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For the last several years I have struggled with adult acne. It may not look like it in my pictures because I try hard to conceal the spots with makeup. There are the odd days that I have pretty clear skin, but it's rare. I never had to deal with a lot of acne when I was a teenager (didn't even see a spot until I was 17 and even then they were tiny and rare). When I finally did have a spot or two, I treated it with benzoyl peroxide. Got on hormonal birth control in my late twenties, started taking zinc and that seemed to take care of the few that I did get. Birth control didn't keep me from breaking out, but it didn't make it worse either. Fast forward, a few years after starting the birth control pill, I decided to go off of it (for other reasons, but mainly it didn't agree with me at all). My skin was clear until the three month mark and I had the worst breakout of my life. They say after you go off of hormonal birth control, expect to break out at around 2-3 months. Cystic acne is the worst! I had no idea! Most people say eventually the acne will clear up, but mine never did.
I tried using benzoyl peroxide again and that proved to be a disaster. Although it worked for me once before, this time around it made my eyes swell up. I didn't even realize the benzoyl peroxide was doing this for quite awhile! Yuck! Well, I certainly wasn't willing to have swollen eyes for the sake of clear skin. There has got to be a better way! I have tried practically everything. I changed my diet. Quit drinking cow's milk (still mostly avoid it, although I honestly don't know why anymore). I went gluten free, went Paleo for nearly a year (don't get me started on Paleo...)! I cut out nuts, and that didn't help. I even track my hormonal cycle religiously every morning (everything is normal and on schedule). I tried taking supplements. I took fish oil (broke me out). I tried fermented cod liver oil (this is probably the dumbest thing I have done yet, messed my cycle up, broke me out worse...I do NOT recommend this horrible stuff)! I took a high quality multi-vitamin (also broke me out and now I don't believe in taking multi-vitamins unless you are pregnant or your doctor prescribes them). I take probiotics (still do, although it doesn't really help a lot with acne). I took Vitex, Estroblock (don't do it!), red raspberry leaf, I drank spearmint tea religiously one month (it made me skip my period and I do NOT recommend this either). Oh man, what else have I done to myself? You name it, I have tried it (with a few exceptions).
I am sick of spending so much money and trying so much stuff to "fix" my body. I know herbalists and naturopaths will always tell you that the problem is on the "inside" and you just have to fix whatever is going on in there. But after all that, I can't help but be a little bit skeptical at this viewpoint. I'm perfectly healthy and I have unnecessarily cut out all of these foods only to find it didn't help (or only slightly helped - like cutting dairy) or in many cases made things worse. I have decided to try something new and stop buying into this idea that you must take a million supplements and eat nothing delicious to have clear skin.
Enter Caroline Hirons... Oh how I love this woman! I have been watching her Youtube videos for awhile now and have read her blog off and on over the last year. However, I never really followed her skincare guide until now. I figured I could get the same results just by using oils and I thought that would be enough. It wasn't. The other day I went back to her website and pored through her "cheat sheets" to figure out the perfect routine for me. She talks a lot about "acids" and how wonderful they are for the skin, especially as we age. And who am I kidding? I am not 20 anymore. I've never had great skin, it has always been dry and now I get cystic acne at the drop of a hat. Maybe I need more of these treatments to deal with my troubled skin. Perhaps all my skin needs is a little acid help?? But I don't want to do this halfway. I'm going to follow her skincare regimen as close as I can.
I'm still testing out products and may change the routine a bit as I learn more, but right now this is what my skincare routine looks like...
- Cleanse: With a fresh washcloth (Caroline calls them "flannels"), cleanse with a gentle cleanser. I am using Paula's Choice Skin Recovery Cream Cleanser.
- Toner: This is not what a lot of people think of as a toner, this is something that helps balance the skin after you wash your face (if I understand it correctly). It's not harsh or drying at all. I use Paula's Choice Resist Weightless Advanced Repairing Toner.
- Acid: There are AHA's BHA's etc. I am no expert, but I think this is a pretty important step in your routine. I am using a BHA (2% salicylic acid), from Paula's Choice. I got the sample size, so I may or may not change it when I run out. I am also using a sample of her 9% BHA to spot treat some of my cystic acne and it's pretty great! On the pricey side, though!
- Serum: I didn't "get" serums for the longest time. I'm still not quite sure how to describe them, but they are wonderful at helping your skin retain moisture. They always go before moisturizer and after acids. I think the main ingredient in a good serums is "hyaluronic acid." I was using a sample from Paula's Choice, but recently ordered Now Solutions Hyaluronic Acid Serum and plan to start using it instead (I'll update how it goes).
- Moisturizer: You want to make sure you are using a good moisturizer as well, and for me it's a must because of how dry my skin is! Right now I'm using a sample from Paula's Choice, but again have ordered something different to try. I got Weleda Skin Food, and I'm excited to try it after reading all the rave reviews. Again, I will update you on how it works for me.
- SPF: Sunscreen is always a good idea, especially if you are going to start using acids or retinols. I am not so great at this part during the winter, but I tend to wear makeup with SPF in it anyway and whenever I am outside for more than 15 minutes I wear a good SPF. I just ordered Hada Labo UV Creamy Gel and will keep you updated on how it performs!
- Cleanse: You can use any gentle cleanser or micellar water if you are wearing a lot of makeup. I will sometimes use an oil (like pumpkin seed oil or rosehip seed oil) to remove my makeup. I also have a separate cleanser to remove my waterproof mascara.
- Double Cleanse: The idea is that after you have removed your makeup, you must also cleanse your skin. Caroline is really into "double cleansing." I use a cream cleanser, same one as my morning routine.
- Toner: Same as morning routine.
- Eyes: Apply moisturizer or serum before your treatments.
- Acid/Treatments: This is when I will use my retinol cream. I have only been using it twice a week (just on the second week now). I plan to use it every other day, but trying to go slowly to see how my skin reacts. So far so good, but this stuff is potent and I know a lot of people will start peeling really badly if they go too fast. I'm trying not to make that mistake! My skin hasn't shown signs of peeling, so I'm going to start applying it every two days instead of every three. I use Paula's Choice 1% Retinol Treatment (trial size), and only a "pea" size for my entire face. There is a whole host of information about this stuff, but you can get a prescription for tretinoin (Retin-A), that may be a better option depending on your insurance and if it will cover the cost (it can get pretty expensive). I think using this might be where I'll see most of the progress in my skin. Time will tell, though. I have read you shouldn't expect to see great results for at least 6-12 weeks of continued use. I know it's amazing for fine lines, so if it agrees with me I might keep this up for a long time!
- Serum: Again, the same as my morning routine.
- Moisturizer: Same as morning routine.
I know that looks like a lot of steps, but I promise it doesn't take me that much more time than my previous routine. I still think the food you eat can contribute to your skin, but for many of us, cutting out foods or entire food groups won't make a big difference and in many cases can make things worse. I'm going to stick to this routine and see if I make any progress. So far, one week in, I'm already clearing up! I don't want to jinx myself or anything, but thought I would go ahead and share my routine now just in case someone else finds it useful. I'll definitely update how I'm doing and if anything gets worse/better! Wish me luck!
P.S. I know I'm using lots of Paula's Choice products here, but you don't have to use her brand. There are other great products out there, I just find her products the most accessible. I also like that you can try samples of each product, which is ultimately what led me to purchase. I used a coupon when ordering so that it didn't cost as much (yay for discounts!). Feel free to use my "refer-a-friend" coupon that will give you $10 off your first order.
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