Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Beauty Tips: How to handle a blemish? by Renee Rouleau

Skincare expert and esthetician Renee Rouleau is back with a video on how best to handle blemishes — plus 11 causes for acne blemishes:

Cause for acne blemishes #1

Do you touch your face a lot? This may come as a surprise, but subconsciously touching your face all day makes it quickly become the dirtiest part of your body. While it’s important to wash your skin every night, it’s much better to try to prevent your hands from touching your face unnecessarily.

Skin Tip: Keep your hands occupied. Get any kind of toy or gadget that you can play with in your hands at times when you are most likely to be touching your skin. This will help tremendously. I personally love Tangle toys. The small version is great and fun to fidget with to keep your hands busy.

Cause for acne blemishes #2

Have you been eating more dairy than normal lately? When you develop cystic breakouts (those hard, painful, underground blemishes that linger for weeks) on the chin, jaw line and neck area, it might be a sign that you’re getting more dairy in your diet than your body can tolerate. Your skin acts as an excretory system to get rid of things that your body is not in agreement with, so when you get too much dairy, it is by nature harder to digest and can come out in the form of cystic blemishes in the lower area of the face.

Skin Tip: The best way to determine if your acne cysts are directly related to your intake of dairy is to completely cut dairy out of your diet for two weeks. If you don’t develop any new cysts and you normally would have by now, then this might solve your problem! It doesn’t mean that you cannot eat any dairy at all. Slowly introduce dairy back into your diet, and the point you start breaking out again is your body’s tolerance level.

Cause for acne blemishes #3

Have you been under tremendous stress? Aside from my experience confirming this is true, the Stanford University School of Medicine conducted one such study in 2002. It was a small study that involved students suffering from acne. The college professors involved in the study conclusively proved that the exam stress worsened acne in these students. According to researchers, their findings indicated “Subjects who had the greatest increases in stress during examination periods also had the greatest exacerbation in acne severity”.

Stress not only affects acne flare-up. In general, it worsens the overall skin condition. It induces the adrenal glands into overproduction of cortisol, a steroid, which in turn makes sebaceous glands produce more oil and make skin extra oily. Thus the reason why in stressful periods, people experiencing an increase in acne get more inflamed, puss-filled papules than simple whiteheads or blackheads.

Skin Tip: The easiest solution to reducing stress is to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.

Cause for acne blemishes #4

Do you not wash your skin at night? Oil on the skin makes for a breeding ground of bacteria, and bacteria will cause blemishes. Sleeping with not only your makeup on, but also the addition of oil, dirt and debris that has built up on the skin during the day, can absolutely trigger new blemishes.

Skin Tip: The #1 reason why someone won’t wash his or her face at night is out of exhaustion. I certainly understand the discipline and effort it requires to perform your nighttime skin care routine, especially when you’re exhausted. But, you really must do it. It’s that simple.

Cause for acne blemishes #5

Have you started using new skin care products? When your skin is introduced to new products, sometimes you might get some initial blemish purging, especially if the products are giving your skin more exfoliation than normal. If it continues on more than two weeks, then they may not be a good fit for your skin.

Skin Tip: When introducing new products to your skin, it’s always recommended to use one product for 3-4 days before adding in a second one. If your skin is reacting negatively, you’ll be able to determine which product you should discontinue. Get products recommended for your skin type by choosing one of our nine skin types.

See 5 more causes! 

Cause for acne blemishes #6

Are you about to start your menstrual cycle? Many women can experience a surge of blemishes at the start of their monthly cycle. This is completely normal, but can be very frustrating.

Skin Tip: Taking Vitamin B-6 daily one week prior to your cycle will help regulate hormonal imbalances, which can lead to breakout. Calcium-magnesium supplements can also help when taken during this time. It’s also advisable to use an antibacterial cleanser such as our AHA/BHA Cleansing Gel during the time when you know that you’ll get blemishes.

Cause for acne blemishes #7

Are you peri-menopausal or going through menopause? Hormones are chemical messengers, created by our bodies to regulate everything from metabolism to cell growth to reproductive cycles and mood. When they fluctuate, they can trigger weight gain, depression, sleeplessness and fatigue in addition to adult acne and breakouts. A common sign for hormonal imbalances is when your monthly cycle is inconsistent and sporadic, or has recently stopped.

Skin Tip: It’s advised to check with your physician to see if they have any recommendations to treat the imbalance internally.

Cause for acne blemishes #8

Have you flown on a plane recently in the last three days? I can attest to this one. Flying on an airplane absolutely throws my skin out of whack. The cabins of airplanes have extremely low humidity, which cause the skin to get extremely dehydrated (lack of water). The dry air looks for moisture where it can get it and that means robbing it right from your skin! The dehydrated cells cause a buildup, which can trap oil underneath the skin resulting in post-flight breakouts.

Cause for acne blemishes #9

Have the weather temperatures been fluctuating from day to day? When the season is changing and the weather is warm one day and cold the next, it can wreak havoc on the skin, leaving it confused, unbalanced, and prone to blemishes.

Skin Tip: This is a time to adjust your skin care routine slightly, not go for a major overhaul. Many people feel like they need to switch their entire routine to acne products, but that’s over-compensating and will only leave your skin dried out and irritated. A great way to address the sudden breakouts is to temporarily switch to products using Salicylic Acid like our AHA/BHA Cleansing Gel.

Cause for acne blemishes #10

Have you started taking a new medication? Every drug will affect the body differently, but generally speaking, medications and drug use can cause stress on the nervous system, which elevates hormones (adrenals). This will contribute to the wear and tear of connective tissue resulting in flaccid, loose, sagging skin as well as increased blemishes.

Skin Tip: Consult with your physician.

Cause for acne blemishes #11

Have you recently introduced the use of the Clarisonic brush? Electric brushes such as the Clarisonic can be too stimulating on the skin for some people, resulting in breakouts. For many, the exfoliation benefit it provides can actually help lessen breakouts, but I know for me personally, it caused my skin to get more blemishes.

Skin Tip: If you suspect it may be causing you more blemishes, try discontinuing the brush or use it less often to see if blemishes lessen. Read: Skin care expert, Renée Rouleau reviews the Clarisonic brush.

So there you have it. Eleven possible causes for acne breakouts, pimples and blemishes. There are more than eleven causes, but these are the most common. — Renee Rouleau

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31 thoughts on “Beauty Tips: How to handle a blemish? by Renee Rouleau

  1. This watched like a commercial for Renee Rouleau cystic acne treatment for most of the video. She didn’t even explain how the anti-cyst thing works or WHY it’s different from anything on the market, OR how you can know it decreases the life of the cyst by 50%. The only part of that that was explanatory (why dairy can cause cystic acne) was a few seconds long, and I didn’t find it sufficient explanation at all. =[

  2. chibaraki

    I don’t think there have actually been any studies linking diet to ANY kind of acne, and despite her saying in the video that dairy causes cystic acne, everything I’ve read says that there is absolutely no conclusive research linking dairy consumption to acne. It really irritates me when people make pseudoscientific claims like that!

    • Deborah

      I was just thinking the same. There is no proof diet affects acne. The excretory system is the one in charge of excreting stuff!

    • I was thinking that as well, which is why it bothers me that the video doesn’t explain why dairy allegedly causes cystic acne. My own doctor says it doesn’t. Most often cystic acne that comes up along the jaw area is linked to the female menstrual cycle, not diet.

    • Katie

      I cut out milk (I still eat cheese occasionally) and my acne is GONE. It doesn’t hurt to try…just saying:)

    • Jazmine

      For me personally, if I eat too much fried or fatty foods, I do break out more. Diet may not affect EVERYONE and there may not be scientific proof but for me at least it’s true. 😐

    • Julia

      Actually, there have been studies done. Here is a study about acne and dairy, for those interested.

  3. Andra

    I’m no expert but I’ve read somewhere that it’s not dairy per say, but the fact that nowdays cows are fed food that has hormones in it and it might be that the hormones are responsible for the dairy-acne connection.

  4. chelsea

    This is so helpful! Thank you!

  5. Yiran

    “It’s also advisable to use an antibacterial cleanser such as our AHA/BHA Cleansing Gel” – I thought you had to leave on AHA/BHA products in order for them to work? If you use them as a cleanser wouldn’t they get washed off along with everything else?

  6. While I don’t believe that foods generally cause breakouts, I do know for certain that dairy is a problem for many. I’ve been suggesting to my clients(for those prone to cystic acne on the chin and jawline) to cut out their dairy and have literally cured hundreds of my clients skin with this very simple tip. Working with clients hands-on for 25 years and hearing their feedback and seeing the improvement in their skin is the best study of all.

    Why does eating dairy cause acne cysts?

    Your skin acts as an excretory system to get rid of substances that don’t agree with your body. For example, if someone is allergic to shellfish, they will break out in hives all over the body. The hives is the symptom of your body trying to rid itself of this allergen.

    In the case of dairy, it is mucous forming and can be difficult for the body digest—which is why many people are lactose intolerant. So when you get too much dairy for your body to digest, it comes out in the form of cystic acne on the chin and jaw line area.

    Why the chin and jaw line area?

    In Chinese medicine, breakouts around the chin and jaw line are representational of reproductive and hormonal systems. Since our dairy cows are given growth hormones, the body may use this area to remove the excess hormones. There are a greater number of sebaceous glands in the face and since hormones are fat soluble, the body will use these glands as an avenue of excretion for fat-based hormones. -Renee Rouleau, Dallas, Texas

    • chibaraki

      Your reasoning here is pretty severely flawed. “Allergies cause hives, therefore too much dairy causes cystic acne” makes absolutely no sense and has no scientific basis. Neither does “Chinese medicine says the chin and jaw represent reproductive and hormone systems, and we treat dairy cows with growth hormones.” Putting two completely unrelated facts next to each other does not causation make.

      Seeing improvement in clients isn’t “the best study of all” — it’s not a study AT ALL. You’re making pseudo-scientific claims with no scientific basis for them. Sure, anecdotally you’ve seen people’s skin improve when they gave up dairy, but that’s not a scientific study and it doesn’t prove a connection between dairy and cystic acne. There are countless reasons you might see elimination in dairy and a subsequent improvement in skin, and a lot of them have to do with observer bias.

      Like I said above, it really upsets and frustrates me when people claim that X causes Y with absolutely no non-anecdotal proof that X is related to Y in any way.

      • Marie

        Give me a break! It’s not like the woman is dictating that you live off fruit & nuts the rest of your life — she’s just making a simple suggestion to cut out dairy products, which is not so drastic and revolting as you make it out to be!

        And have you heard about THE CHINA STUDY??? Or is that not a “scientific study” either?? In case you haven’t heard about it, the China Study strongly advises against dairy and other animal products, offering vast quantities of data to back up its conclusions that such products cause an array of health issues (cancers, brain diseases, diabetes, eye problems, etc). Would you also like to argue against the findings of top-level researchers as well?

        • Voly

          Please post scientific sources you are referring to, and then we can evaluate their validity.

          • Ashley

            Also, please post other studies that were able to replicate whatever results they came up with. Because ANYONE can post a study that is apparently very scientific, but if not ONE other independent source can replicate it, it’s not considered to be a very accurate study. At all.

            Plus, what if their supposed findings are very difficult to falsify? Or, what if they are assuming that correlation equals causation? Or they are ignoring the fact that there could be an even simpler explanation for whatever results they came across?

            Just because a study is published by apparent top-level researchers, does not mean that their findings can be completely trusted. Plus, some researchers are biased, and will ignore information that contradicts their beliefs. Or they will be doing a funded study that seeks to only validate their own/the funder’s beliefs.

          • Marie

            Campbell, T. Colin, and Thomas M. Campbell. The China Study: the Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health. Dallas, TX: BenBella, 2006.

            “Referred to as the “Grand Prix of epidemiology” by The New York Times, this study examines more than 350 variables of health and nutrition with surveys from 6,500 adults in more than 2,500 counties across China and Taiwan, and conclusively demonstrates the link between nutrition and heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. While revealing that proper nutrition can have a dramatic effect on reducing and reversing these ailments as well as curbing obesity, this text calls into question the practices of many of the current dietary programs, such as the Atkins diet, that are widely popular in the West.”

            I’m not going to copy & paste the whole book, which is the “scientific source” that I am referring to.

            Also, I am not advocating a dairy-free diet, but wish to merely demonstrate that there have indeed been well-founded studies that link dairy consumption to health problems, as Ms. Rouleau pointed out (only to be thoroughly bashed by the above user).

            • Ashley

              This is demonstrating effects in basically ONE ethnic background. Meaning that it’s not really recognizing the fact that things don’t affect all ethnicities in the same way, or as much. Plus, that’s ONE study. If there are not at least… well, I’d say at least 5 others that replicate most or all of the findings in this one study, then it cannot be deemed as valid, simple as that.

              Acne isn’t a health problem. This study probably also doesn’t look into all the variables that could create a link between dairy/diet and health problems (such as saying that eating chips = obesity, when it could be that your BEHAVIOUR, such as choosing to sit on your butt all day and not do any type of activity, could lead to eating chips which leads to obesity as opposed to the other way around), so it’s a bit silly to rely on studies that aren’t even directly done to discuss dairy’s influence on acne (based on the summary) and that addresses as many variables as possible while including different ethnicities, environmental influences, etc. And considering it is studying such a vast array of things, it makes it slightly less credible, as it could wind up being seen as being vague, or too simplistic in its findings due to having to go through so many sources, variables, etc.

              So…. again, please provide at least 5 studies that are peer-reviewed and published in academic journals which are designed to study the link between diet and acne specifically, and not just diet on health effects.

            • Marie

              OK, your ethnicity argument makes absolutely no sense. Humans are humans. Whether a Chinese man or an Irish woman breathes in carbon monoxide, the effect is the same. Saying that nutritional studies cannot be applied universally to the entire human population is plain silly. A human body is a human body. On the cellular level, our bodies respond the same to toxins — there is no argument against that.

              Acne is defined as a “human skin disease”; last I checked, diseases are medical conditions that affect our health. Therefore, to say that acne is not a health problem, goes against its very definition. Just try telling someone with acne that it isn’t a health problem…I highly suspect that they would argue otherwise.

              I specifically did not mention acne in my original post (“dairy/animal products…cause an array of health issues–cancers, brain diseases, diabetes, eye problems, etc”). I only was pointing out that diet CAN be linked to health problems (DUH!) and therefore Ms. Rouleau’s advice should not have been entirely squashed by the commenter.

              But, I did find a few specific references to acne in the book that I am currently reading, Fasting and Eating for Health, by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.:

              “Toxins also may be eliminated through the skin and mucous membranes. For example, a skin rash may occur as the body’s response to rid itself of some offensive substance, or one’s nose may produce excessive mucus as the body attempts to channel irritating substances or dead cells through mucosal eliminative channels.”
              “Unfortunately few comprehend the correlation between diet and a multitude of diseases such as acne, […]”
              “Diseases such as acne and eczema, […] and many others are helped by fasting.” [The fast would then be followed by the plant-based diet he describes in the book.]

              Dr. Fuhrman references not only the China Study in his book, but well over a hundred reliable sources (particularly medical journals, both American and international) to back up his advice to follow a diet free of dairy/animal products for overall better health (including skin conditions).

              As for other resources, I suggest going to and searching “acne dairy”; there are over 6500 results. I have not read through each article, of course, but after going through the first few pages, have already found well over 5 “scientific sources” that support Ms. Rouleau’s advice.

            • Ashley

              They can be GENERALLY applied. But there ARE some differences among ethnicities. Much like the fact that those of oriental backgrounds are far more prone to having issues drinking alcohol compared to Caucasians. Which means that there COULD be subtle yet noticeable differences in how different ethnicities tolerate different foods.

              No, acne is NOT a health problem. I’ve only ever considered acne a COSMETIC problem.And I currently have moderate (healing) acne. Considering acne does not leave me incapacitated in any physical way, I do not view it as a disease.

              This argument is not about diet and health problems. I’m sure that everyone already KNOWS that diet can affect health problems. The argument is diet and ACNE. So there is no use bringing up a study or a point unrelated to that very argument. It would be like arguing about the greatest baseball players and then someone going and talking about curling.

              Acne is not the body expelling some toxin. It is the body reacting to foreign bacteria (in most cases – with comedonal acne, it’s pretty much just the pores clogged by things like dead skin cells and other things).

              Fasting can help with cosmetic issues because you are removing any “unhealthy” foods, possibly allergens. You DO know that if one goes back to one’s original diet post-fast, those problems WILL return.

              If those sources he uses are credible, can be REPLICATED, and do not rely on anecdotal information, then sure, it’s a fine source.

              Please stop trying to push this. Unless studies follow the specific guidelines, I’m not going to consider them as valid. Just because an article is written, doesn’t mean it’s peer-reviewed, free of confirmation bias, etc etc.

            • CeeBee

              Before this devolves into a more divisive argument on a public forum I’ll chuck my opinion in (which probably no one cares about anyway but that’s never stopped me before, LOL)
              Both sides have some valid points but scrapping about it on-line is not actually going to change or prove anything.

              To summarize…

              No, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that dairy cause acne.
              There is a certain amount of anecdotal evidence that cutting dairy (and certain other lifestyle changes) may lead to improvement but there is no causation it is actually dairy products that are the problem. Hormones have been mentioned, however there are a number of dairy producing nations that do not allow artificial hormones into their milk supply. There are also a number of hormone mimicking chemicals in plastic packaging, the contraceptive pill and our own bodies naturally produce hormones all the time so it’s hard to argue exactly what is or isn’t a problem.
              Is it easier to blame it on an external source rather than think maybe it’s your own body that’s to blame?
              If you want to try it, go ahead, but (like everything) it may not work for you.

              I would also like to point out that ethnicity does indeed have an effect on how certain chemicals are processed, there’s this nifty thing called genetics that ensures certain bodies can behave in different ways to different foods(or alcohol), grow body/facial hair or not, have higher susceptibility to certain diseases (carbon monoxide notwithstanding, that’s a bit like getting run over by a bus really) and so on.

              And the only thing skin excretes is sweat – and that’s to cool down, not to get rid of water or salt.
              Infections are not excreted out through the skin via hives, etc, what you are seeing is an external symptom your immune system is reacting to a contact or systemic allergy, of which the cause may or may not be identified.

              Otherwise, find a good dermatologist. Mine is brilliant, and I didn’t have to give up cheese :)

        • chibaraki

          I’m not complaining about the idea of cutting dairy out of one’s diet, I’m complaining about people making claims that X causes Y when there is absolutely no evidence that X causes Y. Correlation does not equal causation. Anecdotal evidence does not equal causation. I’m a graduate student in the social sciences and bad science, pseudoscience, and mis-reporting of science happens to be one of my pet peeves. A lot of people are putting a lot of bad information out there and claiming it as fact despite having no evidence for it whatsoever, and it’s a mess.

          I have not previously heard of this “China study” you’re referring to, but it looks like there’s a pretty significant amount of criticism of its conclusions. The fact that a study is big does not mean it is good. I’d be much more interested if someone could show me a study from a peer-reviewed journal, as opposed to a popular science book.

    • Voly

      First of all skin is not “an excretory system to get rid of substances that don’t agree with your body”. Look up skin on Wikipedia (you don’t have to look far), and it will say that “…skin plays a key role in protecting (the body) against pathogens[3] and excessive water loss.[4] Its other functions are insulation, temperature regulation, sensation, and the protection of vitamin D folates.” It thermoregulates the body by excreting water and salts.
      Secondly, since we are talking to mostly North American population, only about 5% of people of European decent have lactose intolerance (also easy to look up on Wikipedia), although percentage among Asian decent is higher. Besides, symptoms of Lactose intolerance are gastrointestinal (diarrhea and stomach discomfort).
      Thirdly, please don’t lump allergies and acne in the same bin. They are totally different (although not totally unrelated, as they both depend on the person’s immune system). Biochemical pathways that cause hives are very different to those that cause acne.

      And lastly it does seem that cutting dairy out does help some people with their acne, but not for the reasons you have stated.

      Please stop making up your own reasons, and at least have enough decency to fact check. With how easy and quick it now is to look these things up, you really have no excuse not to.

      • Karin

        If you’re going to criticize for lack of fact checking, choose a better source than Wikipedia.

        • Ashley

          Wikipedia can be a very valid source. Primarily if the reference works themselves are valid – and they often have very valid sources. All of what was said can be fact-checked from other more reliable sources, but Wikipedia is one of the more accessible and easier ones.

        • Voly

          As a biologist I can tell you that biology part of Wikipedia is a great source, because while compiling a lot of information together, it also cites all the sources. So I have found Wikipedia to be a credible source (again for Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math at least).

  7. Ashley

    Of the ones that can apply to me (1-4, 6, 9), NONE of those affect my skin. I just recently got over my paranoia of things touching my face. The only time touching my face breaks me out is if something on my skin clogs my pores, not my hands themselves. And I just shower once a day to wash my face (with water alone), and will sometimes shower in the morning or in the early afternoon, not at night.

    As for diet and acne, here are my theories as to why food can break you out:
    1) you have a genuine allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity to the food. This is why milk and gluten are likely to be the main culprits, since they are foods that a larger number of people have problems with.
    2) you THINK that something you eat breaks you out, thus the Nocebo Effect takes hold (like Placebo effect, only negative consequences instead of positive ones).If you check out’s holistic section, according to people there, EVERYTHING can and will break you out. Even things like eggs, pork, fruit, tea, certain veggies, etc etc. There are even people who think TAP WATER can cause issues :/

    What caused my acne: Tweezing when I was 14. Then oxy pads broke me out a bit more. Then a full skincare routine, and 6-7 years later I have the worst acne I’ve ever had. At least it’s getting better now that I’m just using water and not a washcloth like I have been the last few weeks. I just shower once a day (or if I don’t shower, I don’t wash – it’s not like I wash my body when I don’t shower, why my face?) and let my skin soak in the water a bit, then rub to help remove dead skin. Then wipe with my hands to help remove some of the extra water, let it air dry. Finally starting to calm down, but my scarring is horrible :/

  8. patricia

    As an acne sufferer since I was 16 and I’m going 30 next month. Yes, I still have horrible break out, plus I’m Asian, those ugly pigmentation won’t fade away no matter what. It’s clear that my acne is hormonal and genetic. I do believe that “food” can affect acne. Whenever my mom comes for a visit for a month/2 months, she always cooks and into healthy food and sometimes she’s too paranoid to enjoy good food. She doesn’t eat pork, very little beef. Mainly lots of fish, veggies and chicken only. My skin always stay clear under her food regime. When I’m back to reality, I eat junk food occasionally, craving for cheese, etc. I think I’m allergic to potato chips, everytime I eat chips, the next 2 days, I get pimples. My Bf does the same when he eats too much chocolate, but he has good skin. Yes, dairy can cause acne due to hormones from the cows. Adult hormonal skin is a PAIN!!! The only way you can survive is watch your diet, do retin A, take BC or Spironolactone (to reduce oil in your skin), exercise and YES, getting enough sleep is soooo important. I do believe based on my experience, less acne products is better. Keep your face well hydrated, use moisturizer and drink lots of water.

    • The one thing I’ve noticed re: food & acne is that it can be any food getting on your skin or you touching the food… and touching your skin, so essentially, the oil or whatever from the food gets on your skin.

      LOL, I say this because when I eat pho (Vietnamese noodle soup), sometimes it splatters a bit on my chin – and I never paid attention but then I’d get cystic acne more often than not… and now that I pay attention, it’s helped a lot there!

  9. Erica

    This is actually really helpful for me. I have been having acnes along the jawline and chin area for months, and at first I thought it was normal but now it’s been really hectic. I won’t be seeing my dermatologist until next month but I’ll try some of the tips mentioned. Thanks so much!

  10. Kelly

    Cut out dairy from your diet? Please do not do this. It’s never a good thing to just cut out an entire food group. Especially for teenage girls considering that from the age of 12 – 16 calcium in the diet determines their bone density levels for the rest of their life.

  11. Amanda

    Something about this did not sit right with me. I mean, genuine advice from an esthetician would be just that…there would be no hidden agenda (like pushing her own product line).