Wednesday, February 6, 2013

When Less is More: Reviewing Your Skincare

True beauty lies within, but let's not lie to ourselves, the way we present our "outside" speaks volumes as well. For me, it's never been as exaggerated as changing my physical make up. I've never cared to change the shape of my lids, to inflate my lips, or chip away at my nose (okay, maybe a few times with the nose). I've always tried to highlight my natural features, which meant taking good care of what I do have - including thick hair, thick eyebrows, and highly sensitive skin. I've always thought, my skin is my largest organ, I can't hide it even if I want to. I better take good care of it. It hasn't been an easy road by any means, but let me try to explain to you the evolution of my skincare.

When I was a child, I forever had dark eczema marks on the insides of my elbows and knees. And being a child, I didn't care, other than for the fact that it itched and was irritating.

Fast-forward to my teenage years. I had cystic acne which left scars on my face for years. It lasted from about when I was 16 until I was 18 years old. It was terrible because my confidence was way down low and I honestly didn't know what to do with it. I didn't know how, or even if I should, cover it up, and I had even less of an idea of how to get rid of it. So I did what every person with cystic acne probably does at some point - I tried a bunch of different cleansers, toners, and moisturisers, to no avail.

Finally, the acne slowly began to fade, but in it's place came patches of eczema. For those of you that don't know, eczema is a skin condition that causes redness, dryness, itching, scaling, and scabbing. If you itch, it gets worse, raw, and infected. By the time I had gone through a bunch of different skin cleansers, toners and moisturisers all over again, I was at the point where I felt nothing would ever work and I'd just have to live with it for the rest of my life. "It" being swollen, ugly, dark patches of skin on my face and neck. I felt so ugly and nothing anyone could say would make it better. I went to two different dermatologists who did a solid nothing for me. I visited a naturopathic doctor who did an assessment and...long story short, I was supposedly allergic to everything aside from potatoes and rice. Following that diet, my eczema improved, but by no means disappeared.

At a last attempt, which was only really brought on by my wonderful mother, I visited a third dermatologist. To my surprise, she took one look, prescribed me antibiotics for what she deemed was infected skin, and then set me up for a regimen of facial peels for following months. Of course there were the famous topical creams, hydrocortisone and clotrimazole, but nothing heavy. At last, the eczema disappeared.

What happened next reminds me of a study that was done involving the psychology behind children with anaphylaxis. As a child with anaphylaxis discovers their food allergy, they are vigilant about staying away from it - staying away from anything that could be a threat. As they become more familiar with their diet, they let their guard down and become less vigilant than the average person. They end up trying a variety of foods that could very well trigger a reaction. Similarly, as my skin has stayed clear from eczema (for the most part) for a few years, I became excited about experimenting with skin products again. More excited than the average person.

Not only have I been trying cleansers, toners, and moisturisers, I've expanded my collection to include deep cleansing masks, smoothing masks, exfoliators, spot treatments, and serums.  Things have been going well, and I have found some great ones, but ever since trying a huge cult favourite, Josie Maran's Argan Oil, I've realized that perhaps I need to get back to the basics.

Turns out I think I'm allergic to 100% argan oil - it gives me hives. Which makes me realize that I don't really need all these products. In fact, I'm fairly certain some of them are making my skin worse. When I fall back to my staples, a cleanser, toner, and moisturiser, my skin is wonderful and free from spontaneous break-outs of rash, redness, and acne.

Based on my experience, most dermatologists will tell you to cut out all the unnecessary products that you're using. If you're hard pressed for a treatment, stick to natural mixtures that you can whip up in your own kitchen. Oatmeal makes a great cleanser, honey is a great moisturiser, and yogurt has anti-inflammatory benefits. Trust me, I know.

So the next time you feel like you have to start using yet another product on your face because it's a top seller, think about if it's really important. Chances are, your skin might be better without it.


  1. What type of facial peels do you use and recommend? Have you tried microdermabrasion?

    1. Haven't tried microdermabrasion because after my skin healed up from the facial peel regimen, I was hesitant to try it (one time, they used too high a concentration and it ended up burning parts of my face. Haven't been back for a peel ever since). I'm at that point where I'm taking things into my own hands and trying at-home products.

      Right now, I'm using Neostrata's line. The Smoothing Cleansing Mask has 10% glycolic acid so it really does the job. Too intense for daily use, but it definitely works. They also have a separate peel that I might try in the summer when the weather isn't so harsh. If your skin is sensitive, Dermalogica's Gentle Cream Exfoliant, which has hydroxy acid in it, is like a godsend.

      In terms of microdermabrasion products, I'd probably start with Kiehl's. If you're willing to splurge, I'd recommend Dr. Brandt.

      Neostrata's Smoothing Cleansing mask
      Neostrata's Peel