Hair, Skin, Nails :

Acne Fighting Aesthetician

Nicole Villalpando, Austin American-Statesman

When Allisa 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 aesthetician 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.

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 acne-free. 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.

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(c)2012 Austin American-Statesman, Texas

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