Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Pre-Wedding Skincare Faves, or How I Brought My Skin Back From Proactiv Purgatory

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat.  You are beautiful.  Truly and entirely, you are.

In my opinion, it's not wrong to want to radiate your natural, God-given beauty to the maximum on your wedding day.  For me, having my complexion look nice has always been the biggest beauty-related confidence booster; when my skin is clear, I'm more content to wear simple makeup and not worry as much about my hair.  Unfortunately, my skin and I have been at war, with brief periods of good will, since high school, but I feel like I've finally been able to make peace with it in the last year or so.
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A few years ago, I went on a crunchy bender  and decided to try this theologically dubious soap on my face.  To my surprise, it completely cleared up a few stubborn, perpetual breakouts I'd had in the same area for years.  Convinced it had fallen from heaven, I promptly ditched the Proactiv Solution I had been using for about 9 years.

Biiiiig mistake.  After a gleeful week spent without a single blemish, my face staged an all-out rebellion.  Turns out, Proactiv keeps your skin clear by suppressing all the, well, crap that causes acne, rather than treating the root cause and eliminating it (Hmmm.  Anyone up for debating whether it's reasonable to extend the logic of contraceptives and fertility drugs to the logic of acne products?).  For the next two years as my pores purged out all the stuff the chemicals had been keeping beneath the surface, I had horribly painful, unattractive cystic acne that coincided with the start of my first corporate job, with being a bridesmaid (a.k.a. lots of photographic evidence), and, you know, with having to go out in public.  And dang if I didn't cry about it on a multiple-times-per-week basis.  I knew, and believed, my husband and God the Father saw beauty in me, but when I didn't see it on the outside, I struggled so, so much to acknowledge it on the inside and constantly compared myself to other women.  I actually prayed for clear skin!  Ridiculous?  Still not sure, given how completely demoralized I felt.

I spent hours reading product reviews and reading about holistic cures for breakouts.  I decided in my desperation that I was willing to make friends with non-crunchy chemicals if they would help things along.  Three years later, after lots of trial to make up for my error, these products and methods helped the most.  For me, they worked well enough that my skin has calmed wayyy down and no longer breaks out at all (I suspect I outgrew my teenage acne long before I actually stopped using the Proactiv), and the scarring left by that two-year purge is almost entirely faded.  I sincerely hope you don't find yourself in a skin sitch as dire as mine, but if you're trying to even out and/or clear up your complexion before your big day, these all get my thumbs up:

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Oil Cleansing: My friend got really into making her own skincare and cleaning products a while back, and she and I had a 20-emails and counting thread about her great results from this method of washing your face.  The idea is that oil dissolves oil, and that by mixing oils in a way that suits your skin type, massaging them on your face, and then wiping it away with hot water, your skin gets cleaner and clearer than it could with soap.  Honestly, I was terrified after years of oil-is-the-enemy acne products, but after obsessively reading this article down to the last comment, I decided to try it using this and this. The verdict: very soothing, a little too time consuming for me to make it a long-term habit (it involved adding a tea kettle to my bedtime routine!), and moderately, if not wildly, successful.  I think for me, it jump-started some of the healing from my scarring, which I definitely chalked up as a victory.

Lerosett Regenerative Healing Serum: Yes, this was way pricier than the products I normally buyo  But again, desperation, hysterical crying, and on a more reasonable level, I hoped if it worked, I'd only need to buy it once, which turned out to be true.  I heard about this serum by word of mouth and ended up really liking it; it was gentle, felt nice, and didn't have too many frowned-upon ingredients.  Best of all, it's specifically made for treating scarring, and it did a really good number on  mine.  I used it only at night to help it last, and the bottle kept for a little over a year.

Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant: Grace said this stuff is awesome, and it is.  When the Lerosett ran out, I gave this a whirl after reading her recommendation since the company has super frequent sales and figured it would be a cheaper alternative.  I'm on my second bottle right now and it really has helped even everything out and heal the last bit of scarring and dark spots I have left over.  I save this one for nighttime, too, to help it last, and have found that just pouring a few drops into my hand, instead of onto a cotton ball, seems to stretch it even further.

Sunscreen: In all my reading I found out sun exposure is not a friend of acne scars and hyperpigmentation.  Although, given what everyone says, sun exposure is not supposed to be a friend at all?  Whatever; I know I'm supposed to wear sunscreen regardless, but I like walking with Aaron to the library and the playground and when I wear it I don't obsess over my face and what's going to happen to it.  I've been using this Neutrogena one for a long time, but recently saw this, so I'm sort of in the market for a new one.  Any recommendations?

Fish oil and Green Tea: A legit-to-me school of thought proposes that acne is a visible result of inflammation in the body, so I tried cutting out sugar for a while, followed by keeping my intake down, and loading up on the fish oil and tea.  A nice side effect of the fish oil was fewer issues with dry skin and chapped lips, and the tea helped a lot with sugar cravings.  Obviously, it was unsweetened tea; I like the taste of it plain, but if you're not a fan of what Andrew describes as drinking grass, this one has a nice fruitiness.

Mario Badescu Buffering Lotion: I started using Mario products about two years ago, and maybe it's my being consistent with an actual routine or maybe their customized approach to skincare really is an effective one (you can take a quiz on their website, then see products they recommend specifically for your skin type and issues), but for just a basic cleanser and toner, instead of the special, crying-induced purchases, they're the best.  The company also makes a famous pink blemish lotion that you dab on before bed, but when I sampled it (that's another thing--you can pick out samples when you order online!), I didn't have much luck besides getting pink spots on my pillow.  I like this one a lot more; it's a powder suspended in liquid that you shake and just lightly apply over breakouts.  For my skin, it really does make a difference overnight and isn't too drying.

Any favorites of yours that I missed?  I'm pretty happy with my skin right now and probably shouldn't stray too far from what I've found to work, but I'm kind of an embarrassingly pliable consumer who gets easily curious about new things out there.

More importantly, have any of you had a similar acne product detox experience?  On the whole, it feels good not to be dependent on high levels of chemicals to keep my skin clear anymore, but if I could change anything, I definitely wouldn't have quit the Proactiv cold turkey.  If you're considering something similar, maybe doing it well in advance of your wedding is the best timing, along with slowly using less and less of the products to get your skin used to it?  I feel like going through the wringer with this has left me without any trace of shyness when it comes to talking about it, so I'd be glad to answer any questions if you're going through a similar process!








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