every night.

Le sigh.  Wish me luck!

Any tips, readers?  Do you prefer a dermatologist or esthetician?  Natural or chemical products?



Filed under Health