Alright people, it's TMI time. (Yes, I know it's not Thursday. We'll call it TMI Friday instead, okay?)
Today I'm going to talk about Adult Acne. It's going to be a long one, but hopefully it will help some of you ladies who, like me, have been struggling to get clear skin despite no longer being in your teens.
I don't think there are many people whose faces didn't turn into dermatological pizza at least to some extent when they were teenagers, but for some people the hell doesn't stop when puberty subsides. 1 in 5 adults between the ages of 25 and 40 will suffer from acne and at least 80% of those are women. One of those women is me; I've spent the last 20 years fighting my own face (at least that's how it's felt) and quite frankly, it's been a long, expensive and emotional road. Until now. I'm glad to say that I have finally beaten my acne!!
This is how my skin looks now, sans make up.
HERE, HERE, and HERE, hidden behind links to protect the squeamish!) and I can honestly say my skin is now the best it's looked for 20 years!
There's a ton of information about acne out there, but the trouble is, it's usually conflicting and confusing, and often just tries to sell you stuff (which is frequently nothing but snake oil anyway). Looking back at all the things I've tried, I realise that I wasted a lot of time and money on barking up the wrong tree entirely! There is a whole list of things I wish I'd known a long time ago: it would have made my struggle a lot easier and shorter! In the interests of maybe helping some of the other reluctantly spotty ladies out there, here is that list. Please note that I am NOT a dermatologist. I'm a biochemist, so I know a thing or two about science, but I wouldn't even begin to claim that I am an expert in skincare. These are just the things that I have learned help my own skin and they may or may not help you too.
1. Seek medical advice
If you have acne, the first place you should go is the doctor. Do not be afraid that your skin is not bad enough for medical intervention, or that the doctor will laugh you out of the room. He won't. He has a whole arsenal of things that can help, as do Pharmacists (though there are some things only doctors can prescribe). While they may not be as attractively packaged or pleasantly scented as things you buy in the drugstore, the chances are they'll work a lot better and will cost you less money in the long run too. While you're showing your acne to the doctor, also have a discussion about whether or not you need to change your method of birth control. Acne is massively influenced by hormones, whether that's our own, or the artificial kind we use to stop ourselves from having babies. You can use all the acne treatments in the world but if your skin is freaking out over hormones (whether that's too much, too little, or the wrong kind), you're going to be fighting an uphill battle all the way. Often, starting, stopping, or changing the type of birth control you use, can make a huge difference to your skin. You may need to be patient and try a few things before you figure out what works best (and for me that was the progesterone implant), but believe me, it's worth persevering.
2. Keep it Simple
It is very tempting to rush out and buy every acne face wash, gel, cleansing wipe, scrub and cream you can get your hands on, and then scrub the life out of your face hoping that the spots will magically go away. Try not to do this as it can actually be counter-productive: acne products (especially those aimed at teenagers) can be very harsh and drying to the skin and it is very likely that your face will reward your efforts with twice as much acne as you had in the first place (I speak from painful experience here). Choose just one or two key things that you know definitely work, and stick to them; your skin will thank you for it.
My daily skincare routine only involves two specifically anti-acne products: Quinoderm cream (reviewed HERE), and African Black Soap, which is legendary for its ability to help treat pretty much any skin condition from acne to eczema and everything in between (I'll be reviewing this soon).
3. Keep it Moist
I make sure my skin is moisturised well at all times. It might seem like a bad idea to moisturise: people can get paranoid about greasing up their skin and think that moisturiser will cause their acne to get worse. Actually it's quite the opposite. You NEED moisture. Dry skin is unhappy skin; it will produce extra sebum to try and fix itself and extra sebum equals extra acne. The trick (which might require a bit of trial and error) is to find a moisturiser which will suit your skin, especially if you have dry areas - it's a myth that acne prone skin is automatically greasy skin, ya know. You want something that is simple and gentle, but not so rich it will block your pores. Things which say 'non comodogenic' are usually good, as they are supposedly not pore-blocking. Things which leave your face still feeling claggy over half an hour later are generally bad - ideally it should disappear into the skin within a few minutes and leave it feeling moisturised, but not greasy. My current favourite is the Superdrug Vitamin E range (again, review coming very soon!).
4. Keep it Clean
This might seem obvious, but nevertheless, I can't stress it enough: DO NOT SLEEP IN YOUR MAKE UP. I don't care how pure and wonderful the packaging claims it is. That make up has been on your face all day long, picking up germs, dust, sweat, debris, grease and dirt, and if you don't take it off before bed it's all going to sit there all night too, having a right old party in your pores, which will more than likely get blocked and infected. Nice. At the risk of sounding like a right old minger, I always used to sleep in my make up and take it off the next morning. I didn't think it made that much difference, but it really does. Now I take it off every night before bed and my skin is so much better for it. If I forget or get lazy for a few days, I soon wish I hadn't!!
5. Check Your Make Up
The day I switched from traditional liquid foundation to mineral powder foundation, my skin all but cheered. It turns out all that make up I was using to hide my acne, was actually part of the problem: I can wear as much powder as I like, but if I drift back to liquid, I get maybe two or three days grace, then dermatological Armageddon occurs. I'm not saying that powder is the holy grail, or that liquid foundation is evil; but everyone's skin is different and it's very possible that certain types of make up, ingredients or additives just don't agree with your face. (Silicones, waxes, fragrances and SPF are just a few things which tend to cause problems for acne sufferers). It's definitely worth looking at the things you put on your face and maybe trying to use different formulations for a while, to see if it helps.
6. Check Your Diet
Studies have shown that a bad diet does not automatically cause acne. However, there is evidence from both clinical trials and observational studies to suggest that diet CAN make existing acne worse. Particular culprits include dairy products, sugar, saturated fats and processed foods, so if you currently eat a lot of these, it might help to cut down. Dairy is definitely a trigger for my skin: the more I eat, the spottier I get, and my skin is definitely better when I avoid junk food!
7. Be Patient
The only thing that Acne does quickly is get worse. Whatever you try, if it doesn't seem to be doing much, give it a reasonable amount of time before giving up and trying something else: a couple of weeks if it's a cleanser, a couple of months if it's a treatment cream. If you've changed your birth control it may take even longer: it took almost a year for my skin to settle down from the enormous flare up I experienced when I started using the depo injection, though with the implant that I eventually switched to, it only took a few weeks for my skin to normalise. Go figure.
And... that's it! 7 steps to better skin. It worked for me, and I really hope it will help other people too!