When blemishes first started popping up, of course I was terrified. I had no idea what I was doing wrong, or why they were multiplying so fast. For years, I would try anything and everything--benzoyl peroxide? Grabbed that (and sometimes I feel like benzoyl did a bit of bleaching on my skin...is that even possible?). Tea tree oil cleansers and toners? Tried that. Salicylic acid facial washes? Tough luck, try again. Eventually, I just got so used to blemishes popping up that I didn't even care anymore, which is probably one of the worst things a person can feel--helplessness against a ridiculous skin disease and not doing anything about it.
Today I went out of the house to walk the dog without makeup on, and ran into my neighbour. I expressed embarrassment that I had no makeup on, and she was like, "You look fine!" (my face is in redness and breakout mode right now). Morale: there's nothing wrong with having acne (appearance-wise), but sometimes I feel we judge our faces/appearance too harshly, and we feel that society is doing the same, even if they're not. Acne happens--it's common, and almost everyone has a blemish from time to time. Even right now, I'm asking myself, "WHAT IS CLEAR SKIN?!?!?!" Does anyone ever really have clear skin, besides babies?
With that being said, here are some things I learned in my years, skincare wise. (Also, this is going to be a lenghty read, so brace yo'self)
(P.S. Seems silly, but I suppose it is a given...doing a disclaimer and all. OK SO I'M NOT A DERMATOLOGIST, BUT HERE ARE ALL THE THINGS I'VE LEARNED OVER THE YEARS DOING MY ACNE RESEARCH AND FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. THIS GUIDE MAY OR MAY NOT HELP YOU, YES OK. ALSO, I DOUBT THIS WOULD WORK FOR CYSTIC ACNE, BECAUSE THIS IS FOR THE LESS SEVERE ACNE, PROBABLY)
- Do your product research. This seems like a no brainer, but I know I didn't do it when blemishes first started popping up back in the day. If a moisturizer claimed that it was good for skin with active breakouts, I would purchase it in a heartbeat. Blackhead clearing scrub? Grab that too. Grapefruit facial wash with salicylic acid? Smells yummy, I'll take that too. I now know I made my skin worse during the initial period, which was probably why I broke out so much. I didn't follow up the salicylic acid washes with moisturizer, which really stripped and aggravated my skin. It didn't help that I was using a low-quality moisturizer. My favourite site for product reviews is MakeupAlley.
- No product is ever a waste of money, even if you've done your research. I know a lot of people complain that they feel like they've wasted money on a product they thought would help clear up their skin, especially after they took time to do product research. I've had that feeling before, but honestly, it's all trial and error. Even if a review says they have the same skin type as you, there's still going to be various degrees in sensitivity and reaction to the product. If a product didn't work out for you, it's not a waste of money, because now you know what ingredients to avoid in the future. I've personally found out that tea tree oil, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide don't work for my skin, all because I've tried them all in different forms (toners, washes, e.g), and god knows I've spent a lot on acne-products.
- Start simple. Instead of trying out salicylic acid facial washes, try a gentler face wash. I personally use Cetaphil's facial cleanser and Simple's face cleansers because they don't dry the skin out, and they are a perfect base for the rest of my skincare routine. When I was using the salicylic acid facial washes, I found it stripped my skin of its natural oils, and my skin was both flaky and oily at the same time (oily because my skin tried to overcompensate for the lost oil).
- Spot treatments are your best friend. Instead of using an acne targeted wash on your entire face, and therefore targeting the non-blemished areas and drying those areas out, use a spot treatment instead. Spot treatments target a zit and help reduce inflammation while treating a spot. My personal favourites are Origins Out of Trouble and Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque (I talked about them here: Yes I did, heh)
- Moisturize! Whether you have dry skin, oily skin, normal skin, or combination skin, you need to moisturize to balance out the natural oils that your skin produces! Moisturized skin = less wrinkles and fine lines, reduced oil production, and less breakouts. Even if you don't have acne, moisturize to hydrate.
Cassandra can tell you all the benefits of moisturizing. Still lookin' good at several thousand years old, yeah? (Dr Who, anyone?)
- Figure out what made you break out in the first place...and try to avoid it! The best preventative treatment! I know some women break out before their time of the month (I know I do), so I feel like that is unavoidable, unless you decide to be in the pill or regulate your estrogen somehow. There are various reasons why people break out--for example, diet, constant touching of the face (not necessarily hands touching--dirty pillowcases and hair fringes can be culprits), and hereditary reasons. I probably had my first breakout because I started sleeping later than usual, because I had a fringe (oh my god you would NOT believe how much acne was on my forehead it was like a MOUNTAIN RANGE) and because back in the day, I would rest my head on my pillow and hands while watching k-dramas (it was a phase ok :<), resulting in bumps along my jawline. I personally know how hard it is to adhere to these changes...I'm still trying to work on sleeping earlier, even after almost 5 years! I also found this helpful, in what acne in a specific region could correlate to, health and body-wise.
- Experiment! They say it typically takes 6 weeks to know if a skincare product is working for you. If you're going to use a simple facial cleanser, play around with the spot treatments to find out what works for you! There are so many treatments nowadays...and this link will go into more in-depth about that. If you are going higher end, like at a Sephora, ask for samples first! There's no shame in asking for samples (even though I initially did), and asking for samples is better than picking up a product, only to not have it work for you, resulting in you ending up having to (shamefully) return it.
- Acne hyperpigmentation takes 3 months-2 years to fade. Concealer will make the time feel like it's flying by faster...in my opinion. Just let your skin do it's thing...and by thing I mean regenerating cells.
- Invest in quality products. I found a quote recently that said "Avoid Clean and Clear. Sh*t burns like acid", and I could totally personally relate. Again, do your research and find out what the general consensus on a product is. This is your skin we're talking about, so invest wisely in quality products. Remember quality doesn't necessarily mean higher price!
Basically, it's all trial and error in determining what your skin type is, what it reacts to, and what effectively works for your skin. Every person's skin is different, it's important to know your own skin so you can take products into consideration. If a person tells you what you should be doing, e.g. "Drink more water!!!11!!", scoff at them and walk away (I mean, only if you've drank loads of water but had no results, I don't know)(I personally know a friend who drinks practically 500ml a day BUT HER SKIN IS CRYSTAL CLEAR LIKE WHY). What you want to do is build your 'A-team', a group of 'tried and true' products that will rise to the 'occasion'.
Here are the things I've learned makeup wise,
- Choose the right foundation and concealer. Do be on the lookout for foundations and concealers that claim to be 'non-comedogenic' ('non-comedogenic'= won't clog pores...supposedly. So, read reviews first!) or maybe even salicylic acid. Almay has a foundation containing salicylic acid, as well as Neutrogena. If you can get away with wearing just concealer, then do it. If you have perfect skin, but just have random zits, you don't need a full face of foundation! Get a full coverage concealer if you can, so you can even sheer it out to use as a foundation if need be! Some great full coverage concealers I've heard great things about are Make Up For Ever Full Cover Concealer, Kat von D Lock It Tattoo Concealer, and Hard Candy's Glamoflauge.
- No makeup days are the best days. As nice as it is seeing perfect, poreless skin achieved by my daily primer, foundation, and concealer, there needs to be days where your skin takes a break and just 'breathes'. I find the more 'no makeup days' I have, the better condition my skin is in.
I don't get a lot of active breakouts anymore, but I am still struggling with really, really stubborn blackheads that even my Clarisonic can't eradicate. I also have loads of hyperpigmentation left behind (maybe like 75% of my face) that will take time to fade. It's been a long process, but hopefully the end is near for my acne heavy days!
If you've made it to the end of this post, thanks for reading these massive blocks of text! If you also have acne,don't despair, and I hope the end of the acne days is near! In the meantime, I'll leave you with a it of inspiration, courtesy of my favourite dreamboat, Josh Groban.