You want to put your best face forward. Your confidence increases when your skin is clear. Skin is our largest organ, and one of the first things people notice within 30 seconds of meeting you. Judgment upon the condition of the skin may be indicative of how someone perceives your overall health.
We all obsess over our skin (minus the freaks with genetics that somehow allow them to bypass any form of sebaceous flaws). Cultural media leads women to believe they can be flawless--thanks to photo retouching, makeup airbrushing, Smartphone photo filters and the endless beauty product marketing tactics.
My photos are taken with a Nikon camera. You have my word there is no skin retouching, allowing you to have an honest depiction of how my skin care regimen has made “The Best Of The Skin I’m In”, at age 29.
I have experienced every type of skin problem over the last 2 decades; some problems were self-induced. I have caused damage when trying to ‘solve’ a skin problem by picking, over exfoliation, chemical burns, hyper pigmentation from the absence of sunscreen, and some other interesting methods that should be left to dermatologists only.
We all desire our skin to have an outer glow to match our inner glow. Feeling healthy inside and looking healthy on the outside is a killer combination. I am here to share my honest journey to clear skin and increased confidence. Glow on.
1. STOP PICKING.
I know that no one wants to hear this yet again. I was told this for 20 years and couldn’t help myself either. However, if you are going to pick, you need to learn how to do it safely. Pore extraction needs to be done with safe tools and rubbing alcohol. Avoid using your fingernails and use Q-tips in a pinch. You can purchase a 3-in-1 pore extractor like this from Sephora. But get smart and educate yourself on what is safe and unsafe to pick.
2. KNOW WHAT IS ON YOUR FACE
MILIA: Appear as small-hardened white bumps under the skin. I recommended making an appointment with a dermatologist for these bumps. If you use the lancet/extractor tool incorrectly, you may create a wound and can cause scarring. And please, do not attempt to fix this with a safety pin (personal faux pas).
BLACKHEADS: A dark, small plug in the opening of a pore. Use discretion and rubbing alcohol post-pick in order to avoid infection. Rubbing alcohol can be very drying, so it is best if you wash your face and moisturize after. Use of oil stripping toners and harsh face washes dry out skin and make blackheads worse.
WHITEHEADS: White, oil filled raised bumps. These are easy to extract if they are small. However, do not touch COMEDONES. These are much more like acne (as they do not have something visible and ready to extract at surface) and picking will only cause increased inflammation and prolong healing time.
CYSTIC ACNE: The large, painful, inflamed zits. This type is your worst enemy, caused by hormonal fluctuations. Do not touch. I repeat, do not. If you are like me and cannot handle a lovely, 14-day plus cystic life cycle, then see your dermatologist for a cortisone injection. My dermatologist will take same day appointments and have an RN or PA inject the painful area to almost immediately reduce inflammation.
MELASMA: Dark patches of skin that appear with sun exposure. This darkening of the skin is very common and often associated with the use of birth control or pregnancy (from the female hormones estrogen and progesterone). Do not tan. Wear daily sunscreen. This only becomes more common with age, so start saving for laser treatments with a board certified dermatologist.
3. CONSIDER TOPICAL PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS
Stop buying tons of useless store products. Instead, make a dermatology appointment and use the saved cash for your insurance copay. There are several prescription drugs to assist in clearing sebaceous blockages. I have tried several topical prescriptions such as: azelaic acid, retin-A, adapalene, sodium sulfacetamide, clindamycin, benzoyl peroxide, dapsone, and hydroquinone to lighten scarring and hyperpigmentation. Talk to your physician about your skin type, as some of these may work well for you. Unfortunately, my skin has become extremely sensitive in my late twenties and can no longer tolerate any of these products, which led my dermatologist to prescribe an oral prescription medication, Spironolactone.
4. KNOW MORE ABOUT SPIRONOLACTONE
Spironolactone: This drug is intended for other conditions. Yet, several studies show clinical effectiveness in treating acne. It is a diuretic (which nicely keeps my stomach flat at all times) and an androgen blocker (decreases those pesky male hormonal fluctuations that cause acne). Bottom line, the drug inhibits sebaceous gland activity. This oral medication is a game changer for my skin. I have simplified my skin care routine and enjoy the positive effects of clear skin. I have increased my overall wellbeing by reducing skin breakout associated stress. I hope to later expand upon my effective spironolactone journey, but for now feel free to read the drug research.
5. DRINK WATER and GREEN JUICE (and wine and champagne)
Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate some more.
Water and homemade juice in a blender are quick ways to hydration. I drink at least 60 ounces daily from my reusable water bottle. Green juice is packed with vitamins and antioxidants, and is the easiest way to get your necessary daily servings of vegetables and fruit. Please note that you must drink the juice right after it is made in order to retain the positive properties of the nutritional benefits of live enzymes. Life enthusiast and cancer survivor, Kris Carr, turned me on to juicing and I will never quit. Click here to know more about Kris and juice.
6. CLEAN AND CHANGE PILLOW CASES REGULARLY
I know you use hair products that clog your pores. I know you likely don’t wash your hair daily. It is likely you have head sweat…and I hope you washed your face correctly before slumber. So seriously, if you want to help keep your skin clear, do not sleep on a used pillowcase. I have 3 pillows, each of which I rotate nightly. That gives me 6 nights of clean sleep by flipping the pillows each night. This alone might make a difference in decreasing your blackheads, whiteheads and acne.
7. EXFOLIATE FOR PROPER CELL SKIN TURNOVER
Do yourself the favor I did for myself and ditch the washcloths, buffers and exfoliating face scrubs and instead go buy a Clarisonic. The Clarisonic impedes my urge to over exfoliate. Where was this fabulous device back when I was exfoliating my skin off my face with apricot scrub? This amazing tool helps draw out dried blackheads and will leave you with a healthy glow (not raw skin). Caution: Do not exfoliate more than 2x daily and do not push the brush intensely on your face. Other important note: Cleaning your Clarisonic and other facial tools is required. Rubbing alcohol greatly reduces bacteria content. I use a clean washcloth to dry my Clarisonic and wipe it down with rubbing alcohol after each use. I then leave the device on a clean towel to thoroughly dry out bristles between uses because moisture creates a breeding ground for bacteria.
8. DON’T BE AFRAID OF OILS
After appropriately massaging your face with mild soap to remove makeup, dirt, debris, pollution etc., then use your Clarisonic with jojoba oil. If you feel this to be too oily, add a pea size amount of your face wash with the oil.
Use jojoba oil on a cotton ball if you have remaining mascara under your eyes. If you aren’t ready for pure oil, try almond-aloe moisturizer by Earth Science. Oils are great emollients with a similar PH balance to your skin.
Stop stripping your skin; the look of dry skin only ages you.
9. SIMPLIFY YOUR SKIN CARE ROUTINE TO GLOW
• Massage face with mild face soap in the morning to reduce puffiness
• Exfoliate and immediately moisturize
• Prep skin with an antioxidant serum under eyes and on dry areas
• Apply under eye concealer
• Use a tinted moisturizer with SPF
• Use concealer for any red areas (nose, acne spots)
• If you feel inclined for extra glow, apply a highlighter to upper cheek bones
• Apply cream blush for the “ I just went running” flush
• Do a thin line of eyeliner and some mascara (after curling eyelashes) to awaken your eyes
• Finish with bronzer on forehead, cheekbones and a small amount near jawline (do not Oompa Loompa your face)
I stray from powder use because I think it looks aging on everyone. Instead, I opt for oil blotting sheets.
Additionally, I clean my makeup brushes once a week and use rubbing alcohol to clean the casing of my makeup. And while I neurotically clean my brushes, I make sure to clean me cell phone as well.
10. REMEMBER TO CARE FOR ALL OF YOUR SKIN, NOT JUST YOUR FACE
Specific areas that accompany the same struggles as the face are the chest and back. Remember to shower post workout to remove sweat and bacteria. Make sure to use mild soap to not strip your skin’s natural moisture barrier. If you can’t shower after, use a wet washcloth or face wipes on chest and back if you have acne issues.
Select a body moisturizer that is right for your skin type and slather it on (I try to avoid chemical laden creams and opt for fragrance free due to allergies that cause eczema). Leaving skin dry can cause itching, flaking, cracking and inflammation.
You NEED sunscreen if you are spending time outdoors. I forgot my SPF on a recent winter day while waiting in line for the Maggie Daly Ice track and several “freckles” appeared. Do not neglect your neck, chest and hands when applying sunscreen either--these are other locations that sunspots love to make a showing. Ladies, they are no longer freckles and they are no longer considered cute.
(Please note that I simply believe in SPF use for protection against skin cancer. Yet, I have this idea that cultural shifts in attitude and behavior are more quickly adopted when you appeal to one’s vanity).
Sheylyn partied her way through Michigan State University, and then went on to work in healthcare and earn a Master’s degree in Health Management and Policy from the University of Michigan. You may see her and her doodle, Dexi, on the streets of downtown Chicago. She loves hanging with her Chitown family and friends, sipping on green juice and champagne, snuggling with her boyfriend and dog, analyzing and testing skin care products, taking naps, going on walks, indulging in Barre Code workouts, reading, and is a lover of jam bands.
Be sure to follow @sheygreer