I enjoyed effortlessly clear skin through my teens, only to have my pores betray me at the grand old age of 22. The zits came in fast and deep and I had no idea why or what had happened.
Desperate, I started searching around on blogs and forums for an answer. If you have ever suffered from acne, then you know what most of them say – acne is caused by blockage of the pores, typically from externally applied make-up or internally produced oils, often hormone related. Salicylic acid moisturizers/face washes/toners are strongly recommended as is birth control (if you are a woman) and heavier medications that can dry out your pores
I tried everything. Sometimes my skin was better, sometimes it was worse, but it was NEVER clear.
I ultimately discovered the cause of my breakouts was not hormonal, but rather the heavily treated tap water of North Jersey, something I never found on any health website or blog post. It’s nice to finally enjoy clear skin again at 28, but I would have rather skipped the 6 years of painful break outs and frustration.
If you, like myself, are searching around for a solution, but have not been able to achieve clear skin based on the legions of advice out there already, allow me to offer a few poignant thoughts:
1. Consider Your Environment
If you enjoyed clear skin through your teens, the cause is unlikely to be hormonal. Consider instead any recent changes to your environment and daily habits. Did you move somewhere new? Research the water of your municipality. Hint: if water droplets on dishes leave behind a white residue as they dry, the water is extremely high in minerals and my be clogging your pores. A good toner, applied after washing your face, will clear out the remnant minerals and prevent break outs. Don’t have or use a good toner? You should! It is an often-overlooked staple of a healthy skin care regime.
Water isn’t the only thing that affects your skin, though! Are you using a new moisturizer or make-up brand? Have your eating habits changed significantly? Are you working out more or less? Start a journal of your skin care, eating, and exercise habits. A thorough journal is an incredibly powerful tool for identifying habits that may be affecting your health.
2. Wash, Rinse, REPEAT
This may seem obvious, but if you use a lot of moisturizer or make-up, you may not be doing enough washing at night. Most blogs mention washing regularly, but don’t detail the extent to which you should be washing your face, if one lather-and-rinse every night is failing to do the trick. Here is the routine I’ve established:
- Soften mascara and eye make-up with Ponds Cold Cream (Nothing beats a classic)
- Wipe away Ponds Cold Cream thoroughly with a tissue
- Rinse face with water
- Coat face in Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash and work into a nice lather
- Use Oil of Olay cleansing facial brush (less expensive version of the Clarisonic) to exfoliate
- Rinse face thoroughly
- Wash the face a second time with Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash (no brush)
- Rinse face thoroughly
- Pat dry with clean face towl
- Apply a gentle exfoliating toner (I use a mix of one part Tea Tree Oil, one part witch hazel)
I layered on each step of this process one at a time, checking my skin for improvement, until the break outs finally cleared. These days, if I miss even one of these steps one night, I will break out the next morning.
3. Use Only Products Labeled Non-Comedogenic
Non-comedogenic products are products that do not contain ingredients known to clog pores. It’s a good rule of thumb to stick to these products when in doubt, since they cleanse or moisturize your skin without introducing known “comedogenic” (pore clogging) ingredients. When I switched from a drugstore brand anti-aging moisturizer to the classic non-comedogenic moisturizer CeraVe, in combination with the above cleansing routine, my break outs finally ended. There is not a whole lot of regulation around the use of this term, however, so apply the same discernment to new non-comedogenic products that you would to any other new skin care product.
4. Use the right products for your skin TYPE
This was an insight my girlfriend Shallon arrived at during a facial at a spa in upstate Connecticut. The facialist pointed out that she had oily skin that was dehydrated and asked Shallon if she had been using moisturizers for the correct skin type. It turns out that, although your skin may be stripped of oils as a result of medicated treatments for acne and feel “dry”, it is still oily skin and needs moisturizers designed to work with oily skin. Shallon switched from a moisturizer for dry skin to a moisturizer for oily skin and her breakouts disappeared!!
Another friend Ally Linder (my personal skin care adviser and all around life coach) made a similar discovery. She had spent hundreds of dollars on expensive designer products to improve her skin, with little to no result. Then she switched to a guided program from Rodan + Fields cosmetics, which taught her the right products to use for her individual skin’s needs and the proper order in which she should use them. Her skin has never looked better!!
5. Consistency is Key
I have found that the most important thing you can do to prevent break outs is to be consistent. At various times in my 20s, I did all the right things and cleared a break out, only to fall back into bad habits several weeks later. The effects of my thorough skin care helped prevent break outs for a time, but eventually the break outs would return. This is because, as Ally taught me recently, break outs take three weeks to blossom. So, whatever you are doing now won’t truly have an impact for 3 weeks. Letting your routine slip tonight may seem to have no impact, but it will next month and then you will be stuck trying to remember what you changed over 3 weeks ago.
Consistency allows you to monitor your skin for reactions to new products. It prevents break outs from happening. And it gives you the peace of mind that you are doing the right thing every day for your skin.
Clear skin is a universal sign of beauty and health. Hopefully, these tips have triggered a new idea for you or inspired you to take your skin’s health more seriously.
Interested in a consultation with an expert? Intimidated by the though of trying to fix what’s broken in your current skin care regime? Email Ally at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out her Rodan + Fields website here. She’s totally awesome and so passionate about proper skin care. Plus, you’ll get access to great skin care nuggets like this one: