Specifically, being an acne-having adult is hard!
Lately, I’ve been going through a real upheaval with my skin. When I moved to the USA, it was really cold (for me, anyway) and my skin dried out and broke out. For some reason that happens. I don’t know. Anyway, I got that under control with some Tarte Maracuja oil and the Hada Labo skin plumping gel creme and things settled for awhile, at least to the “normal” level which for me is 1-2 active pimples at all times, and during hormonal times I get some huge, cystic, painful ones. That’s kind of my “norm”. Every night I’d get a little dab of my trusty Malin + Goetz or Kate Somerville acne treatment out and hope by the morning they’d be gone. Sometimes they were (or reduced anyway), sometimes they weren’t.
Here’s the thing though. I had a relatively complex routine, full of products that were probably doing too much to my skin. I wasn’t scrubbing at it but I was probably still overexfoliating, meaning that my skin wasn’t getting a chance to repair its own barrier. Here’s what I was doing:
Yes to Grapefruit “brightening” face wipes (what was I THINKING?!)
REN ClariMatte Clarifying Toner
Sunday Riley Good Genes treatment
REN ClariMatte gel-cream moisturiser
[primer, makeup if wearing]
Nude Skincare Perfect Skin Cleansing Jelly (to remove makeup, removed with a washcloth)
Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip cleanser to remove remnants of above
Paula’s Choice BHA liquid
Sunday Riley Artemis Oil
REN Bio-retinoid Anti-Ageing cream
Kate Somerville Acne Treatment (dotted onto active blemishes)
I’ve definitely seen more complex routines of course, but the problem here was that I was doing all these things every day. Something had to change.
The turning point (albeit a slow turn, I mean this was like a frickin’ aircraft carrier trying to do a 180 I’m telling you guys) came when I started taking Biotin a few weeks ago. I heard it could do amazing things for my hair, skin and nails so I gave it a go, at a fairly low dose. I broke out basically immediately, which I knew was a risk. The breakout was awful! Painful cystic pimples and quite a lot of them – at the worst point I had 5. They wouldn’t go away, even after I stopped taking it (though they did stop appearing in such a bad form at that point).
I redoubled my efforts to get rid of the pimples. Of course, that just made them worse. My face was sore and everything was terrible. It lasted for quite a long time.
I had a huge whinge online to some of my like-minded (makeup/beauty obsessed friends) and they made some excellent suggestions. The first was about a service called PocketDerm which is available in the USA. Basically it’s an online dermatologist for acne sufferers (and anti-ageing needs), you pay $20 a month, upload some photographs and information about your skin needs and a dermatologist creates a special cream with active prescription ingredients based on your needs. You also get an online “consult” with the derm (like emails) and the $20 includes shipping the product every 90 days.
To be honest, it seemed a little too good to be true. All the testimonials on the site were, of course, glowing, so I did my own research. I was at first put off by how many people seemed to have referral codes (and therefore perhaps had less than trustworthy opinions) but I then realised that if you sign up, no matter who you are, you get a code to refer people. They get a free month, and you get $10 off. Sweet! There were pros and cons, the reviews seemed objective and fair but still mostly very positive. I also discovered that there appears to be a very low number of people who DON’T continue the service after their one free month. This was encouraging! I signed up after discussing it with my husband (turns out we can use his HSA towards it!) and within about 14 hours (ie, early the next morning) the doctor had made up my prescription and sent me a very personalized, informative email about my prescription and my skin. It was AWESOME. It was shipped out a few hours later. Unbelievably fast turnaround. My doctor also called in a prescription for spironolactone, which is an anti-androgen hormone drug that is used to lower blood pressure (it’s a mild diuretic) but is also wonderful for acne treatment – he described it as ‘turning off the tap’ of oil production. I picked it up from CVS that day and started taking it immediately.
In the meantime as I waited for my prescription cream, I overhauled my skincare collection, again on the advice of my dollies. I started going through my collection and checking products on CosDNA for irritants and comedogenics (pore blockers basically) and I was absolutely astounded at what I found. Lots of products from “trusted” brands (turns out that more $ doesn’t necessarily mean better for my skin! Who knew!) had ingredients in them that, while helpful for others, were not a good idea for me. So I put those aside in a box marked “irritants”. I am not going to tell you that my skin sorted itself out overnight. But things did start to calm themselves down. A little.
I got rid of the towel-material cloths I’d been using to remove my makeup and had my lovely mother-in-law make me up some muslin cloth wipes. Muslin cloth here isn’t so much cheesecloth as it is a very soft, unbleached loose-weave brushed cotton. They’re so nice. My MIL sewed them into a double layer and stitched diagonal lines to keep the sides together. They’re perfect. I also had her make me up some super luxe 4-thickness ones!
I stopped using Good Genes every day. The good news about this is that it’ll make this exorbitantly priced product last a little longer. I don’t feel that my skin is worse off without it – in fact it’s probably better off, every day was too much I feel. I am now just using it when I feel like I need it.
I switched the BHA out for an AHA – just to see what would happen. AHAs are meant to be better for dry skin, BHAs for oily/combo skin but wouldn’t you know it, the AHA felt really nice on my skin and definitely calmed down some redness.
About this time, my prescription arrived.
By this time, the spironolactone was really doing its job and I felt MUCH less oily by the end of each day. It was kind of miraculous. The cream came in a really nice pump package and it smells very “normal” – no strong scent at all, and it spreads easily. 2 pumps is plenty for my whole face. It’s very comfortable, though when it sinks in it does need a little bit more moisturizing. I got a sample of the Sunday Riley Luna Oil so I’ve been using that, but I really dislike the smell and didn’t find it to be anything phenomenal in terms of changes in my skin so I won’t be purchasing that at this exact point in time.
I’m going to try adding the Artemis back in in its place, and see if I react to that. Even though it’s meant to be good for oily/combo skin, it’s possible that it was one of the things I was reacting to. I hope not, it was expensive!
As for the results? My skin looks and feels astonishingly better. I have NO, I repeat, NO, ZERO, ZILCH active pimples currently. The ones that I had are still red marks but the cream is helping with that I feel.
Who knows how much each change I made has contributed to the current state of my skin? Alls I know is, my skin is better right now, after 2 weeks of change, than it has been in a long time.
I don’t want to post progress pictures at the moment. It’s only been a couple of weeks. I’ve taken them, don’t get me wrong, but I just don’t want to post them right now.
That time will come. I promise!
So my current routine at the moment is thus:
SR Ceramic Slip cleanser
Moisturizer (trialling a couple at the moment – a Peter Thomas Roth one and a First Aid Beauty one)
Nude Skincare Perfect Skin Cleansing Jelly (removed with a warm, soft muslin cloth)
Origins Checks & Balances Frothy Face Wash (trialling, low-irritant ingredients, seems nice!)
Paula’s Choice AHA 8% Gel
PocketDerm Prescription Cream
SR Luna Oil
Stick with me here. I’m gonna keep you guys up to date don’t you worry. Whether you like it or not!Thanks for reading.