When you’re hitting the big three oh and you still feel like a teenager – zits and all.
Apologies for the super lengthy post, but I hereby promise to disclose all I know about acne-prone skin and how to avoid those darn adult breakouts. I wrote this about a year ago, just before turning 30. It’s all still true a year later. Currently failing at all of this, so it’s a good reminder all round.
After my first pregnancy and a two year breastfeeding journey with my son, my first period (that started literally a week after weaning him) hit me like a freight train. I was a complete mess. It reminded me of way back when I had my very first period as a teenage girl, with moods all over the place and not knowing quite how to deal with it all. It was a learning curve all over again after almost three years of no periods and took about three cycles for things to start settling into a new sort of natural rhythm where I’m the one in control (at least, I hope that’s what’s happened haha!). I remember waking one morning with a zit resembling the size and shape of Lion’s Head on my nose and it only took my hubby noticing it before I was in the bathroom in tears. I had a full on mini-emotional-breakdown, hubby holding me while I sobbed, exclaiming that “I AM TURNING 30 AND I STILL LOOK LIKE A FREAKING TEENAGER!”. Of course, him replying “surely that’s a good thing?” did not help, no.
I’ve struggled with oily, acne-prone skin for most of my young adult life and only recently managed to sort-of get a grip on how to keep it under control for the most time. Getting to the point where I have mostly clear skin today was the result of years of dermatologist visits, medical prescriptions, research, wasted money on skincare products and trial-and-error. I was on RoAccutane twice before finishing High School and vividly remember how embarrassing and crushing it was for my teenage self-confidence levels. It has taken me about 15 years to figure this out and yes, I guess you’d think that being 30 does help having less acne… well not so for me. As soon as I stray from what I’ve been doing, it all goes south for my breakout-prone skin. So without further adieu, here’s what I’ve learned about what causes (my) breakouts and how to avoid it:
Disclaimer: I am not a dermatologist, not a beautician, nor a medical professional. Also, not a beauty blogger. Just a girl with some personal experience when it comes to bad skin. What worked for me may not work for you, but maybe what I share could help you find what works for you. It is after all a process of trial-and-error and getting to know your skin and what works for you. There once was a wise lady that I met during my travels on this earth that bestowed upon me invaluable information about skin care in general and for that I am eternally grateful. This post is unsponsored and the products mentioned are ones I tried and tested for myself and that turned out to be worth the money.
This should probably be common sense, but in case you’re unaware (as I was for a long time), bad hygiene causes breakouts. What sort of hygiene are we talking about? I mean, wash your face twice a day, that’s the obvious general rule right? Right. But wait, there really is more to it. I’m talking, clean your glasses often with warm soap and water if you wear specs. Wash your hands often and STOP TOUCHING AND PICKING AT YOUR FACE (yes, totally yelling at myself there). Change and wash your pillowcases often. Wipe your phone’s surfaces, computer keyboards and mouse with anti-bacterial wipes often. If you have a habit of pressing your face against anything else (read, leaning on the lid of the trusty water bottle while at work), wash that often too. Wash makeup brushes often. Use clean towels to dry your face (or do what I do and opt for a clean washcloth instead – less laundry in the long run). Bad hygiene causes breakouts, so don’t be like lazy-old 13 year old Anneli. Be like older, wiser, 30 year old Anneli and get your sh#t together and clean up your skincare act.
Falling asleep with your makeup on
Momlife is hard, as some of you may know. You spend your evenings trying to get everyone, including yourself, fed and happy. Kids need bathing, laundry must be done, bags must be packed for the next day (or if you’re like me, you’re too tired and decided to leave that for the rush the next morning) and then you put the toddler to bed and accidentally fall asleep next to him with your makeup still on. I’ve done this many times. In past years, I did this ALL the time. And it showed on my skin. The hard truth is that sleeping with your makeup on (not to mention all that dirt and grime and pollution that built up during the day) is bad for your skin. So drag your ass out of bed and wash it. (More about the what and how in point number 6 below). I now set myself a 20 minute timer on my phone when I put my son to bed, because I know that 8 times out of 10 I will fall asleep in his bed without washing my face first. The drive to keep grips on clear skin gets me out of bed most nights. If you’re really tired and not feeling it, there is one easy and quite effective solution I’ve come up with: Massage face with coconut oil, wipe gently with a fragrance free and sensitive skin baby wipe. Just don’t do this too often without washing your face afterwards, your skin does need to be cleaned well frequently.
Dehydration and poor diet
This one also seems obvious, but being the lazy creatures of bad habit forming tendencies that we dear humans are, it clearly needs to be pointed out. I still struggle with this one myself. It’s simple though: Eat less (or cut completely if you can) fast food, sugar and processed food – eat more whole grains, fresh fruit & veggies and lean meats. Drink less alcohol, coffee and sugary drinks – drink lots and lots of water. This really is the recipe for a healthier life, isn’t it? It’ll result in you feeling better and it will also show on your skin. Damn, it might even help with weight loss. Win-win right?
Using the wrong skincare products
This one you will only figure out by either going to a professional dermatologist/beautician or by wasting lots of money during trial and error experiments. I’ve done both and I highly recommend going to your local Sorbet to have your face mapped. In my disclaimer I mentioned the great influence of a lady I once had the pleasure of getting to know, who gave me invaluable skincare information and advice. One thing she mentioned was how amazing Dermalogica’s products are and how it’s been the only products that has ever made a difference for her daughter’s acne-prone skin. So I booked an appointment with a pro at my local Sorbet, had my face mapped, and bought some travel-size Dermalogica products to try it out. After seeing results in about a month or two (another piece of advice by said lady, don’t give up after starting to use a new product range too soon, give your skin two months or even three to adjust and see results) I decided to bite down hard and commit to buying the full size products. Dermalogica is expensive, so I recommend buying one product every month or so and rather stock them at the back of the cupboard instead of having to pull out a couple of grand all at once because you’ve run out of all products. These products really are amazing, and they last super long, so I see it as totally worth it. But as a side note – once you’ve figured out what type of product works for your skin, there are definitely cheaper solutions out there. For one, I recently started using Woolworth’s housebrand natural skincare products and it’s been working wonders so far. The only dermalogica products I still use are the exfoliant and hydrating mask.
Using the wrong makeup products
I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that I can get away with using pharmacy-style cheap cosmetics and still have great skin. I’ve only recently made the discovery that getting the right makeup will not only save you from breakout, but probably improve your skin a great deal. I used a cheap generic foundation that I bought at Dischem for years and my skin was not getting better. I also disliked how badly the color matched my skin and the oily mess my face became after a few hours of wear. So one day, after seeing an ad for the new Estée Lauder Double Wear Nude Water Fresh Foundation on Instagram, I decided to head to my nearest Estée Lauder counter in search of advice, because this sounded like the ideal foundation for me. Just a little bit of coverage with a natural feel and glow to it. It turned out to be all that and I love it, but it wasn’t quite enough. With my oily skin, I needed to pair this with a matte moisturiser and matte primer before applying the foundation, and I promise you, my skin has been loving it. I always believed that wearing makeup automatically makes your skin worse, but if you find the right product it will do the exact opposite. The foundation contains an SPF 30 and antioxidants. Listen to this: “With SPF 30 and anti-oxidants, it’s your invisible defense against environmental damage from UV rays and pollution. Instantly and continuously hydrates with a moisture complex of red fruit extracts, including watermelon, lychee seed and apple.” Now doesn’t that sound divine? Am I the only one that love reading beauty product descriptions? And what a bonus if the product actually delivers on what it promises – I can see a real difference in my skin since I started using it.
Falling out of rhythm and routine
I’ve discovered a routine that works to keep my skin clear and if I diverge from this even slightly, you can tell by the texture and amount of zits on my face. Remember, these products might not be the exact solution for you, but this routine is a good starting point:
One thing I’ve learned from the pro’s at Sorbet (and Dermalogica) is that a doubley-clean face is what we’re aiming for. So wash your face, twice a day, twice. First, you want to remove that makeup, dirt, grime & pollution (an oil-based face wash does a great job at removing makeup); and only THEN you want to wash your face to get a deep clean and give that wonderful face wash time to penetrate and do its magic on and inside your skin.
After washing your face, use a toner. Then a moisturiser. Then a good serum (optional depending on how old you are, how badly you want to stop age from showing on your skin and how much your budget allows). Do this morning and evening. In the mornings, after doing this, apply your primer before applying a foundation with good sun protection. Some evenings (say once or twice a week) I would apply a very nourishing, hydrating face mask and leave it on over night (make sure you use one you can leave on – Dermalogica has a nice one).
Exfoliate twice a week – Dermalogica has the best exfoliant I’ve ever come across and though expensive, I still use the same bottle almost two years later, so it’s totally worth it.
Use a nice face mask every now and then. I have two – a hydrating dead-sea mud mask and a deap cleanse mask. I would say I do this about once a week.
Enter the one thing we have little to no control over: hormones. Hey ladies! HORMONES SUCK! Who’s with me? When the period comes around, it’s almost guaranteed that there’ll be one or more mountains on my face. As a teen – the only thing that helped keep that extreme hormone induced face tamed (and scar free) was a carefully concocted handful of drugs prescribed by doctors and dermatologists – yes sometimes that’s the only way out. Other than that – I don’t have much advice. Each and every month it’ll be a rollercoaster of moods, pain and the inevitable breakouts – something to deal with, something to help hone the zen skills. Unless you can help me out with some of your own tried and tested theories – please do share 🙂
Even knowing all these things, and knowing for a fact that sticking to it works (for me), I still slip up from time to time. We are all only lazy humans with bad habits and a tendency to never have money for good skincare after all. I hope divulging this information helps someone out there on the great interwebs find their way to clearer skin a lot faster than I did. And if you have any tips of your own, please don’t hesitate to share in the comments.