Or, how I got my skin from dehydrated and acne-prone to clear and hydrated.
As I’ve mentioned before on my night routine post, my skin used to be less than stellar.
Throughout most of my twenties, I struggled with sporadic breakouts that just never quite went away. Luckily, they weren’t cystic, but I pretty much always had several pimples rearing their ugly heads, especially on my cheeks. To be fair, a lot of that was probably stress and hormone-related, as well as exacerbated by pollution (I used to live in Shanghai). Even going for a weekly facial didn’t make the breakouts go away (though it did help to control them a little bit).
I ordered a gigantic tube of benzoyl peroxide from Acne.org, and slathered that on my skin daily. It didn’t help. It also made my skin intensely dry, to the point that my facialist would shake her head and say, “hen gan, hen gan” (very dry, very dry, in Chinese). I couldn’t understand it (well, language was a barrier), because my skin was producing gallons of oil at the same time. I just kept slathering on the BP, never quite picking up that what she meant was that my skin was dehydrated, lacking water.
Snow White and the Asian Pear recently wrote a super detailed post that basically outlines a plan of attack (hmmm…attack isn’t the right word… A plan of nurturing?) for dehydrated but oily skin. It is very helpful if you have a similar skin type. I won’t go into as much detail, but I will let you know the 3 best things I did for my skin.
My current skin. Not perfect, but breakout-free and nicely hydrated!
I wish I had known earlier about these 3 simple ways to nurture the beauty back into my skin. There’s nothing difficult to understand about them — except for simply finding out what products work best for your individual skin. Everyone is different, but I’m pretty sure that these 3 simple steps can be beneficial for almost anyone.
1. Double Cleanse
Fast forward 5 years and I was no longer slathering on the benzoyl peroxide. My skin had cleared up a little due to getting older, but I was definitely getting some pregnancy-related acne breakouts on my cheeks. I went to get a facial, and the first thing the esthetician told me was that I needed to remove my makeup before cleansing.
Your average foaming cleanser is not formulated to remove makeup. For a detergent-based cleanser (most foaming cleansers) to remove all your makeup, it would have to be horrifically harsh and would basically destroy your skin. She advised me to get a product specifically for removing makeup.
At first, I just cleansed with micellar water (a gentle formula of oil droplets suspended in water). A quick wipe down with Bioderma and then a cleanse with a foaming cleanser. Almost instantly, my face started to feel less clogged, I had fewer bumps under the surface of my skin, and my face just felt cleaner.
Later, I experimented with oil cleansers until I found some that worked for my skin. I love the DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, but the Kose Softymo Deep Cleansing Oil works almost as well and is half the price. Oil cleansing removes makeup and sunscreen even better than micellar water. If you live in a city with a lot of pollution, oil cleansing gets down into your pores to remove all the dirt and gunk that is mixed in with your own sebum. The best thing is, oil cleansing doesn’t strip the moisture from your skin, or damage your acid mantle (your skin has a pH of around 5), while cleansing gently and thoroughly.
2. A Gentle Vitamin C Derivative
My skin was getting less clogged, but it was still dealing with inflammation. I dropped into a local Korean cosmetic store, and the salesperson gave me a Vitamin C serum. It was the Aromatica Vitamin C, which is 50% SAP (sodium ascorbyl phosphate) and is very gentle and moisturizing. Unfortunately this product seems to be discontinued on Aromatica’s official site, though you can still buy it at ePalaceBeauty.
My third empty bottle of this $110 serum (for 30ml!). My wallet couldn’t take it anymore so I moved on to other Vitamin C serums.
This super gentle (but super expensive) vitamin C serum single-handedly cleared up the rest of my acne. After a month of use, my face was clear. After 4 months of use, redness and inflammation in my face had greatly diminished, and I hadn’t had a real breakout since I started using it. I can’t sing the praises of vitamin C enough. The SAP form, especially, has been shown in research to have good results in treating acne. Here are some options for gentle Vitamin C derivatives, which I recommend if your skin is irritated, dehydrated, and inflamed (over more harsh acidic forms of vitamin C).
Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum – Uses SAP (sodium ascorbyl phosphate)
Nufountain Celsignal MAP Serum – Uses MAP (magnesium ascorbyl phosphate)
3. Moisturize & Hydrate Instead of Stripping Skin
The next thing I realized was that my skin was dry. Very dry. My skin literally felt hard and dry to the touch, and although I used a night cream every night, it didn’t get softer. It looked dull and felt thirsty.
I had seen the difference treating my skin better had made (no more breakouts and far fewer clogged pores), and I wasn’t about to stop until my skin was baby-soft.
I started learning more about Asian skincare and the emphasis on watery, hydrating layers. I added the Hada Labo Gokujyun Lotion to my routine. It’s rich in hyaluronic acid and instantly increased the water level in my skin.
I also added the Mizon All-In-One Snail Repair Cream. This “cream” is really more of an essence — it doesn’t seal the moisture into your skin, but it adds some hydration and the healing/soothing properties of snail secretion. As an additional layer, it helped the rest of my redness and inflammation calm down leaving my skin soothed and normalized.
On my second jar of this one. I can’t do without my snails.
Along with the vitamin C serum, this was already helping my skin to become much softer. I couldn’t stop touching my face and even my husband commented that my face was like a baby’s butt. I also noticed that my skin became less oily. Instead of looking greasy and gross throughout the day, it just had a nice healthy glow.
Finally, I sealed in all that goodness with Tony Moly’s Red Appletox Honey Cream. I still have a soft spot for this super affordable cream (it’s less than $10 on Amazon for 80ml!). It may be cheap, but it was very moisturizing, didn’t break me out, and smelled heavenly, like fresh apples. I’ve moved on to other creams, but the Appletox is still one of my favorites and I use it once in a while when I just want to smell those apples.
You may not use these specific products (and I’ve moved on from some of them), but I think it still holds true that your skin needs moisture. You may have super resilient skin that can take a harsh cleanser and doesn’t feel dry, but it can still use moisture. You just have to find the right kind and amount of moisture that your skin will love. You may have oily acne-prone skin, but drying out your skin is not the answer.
This is the journey that took me from having dehydrated, acne-prone skin, to having soft, clear skin with a glow! Yes I do get the occasional pimple here or there due to hormones or product testing, but as I said to my husband recently, “It’s amazing that now I get upset (not really) when I get ONE pimple. A couple years ago I would have been ecstatic to have only one pimple.”
Are these three steps going to get rid of all your skin problems? Probably not, since everyone is different and you may have specific issues you need to deal with. I was lucky; my main issues were a damaged moisture barrier, dehydration, and clogged pores, problems that were easily fixed. But I think these three steps can definitely support your skin to heal itself and start taking things in the right direction. Gentle cleansing, hydration, and nourishment can only help. Of course, if you have severe skin issues, it’s best to consult a dermatologist before introducing any new products.
What’s your skin journey been like? I’d love to hear about it!
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