The new year comes full of promise: This year, we’re going to clean out our cabinets. Eat clean. Sleep better. Exercise daily. And, for 64% of us, those new year’s resolutions last about a month (source).
But when it comes to our skin, those healthier decisions don’t always result in better skin. In fact, for many of us, a month of a “detox” can result in redness, breakouts, dryness (or conversely, oiliness), and dull or tired-looking skin. What gives?
It turns out it’s not all in our heads. The Herxheimer reaction is a real reaction that occurs when your body rapidly destroys “bad” bacteria. The “bad” bacteria release endotoxins into your bloodstream, which in turn results in an acute inflammatory response from your body (source). This can be responsible for the redness, breakouts, dryness (or oiliness), and dull or tired-looking skin.
Which Skincare Products Do You Use During a Herxheimer Reaction?
The Herxheimer reaction itself is temporary, lasting only a few days (source). However, the lingering effects on the skin from the inflammation and resulting hormonal response can last up to a month.
During that month, I recommend two things: Heal and protect. (Whereas I am normally about nourishing and rejuvenating and healing and protecting, here, I am about just taking down the inflammation and keeping your skin from further inflammation).
Heal your skin with gentle agents. If your skin is more dry than normal, heal depending on your budget. If you prefer drugstore, add a colloidal oatmeal moisturizer like Thena Redness Relief Cream. Colloidal oatmeal is known for soothing and calming the skin, as studies have shown it improves barrier function, cleanses, soothes, and even contains soothing antioxidant vitamin E (Cosmetic Dermatology supplement, 2008).
On the other hand, if you have a more sizable budget, I love Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Moisturizer, which contains hydrators in the form of cholesterol, fatty acids, and ceramides. I used it all throughout my pregnancy (from which I had really dry skin as a result of all of the hormones), and it kept my skin feeling supple and smooth. The lipids it contains are an important part of your skin’s ability to retain moisture and to keep bacteria out that can lead to inflammation, breakouts, and infection (Cosmetic Dermatology), which is especially important during periods of detox.
It’s also vital that you keep your skin protected. The last thing you want to do is inflame your skin with UV damage while you’re detoxing! I of course recommend a vitamin CE serum, as well as sunscreen with a SPF of at least 50 daily.
When you’re detoxing, the last thing you want to do is bombard your skin with a ton of strong acids, exfoliants, or retinoids. If your skin is red, inflamed, unusually dry/oily, or breaking out as a result of a new diet, think about healing and protecting. I like either a colloidal oatmeal or triple lipid moisturizer for healing, as well as accelerating protection with a vitamin CE serum coupled with a sunscreen.
Got questions? Let me know at nicki[at]futurederm[dot]com