The Skin Care Routine That Finally Helped Rid me of Adult Acne

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As a teenager, I had the flawless, perfect skin only seen on grown adults pretending to be youths in alarming and adorable adolescent tv shows.You know?

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But in my early 20s something went terribly awry and I found myself suddenly battling adult onset acne. It was, in a word, the WORST.

Over a decade later, with highs and lows, I feel like I’ve finally figured out a skin care routine to keep things mostly in check. All that said, who even knows what things are making the biggest difference or even if my hormones have shifted.

Not only do I take care of my skin in ways I didn’t previously (like using sunscreen), I work out regularly which I’ve only done on and off over the years, and I started investing in occasional facials, microdermabrasion, and peels, plus added in some occasional micro-needling at home.

Read: Microdermabrasion vs Chemical Peels

My point with telling you all of this is simply to say, I’ve definitely found what works for me and I think there are some learnings here that will be worthwhile to you, but ultimately it will be up to you to determine the right balance of skin care and lifestyle :)

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Moisturisation is key, even for acneic skin. It might seem counter-intuitive, but I no longer shy away from thick moisturizers and even -certain- oils.

  • The food you eat really does translate to the way you look. Harsh, but true. This doubles for alcohol (damn you, cruel world!).

  • Hyaluronic acid > salicylic acid. Salicylic is too harsh and drying, making many products in the end worse for my acne.

  • Facials, peels, microdermabrasion and yes, micro-needling, are worth the money and even (mild) pain. They are necessary to reduce scarring, but also essential to controlling ongoing breakouts.

  • Minimizing touching, rubbing, and pressure on the skin is important to minimize acne.

  • Beauty sleep is real and anything less than 7 solid hours negatively affects my skin.

  • Some products are worth a heftier price tag (serums) and some are not (cleansers).

I've been using the exact skin care routine I'm about to share with you for about six straight months now, so I dug up the best photo I could find from around that time to signify "six months ago", or our starting point.

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My Morning Skin Care Routine

1) Wash with water only. But twice a week or so, use a very soft exfoliant - I’ve been liking and using this Saturday Skin one for about 5 months now (and apparently I've been using it wrong, because I use it on wet skin). Don’t press too hard or exfoliate for more than a minute.

2) Spray on Thayers witch hazel toner. It’s a cult favourite and I’m a convert, but likely other toners would be fine - just make sure it’s alcohol free! I like to transfer my toners to little spray bottles and mist them on instead of using a pad because a) it’s easier and b) I think minimizing touching and pulling of the skin is important in acne riddance.

3) Eye cream - I still haven’t found one I’m crazy about. Lately I’ve been swapping between a few fave drugstore brands like Burt’s Bees and Oil of Olay but I’m thinking I may try this caffeine one by The Ordinary next. If you have one you swear by, I wanna know!

4) Lightly rub a serum with hyaluronic acid all over your face. My fave is this brightening one from Mad Hippie with Vitamin C - I swear you can see the difference it makes!

5) Once that’s dry, follow-up with a sunscreen moisturizer! SPF 60, bishes, we’re not kids anymore. My aesthetician Elena swears by this Neutrogena one, and though the reviews aren't great, I've found it to be perfectly fine - and at a price point I can handle.

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Evening Skin Care Routine

1) Wash with Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash containing salicylic acid. On the rare occasion I’m wearing heavy makeup, I will do the double wash pushed by celebs everywhere. Which just means wash, then wash again, both times with cleanser.

2) Pat dry - try to avoid rubbing your face with your towel and make sure you're using a clean towel (I NEVER dry my face with the same hand towel that sits by the sink).

3) Spray on tea tree toner (again, transferred to a small spray container).

4) Once dry, lightly rub in a bit of serum (I’m currently using my Mad Hippie one twice a day, but looking for an evening alternative that’s more focused on regeneration and hydration - I’m eyeing up this one because The Ordinary has rave reviews and their prices are incredible).

5) If my skin is looking rough, or if I attempted a few extractions (aka couldn’t help myself and picked a little despite my learnings that that’s rarely a good idea), I will add a few drops of pure tea tree oil to my serum before I apply it. It stings a little but makes a huge difference come morning.

6) A couple dabs of whichever eye cream I'm using, all around my eyes.

7) Once the serum is soaked into my skin, I’ll layer on my fave hydrating gel cream by Clinique (I’ve always found heavy gel creams best for hydrating my skin without clogging pores). That said, I also tried this First Aid ultra repair cream recently and loved it for the dead of winter, so I’ll be adding a small bottle into the rotation for these, the driest months of the year.

8) Once or twice a week, or if my skin is particularly dry, I’ll add in some Rosehip Seed Oil after the serum and before the lotion (or instead of the lotion). I love that I wake up looking a little extra dewy in the morning afterward and have never found it to cause acne, despite what some people say!

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And there you have it, kids! Is this the lowest maintenance routine in the world? No, it’s not. But you know what? For me, it works, and the whole thing only takes about 3-4 minutes twice a day, which is a price I’m happy to pay for clear skin.

Let me know if you’ve got a secret skin care weapon that I might want to try - my skin care routine is nearly perfect, but I’m always open to upgrades if it’s a life changer!

And let me know if you want to elaborate on any of my above findings 💋

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