What is truly the bane of all banes is my acne. It was that first fateful zit that sent me into the cosmetic coma that I am still suffering from (and clearly now blogging about). I still have a scar on the middle of my nose that I can attribute to a thousand incidences picking that zit.
I get zits everywhere, face, neck, chest, back. I am even fortunate enough to be extremely prone to their cousin, the ingrown, wherever body hair may grow (so prone that I paid for laser hair removal on my bikini line, and am at least free forever in that zone).
I have had times when they get horrible, times when I get almost clear. But for 9 years I have not been without a single one. So you can imagine the amount of bogus treatments I have tried (all astringents, let me say this, I despise you) and the amount of myths I have heard. Here is my definitive list of all the things you and I need to stop in order to get clear:
- The classic: STOP PICKING! Oh I know, it is my #1 beauty sin that for some reason is to this day a compulsive sickness of mine. The only thing that stops me is having a full face of makeup on, because I fear ruining it. Other than that, there is truly nothing on earth that will control my wily fingers. Tell me, if there is a home hypnosis product that can make me stop.
- Overusing drying stuff. Alchohols, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, AHA's, toners, highly foaming cleansers, lack of moisturizer, prescription acne treatments, bogus acne "systems", clay masks, sulfur. All things that I and any other acne sufferer have employed in great amounts. For so long I refused to give up on this method of acne treatment that to this day, 3 years later, my skin is still suffering the after effects. What these types of products do is temporarily relieve acne which makes you think that the effects will be cumulative. But what they actually do is strip skin's natural protective acid mantle (sebum, what we most definitely suffer in excess) which actually CAUSES more zits in the future because it "tells" the skin it needs to produce more oil to protect itself. STOPPP!
- Not considering skin's sensitivity when exfoliating. Overexfoliating or underexfoliating is one of the toughest balances to pinpoint, but believe you me, it's necessary. The only thing I can recomend is to watch you There was a time when my skin was normal except for all the zits. But after years and years of all of the previously mentioned treatments on top of all the over exfoliation I would employ manually has led me to crocodile territory. At this point my skin's natural cell-turnover and oil regulation is so wonky that I am completely dependent on harsh scrubs and drying washes to get it looking somewhere close to normal. If I skip even a day of vigorous manual scrubbing, I wake up to a horribly rough texture, full with hard comedones, especially across my forehead and a reflector shield instead of a complexion. I have tried for the past few months to go the more gentle route, which I still recomend for almost anyone else, but it has for me returned the face of being 14 -translation-COVERED in zits. Cysts, whiteheads, blackheads, hard comedones, pustules and scars galore. But if you like me, have permanently destroyed your own face, break out the at home microdermabrasion scrubs.
- Not moisturizing enough. It sounds counter-intuitive but I am telling you right now, Creme De La Mer was the second most effective acne treatment I have ever tried. How, because after the first month of crazy mad inflamed cysts, my skin started to get this...calm down.... No joke, applying such a heavy heavy cream, day after day, taught my crazy skin to regulate some of it's own production. Skin is a living organ, it is responsive to any treatment you give it. I swear to you hand on heart, to this day, more than a year after my bank account discontinued my use (no not me, my bank account did) my skin is still 25% less oily than it was. That's 25% less reflector shield. That needs to be celebrated, because I promise you my hormonal production and teenage insanity is no less than it was two or three years ago, it's just chanelled into obsessions that aren't boys and parties now.
- The sun. There it is again, aging's #1 culprit is also not good for those suffering from acne. Yes, dipping in salty sea waters and baking in the sun can feel incredibly relaxing (and we all know that stress causes EVERYTHING, but especially acne) and provides temporary relief. But guess what, the sun also dries skin. And as we saw above, drying the skin temporarily will only tell it to produce more in the end.
- Germs, bacteria. The icky grossies. Yes you get them from touching and picking the face (I know I KNOW) but there are also a 10001 other sources in life. Pillowcases that go more than a week withut laundering. Makeup brushes that are not regularly cleaned. Bacteria in cosmetics themselves (pot creams are the worst for this, ALWAYS wash hands before using one). Dirty phones and cell phones. Greasy hair products. And I don't think I should have to tell you to wash your hands (and get underneath the nails) each and every time you go to the bathroom or use your hands for any other icky tasks (washing frying pans...remember your gloves). Eliminate these and any other unhygenic practices you can think of and I can promise you a difference.
- Comedogenic cosmetics. Here is when I get contentious. There are certain ingredients that CONSISTENTLY make me break out. And there are some that never do. You will be amazed that my list is opposite of everyone else's. Mineral makeup always makes me break out. Everytime (but boy am I addicted to the glow). What doesn't, is what everybody else blames, heavy petroleum and oil based balms and creams (my skin LOVES these). Silicones, yes in primers and almost everything else. They have such an anti-inflammatory action. Anti-aging products (actually I have found most anti-aging creams and serums to HELP with my acne, go figure). The moral of the story, everyone's skin is different. In the lifelong battle with teenage and adult acne, one cannot simply buy a kit and hope for salvation. Each and every step of the way must be carefully monitored and controlled, with each change in season, climate, age, prescription medicine, etc etc, the skincare routine must be tweaked.
Image courtesy of nataliedee.com