As we approach week 9 (58? 102??) of quarantine, many of us are noticing that our skin is reverting back to its acne-riddled high school days. Seriously, what the hell? We’re not spending much time outside getting attacked by free radicals and pollutants, and we have more time than ever to do our involved skin care routines. So, what gives? Dr. Shari Marchbein, a New York-based dermatologist and Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, spoke with us about why our skin is still not behaving even when we’re in quarantine, and what we can do about it.
Why Quarantine is Causing You to Break Out
According to Dr. Marchbein, hormones are a crucial reason our skin is breaking out rn. There’s no way to pinpoint just one culprit, she says, since our sleep, work, and skin care routines are all out of whack from sheltering in place. The key ingredient in all of these, she says, is stress.
When we think about hormones, our minds typically wander to testosterone, progesterone, and like, things that relate to the pill or middle school health class. However, Dr. Marchbein explains, the hormone causing our current skin woes is cortisol, “which increases in the blood at times of stress or with lack of sleep and can trigger acne breakouts by stimulating sebaceous glands to make more oil.” Increased cortisol, she says, “can worsen other skin conditions such as eczema, acne and psoriasis, as well as cause an increased breakdown of collagen and hyaluronic acid, which is the good stuff that gives skin its glow and plumpness.” Yeah, no thanks.
How to Prevent Stress-Related Flare-Ups
To avoid flare-ups in the first place, Dr. Marchbein recommends several ways to de-stress. “First and foremost, get plenty of sleep,” she says. When our body is sleep-deprived, it makes more cortisol, causing inflammation and bodily stress. Staying active is also important, according to Dr. Marchbein. Her go-to ways to de-stress are meditating and taking a yoga class. To help reduce your cortisol and stress levels, you can also go for a socially distanced walk, if possible.
And just like your mom’s been telling you for years, “maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet and drinking plenty of water are key.” By following this advice, which tbh you should be doing anyway for your general health, you can be like that meme that’s like, “my skin is clear, my crops are flourishing, my depression is gone” (but like, with actual, non-sarcastically clear skin).
How to Treat Acne Flare-Ups
If you’ve got a particularly aggressive breakout, don’t freak out, because here are a number of treatment methods to try. Under normal circumstances (lol what are those), Dr. Marchbein would advise visiting your dermatologist for a steroid injection. These injections “reduce the pain and inflammation of cystic breakouts,” she says, but at this point, “most medical visits are being done by telemedicine, and in-person visits should be for true emergencies only.” So that’s out.
Then what to do about the acne glaring back at you in your reflection? For starters, Dr. Marchbein recommends certain over-the-counter products to treat existing flare-ups. Retinoids are one useful treatment for acne breakouts—Differin 0.1% gel is the strongest non-prescription one available, she notes. Salicylic acid, a type of acid that can unclog pores, is also helpful.
“I like St. Ives Blackhead Clearing Scrub with salicylic acid and green tea as a gentle scrub, and I use a St. Ives salicylic acid gel cleanser once daily,” Dr. Marchbein says. She also recommends stronger 1-2% salicylic acid gel for spot treatment. Products with benzoyl peroxide, which is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, can help calm irritated skin too. Dr. Marchbein likes 10% Panoxyl wash and 4% CeraVe wash.
Finally, acne patches deliver active ingredients to a pimple. “By occluding the pimple, these active ingredients are able to penetrate the skin more deeply allowing them to potentially work better,” she explains. Watch out if you have sensitive skin, though—acne patches might be too harsh for you and could make the situation worse.
“Most importantly,” Dr Marchbein warns, “do not pop or squeeze a pimple, as this will cause even more inflammation and can make a potentially bad situation even worse.” I know Dr. Pimple Popper videos can be satisfying, but seriously, don’t do this to yourself.
Skin Care Advice in the Time of Public Face Masks
As much as we’ve been staying indoors these days, we occasionally have to venture out into the real world to stock up on supplies or grab our curbside pick-up order of pad thai. For those of us responsibly following the CDC’s recommendation to wear cloth face masks in public, our skin might be suffering. Dr. Rajani Katta, a dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at Baylor University, warns against using masks made of irritating materials like polyester that trap sweat, in a blog post for the Baylor College Of Medicine. She suggests masks made of absorbent materials like cotton, which can help absorb sweat and prevent breakouts.
If you’ve got dry skin, Dr. Katta advises moisturizing before putting on your mask, but if you’re particularly acne-prone, she recommends skipping greasy products like foundation. “These products can get trapped under the mask and possibly cause more skin issues,” she explains. For healthcare workers on the front lines, Dr. Marchbein recommends avoiding retinoids and exfoliants. Wearing abrasive N95 masks daily, she says, “could cause further irritation and shearing of the skin.”
If your quarantine = breakout central, all hope is not lost. There are plenty of products and habits that can help repair your skin and prevent further flare-ups. Plus, it’s not like many people are seeing you these days. If you’ve got a particularly nasty zit, just turn off your video on Zoom.
We’ve all been there—you wake up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to seize the day but…there it is, rearing its ugly head and taunting you, a huge-ass pimple. Okay, more like, you roll out of bed, check your phone, then look in the mirror just to face the same inevitable truth: a huge-ass pimple on your face. Your first urge is to pop it, but you know you shouldn’t. Then you look at the five million products you’ve collected over the years and have to decide which one to use today. But will any of them even work?? They all claim to, but every f*ckboy I’ve ever dated has also claimed he would never hurt me. So, yeah. Men and acne medications are why I have trust issues.
To figure out the best practice for dealing with blemishes, I consulted with Dr. Jill C. Fichtel MD of Transformative Dermatology in Nashville. She told me how to deal with pimples (don’t pop them) and what products actually work to treat or minimize them. She also shares her best tips for preventing them in the first place. These are her favorite over-the-counter products to treat acne.
1. Differin Adapalene Gel Acne Treatment
This treatment was previously available only by prescription, but thankfully, is now sold as an over-the-counter product with the prescription-strength acne-fighting retinoid, Adapalene. According to Dr. Fichtel, “It prevents Comedonal acne—the kind that causes blackheads, whiteheads and bumpy skin rather than inflamed pimples—by normalizing pores so they don’t clog.” She adds that it also has anti-aging properties, which are an added bonus for anyone trying to keep fine lines and wrinkles at bay. Get you an acne treatment that does both.
2. PanOxyl Acne Wash
This benzoyl peroxide wash also used to only be available by prescription. THANK GOD all these companies got with it enough to switch them to over-the-counter for all of us peasants who can’t afford monthly dermatologist appointments. Dr. Fichtel said that, while benzoyl peroxide has been used as an antibacterial in acne treatments for many years, it remains an important acne fighter. She says, “This is because it fights acne-causing P. acnes bacteria but does not cause bacterial resistance, even with long-term use.” Propionibacterium acnes bacteria (P. acnes) lives in hair follicles in our skin. According to Dr. Fichtel, “PanOxyl also includes anti-Comedone and anti-inflammatory properties and minimizes irritation in part because it is a wash-off product instead of one that you leave on.”
3. Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster
Dr. Fichtel says, “This product uses Azelaic acid, the same ingredient used in higher concentrations in prescription products like Azelex and Finacea for acne and acne rosacea.” She adds, “Its blend of Azelaic and salicylic acid has pore-normalizing effects that prevent whiteheads and blackheads, decreases the hyperpigmentation that acne marks leave behind.” Because, not only do we have to worry about treating pimples, we also have to worry about the potential scarring they leave behind. F*ck you, pimples. Also note, Dr. Fichtel says this product is good for sensitive skin!
4. CLn Acne Cleanser
According to Dr. Fichtel, this product is a great preventative for acne-prone skin. She says, “It combines salicylic acid and sodium hypochlorite, which helps to eliminate clogged pores and kill acne-causing bacteria. It’s also free of steroids, antibiotics, parabens and triclosan and is good for all skin types and ages, including tweens, teens and those with hormonal changes.” So if you know any angsty teens out there with skin issues, let them know this is definitely a great option for them. But it’s just as great for adults who never got acne in middle school and suddenly get huge pimples on a regular basis in their late 20s. Speaking hypothetically, of course.
5. Dr. Fichtel’s Go-To Concoction
Lastly, Dr. Fichtel shared her own go-to treatment for pimples. She said, “Mix benzoyl peroxide-based Persa-Gel 10 Acne Medication with over-the-counter hydrocortisone, let it dry, and put an adhesive bandage over it.” Alternatively, she recommends using a baking soda toothpaste with no color, flavor or mouthwash ingredients, again with a bandage.
Now, for preventing pimples in the first place, Dr. Fichtel shares six key tips:
- Wash your face every morning and night.
- Only use makeup, sunscreen and other skin care products that say “noncomedogenic” on the label. That means they don’t cause blocked pores that lead to acne. If that is missing from the label, you’re an acne magnet.
- Clean your makeup brushes and sponges regularly. Otherwise, they will develop bacteria that you will be rubbing directly onto your face.
- Don’t use old makeup or skin care products. Once the preservatives that prevent the formation of bacteria and fungus break down, applying those products is like inviting a pimple invasion.
- If you’re doing everything right and you still have outbreaks, try using hormone-free milk and dairy products. The hormones in milk can cause acne.
- Not all pimples can be prevented. If OTC products and good skin care still leave you struggling to keep your skin clear, speak to your dermatologist for prescription solutions.
So there you have it, straight from a dermatologist! Pimples suck, but fortunately there are methods to preventing them and products to treat them.
Images: Judeus Samson / Unsplash; Target (2); Dermstore; Amazon
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Judging from all the “gifts to give yourself” guides out there this season, I gather I’m not alone in treating December as “spend yourself blind” month. (Also: go get the Skin Laundry facial that list recommends; it’s amazing.) And what better way to spend a sh*t ton of money invest in yourself than by amping up your skincare routine? In the past two weeks, I’ve added a serum, a facial oil, and an “elixir” to my fairly basic four-step routine. But within twelve hours of my exciting new purchases, I realized I had no idea how to use them correctly. Skincare products all tend to list “apply daily to clean, dry skin,” but that’s about it. So, in an attempt to not waste my new goodies, I actually sat down and researched. Here’s what I’ve learned about the best order for your skincare routine.
Step 1: Cleanser
All authorities I consulted concurred on this. The first step in any skincare routine should be cleaning your face. If this strikes you as surprising, then I have the perfect gift for you. Enjoy!
Step 2: Toner
Byrdie offers a little dissent here, suggesting that Step 2 should be exfoliator, not toner. However, my skincare-savvy readers will know well that not all skin types require and/or take well to regular use of an exfoliant. And very few exfoliants are suitable for anyone for daily use. (You can go shave your back now Byrdie!) Anyway, exfoliate if you need to, but consider it part of the cleansing step of your routine. Toner then clears away any remaining makeup/product, as well as doing whatever else the bottle promises (tightening pores, evening skin tone, giving you eternal life, etc.).
I’ve written more about toner types here, but Cosmo offers a key tip I’ll include. If your toner contains an AHA (like glycolic acid or lactic acid) or BHA (like salicylic acid), you’ll want to wait a “full five minutes” before moving on to your next step. Otherwise, you’ll neutralize the acids, rendering the active ingredient useless. (Moment of silence for all the toner I’ve wasted on my face please.)
Me @ my toner:
Step 3: Serums/Eye Cream
Once again, all my sources voted to use a serum as step 3. Cosmo describes serums as “shots of extremely concentrated nutrients, hydrators, and antioxidants.” Like with toner, you’ll want to pick the specific one based on your skin’s needs. The one I’ve recently invested in contains Vitamin C, a common dermatologist recommendation. But you can also use different serums in the morning and at night, in which case you could swap in a hydrating serum at night. Again, all depends on your skin.
Eye cream, which I’ve realized over the course of my research is still lacking in my skincare routine, is a slightly more conflicted issue. Cosmo says to apply after serum and before moisturizer, since eye cream “tends to be lighter and thinner,” and can’t “penetrate thicker products,” AKA your moisturizer. Dermstore suggests using it before serums in the morning, but after serums at night. (And it stresses the importance of applying twice daily from a young age—good thing I have endless money and time, am I right??) For Dermstore, the key thing is to apply eye cream before your “treatments” (more on that in a minute), to “protect your eye area against potent ingredients.” Both of these rules make logical sense to me, so if your serums has potentially irritating ingredients, do eye cream first. And def do it before moisturizer.
Side note: this research has also convinced me that I’ve been applying my new serums at the wrong time, in addition to neutralizing my toner.
Step 4: Treatment
If you’re thinking “treatment? what’s that?” you either have perfect skin and I hate you, or you need to get to a dermatologist ASAP. “Treatment” can refer to a spot treatment (active ingredients will vary depending on whether you’re treating acne scars or regular old pimples), or prescription treatments for acne or rosacea. (For example, I use my Finacea foam for rosacea during this step—though for the past two weeks I’ve been using it before my serum. Ugh.)
Dermstore again recommends different things for your night routine here. At night, they suggest you add any “mists, essences, beauty waters, or hydrating (hyaluronic acid) serums” to your toner step—applying “from thinnest to thickest.” (I can’t really begin to wrap my head around what those products are, but Dermstore sums them up as “skin care boosters” whose purpose is “mainly to hydrate.” Cool.) Then, Dermstore recommends chasing your nightly eye cream with whatever treatment serum your skin needs that night. So, not just blindly slathering on every product you own (strike three for me).
Specifically, they advise against using an exfoliating treatment (AHA/BHA pads, peels) the same night as any prescription meds or retinol creams, since the potency can quickly become irritating. And they recommend using an exfoliating treatment no more than three times a week. In simpler terms, it sounds like alternating a prescription treatment or retinol with an exfoliating treatment is the best way to go.
Step 5: Moisturizer/Face Oil
Once you’ve gotten to moisturizer, you know you’re nearly there. (Good job! Now you just have a 16-step makeup routine to get through). For your nighttime routine, Dermstore recommends adding face oil before your moisturizer, with the warning note that “if you are using the right moisturizer…nothing is going to get through it.” Cosmo, however, vehemently disagrees, stating “no products can penetrate an oil, which means they need to be applied last.” Cosmo also recommends putting a retinol-based product between moisturizer and face oil, while Dermstore lumps in retinols with your pre-moisturizer treatments. One of my new products is a face oil that contains retinol, so no matter what I do I’ll be f*cking up one of these rules.
My best advice here is to try it both ways (the order of your oil/moisturizer/retinol), and see what feels best to you. Since oils and moisturizers vary in thickness and active ingredients (and everyone’s skin is different!), do whatever feels best for your face. In my case, I’ve found that mixing the face oil with moisturizer is most effective for absorbing both products.
Step 6: Sunscreen
This is a morning-only rule, obvs, but it’s also one you need to follow every single day. Is it annoying? Yes. Does it feel like it will solve all your problems, like serums and essences do? It does not. But just do it, because otherwise you’ll get dark spots and sun damage that only a laser can fix. And that’s way more expensive than even the fanciest sunscreen option.
Hilary Duff may not be able to name babies, but she can still give good skincare advice!
What have I learned from this article? Well, I’ve wasted at least $50 of skincare products in the past week, that’s for sure. And my vague inkling that I was loading on too many products every day was validated. My final note here is that if any of this advice goes against what a dermatologist has told you—go with the dermatologist. My dermatologist gave me the simple outline of “cleanse, treat, moisturize, sunscreen,” and actively warned me against incorporating anything else. It’s only because I’ve followed her advice faithfully for six months that I feel comfortable building back in other products. So, listen to your doctor, listen to what your skin tells you, and if you have an eye cream you like, hit me up in the comments—I’ll be spending the rest of my afternoon shopping.
Images: Shutterstock; Giphy (4)
As you can probably tell from the title, this skin care diary entry will be less sexy than others we’ve published. Welcome to the world of sensitive skin. I graduated college a little over two years ago, and it’s been an absolute whirlwind watching my skin and metabolism compete over who can deteriorate faster. I’ve never suffered from serious acne (*knocks on every piece of wood in the tri-state area*), but my post-grad skin has offered up plenty of dullness, dryness, and increasingly visible pores. I also developed what I refer to as “my problem cheek,” and my dermatologist refers to as “rosacea.” Basically, one stubborn patch on my face is perpetually red with some bumps—not quite pimples but just not smooth.
Before I finally caved and saw a dermatologist about it, I was convinced I had chronically dry skin and was layering on fancy oil-based serums and thick moisturizers every night. I genuinely believed that the more I spent on a skin care product, the better it was for me. But here’s the honest, tragic truth about my (highly sensitive) skin. Just about anything I do to it beyond doctor-recommended cleanser, treatment, and moisturizer only makes it worse. As my dermatologist explained, the rosacea means that my skin barrier is damaged. So any products I’m applying don’t actually soak in. They just settle in the top layer, creating that fun bumpy texture I was describing.
Long story short, many of the fun, bougie skin care products I’d love to try are off-limits to me. All those “intensely moisturizing” products I used to swear by? They make my oil-prone areas worse, and ultimately clog my pores. Any physical exfoliants just activate my redness-prone rosacea patches. And forget about face makeup. Any time I go for a full face of foundation, or—God forbid—highlighter, which I seem to be allergic to in every brand, I accept that my skin’s overall appearance will take a hit for the next three days. So, I’ve worked very hard to assemble a routine that keeps my sensitive AF skin smooth, even, and pimple-free. If your skin is more dramatic about a change in routine than you are when asked to attend a 9am meeting, read on. Here are the products I’ve found really work.
My sensitive skin every time I try to introduce a new product:
Face Wash: I wash my face morning and night with CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser. My dermatologist recommended it, and it makes my face feel crazy soft. I’ll double cleanse on days when I bothered to put on make-up, or if I skipped my routine the night before. And while I’m sure that a Clarisonic or the equivalent would make it even more effective, I frankly just do not have the time or patience to use one. Plus, I kind of hate reusable skin care accessories because I’m a germophobe and convinced they’re growing bacteria. This is a problem I imagine could be alleviated by like, cleaning it, but once again I am lazy/perpetually short on time.
Toner: I follow (most) cleanses with Belif Witch Hazel Herbal Extract toner. In the words of my dermatologist, it’s “not really doing anything,” but she graciously invited me to finish the bottle I’d just purchased. Despite her (rude) commentary, I like the idea of an additional cleansing step while living in the cesspool of dirt known as New York City. Also, it smells refreshing and makes me feel fancy. As I mentioned before, most products that fit that description give me some kind of weird reaction, so I really appreciate the ones that don’t.
Prescription: Once my doc determined that problem cheek = rosacea, I was given a prescription for an azelaic acid called Finacea Foam. It treats the redness and bumps caused by rosacea, and I use it twice a day after cleansing and before moisturizing. While it hasn’t 100% cleared up the problem, I’ve gone from having bumps spread across both cheeks to one small patch (damn you, problem cheek!). The overall texture has also greatly improved, and what was once a weird blotchy redness now shows up as more of a flush after hot showers/working out. Highly recommend.
Spot Treatment: This is not dermatologist-approved behavior, but if I see a pimple coming on I’ll dab some spot treatment with salicylic acid on the area before locking it all in with moisturizer. It’s a little annoying because I have to wait for an additional layer to dry, but fully worth it if you can stop a burgeoning zit in its tracks. If I go a little too nuts and start using it daily I end up getting dry and triggering some redness, but in moderation I find this kind of product to work wonders. My two faves are Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment and Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Eliminating Spot Gel.
Sunscreen: I use EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 every morning, at my dear dermatologist’s behest. Apparently rosacea can be triggered by sun exposure, so I guess this plays a role in calming it down. Honestly, I struggle to get excited about any product from which I don’t see immediate effects, but I know it’s good for me and I feel lightly smug for using it for that reason. Also, it sinks in quickly enough and replaces my moisturizer in the morning.
Moisturizer: I use CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion every night and some mornings, depending on how dry my skin is feeling. I love it because it’s lightweight, has the same silky feel as their cleanser, and doesn’t sit on top of my skin like all those fancy jar moisturizers I was buying for years did. Does it make me feel rich and chic? No, but it also doesn’t cost me $50 every six weeks, and my skin is way softer. I’ll take it.
Serum: Eminence Facial Recovery Oil. My dermatologist all but begged me to throw this out (in her words, “I don’t think more oil is what you need right now”). But I’ll still dab a little on my forehead every now and then because I can’t help myself. Nose, chin, and cheeks are off-limits for this riskier product, but I’ll mix a little in with my moisturizer and apply to my forehead a few times a week. It smells amazing and my sister swears it’s improved her fine lines.
Morning: Cleanser, toner, Finacea, sunscreen. I have a week-old pimple on my cheek, and last night I put on a bunch of spot treatment and extra Tretinoin on the area, plus Neosporin since I keep picking it open. (Don’t @ me, it works.) The pimple is finally fading from view, but I see two to three more bumps lurking below the surface. Problem Cheek, will you ever set me free??? I’ve tried changing pillowcases, changing what side I sleep on, never holding my phone to that side of my face… nothing works. I take a few pictures in hopes of taking you on a visual journey, but I’m on week 7 of a 10-week shoot and the bags under my eyes/general lifeless demeanor are a little much to take.
Evening: Cleanser, Finacea, moisturizer. No spot cream or toner because I just worked 14 hours. Moisturizer I applied lying down maybe three seconds before passing out. I manage to apply more Neosporin to my cheek spot, though, because at this point I’ve been wrangling it for nearly 10 days and it’s all I can think about. To anyone reading this: do not pick your face until it bleeds, no matter how fun and genuinely helpful it seems in the moment! I fall asleep praying it will heal overnight.
My poor, picked-at skin:
Thursday morning I don’t have to be at work until 9am. This would be better news if it didn’t mean I’ll be there until 11pm. However, the extra time in the morning means I can cleanse, tone, apply Finacea, and put on sunscreen all in the comfort of my home. I’m sad to admit I sometimes apply sunscreen on the subway, which I am aware makes me gross. I have a thing about layering products too quickly. I worry I’m just diluting one product with another if I don’t give them time to dry. If I’m totally wrong on this, PLEASE call me out in the comments. I would love to stop putting on sunscreen with hands that just touched subway poles.
I’m not home until 11:40pm, as expected. As I dutifully cleanse, tone, Finacea, and moisturize, I realize something miraculous. Cheek pimple is, if not totally invisible, highly faded. Neosporin saves the day again. I stare at my nearly clear cheek and think about how I definitely would have skipped washing my face tonight if I weren’t writing this diary. This makes me think I should start journaling my food, too. Then I eat four bite-size candy bars I stole from work and fall asleep.
Today is an exciting skincare day for you all! I’m working from home until 6:30, so I don’t get out of bed until 11. I don’t do anything to my face because I want to work out first, a dream it takes me two hours and 15 minutes of yoga to give up on. I wash my face in the shower, then put on Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Masque. It’s my go-to for all generalist, make-my-skin-look better needs. It’s great for calming down redness and inflammation, improves overall tone, and just makes your skin look clear.
After, my skin is looking the best it has all week. The cheek pimple is totally gone, and those bumps I was complaining about on Wednesday seem to have died down too. I add toner, Finacea, and sunscreen. After sunscreen, I add my new favorite no-makeup makeup product: Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer. This is the closest thing to foundation I can wear without triggering a breakout, and despite being sheer, I swear to God it visibly blurs away my flaws. Friday night, I cleanse/Finacea/maybe moisturize? I spent my evening getting high and watching Vanderpump Rules, so I honestly don’t remember. I do remember eating a Twix bar at 1am and thinking the single greatest thing I could do for my health is cut down on sugar, so take that as you will.
Me: I should cut down on sugar!
Also me every time I go out:
Saturday morning, I cleanse and tone, and get dressed in a rush waiting for toner to dry. Then I add Finacea and try to find my insurance card for a doctor’s appointment for 10 minutes. Two hours later, I remember to moisturize—hope it still counts for something. No sunscreen today, oops. Saturday night I make a genuine attempt to go out. But I still end up asleep on the couch before midnight. At least I manage to wash my face before crashing. I tell myself I’ll put on Finacea and moisturizer in bed. I don’t.
Sunday morning I’ve slept for an annoyingly long time. I cleanse, tone, Finacea, and moisturize—no sunscreen. My skin’s feeling dry since I fell asleep without moisturizing the night before, and I don’t really plan on spending time outside anyway. I go to the movies, where I realize the junk food and half-hearted skin care Saturday has resulted in two new bumps rearing their heads on Problem Cheek. I tell myself I’ll do a mask and spot treatments that night. Instead, I drink two margaritas at 5pm, and barely manage to cleanse/tone/Finacea/moisturize. I suck.
I wake up at 4:30am, regretting Sunday’s margaritas with every bone in my body. I seriously consider quitting my job for five minutes, then get out of bed and cleanse, tone, Finacea, sunscreen. Monday night, I get home “early” (7pm), and treat myself to some salicylic acid spot treatment following my cleanse/Finacea/moisturizer routine. No toner because I’m already tired at the prospect of the spot treatment, but the bumps I saw at the movie theater Sunday don’t seem to be going anywhere on their own.
Tuesday morning I cleanse, tone, Finacea, and liberally apply sunscreen to try and make up for the fact that I don’t have time to apply moisturizer (and wait for it to dry). At work, I read a different skin care diary in which someone who clearly has more money and better skin than me also swears by salicylic acid for clearing breakouts. Even though the salicylic acid product is the only one in her routine I can remotely afford, I allow myself a brief moment of smugness. I also remind myself that fancy $100 skincare items have never done anything but made me break out.
Tuesday night, I cleanse/tone/Finacea, and add more spot gel (Clean & Clear) to those bumps on my cheek. I can’t be sure if they’re actually pimples or just rosacea bumps, but I feel hopeless if I can’t even pretend I’m treating it. I tell myself I’ll moisturize in bed, and as I’m sure you can guess, I do not. At 3am, I wake up, realize my mistake and moisturize. It’s terrible.
All in all, the moral of my not-so-exciting skin care routine is that I’ve (reluctantly) stopped chasing Instagram-perfect skin. And both my wallet and face are a lot happier for it. I don’t use drugstore products because I’m low-maintenance and don’t GAF. I use them because the alternative is spending $78 on a moisturizer that sits on top of my broken skin barrier and makes me break out. So if you have sensitive skin like me, remember that the #1 investment you can make is a dermatologist, and when you’re rich, biannual microneedling and injections. Can’t wait.
Images: Giphy (4)
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I’m not exactly a skin care expert. My dermatologist, who gently told me to throw out most face products I own earlier today, would agree on this. On the bright side, I have now sought professional advice and am here to share my experience/her wisdom. Today’s topic is dermarolling: an at-home skincare treatment boasting celebrity users including Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Aniston, and Gwyneth Paltrow. (Yes, the one who stuffs jade eggs up her vagina. But her skin is glowing, no?) In my ongoing quest for flawless, “I can afford weekly facials” skin, I bought a $24 dermaroller two weeks ago. Here’s what you should know before you buy.
What Is Dermarolling & What Does It Do?
If you’ve heard of microneedling, dermarolling is just the at-home version of that. Both treatments involve creating small punctures all over your face. This (in theory) enhances collagen and elastin production. As your skin heals, the collagen boost helps smooth out wrinkles/fine lines, firm up sagging skin, and improve overall texture/tone. Both treatments can also improve the appearance of acne scars, dark spots, and large pores. As a general rule, microneedling will be more effective than dermarolling for many reasons. It’s kind of like the difference between doing a mask and getting a facial—the version performed by a professional with higher-tech tools is always going to come out better. Plus, microneedling tools can create deeper punctures than at-home dermarollers (for obvious reasons), so they naturally have a stronger effect. (Wondering why anyone would bother dermarolling? Because microneedling, like most things Gwyneth Paltrow supports, is prohibitively expensive, at $500-1,000 per session.)
Face Microneedle Dermal Roller System
How Do You Use It?
A dermaroller basically looks like a razor with a rolly head covered in needles on top. Before using it, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you disinfect it. Dermarolling with a dirty roller is literally injecting your skin with bacteria. (Sidenote: really love lecturing you all knowing full well that I “disinfected” my dermaroller with tequila. Whatever, at least I’m trying.)
To use it, you roll the needle-wheel (not the real name, do not refer to it as such) all over your face. One section at a time, roll five times in each direction (up/down/left/right) until you’ve covered the areas you want to treat. Redness is a known side effect, but I didn’t notice much. Just like, the amount you’d expect for having rubbed needles all over your face. After dermarolling, your skin will be primed for absorbing hydrating products—so load up on your fave serum/moisturizer to finish.
Not quite my experience, but you get the idea:
What Are The Effects Of Dermarolling?
The day after using this, I was the most annoying person on earth. I disappeared to my office bathroom maybe 60 times to take yet another “#nofilter” selfie. Even the most heinous of fluorescents couldn’t dim my #glow, and I felt like there was a noticeable difference in some roughness/bumpiness that had been bothering me on my cheeks. While effects like taming discoloration require long-term, consistent use of dermarolling (and my day-after glow didn’t really last), I definitely noticed a difference. Mostly, it was just a kind of shine/plumpness (I hate that word but I can’t think of a better description), plus the glow I won’t shut up about.
For reference, here was my scary face before dermarolling:
And here is my post-dermarolling glow:
Real results. Not FaceTune.
All that being said, dermarolling is not without its dangers. Common side effects can include infection, inflammation, breakouts, and damaged skin. Most experts say this can be avoided with proper cleaning and technique, but unless you’re going to dermarolling seminars on the regular, chances are you could fuck up. A lot of these issues do stem from improper cleaning practice, so please buy proper cleaning solution and be rigorous about it. Or just like, replace your dermaroller fairly often—I know you spend more than $24 on less important shit.
When I asked my dermatologist about it, she didn’t say dermarolling was bad, but she didn’t say it was good either. Mostly, she thinks of it as a less effective version of microneedling, and cautioned that dermarolling on any existing inflammation or pimples was a surefire way to spread the irritation to the rest of your face. I also found out that those bumps/redness on my cheek are in fact my new, fun mild rosacea (getting older is great), so whatever improvement I noticed after dermarolling was almost certainly in my head. Whatever! At least I was glowy!
Is this a wholehearted recommendation for dermarolling? If you caught me the day after, it would have been. But after hearing my dermatologist’s advice, I’ve sobered up on the idea of making this part of my routine. While I love buying trendy beauty products way more than as much as the next girl, sometimes less really is more—especially if you’re not sure how your skin will react. A dermatologist, on the other hand, is always a good investment.
Images: Dermstore; Giphy (3); Chris Howard / Pexels
Like most people in this world, I really care about my skin. Despite my horrible attempts at clean dieting and exerting energy into anything that doesn’t involve walking to
the closest liquor store Starbucks, I try really hard to treat my skin like silk (@KrisJenner) by using only the best makeup removers, micellar waters, masks—you name it. Only the best for my prized feature. However, one of the hardest products to find that doesn’t make my face have a mid-life crisis is a face wash. It’s something we use everyday, so someone please tell me why it’s so hard to find one that’s just right for my skin type. *Sighs* Since I know firsthand how fucking stressful this can be, here are the best face washes based on your skin type. You can thank me later.
If You Have Oily Skin, Try…
Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Cleanser
This godsend of a face wash was made just for those who struggle to keep their faces looking shine-free all day long. Not only does it thoroughly clean your face, but it also reduces excess oil without drying your face out. Ugh, bless. It leaves your skin feeling v smooth and makeup-ready without any worries of looking oily af.
Cetaphil Dermacontrol Oil Control Foam Wash
IMO, this is seriously the best and safest brand for your skin. I have almost everything from Cetaphil and have literally never been disappointed in the results. This facial wash is super gentle on even the most sensitive skin types and removes oil, so it can also control the shine on your face. It also happens to be a fab makeup remover, too.
If You Have Dry Skin, Try…
Estée Lauder Soft Clean Moisture Rich Foaming Cleanser
Created specifically for those with super flaky skin, this moisturizing face wash adds a ton of the hydration you need while also preserving your skin’s natural moisture. Since it’s a foaming cleanser, it goes on with ease and leaves your face feeling amazingly soft afterwards.
Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser
This shit is formulated with five conditioners, so that’s when you know it’s luxurious af. The creamy gel cleanser soothes uneven textures, softens super dry patches, and clears up your pores ASAP. It’s like, apparently made with some sort of ingredient that’s also in contact lens solutions, so you can def use on your eyes for that mascara that doesn’t gtfo.
If You Have Combination Skin, Try…
Clinique Rinse-Off Foaming Cleanser
If you’re kind of on the dry side but somehow a bit on the oily side as well (HOW THO??), this foaming cleanser gently removes a day’s worth of grime, as well as the makeup you’ve been wearing for hours. It’s totes refreshing and makes your face feel like it can breathe again without drying it out or making you feel moist. Ew.
Philosophy Purity Made Simple Cleanser
Designed for all skin types, the best-selling Philosophy cleanser works well on those whose skin may be super dry and extremely sensitive, too. It’s gentle on the eyes for removing your gothic makeup and gives your pores a much-needed deep cleanse. It’s a fab toner and source of hydration, if your skin is suffering a bit come the colder seasons.
If You Have Normal Skin, Try…
Boscia Purifying Cleansing Gel
The sulfate-free cleansing gel easily cleanses clogged pores and helps prevent future breakouts. It helps your skin retain natural moisture, as well as controls oil, so you’re looking radiant in all the right ways. Plus, it reduces annoying inflamed areas and gets rid of buzzkill breakouts before you can even freak out about it.
Origins Checks And Balances Frothy Face Wash
This face wash is ideal for those who have an equal balance of dry *and* oily skin types (lucky, betch)—hence the name. Since it’s v gentle on the face, you can easily use just little, and it goes such a long way. It’s only an added bonus that it functions as a makeup remover and leaves a refreshingly cool sensation when you’re finished.
It takes a lot of patience, effort, and internal seething to act as heartless as Kourtney Kardashian. I know this because I try like, really fucking hard to only provide one-word answers to any question and mask any sign of emotion at all times. I give her so much credit for perfecting this act despite having three kids with a mentally unstable and alcoholic ex-boyfriend sleeps with Insta thots on the regular. All hail Kourtney Kardashian.
Regardless of how much I put on this little public façade, the second I’m behind closed doors, I am 1,000% Britney Spears circa 2007. Being in your 20s means becoming a workaholic (possibly also an alcoholic) while remembering to eat solid food before five consecutive tequila shots and turning off your straightener before leaving the house. Anxious is basically my middle name at this point, and if you didn’t know that, all you’d need to do is take one look at my face to figure it out. At least my outside matches my inside, right? Some rich smart CEOs probs know of this struggle all too well, so here are fab skincare products to help hide your stress so you don’t fuck up your ex’s car with an umbrella.
1. Glossier Super Pure Niacinamide Serum
For skin that manages to fuck up when all shit hits the fan, this serum calms down redness and swelling to prevent future breakouts. Glossier understands that junk food and that unpleasant moment right before our time of month are literally sabotage, and this serum is specifically formulated to stop your skin’s biggest triggers. The super lightweight water-to-gel formula gets rid of excess oil and absorbs into your skin to drastically strengthen your cells.
2. Clinique Pep-Start Eye Cream
The bags under my eyes will def be the death of me, literally. I look like a corpse if I’m not layering a shit ton of eye cream, especially after all the sleepless Saturday nights I’ve had
in the past seven years lately. This is an instant brightening and hydrating eye cream that has a cooling effect and leaves you feeling wide awake. It de-puffs your eyes so you look refreshed and smoothes your eye area for makeup application. The formula is also free of oil and fragrance, and full of peptides that counteract against stress and lack of sleep.
3. Kiehl’s Since 1851 Skin Rescuer Stress-Minimizing Daily Hydrator
The intense moisturizer is clinically proven to reduce signs of stress, including fatigue, dehydration, and blotchiness. Honestly, anytime something says it’s clinically proven, I’m sold. I won’t ask questions. This product is infused with roses and some other good-smelling stuff that detect signs of stress before they happen and help promote immediate recovery so you don’t break out.
4. Estée Lauder Stress-Relief Eye Mask
For a super quick and relaxing remedy after a long night of drowning your sorrows in wine, apply these pre-soaked moisturizing pads onto your eyes for about 10 minutes. They’re composed of anti-stress and anti-fatigue ingredients to help soothe, hydrate, and massage your under eye area. Turn off your phone and listen to like, Mozart or whatever before taking them off and gently rubbing the excess serum in.
5. Origins Peace Of Mind On-The-Spot Relief
This is like, meditation in a bottle tbh. The product promotes sensory therapy, which is supposed to work wonders after a light application on your pressure points. When you’re two seconds away from throwing your computer against the wall at work, apply two drops of this on the back of your neck, inner wrists, temples, and earlobes. A tingling sensation will occur (so, no, you’re not going crazy) and soon, your bottled-up tension and stress will evaporate. This also works as a sleep aid and helps with migraines, so who the hell needs yoga when you’ve got this?
Images: Katerina Radvanska / Unsplash; Giphy; Glossier.com; Sephora (2); Nordstrom; Estée Lauder;
Even thinking about acne makes me break out, but someone’s gotta be the lifesaver and tell us WTF is causing this shit and how to get rid of it for once and for all. Naturally, that person will be me *hair flips dramatically.* I hate acne just as much as… literally every person on Earth who’s ever gotten a pimple. It’s literally the worst buzzkill if you’re really feelin’ yourself
on Snapchat and it’s also like, the biggest turnoff for anyone, ever. Most of us have been personally victimized by a fugly zit (or several) at some point, and you’d think that shit would stop after high school but you’d be wrong. So, so very wrong. It’s bad enough to get red bumps on your face but then there’s chestne and bacne that we have to fucking worry about, too. Surprisingly, where your acne appears on your body says a lot about your unhealthy lifestyle and what’s triggering those breakouts. So, here’s what those triggers probs are and how to avoid them. I promise, I won’t make your face smell like a foot.
If You Have Acne On Your Hairline…
You Should Chill With Wearing Hats And Using Dry Shampoo
Any acne here is more often than not connected to your hair or your head (duh)—what goes into your hair, what you put on your head…etc. Avoid hairspray, oil-based products, and any shampoo or conditioner that contains sulfates. Unfortunately, our BFF dry shampoo can sometimes harm our hair if we depend on it too much (and we do). By prolonging your next hair wash, you’re adding to the oily buildup, which in turn clogs pores, makes you break out, the whole nine yards. Keep your hair wash schedule frequent and consistent. Do you think you’re cute wearing that baseball cap or workout headband? You’ll want to think twice about putting it on if you can’t remember the last time you washed it. It has a shit ton of nasty af sweat, basically suffocates your hairline, and hellooo, hat hair!!! If you insist, make sure to wash hair accessories frequently or like, just wash your hair ASAP.
^^^No, we fucking CARE.
If You Have Acne In Your T-Zone…
Blame It On Where You Live
I’m looking at you, New Yorkers and Californians. Living in the world’s best cities is great and all, but not only does it rob you of every penny to your name, it also wreaks havoc on your face. All that traffic, literal garbage, and *gags* public transportation smoke is fucking disgusting. The smallest of dirt, gas, or pollution particles flock to your T-Zone as soon as you step outside. Your basic face wash isn’t going to do the trick, so you’ll need a cleansing sponge like the Boscia Konjac Cleansing Sponge With Complexion Clearing Clay to get the filth off in areas your hands can’t. Keep in mind scorching summers and dry winters play a factor, too. For those of you down south, keep away from oil-based cleansers (fucking obviously) and for those who suffer from arctic temps, use a v hydrating cleanser such as the Olehenriksen The Clean Truth Foaming Cleanser which retains moisture and cleanses your pores at the same damn time.
If You Have Acne On Your Cheeks…
You Don’t Clean Things That Touch Your Face 24/7 As Often As You Should
Tsk, tsk. Things that touch your face constantly, even if you don’t realize it, are fucking up your skin big time. This includes your phone, so like, all those times you answer the phone with a full contour on but forget to wipe the screen. Putting this shit back on your face over and over again 1) sounds gross, and it is, and 2) makes you breakout like cray cray so, uh, wipe off your phone screen every time. In case you didn’t know, you kinda have to wash your makeup brushes pretty fucking often, too. If you don’t, you’re essentially putting dirt, oil, and sooo much bacteria back on your face. Repeatedly. I literally already went over how to actually clean your makeup brushes so your skin doesn’t hate you, so here you go.
If You Have Acne On Your Jawline or Chin…
You’re Probs Stressed The F Out Or Drinking Too Much Cranberry Juice Cocktail
Surprise, surprise. Stress causes acne. I can’t tell you to just stop being stressed because life doesn’t really work that way and tbh, we’re all gonna be stressed af until the day we die. What I can say is, try being ~zen~ by meditating more often, putting that yoga mat to use, and just namaste, betch. Whatever you do, do not touch those pesky zits staring back at you. It’s a trap, I tell you. If your weekly diet consists of pasta, vodka cranberries, and iced coffees served light and sweet (god pls grant me the courage to change my ways), these sugary carbonated devils foods will attack your mouth area. Eliminate at least one calorie-loaded food you eat on a regular basis to unclog your pores and prevent oil. A bunch of red bumps around your mouth isn’t a good look, GF.
If You Have Acne On Your Chest…
Stop Putting Makeup On Your Boobs And Wash Your Sports Bra
This tends to be frequent in the warmer months, thanks to the combo of humidity and tight clothing. Whether you’re laying out tanning or day drinking in a deep V-neck bodysuit, make sure to use a super lightweight sunscreen like Shiseido Urban Environment UV Protection Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 40 For Face/Body so you stay protected and moisturized without aggravating sensitive skin. Also, avoid clogging your pores with layers of makeup on your chest, even if you have a small breakout. You’ll actually make it worse, so just don’t do it, promise? If you do this thing called like, cardio, wearing a sports bra alone clogs your pores and produces bacteria on your chest. When you’re done with your workout, make sure to shower immediately to get all that shit off and throw your bra in the hamper for a wash. And then actually wash it.
If You Have Acne On Your Back…
Your Bag Sucks And You Should Wash Your Bed Sheets
Bacne is the literal fucking worst. It really is your typical selfish, back-stabbing, slut-face, hoe bag of a thing that exists and no, there is not much more to it. Like most triggers (take a hint), wearing tight clothing or something that constantly rubs your back causes skin irritation which—ding, ding, ding!!!—causes acne. This includes lame backpacks or heavy shoulder straps. For starters, we actually found lightweight backpacks that won’t cause back sweat. Although it’s nearly impossible unless you’re a yogi, washing your back will help a lot. Find a nice person exfoliating brush like the Ecotools Bristle Back Brush to help you reach hard-to-get places. Laying back in a pile of oil and dirt will obvs defeat the purpose of that, though so, be sure that you’re washing your bed sheets regularly to avoid contact with buildup on your back.