My skin has been acting up in a major way lately… I think it’s a combination of stress, hormones, and a 1-day trip to Cape Town a couple of weeks ago (it always takes ages for my skin to get back to normal after being stuck on a plane). The air in planes is very drying, which can trick your skin into producing even more oil and we all know overproductive oil glands lead to breakouts. Stress raises levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), which increases inflammation and causes oil glands to go into overdrive as well. All in all, bad news for your skin. So lately, I’ve been struggling with some nasty breakouts that seem to hang around for ages. That was until I busted out my trusty blemish treatments.
Acne is a pain, everyone knows that. I like to consider myself an expert when it comes to blemishes, acne and breakouts. I’m by no means pretending to be a skin care expert or Dermatologist, but I am your average girl-next-door consumer who struggled with terrible acne in my late twenties. Yes, you heard right…my LATE twenties. I know what it feels like to have to deal with cystic adult acne, and covering it up with makeup doesn’t always help. It was a very difficult time in my life, and I eventually gave up and went on a 6-month course of Roaccutane. It was both a blessing and a curse. It solved my acne issues for the most part, but it was an experience I would much rather forget. The severely dry & sensitive skin, the chapped & bleeding lips, the joint pains, the back pains, the headaches… I honestly wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy!
These days I still get those pesky pimples (not nearly as bad as it used to be), but can manage the odd breakout with the use of acne treatments. If you suffer from cystic acne, then I suggest you consult a Dermatologist or skin care professional. If you struggle with the odd hormonal breakout, or the occasional stress-induced blemish, then this blog post will hopefully introduce you to a few of my favourite treatments (plus they’re easy to get your hands on, no prescription needed).
First things first, head over to my ‘Beauty School – Oily Skin’ and ‘Beauty School – Combination Skin’ blog posts here to read up on the causes, makeup tips and how to look after your specific skin type. Unfortunately, just cleansing your face isn’t enough to clear up a breakout. To battle pimples, you’ll need ammunition in the form of treatments. Before we get started, please note that I don’t use all of these treatments at the same time – that’s just overkill. I went through my skin care stash in preparation for this blog post, and these are the products that I have been using on & off for the past year or so.
Are you suffering from an awful bumpy breakout that is lurking just below the surface, or a full-on volcano right in the middle of your forehead? Fear not, here is a list of my top 5 gentle yet effective blemish battlers:
The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil ♥ R 75,00 – This is the most natural targeted care for blemished skin you will find, because tea tree oil is a very powerful anti-septic. I like to pour a few drops onto the end of cotton bud and gently dab on blemishes. Fortunately this essential oil treatment from The Body Shop has been diluted with other ingredients so it’s not too harsh on the skin (unlike pure tea tree oil). I find using this as a spot treatment stops the development phase of a blemish in its tracks, and if I catch it early enough it will stop the blemish from surfacing. The spot basically just shrivels up and dies under the skin (I really do have a way with words sometimes, don’t I?). Tea Tree Oil can be used in many different ways to help soothe blemished skin. This can also be used for facial steaming: Fill up a basin with very hot water, add a few drops of tea tree oil to your steaming hot water, drape a towel over your head, and hold your face over the water for about 10 minutes. After the time is up, gently pat your skin dry, apply a moisturiser, and then dab a bit of additional oil on the affected areas. Steam is a very effective way of opening up the pores, and the process flushes out bacteria and oils that cause acne in the first place. Remember, though, removing your makeup is a must before steaming, because you don’t want makeup anywhere near open pores.
Dermalogica mediBac Clearing Breakout Control ♥ R 620,00 – This is specifically formulated to treat adult acne, and contains no benzoyl peroxide (which is a common irritant for sensitive skin). Breakout Control stimulates the removal of impaction plugs (a blackhead or whitehead) and regulates oil production to help skin clear up and start the healing phase. Breakout Control is an untinted gel that can be used as a spot-treatment or as an all-over treatment. I personally only use it as a spot-treatment as my breakout areas are usually the jawline and cheek area. I find it does a great job of absorbing oil and clearing up blemishes. Whenever I’m going through a breakout phase, this forms part of my evening skin care routine (for the duration of a week) and by day 7, most of the pesky blemishes have significantly reduced in size. What I really love about this treatment is that it’s not drying or dehydrating at all, plus I feel like it actually soothes my sensitised skin as well.
You can purchase Dermalogica products at selected beauty salons (see their stockist list here) and at Dermalogica Concept Stores nationwide.
The Body Shop Seaweed Clarifying Night Treatment ♥ R 35,00 – As far as using a lightweight mattifying treatment, that doesn’t dry out the skin, this little guy is exactly what you need. This is a non-clogging, easily absorbed, oil-free moisturising gel. Seaweed is a natural anti-inflammatory, so it will soothe the inflammation that’s causing those red, painful blemishes. Seaweed in skin care products is a winner because it contains essential fatty acids that don’t just infuse your skin with moisture, but also prevent your skin from losing that moisture. I know what you’re thinking… “Why should I be worried about moisture loss when I’m dealing with acne?” Here’s the deal, when you use a traditional acne treatment that contains salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, it dries out the skin. Seaweed purifies and balances the skin in the areas where you need it most, whilst delivering essential moisture to the drier areas. All this, while you sleep.
This night treatment is a gel formula that feels very much like a liquid on the skin. It absorbs into the skin almost instantly but doesn’t leave my skin feeling tight. This is an all-over treatment, so it helps to reduce the production of excess oil and leaves my skin feeling plump and hydrated. Unfortunately this travel size is not available for purchase anymore, but you can still buy the full size for R 155,00 (not bad for a full-face acne treatment gel).
Freeman Beauty Mint & Lemon Clay Mask ♥ R 16,95 – This is a great clay mask for combination to oily skin. This zesty cooling clay mask absorbs oil (as clay masks usually do), reduces inflammation, and minimises the appearance of large pores. I use this specific mask from Freeman during the hot Summer months, when my skin is particularly oily and blemish-prone. I find it’s great for sorting out PMS-related breakouts because I can use the mask consistently for a week without aggravating any sensitivity in the skin. In fact, you will see best results if you use it for more than just a few days.
If you read this blog post, you will remember I mentioned that oily or combination skin that is dehydrated needs water- based products and this mask is water-based. The Mint & Lemon Clay Mask absorbs oil but does not leave the skin feeling tight or dry. It also contains peppermint oil which helps to soothe and nourish the skin, minimise breakouts, and help fade pigmentation. Lemon which is a natural bleaching agent, which means it will help with hyperpigmentation and lighten acne scars. I’ve also used this as a spot treatment at the first sight of a pesky little pimple – it works like a bomb! You can also buy this mask in a full size tube at Dis-Chem for R 69,95.
Soap & Glory No Clogs Allowed! Deep Pore Detox Mask ♥ £ 11,50 (R 219,00) – This is probably my favourite face mask at the moment because it is so fun to use! It really is a very unique little mask. Here’s why I love it so much: It’s self-heating and colour-changing. This is a scrubby face mask, meaning it contains micro beads to polish the surface of the skin. It deep cleans, melts away pore-clogging sebum and softens the skin as well. Don’t let the cute name fool you though, it definitely packs a punch! As with the Freeman mask, I can also use this as a spot treatment as it does a great job of detoxifying problematic areas on the skin. I massage a grape-sized amount of this white volcanic mineral-based mask onto dry skin, then wet my hands and rub & scrub in circular motions until it turns…BLUE. The packaging says it starts to heat up after you’ve added water, but I always feel the heat as soon as I apply it to my face. After 5 minutes, I like to remove it with a warm, wet washcloth. Nothing feels better than using a warm washcloth to remove a face mask, especially on a cold Winter’s eve.
Getting back to the mask, it purifies, detoxifies, mattifies, exfoliates and effectively cleans out the dirt & grime from my pores. My skin looks brighter and feels clean and clear. I’m definitely not saying it solves all my blemish issues in just one application, but with regular use I always notice a difference. I like to use this as part of my weekly pamper session (Sundays are my pamper days), and usually I will follow this up with a hydrating face mask. I’m all about double-masking it at the moment.
*waves white flag* This is the only product that is not available in South Africa BUT you can purchase Soap & Glory products from SolRetail (they offer free worldwide shipping).
SKIN CARE TIPS – BREAKOUTS & BLEMISHES:
♥ It’s very important to deal with a breakout quickly and effectively to kick start speedy healing. If you stop a blemish from festering into a full-on pimple, it will ensure that no scarring or inflammation is left behind as a horrible reminder. Spot-treating your blemish as soon as you see it can reduce its lifespan by 1 to 2 days.
♥ Remember, overusing acne products can lead to excessive dryness. Apply the amount recommended on the packaging, not a giant blob of product. Benzoyl peroxide can even cause chemical burns, so be sure to keep that in mind when you apply any acne treatment to your face. Another ingredient that you need to look out for is Alcohol Denat. (most acne fighting products contain this) – it’s okay if you use a product that contains this as a spot treatment, but it may become a problem when you apply it all over the face. Alcohol Denat. causes cell death and can destroy the skin’s lipid barrier over time. Simple alcohols – mostly listed as ‘Isopropyl’, ‘Alcohol Denat.’ and ‘Ethanol’ can be very drying. I always check the ingredients list whenever I start testing a new moisturiser. The bottom line is this, try to avoid anything with simple alcohol listed among its first few ingredients or rather opt for something that says ‘alcohol free’ on the packaging.
♥ Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean ALL types of alcohol are bad for your skin. There are fatty alcohols – anything called ‘Cetyl’, ‘Cetearyl’, or ‘Behenyl’ and these are derived from fats and oils. They can actually be moisturising as opposed to drying.
♥ Acne products can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage, so be sure to use SPF30 or higher.
♥ Wash those makeup brushes! I know, I know… Washing your makeup brushes probably ranks somewhere between watching paint dry and cleaning your cat’s litter box on your ‘To Do’ list. I’d rather sit through an episode of ‘Days Of Our Lives’ than give my makeup brushes are good cleaning. But if you want a clear complexion, you just have to suck it up and do it. Bacteria accumulates and grows between the bristles of your foundation, concealer and other face brushes, and dirty brushes will just transfer that bacteria to your face. Eew… Even if your skin is clean / clear, your brushes are still collecting oil, dust and dead skin cells. Don’t save it up in your brushes just to wipe it all over your face, wash those babies as often as possible.
♥ Leave your blemishes and blackheads alone. Picking at your skin introduces more germs (even if you think your hands are clean), increases the chances of scarring, and can aggravate inflammation…which means more breakouts. If you really can’t stand the sight of a particularly large blemish, then head on over to a Dermalogica Concept Store & go for a Microzone treatment. It’s a 20-minute, targeted and effective skin treatment that targets pressing skin issues like breakouts, dullness, and tired eyes in a flash for immediate results. It’s more affordable than a 60-minute facial, and will take care of any skin issues you might have.
♥ Bed linen can be a safe haven for bacteria. Change your pillowcases at least once a week, and the same goes for towels too.
Remember, ladies – miracles don’t happen overnight. If you expect your skin to clear up in just a couple of days, you’ll be disappointed. Depending on your age, skin type, genetics, lifestyle, diet and products used, it may take up to 3 months for your skin cells to turn over and reveal new skin. Be consistent with your skin care routine, and be patient.