~| 9 minute read |~
Take it from someone who’s tried dozens of products out of desperation: acne can be one haunting burden to carry! You can’t seem to unload it anywhere and it’s impossible to hide. But before I go jinxing anything, let me tell you how I’ve discovered 3 steps to clearing acne that will work for almost anyone.
If you’ve been following my story, you know this isn’t my first encounter with acne. Let’s have a quick recap shall we?
Story of My Skin
Early adulthood: Normal with periodic spots
2015 Pregnant with Vivian: very dry/dehydrated skin
2016 Postpartum with Vivian: normal skin, glowy with hardly any spots
(Candid Class founded)
2017 Pregnant with Alec: normal skin
2018 Postpartum with Alec: acne with a vengeance, but it wasn’t triggered until a vacation to Florida 4 months after he was born. The number of selfies in my files dropped significantly and those without makeup are even fewer.
Hormones, lifestyle, and diet have the most impact on our skin. Breastfeeding, a high stress trip, and throwing my diet out the window on vacation were a deadly trifecta. It explains my acne’s creation, but not why it’s hung around for months!
I know our environment has a big impact on our bodies, and a hot Ohio summer with no central air conditioning is sure to produce swelling and bacteria parties. The constant sweating also caused dehydration, which resulted in excessive oil.
You catching my drift here? It isn’t just one thing but a combination of things that contribute to acne. And many of them are out of our control (okay, I could’ve eaten better, but cut me some slack…)
Even when I went on a cold turkey sugar fast, ate my weight in green leafy vegetables, and maintained a healthy active lifestyle, still my face refused to cooperate. I went on the hunt for a solution! Part of that was deciphering the problem:
- Hormones -which are mostly out of my control
- Diet -daily battle, cookie dough is my vice
- Lifestyle -living with intention and meditation
- Environment -avoiding causes of dehydration and pollution
- Consistent product routine
Getting sick with the stomach flu for a week, followed by almost 2 weeks of a sinus infection didn’t help. (I posted a lot of makeup free pictures documenting that experience here).
But I can honestly say my skin is the best it’s been in a long time! The scarring will take time to heal, but the active breakouts have puttered out and I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. *fingers crossed and knock on wood*
After 8 months of trial and error I’ve finally found 3 things that have been predictably effective at balancing my skin and healing my acne.
Step 1: Press Reset
Krave Beauty has made this their brand motto and I think it’s a message we desperately need! We throw so much at our skin on a daily basis and sometimes we just need to scale it back and let our skin reset.
Sometimes, in the name of trying to fix a problem we’re making it worse by trying too hard. (Story of my life! Anyone relate?)
For me, this looks like a gentle morning cleanse followed by a moisturizer and spf. In the evening I double cleanse and put on a moisturizer. I also avoid exposing myself to any opportunity to be sold a product that will supposedly help. When I already feel vulnerable, my willpower and wallet are less secure and I tend to buy things I regret later.
That may be several steps more than what you do at your most, but for me that’s a reset. Or maybe a reset to you is not quite baring down so far. You know your skin better than anyone.
Let your skin have a break from all the treatments and calm down.
Step 2: Limit Actives
What are actives? They are any ingredients in your skincare that tell your skin to do something. Hydrators hydrate, moisturizers moisturize, cleansers clean. But any ingredient that is going to motivate changes in your skin like brightening, oil control, or collagen production is an active.
For example, a retinoid is like a defibrillator for skin: the workers want to give up and stop producing the proteins that make our skin plump and elastic so a retinoid gives it a jolt to say, “You’re not dead yet! Keep going!”
Acne treatments, AHAs or BHA, and vitamin c are other examples of actives.
Actives are where skincare becomes highly customized and scientific. Everyone needs a cleanser and a moisturizer but the options in the active world are diverse and very targeted.
For me, the active that’s had the most dramatic effect on my skin is niacinamide. A form of B3, this active helps with uneven tone, texture, inflammation and dullness. I purchased The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% because I didn’t want to splurge on another expensive product before I even knew if my face would play well with this ingredient. I use it at night mostly because this formulation tends to pill and create an uneven base for my makeup. It can tingle a little upon application and if used too often, can cause dryness because of the zinc so I have to balance it with a bit of extra hydration.
I see overnight results when I use this serum. I’ve been using it consistently for about a month now and I think it’s the largest contributor to why my skin has taken such an upturn in recent weeks. It was the undisclosed serum I referred to in a post a couple weeks ago but wanted to keep using before I gave it a review. I can now say with confidence I am enjoying the results.
The product I’ve been using in conjunction with the niacinamide is Stridex Maximum Strength Salicylic Acid Pads. The name makes them sound scarier than they are. They are pre-soaked pads with the only proven ingredient that can clear out pores of impurities. I picked up a tub of 70 pads at Walmart for a couple dollars.
So my routine for the last couple weeks has looked like this: cleanse, salicylic acid, niacinamide, moisturizer (then spf if day/hydrating oil if night).
Keeping my routine simple with very few actives has helped me track real results because I stopped running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying all the actives everyone swears by and it gave my skin something to rely on.
If you’re using a ton of products at the same time without success, first refer to Step #1. When you do go to build your routine back up pay attention to the number of messages you’re sending your skin. Stop telling your skin to do too many things at once! It’s amazing and complex, but it’s still human (ba dum tss)
Wearing daily sunscreen is a must if you want any of your results to last. The sun can undo in 45 minutes what took you months to achieve! Plus some actives make your skin more sensitive to the sun which compounds the exposure. If you’re not going to wear sunscreen, don’t even bother starting with an active.
Step 3: Be patient
The only other thing that’s tested my patience as much as my acne is motherhood, but sometimes the acne was harder to endure because I didn’t see results! Vivian may have a bad day now and again and Alec may have a meltdown, but it’s never been a 24 hours a day 7 days a week battle for months on end without pause.
For me it was hard to grapple with the shame that accompanied my acne. Surely I should be able to control my own body right? These last 8 months have given me such a deep empathy for people who struggle with weight or chronic illness because for the first time in my life I could relate. No matter what I did, I could not get my body to do what I wanted it to do.
Learning to be patient was an active exercise for me. It meant not picking at my pimples. It meant not overindulging in sweets because I felt sorry for myself. It meant seeking out ways to affirm myself every day and not giving into the pit of insecurity. Patience doesn’t mean do nothing; it means be purposeful in your waiting.
Would I call these steps easy? Heck no! It’s way easier to try a different mud mask every night and hope one of them will have you waking with clear skin in the morning! Marketing has convinced us we need more and more products in our routine to achieve the progress we want when in reality,
Limiting Our Actives
and Being Patient
are some of the best things we can do for our bodies, our mental health, and our pocketbooks.
Thanks for reading through this journey with me! I’d love to hear about your journey, whether it’s about acne or something completely different. Is there an area of your life you’ve found success in ways you didn’t expect? Write a comment below and let’s chat.
Until next week, be kind to yourself