I Got Completely Schooled on My Skin Problems — And You Should, Too



You know when you’re talking to someone, and they could be looking into your eyes like people tend to do during conversation or they could be looking at the giant pimple above your eyebrow? Well, during just about every conversation I’ve had in the past few months, I’ve been convinced that whomever I was talking to was staring at a pimple somewhere on my face. I’ve even blurted out “Stop looking at my pimple!” mid-conversation, like an insane person you might run into on the subway. Skin problems can make you crazy, people.

And trust me, I have tried just about everything I could think of to combat the war taking place on my face: I gave up dairy, I worked skin-friendly foods into my diet, I spent a good chunk of my savings on face masks with ingredients like charcoal and mud during desperate trips to Sephora, and the list goes on and on. Still, the pimples persisted.

So when I tell you that I didn’t wear a drop of foundation or concealer to work today, that really means something. And I owe it all to the consultation I had with About Face Skin Care owner Naomi Fenlin. Two weeks ago, I walked into About Face for a consultation to see if we could finally (finally!) figure out how to control my acne. And, knock on wood, Fenlin — a medical aesthetician who got into the world of aesthetics to try and tackle her daughter’s years-long struggle with problem skin — figured it out. 

When I got to About Face, at 10th and Chestnut street, I filled out some forms with questions like, What kind of skin products are you using? What types of medicine are you on? — that kind of thing. Then, Becky, Fenlin’s daughter who runs About Face with her, led me to a room to wash my face.

Next, Becky snapped some photos of my skin using the Visia machine which captures images of your skin and compares your brown spots, wrinkles, texture, pores, UV spots, and more against other people your age with the same skin type. Basically, it’s a standardized test for your skin. I was not anxious to see my results.

After taking the photos, I went back to the patient room where I’d washed my face earlier, and a few minutes later, Fenlin came in and asked me why I was there. I told her the problems I’d been having for about the past year — So. Many. Pimples. No clue why — and she asked me if I knew where a pimple came from. Stress? I guessed. She shook her head. Dirt in your pores? Nope. Then, I kid you not, she busted out a piece of paper and a pen and gave me an Acne 101 class complete with visuals. And it clearly wasn’t her first time teaching this lesson.

When I tell you I learned more about how my skin works in that hour than I have ever learned in my life, I am not exaggerating. To condense our hour-long lesson into a few words, everything you think you know about acne is probably wrong. For one, it has nothing to do with your pores being dirty. Nothing. Your pores are clogged, but that’s simply because they aren’t working properly. And because I’m just not as brilliant a professor as Fenlin, I’ll leave the rest of the skin-schooling up to her.

What I will say is, by the end of the conversation, I’d learned that, for one, the fancy-shmancy oil face wash I was using was a giant mistake. Two, I really need to wear more sunscreen: I scored in the teens (so failed) in all of the sun-damage related areas on my Visia images. And three, I finally, after a good 10 years of using acne products with salicylic acid in them, learned how it actually works. (As Fenlin explained, it basically power-washes your pores.)

That last point is why the consultation with Fenlin was so great: She broke down what was going on with my skin in extreme detail, told me how we were going to fix the problems (with her Porification line of About Face Skin Care products to start) then explained to me what was in those products and how each ingredient worked its magic. She told me to wash my face religiously morning and night, to eat healthy and steer clear of foods with added hormones (skin problems are pretty much always hormonal in some way, shape or form) and sent me on my way. I literally walked out of her office shouting “I feel so empowered with knowledge!” Embarrassing? Maybe. But also a rave review, I’d say.

And the best part? You can get schooled on your skin problems, too, and it won’t cost you a dime. All of About Face’s first-time consultations are an hour long (you need plenty of time for Acne 101 lessons) and free. Awesome, right?

But do note, if you’re the kind of person who who lives by the “I only put things on my face that I would also put in mouth” rule, Fenlin’s products might not be your cup of tea: They’re strong and loaded with ingredients like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and benzoyl peroxide. But I repeat, I did not wear any foundation to work today — so, in my case, they’re working.

And psst: If you don’t need a skin fix but would still like to load up on Fenlin’s skin care know-how, you can catch her talking about how to have the best skin possible at any age at this year’s Be Well Philly Boot Camp coming up June 6th.

Like what you’re reading? Stay in touch with Be Well Philly—here’s how: