If you get grossed out easily, tread carefully, since I have some severe photos of acne I once had.
I was watching MissGlamorazzi's acne story the other day and thought I could give my 2 cents about acne as well. I've had acne since I was ~11 years old, at first it was my forehead (which didn't really leave a lot of scarring), then it migrated to my cheeks when I began attending university, not sure if it was due to age, stress, hormones, diet, or just a combination of everything.
I never used to wear face makeup until I was probably 19 or 20, and I think makeup really helped my insecurities, but I always remembered a quote about skin from MszJackieChu (no longer active on Youtube) who said "I'd rather have a good face than a good face a makeup."
Over the years my skin somehow got worse, especially the scars on my cheeks - some of which never disappeared completely. In May 2014, I was in Inner Mongolia (traveling during my 10 month study abroad trip) and had the worst breakout of my life (photo below) which may have been a reaction from eating too much lamb, sugar, the bad air, dirt, climate, lack of hygiene (we didn't have access to a sink for 2 days, so we couldn't wash our faces with water) and maybe dehydration - since it wasn't super convenient to always use the restroom in more rural areas.
Left: November 2015 | Right: May 2016 (no makeup, of course)
Left: November 2015 | Right: May 2016 (no makeup, of course)
I went to the dermatologist in China when I got back to Beijing, and they said it's just an inflammatory response from the body, and prescribed me anti-inflammatory medication, which calmed the acne down and left a lot of scars and larger pores around my nose.
Prior to this breakout, I never thought acne was scary, it was more just a nuisance, constant annoyance that I thought I would eventually grow out of. After hitting puberty and getting oily skin, my parents always said that it'll pass when I'm older. My dad had acne when he was a teenager, and the acne stopped when he became an adult at some point. I was told by various strangers, relatives, etc. to eat non greasy foods (which I have adapted to), drink water, use aloe vera, etc. And if you happen to be first or second generation Chinese, I'm sure you have some Chinese relatives who like to bluntly comment on your appearance. Saying things like "oh my god what happened to your face?" "why is there another pimple?" "why do you still have acne?"
My parents comment when I break out sometimes, I think it is very hurtful and inconsiderate of them to comment on other people's appearance like that, because I KNOW better than anyone that I am breaking out and my skin is bumpy, so thanks for the reminder. (I know it's out of love that they care, but it's a cultural flaw in my opinion.)
I'm sure those of you who have had acne have had the same feelings I did:
All because of a skin condition that many teenagers live through. There are people more fortunate, who just have a couple pimples during their teenage years and never have to worry about it again. Then there are those with flawless skin (I have had 2 female friends who use water to wash their face and have poreless, flawless complexions).
Update: July 2016
I stopped taking antibiotics ~5 months in and started using only the Epiduo 2.5% benzoyl peroxide every night. It's definitely helped keep my skin clear, but I'm still struggling in finding a really good night cream. My large pores is definitely still troublesome, maybe when I go to Korea I'll see what I can do for it. I haven't been diligently exfoliating so maybe I'll get back on track for that
A lot of older people have told me that acne goes away after you turn 25, after your get pregnant, after blah blah blah. But I'm 23 and I still haven't completely grown out of it.
In November 2015 I finally visited an American dermatologist after over 10 years of battling with acne (and somewhat succeeding but regressing). She prescribed me antibiotics along with an antibacterial topical treatment that the skin takes time to adapt to. Now, 6 months later, my skin is finally at a place where I'm comfortable leaving the house with no makeup. And I have the following tips to share:
1. Use sunscreen.
One of my friends with flawless skin have gotten a lot of freckles on her cheeks. While freckles are cute, getting them from sun damage is a sign of your skin aging and becoming weaker. I tell everyone I know to wear sunscreen, because it helps prevent skin cancer and prevent your dark spots to become darker from sun damage. If you want to be tan, use a self tanner. My favorite sunscreen is the Cotz SPF40 (review here), it is a mineral sunscreen, minimizes the appearance of pores, helps to control oil and is a great base for makeup. I have the tinted version which may not suit everyone's skin tone, but it is very sheer.
2. Your diet matters - drink at least 8 cups of water a day
If you have acne prone skin and eat a lot of fast food, junkfood, sugar, etc. - your skin shows it rather quickly. My skin gets inflamed from eating spicy food or too much sugar. It's really a matter of how much you care about your skin, do you care enough to stop eating food that tastes great but is terrible for your skin?
There are people who can get away with eating those foods and still have no acne, but eating more healthy is better for your skin and health in the long run. I rarely eat junkfood (chips, soda) or fast food now, but I'll indulge once in a while if I'm craving it. My vice is milk tea - creamer really does a number on my skin if I have it frequently, so now I try to cut it back to once or twice a week. A lot of people say cutting out dairy helps, but I can neither confirm nor deny that - I think it depends on the person, but I'd say to try cutting out dairy and minimize sugar intake to see if it makes a difference.
It goes without saying that drinking water is very important to your health and your skin, it helps flush out toxins in your body and hydrate it.
3. Be patient, CONSISTENCY is key
I know, as well as anyone, how frustrating it is when you have all these cystic acne spots on your face that you're stuck with for a couple days to a few weeks, and the scars that literally take over a year to completely fade. Skin care is not an overnight change or process, you must be consistent with product use and find products that are suitable for your skin.
Personally, I found that benzoyl peroxide kills acne spots better than salicylic acid for my skin, and I encourage everyone to visit a dermatologist if you cannot successfully remedy your acne within a year.
4. Wash off your makeup (completely) and exfoliate (but not too often)
I know a few younger girls who pile on the foundation to cover their acne and probably don't double cleanse to clean the skin effectively, creating more clogged pores, bumps and acne. If you have traces of makeup left on your skin or don't clean out your pores effectively, you could use the best skin care product in the world and still not see a difference. I recommend using a cleansing oil (my holy grail here) or a makeup removing cleanser (Philosophy Purity, Neutrogena One Step Gentle cleanser) followed by an acne cleanser or a gentle face wash (hence the name double cleansing). I really like the La Roche Posay Effaclar medicated cleanser, but it's a bit drying. Acne.org recommends using a gentle cleanser like the Cetaphil.
Along with cleansing your skin effectively, exfoliating regularly also helps your skin become smoother overtime. Exfoliating also helps your products absorb better - for gentle exfoliation I used to use the Clarisonic Mia, but the brushheads are a bit expensive to maintain, and I have since started using the Foreo Luna Mini, which is nice. A silicone scrublet (or konjac sponge) works well too.
For deeper exfoliation, I use a fine scrub (Philosophy Microdelivery) or the GlamGlow Brightening Treatment (review here) is also good once or twice a week.
5. MOISTURIZE (especially during night time)
I cannot stress this enough. Your skin repairs itself while you sleep, so it is crucial you supply your skin with ingredients that can help nourish the skin so it heals from acne and scarring. When I was younger I used to never moisturize because I thought my skin produces enough oil on its own, but using an oil-free/noncomedogenic moisturizer really makes a difference.
6. Don't skim on sleep
In college, a lot of people pull all nighters and sleep less to study or finish projects/papers. If you have done this I'm sure you've noticed that your skin looks red and fatigued the next day. Doing this continuously will definitely impact your skin, I recommend always getting 7-10 hours of sleep, depending on how much time you can afford.
7. Minimize the number of products/ingredients you use.
I know it's tempting to pile on all the treatments and exfoliate excessively to make your skin better, but you could end up irritating your skin even more. Sticking to the same cleanser, toner and moisturizer (assuming it works) over time helps your skin heal it self without over irritating the skin. Treatments once to three times a week are also helpful.
I discourage using fragrant products or anything with alcohol (common in toners) because it irritates and dries out your skin. I always like to use different products out of curiosity and to search for the next best thing, but I would only recommend switching your products up every 3 months at the earliest.
8. Hygiene is very important
Wash your towels, pillow cases, makeup brushes/sponges.
These things can easily get grimy if you don't clean them regularly, trapping bacteria and oils in there you don't want on your face or skin in general.
Trial and error is part of finding products that work the best for you. I do highly recommend checking out the CeraVe moisturizing cream (review here) as a simple moisturizer if you don't already have a good fragrance-free, oil-free, alcohol-free facial moisturizer (I say alcohol free bc a lot of the gel creams on the market have alcohol as one of first 5 ingredients).
I am currently working on minimizing my pores and reducing dark spots, and will update when I have found a good product that's effective in that aspect.
Like MissGlamorazzi said in her acne story video:
Know that you're not alone, and in the bigger scheme of things there is so much more to life than worrying about how your skin looks (or your appearance in general). I used to be so obsessed with looking "pretty" or attractive, until I met people who are conventionally attractive but empty inside, either in terms of intelligence, personal interests, ambition or low EQ that just made them so unattractive. I encourage everyone to find something you're passionate about, read more meaningful books, educate yourself and improve your emotional intelligence.
As a woman, I think it's infinitely better to be perceived as smart and ambitious than good looking but empty. Of course, it's good to take care of yourself so you look polished and look mature enough to be taken more seriously, but don't let looks alone define you; developing a positive, attractive personality goes a long way if you were introverted like I once was.
Everyone is beautiful in their own way, I hope this blog post was helpful.