Saturday, February 5, 2011

Screw You Acne!

I recently suffered from some serious acne. At the end of summer my skin went CRAZY. I figured it would clear itself up, but it just kept getting worse and worse. My solution at the time was to cover it up with makeup. Frankly, I got pretty fabulous at covering up blemishes and acne scars. I don't know what I would do without MAC Studio Finish Concealer. It's great for undereye circles but even better for covering up acne.

If you want to know how I finally cleared my skin instead of just covering it up keep reading.

If it wasn't for my mom I probably wouldn't have taken any further action for quite some time. She offered to treat me to a European Facial at a local salon. At this point I had been using Retin-A for about two weeks and I did see some improvement. If you are not familiar with the effects of topical Retin-A, I can tell you that it is EXTREMELY drying and it makes your skin peel almost like a light sunburn. It sounds knarly, but for skin like mine that had breakout on top of breakout, I needed something that would start to shed the old layers of skin and release the sebum from the pimples. In short, it's a product that makes your skin look worse before it gets better.

I swear by facials! When I was in high school it was the only thing that brought my constant breakouts  to a hault. I would only need a few sessions with my previous esthitican Christina and then I could keep my skin healthy on my own. Using only a nightly regimen of the topical acne gel Differen, I was able to maintain pretty great skin up until last summer. It's been 5 years since then so you can see why I speak so highly of facials.

Let's talk about cost. Facials range anywhere from $65 to $100+. Many of you may be thinking that it's too expensive to get a facial and that you could never afford that kind of treatment. You're right, facials are expensive, but they are also worth it. Think of a facial as the foundation of a house. You need a strong reliable, excellent quality foundation in order to have a sturdy, long lasting house. The same goes for your skin. The facial is your foundation to great skin. It's an investment that helps the at-home treatment really work and work for longer periods of time.

Did I mention that facials can turn problem skin into near perfection, and they are also helpful in reducing stress and anxiety. A good esthitician will make you feel comfortable enough to fall asleep during extractions (believe me I do!). Sometimes I even catch myself snoring.

Another plus of working with an esthetician is that she can give you great tips for at-home treatment. My new esthetician, Simone, recommended I start using topical antibiotics, watch my diet, and especially steer clear from dairy and coffee. I altered this regimen a little bit and I started taking 1000 mg of tetracycline daily. Who am I kidding, I definitely won't be kicking the coffee habit any time soon, so I don't worry too much about that one (stress isn't good for the skin either!).

A good facial will make you relax not want to run away from the table screaming.

Ok, so if you can't afford a facial here are some ideas to work around it.
+Ask for it as a gift
+Save a certain amount every week until its enough for a facial
+Ask for a student discount at the salon: building and maintaing a relationship with the salon you go to is important for these types of things
+Look for deals on
+Try to set up a payment plan with your salon (it never hurts to ask!)

...but if you still can't afford one, be not afraid!

Even though I think facials are very important to start the healing process of acne and acne scars, the nightly regimen I continued after the facials were equally important.

My number one tip is EXFOLIATE. Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate and never stop....well stop eventually so your skin doesn't fall off, but you get the picture. Don't forget that exfoliating and moisturizing go hand in hand. I usually exfoliate in the mornings because I end up moisturizing before I apply my makeup anyway. If you have more sensitive skin moisturizing is even more important, and it is an essential step that you just cannot afford to skip. Alternate between acne treatments and nightly moisturizer, leaving acne treatment for the days you choose not to exfoliate. Drying the skin out too much can end up causing your skin to produce more oil resulting in more breakouts! Balance is key. Play around with these steps to find out what works for you.

Here are some exfoliating scrubs I Luuuurrrve
+ St Ives Apricot Scrub (use the Ultra Gentle version for sensitive skin)
+ Olay Professional Pro-X Exfoliating Renewal Cleanser
+ Neutrogena Stress Acne Control Power Clear Scrub

For awhile I was just using these in combination with my next tip HOT STEAMY SHOWERS! I took a steamy shower every night to rid my skin of the days oil and dirt and also to open up my pores. The reason I took my showers at night was so that my pores would be open and ready to absorb the acne treatment gel. It's also important to do extractions AFTER your face has been steamed as to not aggravate your skin.

Extractions can be a good thing but don't go overboard. It is important to never use extraction tools. According to both of the estheticians I have used they are a big NO NO! A tip I learned from my first esthetician is to wrap your fingers in tissue when doing extractions. Tissue wrapped fingers are the ONLY tool that should ever be used for extractions and remember that picking and squeezing a stubborn pimple will only make your skin worse. In other words, extract in moderation!

Don't do this please!

Make a habit of washing off every stich of makeup from your face EVERY night. One night of sleeping with your makeup on can set back your skin's progress for weeks. Even if you are exhausted after a long night out, at least cleanse your face with a wet washcloth or buy the pre-moistened cleansing cloths for a quick fix. I like to wash once with Aveeno Positively Radient Makeup Removing Cleanser and then follow up with an antibacterial soap. This may be too harsh for some peoples' skin, but it works for mine.

So, this was all working fine and my skin was really starting to improve, until I found the Holy Grail of all acne treatment products! Olay Professional Pro-X Advanced Cleansing System. It claims to cleanse skin SIX times better than just washing your face.

Holy Grail of acne treatment tools

First of all I had been coveting the Clarisonic for months, but the price was far too high to ever imagine fitting into my budget. One night on a leisurly trip to my local Walgreens I came across the Olay version of the Clarisonic. It was love at first sight. The system only cost me $29.99 and this included one brush head,  one set of batteries and a sample tube of the Exfoliating Renewal Cleanser. I really lucked out because Walgreens was doing a promotion, and because I bought the Advanced Cleansing System I was able to get a full size bottle of the Exfoliating Renewal Cleanser (worth 20 bucks) for FREE!

Since I bought the Advanced Cleansing System I have used it EVERY single day and sometimes twice a day! It is absolutely amazing and my skin is definitely benefitting from the advanced cleansing. My acne has seemed to clear up at hyper speed and my skin is a lot smoother and softer. My skin FEELS cleaner.

I've noticed other companies such as Revlon coming out with similar cheaper alternatives to the Clarisonic too. I highly reccomend investing in one of these tools. If I had the money I would have most likely  purchased the Clarisonic because it has a recharging station rather than being battery operated. On the other hand the first set of batteries on my Olay version lasted about three weeks before I had to change them. I don't think that's too shabby considering I used it once or twice every day.

Ok guys and dolls, those are all my tips. Here's a quick recap

+ Get a facial or two IF you can
+ Talk to your doctor or dermatologist about oral or topical antibiotics to see if they will benefit your skin
+ Exfoliate EVERY night, preferably with the Pro-X Advanced Cleansing System or a similar device.   Some people find that their skin is too sensitive to exfoliate every night in this case exfoliate every other night and use lotion instead of topical acne treatments on the nights you do exfoliate
+ Be consistent with topical treatments that you find work for your particular skin condition
+ NEVER sleep with your makeup on! Wash once to rid your face of the makeup and a second time to cleanse your pores
+Don't forget lotion! With all the harsh drying agents and exfoliation your skin can really dry out. Lotion every morning or twice a day can really improve the look and feel of your skin during times when you are using harsh topical treatments.

If you have problem skin try some of these tips and see how they affect your skin. Remember, that consistency is key and bailing out on one technique before it has time to work won't get you anywhere. Be patient. Acne prone skin is frustrating to say the least, but know that it gets better and if one treatment doesn't work there is always another alternative that will work. Good luck!


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