My Skincare Routine: How to Get Rid of Acne
Two years ago, I would have shuddered at the word “skin,” and proceeded to curl up into fetal position, crying and hyperventilating. My skin was my worst enemy, for no one in my life had wronged me in the ways my own body, hormones, and epithelium had. Far too often people forget just how much of an impact someone’s skin has on his/her self esteem, and since 7th or 8th grade (I try to forget about those times so I’m not totally sure, but that’s besides the point) all the way up ’till last year, I had the worst relationship with my skin, and it undoubtedly took its toll on my confidence as a teenager. If you didn’t find me desperately googling “how to get rid of acne,” you would have found me running my hands over my face for hours in front of a bathroom mirror with tears welling up in my eyes, questioning the world’s forces about what I had done to deserve this. My own mother had become accustomed to my daily emotional outbursts and bawling after another supplement, cream, facial mask, medication, or whatever the hell else you can think of had not worked. After losing the battle to my skin externally, I decided to try treating myself internally, turning to every diet fad known to mankind, eliminating a bajillion foods, and even taking natural supplements to “balance out” my hormones. It took me years to find what worked for me, what didn’t, and once I had, it took about 1-2 full years for my skin to heal. I’ve been wanting to post a skincare routine since this blog’s inception, but believe me, it took a lot of time for my emotional and mental scars to heal along with my external ones, and I knew I’d want to give you guys a full-on, raw look into my skin journey and I simply didn’t feel ready to put it up for the whole world to see until now.
WARNING: Really long rambling ahead…feel free to skip straight to the products!
Looking back, I also never realized just how badly my wallet (and my mom’s) had suffered from my skin. Just a few weeks ago, as I was cleaning out my room and bathroom, I found so many creams, cleansers, serums, etc. that cost way more than they should have, and threw them all out with a sigh of relief. I’m fully aware that these products might’ve worked for some people, but I gave them more than a fair shot and they let me down, one after another. We spent money on “deep cleansing” facials at spas that only left my skin more sensitive than before, and I’d be really hesitant of letting another person touch my face again after that. I even tried doing absolutely nothing to my face, also known as the “caveman regimen,” thinking “hey, maybe if I stop using all these chemicals on my face and only wash my face with [insert some oil] and water, that will help!” Stupidly, I tried it, and it did not work at all, and in fact, it made my skin a thousand times worse. I remember feeling pretty hopeless at this point, convinced I’d have acne for the rest of my life.
Just to give you guys an idea of how crappy my skin actually was, so you don’t think I’m just complaining about a small breakout here and there, I’ve posted photos below comparing my skin from around two years ago to how it looked this morning (both are completely unretouched with no makeup on and no filter).
And there ya go, haha. By the way, this was all over my face, not just my cheeks. My nose might have been the only place where acne spared me. And for people reading this who knew me in person back then, makeup is a beautiful thing…remember that.
Speaking of makeup, don’t even get me started on how much money I shelled out on makeup, thinking “maybe it’s a product I’m using that’s causing this” I tried high-end brands, drug store brands, “all-natural-ingredients” brands, you name it. And yes, I tried going makeup-free during the summer months too. Eventually I realized it had nothing to do with makeup. In fact, if anything, makeup was the only thing keeping me sane, and soon became my escape. And for people claiming you don’t need makeup to be confident, just remember, someone like me did. It gave me confidence when my natural skin could not, it reminded me that I was beautiful even though my skin was not at the moment. Even today, although I wear less than I used to on my face, doing my makeup is one of the most relaxing, stress-relieving things for me. I love starting off every morning by being creative and letting my more artistic side take over. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying makeup is necessary to feel beautiful. Props to you if you almost never wear it and feel totally confident doing so, but don’t push aside the people that want to feel the same way you do, only in a different form. I love going out without makeup on my skin in the summer, and can feel confident doing so, but don’t shame me for wearing a full face of makeup some days either.
I’m getting sidetracked. Returning to my skin: so after years of endless tears, frustration, and anger at the world, what was it that finally got me to where I am today? Well, there was definitely not just “one miracle” that saved my skin. As complicated as it was figuring out what caused my breakouts (which I still don’t entirely know the answer to today), it was just as complicated trying to find a routine that worked for me and solved my skin problems. But here are the most important things I’ve learned throughout the experience/nightmare:
- Stop touching/picking/stroking/popping your face!!!!! This is undoubtedly the most important thing that changed my skin more than I can say. Throw out that over-magnified mirror and blackhead extractor and stop touching/examining every millimeter of your face. You’re only irritating your skin more by popping every bump or picking every scab you see, and spreading a bunch of nasty germs all over your face. I swear, even today, if I’m subconsciously touching my face while I’m on my laptop or resting my head on my palms, I break out in those spots the next day. It takes a ton of discipline and it can feel impossible when you first try but it really does make a world of a difference.
- Stop freaking out. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point, but stressing out over your skin can make you more prone to touching it and over-inspecting it. Try to take your mind off it and distract yourself with something else. Starting a blog, for example, has kept me super busy this summer and I’m much less likely to touch my face or even think about my skin when I’m out doing/working on something I love. And if you’re in college like me, just remember not to take out your emotions on your skin and relax.
- Do not over-cleanse or over-exfoliate your face. For a while, I had a bad habit of thinking that the more I scrubbed my skin, or the more face masks I used, the more “dirt” I’d be getting off my skin. It actually ended up doing more harm than good, as it was causing my skin to over-produce oil to replace what I had stripped off, causing more acne. Now, I only exfoliate once or twice a week with a face peel as my skin is still prone to being super sensitive. I will link my favorite face peel below!
- There is no such thing as a universally effective product. Not only did this help me regain some hope, but it really saved my wallet. Those expensive, high-end products that a lot of people swear by are not guaranteed to work on your skin too. Half the time you can find a cheaper product with almost the same ingredients anyway.
- The one you hear all the time: exercise, eat healthy, & drink that water! I make it a point to regularly exercise, and while I’m not always 100% healthy, I do try to stay away from really fatty, greasy, or sugary foods that only make my skin appear dull and lifeless. And most importantly, I never drank enough water throughout the years I had severe acne, which definitely did not help with my skin’s appearance. Today, my biggest skin problem is dryness and sometimes dark circles under my eyes, but drinking water definitely helps keep my skin hydrated and plump.
Now, for the products, which I do credit a lot of my skin’s progress to. Here’s my morning routine:
Okay, I definitely don’t use the mini peel shown above everyday, I just wanted to include it because when I do use it once or twice a week, I use it in the morning after I wash my face. It’s Alba Botanica Good and Clean Pore Purifying Mini Peel and it smells like every citrus fruit in existence and does an awesome job at taking off any dry skin or dirt. It really makes my pores feel squeaky clean. I start every day off by washing my face with coconut oil and cool water in the shower, since my skin doesn’t have much dirt in it after sleeping all night, and the coconut oil really helps to hydrate my skin. I’m a huge fan of coconut oil– it’s so useful in so many different things. Next, I use my Kiehl’s Calendula Herbal Extract Toner which was recommended to me by one of the workers at the store. Having super sensitive skin means I deal with a lot of redness, which this product does a fantastic job at soothing. It also helps that it’s alcohol-free, so it won’t dry your skin out. I’m almost out of it and I will most likely be repurchasing it. Next, I put on my day serum, the Lanoline Manuka Honey Skin Renew Firming Serum. I put it on all over my face with my hands. I have recently become a huge fan of Manuka Honey, and it’s done amazing things for my skin (you’ll see I mention it again later). This serum works great underneath my makeup, always leaving my skin super smooth and even. And lastly, because I have a lot of dryness under my eyes lately (which can probably be traced back to my awful sunburn a few weeks ago), I use this Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment which comes in both a small size and a bigger size, like most of their products. I use this product twice a day, and I’m obsessed with how incredibly rich and hydrating it feels under my eyes. This also helps me have a nice base underneath my concealer throughout the day.
Moving onto my nightly routine, the more “intense” one:
Alright, this is most definitely the most important part of my routine, as your skin really absorbs all these products and regenerates throughout the night. Unfortunately, my eyes are and always have been super sensitive (honestly what isn’t sensitive on my face though) and every other makeup remover has been waaay too harsh on them, leaving them inflamed, red, and burning. Kiehl’s Extremely Gentle Eye Makeup Remover is the first one I’ve found that doesn’t do any of those things, and at the same time does a good job at taking off stubborn eyeliner and mascara. Next, is my holy grail and the one product that has done more for my acne than anything else I’ve ever tried. It’s a prescription cleanser, which I’ve actually heard rumors about being discontinued (of course, the one thing that works for me gets discontinued) but regardless, you can probably get a generic brand with the same ingredients, which is probably what I’m going to do once I run out. Plexion is made of 9.8% sodium sulfacetamide and 4.8% sulfur. Do consult your dermatologist before using it. This bottle’s really beat up as you can tell, but that proves I’ve used the hell out of it and that it actually works on me. I use this every day as I do get a few tiny bumps here and there. All you need is a nickel-size dollop on wet skin and wash it into your face in circular motions for 10-15 seconds. It’s been my saving grace and has helped me keep breakouts under control for over a year now. And best of all, it doesn’t dry out my face like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid did.
After cleansing my face, I use T.N. Dickinson’s Witch Hazel as a toner to soothe my face. It works wonders when it comes to getting rid of redness or inflamed areas on the skin. I then apply Cosmedica’s Hyaluronic Acid Serum which I’ve recently discovered and adore. Truly, I’ve never felt anything like it on my skin. Hyaluronic acid has been trending a lot, and very rightly so. The moment I spread it on my face, my skin feels incredibly plump and hydrated. But it’s absolutely necessary to moisturize after using this product, as a moisturizer helps lock-in that hydration in your skin. My favorite moisturizer is the Dr. Organic Manuka Honey Rescue Cream which smells really good and has evened out my skin tone so much overtime. I’m on my second jar! And lastly, I put on my favorite eye cream again underneath my eyes to make sure I wake up without dark circles or dry eyes.
If you read all of that, I’m extremely impressed. I hope that sharing this with you guys helped in some way, whether it be with your own skin or at least giving you some form of hope. Just know that it is possible to have a good relationship with your skin, no matter what it’s put you through.