*Warning: The post is very long since I’m trying to cover all my trial and errors and my thought process as I go. Also there are some up close and personal pictures as well so beware!!* You have been warned!
People often associate acne with teenage hormones, but in my experience it’s a combination of skincare products, diet, hormone, and stress. Your body is a well-oiled machine. We have to feed it the right oil and perform periodic maintenance if we want it to stay healthy for a long time. We have only one skin, one body so we need to take good care of it! If you invest in your health you will be the one reaping the rewards. I had never planned to have a blog. But things changed when I became bombarded with acne during my late 20s. There was just so much information out there, much of it was just products review. It was hard to find what I was looking for. That’s why I started this blog to keep track of the information I found and documents what had work for me. So if someone was to come across hopefully they can find some useful information. Everyone’s skin is different but hopefully you can learn from my mistakes.
My skin type and history:
I have combination skin, oily on the T-zone, but if I don’t hydrate well (inside and out) then my cheek get dry and my face feels tight. My skin is very sensitive and prone to acne and PIH. My PIH (post inflammatory hyperpigmentation) can last from months to years!
I didn’t have acne during my teenage or college years. My skin was very smooth with a few freckles/sunspots due to one year I tried out camping and spent too much time in the sun. I don’t get burnt, my skin just turns very tan and sunspots appear.
Late 2014 I have this epiphany that all chemicals are bad after a bad reaction from P50 toner. I know! Me a lab person! I don’t know what was going through my mind then. Anyway, I tossed out all my ‘conventional’ products, gave away my precious Kbeauty *crys* and read so many ‘green beauty’ blogs… more than I can remember. I started buying ‘natural’ skincare and DIY skincare. Here are just a few of the things that I tried:
- I did the oil cleansing method where you use cold pressed oil to massage your face then use a very HOT washcloth to cover for a few minutes and wipe it off.
- I used manuka honey to wash my face and apply as masks.
- I tried the caveman regimen where you don’t wash your face, just splash it with water. Yuck, I don’t want to remember those days! Let’s leave it in the past. I know if your acne is very very bad then by not attacking your skin with any actives or surfactants and just leaving it alone, it might help you clear up those breakouts. But I’ve seen people who just wash their face with water and don’t use any facial products at all…their skin is very ashy looking. They lack the ‘glow’ that asian always desired. Washing my face with just water didn’t work for me. That doesn’t mean it won’t for you. But I suggest once your acne starts to heal you will need to use some kind of gentle exfoliant so you can shed all the old skin and help your skin renew, just don’t over do it and injure your skin’s acid mantle!
- I used straight essential oils (lavender and tea tree oil) on spots because on some blogs it said it’s ok. NEVER EVER use straight essential oils on your skin! The area where I applied those essential oils is now very sensitized. Leave it to the professional!
- I used ACV (apple cider vinegar) as toner. You really have to pay attention to pH when you’re diluting it. It might be too strong for your skin and make it worse.
- I used lemon juice on my skin. *sighs*
- I drank lemon water in the morning…that left me with sensitive teeth 🙁
- I did juice cleanse and detox. Spent too much money on that juicer!
There are many other weird stuff that I tried. I can’t remember them all!
I tried a lot of natural brands. I’m not going to name them here. They didn’t help my acne but it’s not because they weren’t effective. They might be, I don’t know. It’s just that I switched too often between them. My skin barrier was already compromised and some were too strong for me at that time. So it made it worse. If I name them here and say they don’t work; it’s not really fair to all those brands.
I never take pictures of my face so I don’t have a lot of pictures of my skin…you know the close up ones where you can see every single pore! This one was taken on March,2014. My face is looking kind of weird lol. I don’t like selfies and had never taken one before. I was sitting in the break room and noticed some spot on my chin so I started taking pictures to see. Luckily no one was there at the time I took this! Later when my acne arrived I started taking pictures of my spots when new ones appeared just so I can see if anything changed. It became an obsession of mine for looking to see if the old spots had gone or a new one have appeared. These pictures were taken with my phone iPhone 5c, no filter was used (otherwise what’s the point??!! lol), it was meant just for me to document my skin. It’s my very own skin diary. I was never planning to share this, so pardon my weird poses! I got my inspiration for the pose based on all the clinical books that I read. They normally blank out the eyes therefore I closed my eyes lol so I can be impartial and look at it just like any other study. I tried to take a close pic under a bright light just like in a derm’s office so I can see all my pores :p
August 13,2014. After trying P50. First big pimples appeared and as time goes by my skin starts to get bumpy, like chicken skin. It was very very unhappy then!
During this time I got married and my lifestyle changed. I didn’t eat as healthy as before. I ate more fried foods, chicken wing, etc…; fried cheese wonton is my weakness. You know all the foods that men like lol. I was also under a lot of stress trying to make people around me happy. It took a toll on me especially emotionally. Slowly it affected my body and it started to show up on my face. 2014 and 2015 were the happiest times of my life but also the darkest time. I didn’t know it was possible to be in both places at the same time. Now I truly believe that stress really could kill you. It’s important to be kind to others but you know what is more important?? Be kind to yourself first, love yourself first! If you don’t know how to love and take care of yourself how do you know how to do that for another?
My digestive system did not function. Sorry guys we’re going to get very personal here. But I don’t want to leave anything out just in case someone else is experiencing the same thing and maybe it will help them on their journey. I felt bloated all the time and couldn’t have a bowel movement. My face flushed a lot; it felt warm to the touch especially my forehead. I went to the doctor but they said my temperature was fine and everyone’s digestive system is different so I don’t have to worry about it. Whatever!
I know my body and I could feel something was not right. Western medicine didn’t want to listen to me so I went to an acupuncture doctor. I searched and searched and found one place that I felt comfortable to go but it wasn’t in my insurance network. I went anyway, I wanted to see if it would help even if I had to pay out of pocket $100. He knew right away that my digestive system was having problems just by checking my pulse. Awesome!! He prescribed some pills (TCM WindEase; I didn’t finish it…something about taking pills just put me off lol) for me and started treating me with the needles. He wanted to see me at least 3 times per week! I really liked the place but I couldn’t afford that 🙁 Not when my insurance didn’t cover it. I decided to take the matter into my own hands. I knew how to be healthy, I was healthy before! I just needed to stop everything and listen to my body and use common sense. Sometimes you read something online and your inner self is screaming for you not to do it but you don’t listen. You do it anyway just because someone else did it.
Oh I did go to see a dermatologist and they prescribed Tretinoin for me. I looked into laser treatment also but the pain put me off! For personal reasons I didn’t use Tretinoin. As you can see I didn’t even crack the tube open. People told me if I get off it, the acne would come back. I do not want to be dependent on anyone or anything. One of my friends, who used to work with a dermatologist, recommended I go on Accutane. She said a few rounds of Accutane will clear you right up! For too many reasons to name (that’s for another post), I decided against it. I believe in medicine but only as the last resort. I prefer to let nature and my body fight it first. I don’t like to pop a pill the first sign of sickness. Just look at the antibiotic problems we’re having right now! I want to solve it at the core; most of our health problems stem from our lifestyle anyway.
Most of my acne comes to a white pustule head that either dries up or gets broken and leaves me with horrible PIH. I do get some cystic acne here and there but not severe…thank goodness for that!
So here was how I went about it.
I started from the inside out:
I drink lots and lots of water. Pure water…no tea, coffee, pop doesn’t count. Drinking additional tea is good for you, but I don’t count that toward my water intake! I drink a minimum of half of my body weight in oz. I weigh 120lb so I drink a minimum of 60 oz of pure water. Did I tell you that I used to hate water? I would only drink icy cold water. But it’s hard to just guzzle down cold water… it gave me brain freeze. The only way for me is to drink warm water; that way I can just drain 10 oz easily every time I pick up the bottle. Warm water or water at room temperature is better for your body anyway. I bought this water bottle that can hold 10oz.
I love vegetables and fruits. So I didn’t have to make a lot of change there. I just have to limit my intake of fried food especially fried cream cheese wonton…my weakness. I haven’t touched one in 2 years. Also I don’t drink milk or eat dairy products since I didn’t grow up eating those…maybe that’s why I’m so short lol BUT I eat ice cream, chocolate, and cakes in moderation 😀
I try to take a leisure walk after a meal. Drinking water after waking up in the morning before eating breakfast and walking after a meal will help your digestive system.
I try to get 10,000 steps in a day. I stand and walk most of the time during work hours so that was easy to do. We also joined the gym. I convinced my hubby to join. I told him I don’t want to grow old by myself lol.
I believe in being healthy and everything else (exercise, food,etc.) in moderation. I don’t have a cheat day. I don’t detox, diet, or cleanse. To me being healthy shouldn’t take too much work! Make it your lifestyle not a chore. I remember when I was doing a juice cleanse and detox or following the 30 days of something. I came to Whole Foods with a long list and took so much time looking for and gathering the stuff and went broke as I walked out the door. I was frustrated most of the time because I always forgot something or another. I can’t believe my hubby humored me then. Thinking back I wonder how he could stand me then. Thanks hun! It’s good to eat organic products, but it’s not a must. If you can afford it, great! If not, try to buy whole fresh foods; conventionally grown or local are the best. Farmer market anyone??! Read the label, don’t buy any genetically modified products. The most important thing is not eating any processed, greasy foods. Buy fresh food and cook it yourself. It is not that bad, you will get used to it. I don’t eat organically, and I was able to heal myself so you can, too!
Supplements: I don’t believe in nutrients in a pill but I do realize that sometimes I couldn’t get all my nutrients from food.
I take fish oil because I don’t eat a lot of fish.
I take vitamin D because I’m so low and I live in the north lol. Have anyone see my vitamin D post??
I take Turmeric because I don’t eat enough curry lol and turmeric help with inflammation. Inflammation is the root of all diseases in my opinion.
Back to skin…..
I don’t look at the mirror and try to analyze my skin anymore. Sure, I still take before and after pictures while using different things/products in order to see if it made any difference. But I don’t spend time in the bathroom glued to the mirror and counting the pimples anymore. When you have acne, don’t overanalyze your skin, leave it alone. Just like you feel conscious about seeing people. Think the same for your skin. Just leave it alone and let it heal.
I remember one day I was watching the news with my hubby, and just out of nowhere I started to cry. I told him that I’m getting scared to look at my face and what if it won’t get better. Just like most guys, he told me to go to see some other doctors and stop putting so much stuff on my face and let it breath. He told me my acne is nothing compared to his. He showed me with his fingers, describing ‘it’s huge; twice as big as yours’. I know exactly what he was talking about: his teenage cystic acne. I told him but you were young and I’m old! It’s not supposed to happen to me now that I’m 30! And I’m not going to see some doctors who won’t listen to me and just prescribe me some antibiotics that will kill my gut! Hubby kept telling me to just leave it alone, don’t fret, it’s not that bad and it will go away. It’s just probably your hormones, he said, it will pass. I listened. I stopped worrying about it and left it alone!
Here’s me during April 2015
When your face is raw with active acne DO NOT EXFOLIATE (speaking from my own experience here, your’s might be different…listen to your skin):
No exfoliating; not physical or chemical, not with a facial cloth either.
I washed with CeraVe day and night. I know it works for me because I have been using this brand for years before I got acne.
Klairs toner day and night. It’s very gentle and hydrates skin very well. *reviews will be coming…*
Cosrx Centella cream day and night: a gentle cream that help calm acne. *I used up the whole jar so review will be coming…*
I’m from Water gel day and night *one whole jar used up! Review is coming…*
No sunscreen. I want to minimize all the possible aggravators.
Corsx patch if the pimple accidentally got popped…sure accidental haha!
After a month my acne has mostly subsided, and as you can see left me with horrendous PIH. Didn’t I tell you that I always feel flushed? My face was pretty pink most of the time 🙁 According to the acne face map all my organs must be failing or having problems lol.
Can you believe that I didn’t wear any makeup even at this stage. If you know me you know I don’t wear makeup. I don’t hate it, it’s just too much work! I’m not talent like other ladies who can put the whole face on in 5 min! I’m so envious of your talent. Plus I love my skin…for better and for worse!
My skin is not back to where it used to be. But now I understand it more. I know what it likes and doesn’t like.
- Be patient
- Be gentle with your skin
- Use low pH cleanser preferably gel or balm type because it doesn’t contain harsh surfactants.
- Love yourself, aim for no or low stress life
- Be active, sweat it out!
- Steaming is awesome after sweating! Just 5 min a day works! Don’t get too close to the steam. Water alone is fine, but if you want relaxation and aromatherapy then add steaming herbs 🙂
- When you have active acne, nourish it, don’t attack it!
- Limit your sugar intake
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Get your body in a rhythm: go to sleep and waking up the same time…I know it’s boring but it works!
- Take care of your health, make sure your digestive work. It’s possible and you should have a bowel movement once a day. I know it’s kind of weird but once you get your body in a rhythm your body will automatically want to have a bowel movement around the same time everyday lol. Sorry! I know I’m getting too personal!
Once your acne calms down, SLOWLY introduce GENTLE acid toner to help exfoliating and keep your pore clean. It will help with acne in the long run. But like I said before SLOWLY I can’t stress that enough lol. Choose a toner with pH not too low nor too high. Around 3.5-5 ph should be a good starting point. It’s similar to skin pH of 4.5, so it won’t irritate it too much. If you have never ever use acid before. I recommend you go baby steps…sprays a cotton pad with water or hydrating toner first then the acid toner and wipes your face with it. You can use straight acid toner once you get a feel of how your skin like it. I always apply acid toner with a cotton pad, it help spread it evenly. Don’t be like me. I jumped straight in and my acid mantle was badly damaged and on top of it I confused it even more when I kept trying different products to heal it. Please be patience! I know it’s boring but products need time to work! You can’t expect it to work in days!
Below are the gentle products that helped heal my acne.
Cerave facial cleansers: Both hydrating and foaming are good for my skin.
Hydrating toners: Klairs
Cream: Cosrx Centella cream
Moisturizer: I’m from Water gel
The products above are the only products that I used during my worse acne. I used them steady for about 2 to 3 months. (End of April, May, June, July of 2015)
Once the number of my pimples started to decrease I introduced acid toner into my routine. (August 2015)
Missha FTE (old formula) not really an acid
Cosrx AHA/BHA: pH 4 I started out once a day for twice a week, then once a day everyday of the week, then twice a day…
Pixi glow tonic: pH4
Serum: Missha ampoule, this one provide really good moisture, it didn’t irritate my skin.
Oil: I also introduced oil back into my routine. I used MUN Aknari oil, my first love when I ventured into green beauty. It’s still one of my favorites!
September 2015-December 2015
I stopped using korean products and acid toners because I discovered Kypris so for those months I only used Kyrpis line and here’s the routine.
Clean face with cerave
Wipes face with water soaked face cloth
Mixes and apply 2 drops Antioxidant dew + 1 drop Clearing serum + 2 drops Healing Bouquet
Clean face with cerave
Wipes face with water soaked face cloth
Applies 1/2 dropper full of Moonlight Catalyst
Mixes and apply 2 drops Antioxidant dew + 1 drop Clearing serum + 2 drops Healing Bouquet
Kypris had really help my skin to calm down, but I still have lot of PIH and my acne didn’t really go away, I still got it here and there. But Kypris have my thumb up I’ll use it if I have the money. In fact their Moonlight Catalyst is a staple in my evening routine. I’ll be reviewing the rest of their line soon 😀
Starting of 2016 I started to slowly including acid toners (same one listed above) back in my routine. Their pHs are around 4. Don’t laugh! I’m going to be really cautious! I got burned once before you know lol If you follow me on Instagram you can see all my routine and how I rotate them. I told you before not to rotate products right? But I already tried these products and know how they work so I feel comfortable rotating them. Beside my acne is not as bad as before. Here are the products that had help me.
January 2016 Splash mask. Review already.
February 1, 2016 started CAIS I did a review about this already. It helps heal inflammation but didn’t stop acne from appearing. I’m not surprised since it’s not targeting acne, but the overall health of skin. It’s like feeding nutrients to skin.
March 1, 2016 DIY Really helped control my acne! Since a year after this I decided to started my own skincare line named ‘YOU Skincare‘ Now you can try them yourself!
Mid March 2016: introduced White RX activated serum into my routine
As I’m writing this in April now I haven’t had any new spot not even during that time of the month. I normally get a few around my chin and upper lip.
I’m sorry to say this but there’s no magic potion. To have real lasting results it takes hard work, dedication and determination. Products only help about 20%, 40% will be your emotional health, 40% your physical health.
My skin is not back to its original state . But I’m confident that it will! I know that each of us has a different journey, not everyone is the same, some products or idea that worked for me might not work for you. But I just want you to know that you’re not alone! That’s why I’m sharing my story. I’m here and I’m just like you and we can do it! Let’s get clear skin together!
August 2017 updated: I don’t use acid much, maximum 2x a week with a gentle acid toner on a cotton pad. I prefer to use an enzyme mask in place of acid toner twice a week for exfoliation. I still testing new products because I love experimenting but I have my base routine to fall back to. You can check it here, my base line routine.
You’re loved and beautiful just as you are!
Be Healthy, Be Happy, Be YOU!
P.S I’ll continued to post my skin updated below so you can see that I’m still able maintain acne free! If I can do it so can YOU!