Let’s talk about skin care this Monday morning, as spring approaches and we prepare to leave winter behind. Is my routine working? Am I in the market for different brands and products? Why did I not give my skin a fighting chance at being well-moisturized, smooth, and free of acne? To tell you the truth, I didn’t even have a basic skin care routine until I hit 25, and even then, it’s been sporadic in the implementation. I don’t eat right, I’m subjected to a hell of a lot of hormonal (thyroid!) and situational (grad school) stress. I’ve never really had a break from the acne since it started in high school.
Plot twist (but not really) – adult acne is a bitch, especially if you don’t even try to help yourself.
When I started nearing the quarter century mark on the highway, and I thought, hey, you know, I should probably have at least a night-time skin care routine so that, you know, I’d be able to go on longer in the harsh Canadian winters with at least some skin left on my face. This spurred all sorts of the type of experimentation when a girl in her early twenties has nothing to learn from but YouTube and her own instincts – from Kiehl’s and Olay to nose strips and facial scrubs. A lot of which, of course, did little to help.
And then last summer, I was able to go home to the Philippines for 6 weeks for a teaching gig that I had only dreamt would happen for literal years. Unfortunately, the flat that I stayed in long-term (4 weeks!) while I was teaching was less than ideal – the only mattress available looked like it had been in this screenless, dusty, insect-ridden room for years, if not decades. It was filthy!
I didn’t even have a chance to purchase bedsheets until week 2, so I was sleeping cheek to bare mattress. I didn’t know where even to purchase them, and I had nobody to ask because my flatmate wasn’t arriving until a week later. Two weeks in, I bought not only pillows, sheets, and a blanket, but also a mosquito net because I was waking up pockmarked in insect bites, and the very next day I woke up to a half-developed young cockroach perched on the net, two inches from my face.
My acne, friends, went haywire. It had not been that bad for me in literal years.
I remember one Friday going back to the ancestral home from campus, a 5 hour journey by bus, ship, a cab, and another bus. I was in the front seat, beside the driver, laughing at something my flatmate had said, and I felt 3 or 4 pimples on my chin go pop! without warning, and all at once. I was mortified. I had nothing on me to sop up the pus and fluid, and I had to try (and fail, I’m sure) to discreetly wipe things away on my sleeve.
I looked great in photos but if you zoomed in for a close up –
Biiiitch, it was bad.
Although my last week in the Philippines was spent at a really nice hotel (clean sheets every day! giant bed all to myself! AC! Room service!), my skin wasn’t able to recover. I got back to Toronto, and even then, it’s taken another 6 months (with one hyperactive case of acne in January) before my skin calmed down to manageable proportions, aka this month.
I’m a lot better now (except on the days when I deliberately go to bed not having washed my face, but we’ll not talk about that), and the following are a list of products, skin care and otherwise, that have helped me the most, in the order in which I use them.
Aztec Indian Cleaning Clay | Amazon Link
I honestly don’t have any idea how this gotdang thing works, but it does. I found it recommended via a BuzzFeed video and figured, hey, it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try. My skin is a combination of oily (although that has lessened in the past years) and dry, and this mask helps smooth things out. There is some sort of magic here that I am not privy to. I do use water instead of vinegar, since I don’t want to irritate my skin even more. I tend to use it once a week, more if I have the time or I’m gearing up for a lush day of nothing but skincare and fruity boozy drinks.
St. Ives Lemon & Mandarin Facial Scrub | Amazon Link
After I wash off the clay mask, I tend to use this scrub on my cheeks, chin, and the corners of my mouth, which is where my breakouts happen most often, especially during my period. Used with the clay mask, it has done wonders for drying out my acne.
Olay UV Moisturizing Formula with Vitamins E & B3 | Amazon Link
I use this first as an immediate moisturizer after I wash off the facial scrub, almost as a primer for the thicker face cream that I apply over it when it dries. I find that my skin responds better to two coats of moisturizer, and that it responds especially well when I have a thinner layer under a thicker layer. Without it, the face cream doesn’t cling as well as it does, and then my bb cream tends to come off in flakes. Not cool.
Olay Active Hydrating Cream Face Moisturizer | Amazon Link
Finally, especially when I know I’m going to be commuting and going into the harsh Canadian winter winds, I apply a thick layer of this cream.
And that’s it! I’m sure this routine will have to change come summer, when I’m contending with sweat instead of, you know, the windchill. Until then, this will be keeping me busy. And if you’re looking for resolution, here’s a nice photo of me with a relatively clear face: