Over the years of living with my particular quirky skin, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work. As a teenager I had a kind-of-serious acne problem, which required dermatological intervention, like Accutane, Tazorac and other “nuclear option” type treatments. They worked for a while, but would soon stop working so I jumped from miracle product to “time-tested” regime to new miracle product and back again. I did the 3-step hustle with Clinique, the tango with Proactiv, the cha-cha with numerous Neutrogena products, the Roger Rabbit with Origins and the electric slide with Retin-A. My face regularly freaked the hell out. I had dry, flaky patches all over my face, horrible redness issues, and still the damn acne persisted.
So I started to use my common sense. Acne is aggravated by irritation. Acne is also prone to occur when you pile too many products on your face. Acne-prone skin, though it may be oily and seem like it needs to be blasted with harsh drying chemicals, is actually pretty sensitive. It’s also very much tied to what you ingest — and I don’t mean chocolate or oily food. I mean water. Lots and lots of water. I’m no scientist, but knowing that acne is often caused by bacteria, and also (and I could be totally wrong on this point, but it makes sense to me), your skin tends to reflect when your liver is overloaded with “toxins”, for lack of a better term. I’ve noticed, and you may have too, that after a drinking binge, I tend to get a few pimples when I usually have none. Drinking a lot of water helps your liver successfully flush these toxins out of your body through (yes I’m going there) your urine instead of showing up on your face. As far as acne-prone skin being aggravated by irritation and harsh drying products, I figured that if I just limited my regimen to a minimal amount of products, my skin might do better. When I started doing these things, it took a bit but eventually my acne subsided. I’ve been pretty much acne-free (except for the occasional pimple around my period) for 5 years. Sometimes I get into the “I want to buy expensive face products because they’re pretty” mode and I’ll deviate from my routine, but I always suffer the consequences of a mini-flare up until I go back to my simple routine.
Now, I’m going to save you the trial and error of all this and lay out my regimen. I’m not guaranteeing that it will work for everyone, because if you have serious acne, like cystic acne, you need to go to a dermatologist because you very well may need that “nuclear option”. But for everyone else, give this a try. It’s inexpensive and it definitely won’t hurt.
1. WATER. I try to drink a gallon a day. I know that’s way over the 8 cups they tell you to drink, but I find it really keeps me healthy and keeps my skin clear. You can add Crystal Light to it, or drink herbal tea, or whatever (personally I love the taste of some plain distilled water, but that’s just me). But let me make this clear: caffeinated drinks do not count as water. That just adds another burden on your liver, so if you drink a lot of coffee and caffeinated soda like I do, make sure you drink a ton of water. Also, Kool-Aid is not an appropriate substitute for water. If you’re adding flavor to your water, don’t mess it up with a bunch of sugar.
2. Gentle soap. Yes, I said soap. I use Chagrin Valley Chamomile and Calendula soap. It’s cheap, it’s soothing, it’s natural and it comes in a HUGE bar that will last you quite some time if you don’t let it soak in water, so get a proper soap dish. Most makeup/skin care counter pimps will tell you soap is BAD BAD BAD because it leaves a residue. This is just bullshit. Their job is to sell a product, and their face washes and other nonsense cost way more than a simple bar of natural (make sure it’s natural and not that Clinique crap that has petrolatum and all manner of synthetic mess in there), soothing, vegetable-based soap. If you are prone to dryer skin, you may want to try another type of natural vegetable based soap like Chagrin Valley’s Aloe Aloe Aloe or something that has a bit more moisture in it. I think the Chamomile and Calendula is gentle enough for all skin types, however.
3. Gentle, non-alcohol based toner. I like Thayers Rose Petal, Witch Hazel and Aloe Vera toner. This step is optional depending on how your skin feels. If you’re feeling a bit dry, or you just did something irritating to your face like plucking or waxing or Nair-ing, put some of this on a cotton pad and smooth it all over. If you have dry skin all the time, try using this and perhaps adding a moisturizer of your choice. For me, this is all the moisturizing I need. The rose petal and aloe really soothes the skin and the glycerin leaves behind a humectant that draws moisture to your face.
4. If you want to go a step farther in keeping your liver happy so it keeps your skin happy, try taking a liver supplement. I swear by Solaray Liver Blend SP-13. I really started to get perfectly clear skin after I started taking this. I notice if I don’t take it I’m more prone to getting tiny pimples, which annoy the hell out of me. Combined with the water, this stuff is toxin-busting like no other. Plus, it helps your liver function more efficiently which has health benefits beyond just clear skin. This step is optional, however. But, I urge you to give it a try.
5. Extra credit here. After all that, with no moisturizer, foundation primer, or other crap on my face, I apply Neutrogena Healthy Skin Liquid Foundation. It’s non-comedogenic and non-acnegenic, and it has dimethicone in it, which I find to be pretty moisturizing on its own. I’m not sure if it’s SUPPOSED to be moisturizing, but it is for me. Basically for me, foundation needs to be as simple as possible. All the green tea and bald eagle egg extract they put up in those special “anti-aging” or whatever nonsense formulas just clog my pores. For acne-prone skin, you need as little as possible on your face.
So that’s it, darlings. Remember that not everything works for every face, but if you have a light-to-moderately bad acne problem, following these steps may provide some relief. And one more very important thing — DON’T TOUCH YOUR FACE ALL THE TIME. Don’t sit with your chin in your hands, or pick at your face, or any of that. The bacteria on your hand WILL aggravate that acne.