Eas­ing skin con­di­tions

Es­theti­cian’s pas­sion is help­ing adults, teens learn to live acne-free.

Austin American-Statesman - - LIFE & STYLE - By Ni­cole Vil­lal­pando nvil­lal­pando@states­man.com

When Alissa Chasen was in sales for car­di­ol­ogy and di­a­betes phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, she would not have pic­tured her ca­reer be­com­ing all about acne. Ten years ago, the owner of Sk­in­Fit Austin says, she be­gan to fo­cus on her own skin when she got skin can­cer at age 31. Later she had a daugh­ter, and she be­gan see­ing cys­tic acne on her face that wouldn’t go away.

She was frus­trated, and when her daugh­ter started kinder­garten, she went to es­theti­cian school.

About a year and a half ago, Chasen started Sk­in­Fit Austin, a prac­tice that fo­cuses on acne in teens and adults.

The cys­tic acne that she was see­ing on her face is highly ge­netic, she says, and is caused when one pore gets blocked and forms a cyst un­der the skin that in­flames 10 to 20 neigh­bor­ing pores as well. The pores then be­come con­fused as to which pore the cyst be­longs to, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to treat. When the cyst fi­nally nat­u­rally works its way out, per­ma­nent scar­ring or de­pres­sions can re­main.

Chasen’s clients tend to be girls and boys start­ing at age 11, through their teen years. She sees women coming to her in their 30s to about 55 when hor­mones are chang­ing again be­cause of preg­nan­cies and per­i­menopause. Some of her male clients in their 20s to 40s are tak­ing med­i­ca­tions to treat low testos­terone, and those treat­ments are caus­ing hor­monal changes that wel­come acne.

Some der­ma­tol­o­gists have started re­fer­ring clients to her, she says, when those clients don’t want to take an oral med­i­ca­tion for acne or what they sug­gested for treat­ment isn’t work­ing.

Chasen asks her new clients to bring in ev­ery­thing they use on their face, in­clud­ing makeup, sun­screen, cleansers and mois­tur­iz­ers. Many acne prod­ucts are fine for peo­ple with nor­mal acne, but Chasen says they can ac­tu­ally pro­mote acne in peo­ple with cys­tic acne. Once Chasen eval­u­ates the client’s prod­ucts, she’ll keep the ones that work and sup­ple­ment with oth­ers from her line.

Chasen also goes through foods that tend to cause acne. The No. 1 of­fender is sushi. The sea­weed has a lot of io­dine, a known acne pro­moter, in it. Chasen rec­om­mends clients limit their salt in­take and switch to sea salt or uniodized salt. Also on her list of bad foods: cheese and milk from cows; peanut but­ter; peanut, corn and canola oil; whey and soy shakes; and shell­fish.

She rec­om­mends adding in sup­ple­ments zinc monome­thio­n­ine, omega 3 fish oils and pro­bi­otics.

For women, Chasen also con­sults on which birth con­trol meth­ods can worsen acne. She also ed­u­cates clients not to pick at their skin or pop pim­ples.

Next, Chasen look at a clilent’s skin un­der a lighted mag­ni­fy­ing glass. She feels the skin to see what type of acne is present. She’ll then give a light chem­i­cal peel and try to ex­tract cysts.

Chasen then sets the client’s morn­ing and evening cleans­ing rou­tine for the next two weeks. In the morn­ing, the client will use a cleanser, then ice their face for two min­utes. Chasen sug­gests fill­ing a pa­per cup with ice and ap­ply­ing it to the face to take down the swelling. The client then ap­plies a serum to ex­fo­li­ate the skin. The fi­nal step is a sun­screen that won’t clog the pores.

At night, the client will re­move any makeup, then use a cleanser. Af­ter ic­ing their face for two min­utes, they ap­ply a ben­zoyl per­ox­ide for var­i­ous amounts of time, start­ing at 15 min­utes and work­ing their way up to overnight.

Chasen says the face must get used to the ben­zoyl per­ox­ide be­cause it’s too strong to do overnight the first night. Once a client gets used to a par­tic­u­lar strength of ben­zoyl per­ox­ide, Chasen will in­crease the strength for the next two weeks un­til she finds the right per­cent­age for the client to achieve an acne-free face. Chasen says she has to con­tin­u­ally trick the skin to avoid it be­com­ing re­sis­tant to the treat­ment.

“We’re try­ing to nor­mal­ize skin,” she says. For clients with very oily skin she works on get­ting the skin in a nor­mal range, not too oily, not too dry.

She also makes pow­der foun­da­tion suited for each client to avoid makeup that can pro­mote acne.

Once the client’s skin has cleared — usu­ally two weeks to three months — Chasen holds a grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony, gives them a T-shirt and a pro­gram to main­tain clear skin.

Clients, she says, usu­ally come back only when they’ve fallen off the wagon — ei­ther they’ve been eat­ing too much salt or dairy or they haven’t main­tained the clean­ing rit­ual.

Chasen’s treat­ments aren’t for ev­ery­one, she says. Some peo­ple would rather take an oral medicine to get rid of their acne; she refers them to a der­ma­tol­o­gist, she says. Of­ten, though, der­ma­tol­o­gists re­fer pa­tients to her when they don’t want to take the oral med­i­ca­tions or the med­i­ca­tions aren’t work­ing for them.

Chasen can see clients’ self-es­teem im­prove once their faces are ac­ne­free. They are look­ing in the mir­ror again, Chasen says, and mak­ing eye con­tact. Some clients even have been able to get new jobs be­cause they feel bet­ter about them­selves.

“It’s a really grat­i­fy­ing pro­fes­sion I’m in,” she says.

Chasen charges $125 for the ini­tial 90-minute con­sul­ta­tion and $75 for fol­lowup vis­its. Clients also pay for prod­ucts, which range in price from $16 to $49, but if they bring in prod­ucts that are not acne-pro­mot­ing, they also can use those.

Alissa Chasen is the owner of Sk­in­Fit Austin. The skin can­cer sur­vivor treats acne in adults and teens. RODOLfO GON­zA­LEz / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

RODOLFO GON­ZA­LEZ phO­tOs / AMER­I­CAN-stAtEs­MAN

Alissa Chasen, es­theti­cian and owner of Sk­in­Fit Austin, works with Sherry Heri.

Chasen warns the treat­ments at Sk­in­Fit Austin may not be suit­able for ev­ery­one.

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