Lately, I find myself receiving compliments about my skin. At first this surprised me because my skin is prone to hormonal acne, cystic acne, dryness, and hyper-pigmentation.
Over the years I’ve learned how to care for my skin and minimize these problems. While the recent compliments about my skin have been surprising (at first I thought people were being shady…), their words of praise forced me to give myself some credit for the consistent practices which have greatly improved my skin’s condition. Again, my skin isn’t flawless, but it’s now clear enough for me to feel comfortable leaving the house completely bare-faced on occasion–something I would have NEVER done 2-3 years ago.
These are the steps I have implemented to address MY specific skin problems. This is not meant to be prescriptive, so take these tips with a grain of salt and do what works for you. You’ll notice these are preventative measures used to preserve the skin’s health and prevent adverse reactions. If you have an active, severe skin condition, try to see a dermatologist. I went to a dermatologist over 2 years ago and learned a lot of what I’m sharing here. While she did prescribe medications for my face which helped to treat active skin problems I had at the time, using these measures has helped to MAINTAIN the results I attained from using prescribed skin creams. I haven’t used any medications to treat my skin in 2 years.
Tip No. 1: Cleanse
Choose the right cleanser: Find a cleanser that is designed to address your skin’s condition. If you have sensitive skin, use a cleanser for sensitive skin. If you have oily or dry skin, find a cleanser that addresses those issues. If you have sensitive skin and decide to use a cleanser that is too abrasive, it can create cracks and cuts in your skin where dirt, dead skin, makeup and facial oils can get trapped, causing breakouts. Dry skin types would do well with creamy, hydrating cleansers, whereas oily skin types need a cleanser that has a more drying effect on the skin.
I avoid using electronic cleansing brushes because I learned that they can embed dirt and makeup into your skin and cause breakouts. I think this is due to my skin type and the size of my pores. I also wasn’t using the proper brush head for my skin. People with closed pores would probably benefit from electronic cleansing brushes. I could probably use them with a brush head designed for sensitive skin, but eh. I do like using silicone cleansing pads. I avoid using sponges and cloths because they collect bacteria.
Cleanse at least 2x daily: This was a hard habit to establish at first, but now I must wash my face before I go to sleep or I feel gross. The reasons for why you should wash your face at night are self-explanatory. Most of us know we should wash our faces at night, but we can be lazy about it. At first I started using wipes to clean the makeup off of my face. This doesn’t count as cleansing, but it was a step in the right direction. After a while, the cleansing wipes alone were not enough. I wanted my skin to feel fresh and clean, so I began to wash my face after using the cleansing wipes, and it has made a tremendous difference in my skin. I also aim to clean my face before and after workouts or engaging in any activity that causes me to sweat.
Deep clean: I use muds and masks to draw out dirt and impurities buried deep in my skin. Every other day seems to work for me. I do not like the deep cleaning techniques used during some facials at certain spas. Extractions cause me to break out and popping my own pimples causes scarring. I’m sure this is due to my skin type. Speaking of which, avoid discount facials. It’s worth spending money on an Esthetician who knows how to work with your skin.
Tip No. 2: Exfoliate
Getting into the habit of cleansing my face every morning and night improved my skin greatly, but it didn’t address blackheads/whiteheads. Exfoliating removes dead skin cells from your face, preventing them from clogging your pores. I believe it also speeds the healing of dark spots and brightens your skin. Exfoliate at least 1x a day using a gentle scrub. Use circular motions, always moving the fingers in an upwards direction.
There are some gentle peels on the market which are also helpful at removing dead skin from your face. Depending on the type of skin you have, you can use a peel every other day or 1-2x a week. There are products out there which can be used daily, but I like to start out using them every other day to gauge my skin’s reaction to the product.
Tip No. 3: Tone
I use a toner like witch hazel after washing/exfoliating to remove any remaining dirt or makeup from my face. Toners also help to minimize/close pores. Speaking of closing pores, I splash cold water on my face to seal my pores after I have cleansed and toned.
Tip No. 4: Moisturize/Hydrate
I have dry, sensitive skin. Keeping my skin moist and supple prevents cracks and cuts, where dirt and makeup would ordinarily get trapped inside and cause a breakout. Also, excessively dry skin can create an overproduction of sebum (skin oil), which is also responsible for breakouts. I moisturize 2x a day. In the morning I apply a facial moisturizer with sunscreen (SPF 35). Exposure to the sun has been shown to cause sun spots and rapid aging, and I’m trying to preserve my skin’s youthfulness! In the evening I use a myriad of moisturizers depending on my mood and what free samples I got in my Ipsy bag. 🙂 Find a moisturizer that fits your skin type. If you have oily skin, you would want to avoid greasy moisturizers.
Also, drink lots of water. LOTS OF IT. The magical ingredient found in the fountain of youth is plain old water.
Tip No. 5: Stress Reduction
Stress definitely contributes to breakouts. This is especially true for women around our periods. During PMS, estrogen reaches an all-time low, and an androgen known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT) surges. Stress contributes to a rise in this androgenic hormone, which is also responsible for sebum (skin oil) production. Excess sebum is at the root of the PMS breakouts we’ve all grown to dread every month. Ugh.
I’ve found that active stress management techniques like incorporating daily mindfulness practices into my schedule (e.g. meditation), and being committed to Emotional Self-Care has greatly reduced stress levels and nearly eradicated my PMDD symptoms, which were insomnia, uncontrollable hunger, severe mood swings, suicidal thoughts, and breakouts. Yes, suicidal thoughts were a common part of my experience with PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder), so I understand how grave the condition can be. I am in no way minimizing the symptoms of PMS/PMDD or advising that women should simply “chill out” and namaste their symptoms away. But I do know that taking a proactive approach to ensuring my well-being (mind-body-and soul) has greatly improved my overall quality of life as well as my skin. I still have normal PMS symptoms, but they are moderate at worst and nowhere near as debilitating as they used to be. (I will post about my PMS self-care regimen soon).
My self-care approach involves developing coping strategies for stressful situations, honoring my boundaries (saying NO and sticking to it), and putting my well-being first NO MATTER WHAT. The amount of stress I am under has not decreased, but my ability to cope with stress, deprioritize other folks’ drama while prioritizing peace, joy, and my sanity has greatly improved. The less stressed I am, the clearer my skin.
Speaking of Emotional Self-Care, this is a topic I talk about extensively with my clients, especially because it is how I have managed to overcome a debilitating mood disorder and deactivate the schemas at the root of my depression and anxiety. I plan to do a Vlog about this topic very soon, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, what are some of your favorite skin care tips or products?