I've written before about what I do when my skin is absolutely freaking out, whether my eyes look tired or my skin appears dry. Pimples, however, are a totally different story. If I see a breakout start to happen, I have to jump into defensive mode to save myself from making the situation worse. First, I mask with Origins' Clear Improvement Mask to clear out the impurities and pollution from the day. I then wash my face with Caudalie Instant Foaming Cleanser and dry it with a newly cleaned towel. I continue my traditional skincare routine before adding a CosRX pimple patch on the spot. This keeps me from picking at it and disturbing the healing process. I'll also apply Anakiri Restore Proplis Balm to my skin to calm down any redness or irritation.
I have yet to entirely crack the code and find my holy grail breakout products, but in general, here's what tends to work for me! Even if the products change, I still follow roughly the same routine: Get my face squeaky-clean with either Lanolips Cleanser or Juicy Beauty Hydrating Cleanser, then use a toner like Sanitas Brightening Solution which I apply to my face on a reusable cotton pad. Next, I apply a face mask. I prefer masks that are cleansing and full of nutrients, without being drying. Right now, I like Juice Beauty's Antioxidant Face Mask, which I leave on for twenty minutes. After washing it off with warm water and a clean washcloth, I'll apply Differin's Retinol gel and a prescription spot treatment. If my face needs it, I'll apply a hydrating serum that's rich in Vitamins C and E, like MAELOVE's Glow Maker. Because I pick at my face, I have to put CosRX strips on top of any blemishes and basically force myself to walk away from the mirror (just me??). I also find that eating well makes an enormous difference in preventing breakouts. Anytime I eat a lot of sugar or a ton of dairy (like a latte), I break out—so I try not to!
When I break out, it's typically an under-the-skin, painful cyst. Since I've had them since high school, I know their timeline and how they work–they'll hurt for a few days, then come to a head, so I never try and pop them prematurely (I've made that mistake one too many times in the past). I wash my face with Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser, add my Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum, Paula's Choice AHA Lotion Exfoliant, The Ordinary's Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA, then my Earth Tu Face facial oil, in that order, and place one of my Peace Out Acne Healing Dots on top of the budding zit. You continue to replace the patches once they turn white, and since they blend in with my skin, I swap and wear them constantly until the pimple becomes extractable. Beyond that, I just make sure I'm drinking tons of water to flush out whatever is causing the breakout in the first place!
I've been lucky enough to have survived my teens and early twenties without any serious blemish issues. However, when I do get an unlucky spot, I become obsessed. It's the first and last thing I think about during the day, and my desire to touch it is always at the forefront of my mind. In order to avoid making the problem worse, I have to have a very strategic game plan (based on no scientific fact or dermatologist recommendations). First, I double cleanse with my cleansing balm and Glossier Milky Jelly to remove any remnants of makeup, then apply the Caudalie Instant Detox Mask. This mask seriously feels like every follicle of dirt is being pulled from your face. After letting it sit 20 minutes, I wash my face and then tone with Mario Badescu's Glycolic Toner. Finally, I dip a q-tip into my Mario Badescu drying lotion and spot treat the pimple. Having this overnight solution on keeps me from wanting to touch it. Usually, within two to three days, the spot is gone entirely. If I notice some scarring, which happens since I'm pale, I add more Vitamin C serum into my skincare rotation for a few days and heavily apply Homeoplasmine to hydrate the spot.
Although I suffered from "adult acne" in my early 20s, my skin has now cleared up for the most part, and having to worry about new pimples popping up daily is (luckily) a thing of the past. However, clogged pores and blackheads still torment me, which I tackle two ways. First, I use my trusty Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Gel Exfoliant nightly, which helps keep blackheads and whiteheads to a minimum—if you have resilient skin, I would also recommend the cult classic Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, but I find it can be drying for most individuals so approach with caution! Second, bentonite clay masks: I love and swear by these, and the two I use most frequently are the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay mask (I mix the clay with water, which I find is more gentle than the apple cider vinegar they suggest) and BIBA Calming Zinc Sulphur Mask. This one requires no mixing and is also somehow moisturizing even while it purges.
Before I figured out my skincare routine, my face was in pretty bad shape. I wrote about all the changes I made to my lifestyle and skincare routine last winter, and since then, I've been mostly acne-free. Adding Curology this year was the final cherry on top for me. My virtual dermatologist prescribed me 4% niacinamide, 4% azelaic acid, and 1% clindamycin and it has kept my breakouts at bay (except when I dive into the cheese plate or drink a latte–truly nothing will save me). When I do get a breakout or feel one coming after binging on Ben and Jerry's, I use EradiKate by Kate Sommerville at night, which is sulfur-based and looks/smells crazy, but WORKS. During the day I use a little tea tree oil to fight inflammation, and otherwise try to just leave my face alone!
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