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Skin Salvation

Four Weeks to Perfect Skin

Week 1
I’m having a severe case of the summer skincare blahs. I’ve been traveling throughout the months of May and June, and I’m experiencing that unfortunate combination of dehydration and overactive sebaceous glands that leads time and again to breakouts. I need a fix--and fast! This is where aesthetician Kimberly Yap Tan, of Skin Salvation, comes in to help me out with a little experiment.

Week 2
I’ve been using Kim’s products religiously and exactly as prescribed (yeah, there are specific ways to apply your cleanser, people--like…after shampooing and conditioning in the shower), and I’m pleasantly surprised by the results. Stubborn whiteheads, blackheads, and other imperfections are rapidly fading. Sure, there’s a little dryness, but as Kim has kindly reassured me after a series of frenetic text messages from me to her, this is the “acclimation period.” So I’m on my way.

Week 3
Boo ya, blemishes! The weekend air travel is still going strong, but now I don’t have to pack special zit-zapping kits with me or explain what’s contributing to the bumpiness. No sirree--envious family members and cute boys alike are stopping to take notice. And, no more peeling!

Week 4
OK, screw dermatologists (and I have the before and after pictures from Kim to prove it). I honestly can’t say how long it’s been since my skin has looked this young, radiant, and dewy. I’ve already tossed the passel of expensive products that have crowded my medicine cabinets for too long, to little avail. Four weeks and three facials later, I’m a sworn Skin Salvation disciple who’s here to spread the word to the masses.

This is a story about adult acne. Well, sort of. Since I’m a regular beauty and spa reviewer, you’d think I’d be a veritable compendium of information on how to prevent and quickly annihilate unseemly blemishes, but the truth is that I’ve never stuck to a regimen long enough to see hard and fast results. Despite purchasing scads of pricey, aesthetician-recommended beauty products over the last four years and filling my brain with nifty skincare recommendations from the most touted spas and specialists, I still break out. I still opt for hardcore extractions. I still scrutinize my pores in the mirror and long for my protracted adolescence to end. At least, that’s what I used to do. Then I met Kimberly Yap Tan, who pronounced to me a single magic sentence: “There’s a perfect skincare regimen for everyone.” Say what? Hallelujah, and my heart be still!

It might sound like a tall order for any aesthetician to fill, but Kim has the clients to prove she’s the real deal. A bubbly, petite bundle of energy with the kind of smarts and personality that have earned her a ream of diehard clients and beauty devotees, Kim produces results in her magic atelier, a diminutive but welcoming studio in the heart of the Mission District. While you might quickly find yourself chatting up a storm with Kim, expect some serious knowledge. Her credentials include working at Face Reality Skincare & Acne Clinic in San Leandro and studying under Dr. James E. Fulton, co-creator of Retin A (considered one of the most important products in both acne and anti-aging skincare) and a pioneer in the use of benzoyl peroxide for the treatment of acne.

Unfortunately, as I’ve learned over the years, few aestheticians are actually equipped to treat acne, but at the same time, prescriptions and multiple trips to dermatologists don’t always do the trick, either. Kim’s unique clinical/holistic/absolutely hedonistic approach to beautiful skin stems from an understanding that acne isn’t simply something you get from eating the wrong foods. “Acne can never be cured, but it can be managed,” Kim says. “The acneic hormone in your body will eventually cease to exist, your pores will wear themselves out, and you’ll no longer break out. Problem is, nobody knows when exactly this will happen.”

A visit to Kim begins with examining the ingredients in your haircare, skincare, and body products. “There are a ton of comedogenic, or pore-clogging, ingredients available on the market,” she tells her clients. What’s more—it doesn’t even matter how respected the brand name or how expensive the product—you might still be slathering on potions that serve to create new blemishes rather than heal old ones. Conveniently, Kim furnishes clients with a list of all the troublesome ingredients that tend to abound in the products, so they can identify what might be exacerbating the acne and learn to be persnickety label-readers. “Remember that people who have the acneic gene are more sensitive to what they put into their bodies and onto their skin,” she explains. “Check all your products that can and do touch your skin, especially blemish spot treatments, moisturizers, foundation, blush, hair conditioners, and styling products, to make sure you don’t have any of these pimple-inducing enemies in your toiletry cabinet and/or makeup bag!”

Kim’s approach to skincare is multifold, and stems from her own commitment to continual education and her exploration of various skincare lines (her favorites include clinical-grade line Vivant Pharmaceuticals). Acne clients typically come in every two weeks for a corrective treatment (which may include a chemical peel or other specialized services, depending on what might be appropriate for the occasion), and a preventive homecare day and night regimen with Kim’s private-label products (a cleanser sans any offending ingredients, a salicylic serum for ultra-strength exfoliation, an SPF 30 moisturizer, and a benzoyl peroxide nighttime treatment that doesn’t merely dry up zits but also prevents them) ensures that clients make a commitment to getting clear. “It’s not always easy,” Kim admits, “but if you’re dedicated to reading labels, watching what you eat [for instance, soy and iodides can be pore irritants], and sticking to the regimen, you will see results.”

Kim also makes sure she educates her clients on the typical life cycle of an acne lesion. “Some people come in thinking that their breakout is due to what they ate last night, but it takes one to three months for a lesion to form and show up on the skin’s surface. That new breakout isn’t necessarily from your activities the previous day, but something that went down one to three months ago…so it’ll take about three months to get you clear.” (Well, not always. It took me about four weeks.)

Of course, even if you’re one of the lucky buggers who doesn’t have an issue with breakouts, a visit to Kim isn’t purely clinical. Those of the perfect visages may opt for Kim’s Shilpa facial (named after a close aesthetician friend), a leisurely, toe-curling European facial that includes plenty of hot towels, steam, a foot/hand/arm paraffin treatment and massage, excruciatingly thorough exfoliations, and plenty of soothing salves and masks to calm irritated skin and make your limbs and face soft as butter. Kim also routinely includes a lip, brow, and underarm wax.

“Massage and waxing, I think, are instrumental to the facial experience,” she asserts. “I don’t want it to be purely clinical--people come in here to relax and to feel beautiful, and that’s what I strive to give them.” And for acne sufferers who detest the idea of purely clinical, zit-popping sessions, there’s no need to worry--even the most banal visit becomes an indulgence at Skin Salvation…especially when you stick to Kim’s regimen long enough to see the results.