For nearly fifteen years I struggled with aggressive, cystic acne. As advised, I dutifully washed and slathered myself with products labeled for combating acne. Consistently, I was troubled to discover that my skin was often more inflamed, angry, and broken out the more consistently I used the products. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place of doing little to my skin, and having deep pus-volcanoes all over my face… or following “expert advice” and developing redness and sensitivity in addition to the painful sores I already suffered from. I tried modifying my diet (it’s one of the main reasons I went raw-vegan), workouts, laundering routine, birth control and cleansing routine for over a decade and NOTHING helped. Finally (and very slowly, I might add), I began to notice habits and products that at the very least didn’t irritate my skin… and then I noticed habits and products that seemed to actually improve it. I consider it nothing short of miraculous that my skin is as healthy and glowing as it is now. I do carry some scarring, but even that is miraculously not as bad as it should be for suffering with this damaging condition for so long. I’m going to try to find any photos I can from when my skin was struggling but, honestly, I deftly avoided the camera for all those years. Hiding from a lens became a genuine skill of mine even when I was expected to be in group photos, and selfies were something I simply did.not.do. Needless to say, photographic evidence of me existing at all during these years is pretty slim.
But enough with the past! Let’s see something recent! Coming up are a few no-makeup looks from the last year. You can see a little sun damage thanks to my MANY years of competitive swimming, and summers roasting at the beach and surfing… but you can also clearly see a delightful lack of acne. This 33 year old, mother of four is hanging in there pretty well!
Here is my routine that I follow most mornings. In classic busy-mom fashion, there are actually many mornings where I don’t do anything to my face at all and my skin tolerates the neglect very patiently now! However, I do try to stick to this routine as much as I can because my skin is left looking downright cherubic, and is more resilient to environmental changes and stressors, and heals from any injury (including now very rare pimples) quicker than it ever did before. If you like this post, please let me know and I will try to prioritize a follow-up post about my night-time routine.
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There’s no subtle way to say this: I give a lot of credit for the healing of my skin to olive oil. I don’t even have a specific brand that I use, just any decent quality olive oil seems to do the trick. When I’m ready to start my morning cleansing, I first pour about a teaspoon of olive oil onto my palm, rub evenly between my hands, and then luxuriously massage all over my face and neck. Sometimes I allow the oil to soak in for an hour or so before moving to the next step.
Steam. If you watch my Instagram stories, you are already familiar with my trusty steamer. This is the steamer I use:
This steamer also comes with some extraction tools that I also use sometimes. I’ve only used the basic tools that look like little loops, but they are very helpful for gently coaxing out blackheads and congestion without damaging the skin the way using my fingers do. I have been using this steamer for a few years now after receiving it as a Christmas gift… by now many of the labels on the device have completely worn off from use, but the actual machine continues to serve me well. (Thankfully by now I have all the dials memorized anyway). I strongly recommend using distilled water with any steamer you purchase, as it will reduce mineral buildups within the mechanism that will damage the unit over time.
Typically I steam my face for ten minutes, but happily sit there longer if time permits. I also massage the olive oil further into my face as the warm steam loosens the skin and allows it to permeate deeper.
Time to wash. My method is extremely lowkey in the morning: just a washcloth and a bar of soap! I am currently using Ivory, but I have also used Dove, and Dial in the past and they all seem roughly similar… Dove seems to be the most gentle, and Dial seems stronger, but they are all comparable and I will happily use any of them. I use a clean washcloth every time, and soak it in warm water. Then I lather up the bar of soap, and gently, GENTLY massage the soapy cloth all over my face and neck. The skin is very loose and delicate after the oil and steam so utmost care and gentleness must be used. A soft washcloth seems like it couldn’t possibly be rough on your face, but after the softening effects of the previous step, it is very easy to overdo it with the scrubbing. After a lathery massage, I thoroughly rinse the cloth in warm water, and then use it to carefully rinse every trace of soap from my face and neck. After all the soap is rinsed, I tap my face and neck dry with a towel.
All I wear on a daily basis is a tinted sunblock. I am finishing up a tube of Clinique CityBlock that is unfortunately no longer produced, and I have just started using IT Cosmetics SPF 50 CC Cream and really like it. I only purchase sunscreens that use physical blocks like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide… unfortunately, both of those ingredients are notorious for leaving an ashy, chalky look on any skin (not just people with darker skin… it looks bad on us pale people too, I promise!). I have been very impressed with the IT Cosmetics CC cream for managing to blend without giving a hint of Casper the Friendly Ghost.
After all that, I go out and live my life.