Hello and welcome to my first beauty post. It felt appropriate for me to start at the basics with skincare and to go with something personal like spotty skin because I’ve suffered from breakouts since I was about 15. I am not a dermatologist or a dietician. I don’t have any formal training but I have been through a long process of trial and error to get my skin to a state that I’m happy with. Yes, I still have breakouts but now I know how to control them and why they happen. Here’s what I’ve learned in the last 7 years – I hope it helps!
1. You are what you eat.
If I could give only one piece of advice about looking after your skin it would be: turn to your diet. Skin is susceptible to change due to many things including hormones and the weather but more often than not you can reduce your spots by cutting down on refined carbs, sugar and trans fats. For me, it’s pizza. If I eat pizza, my face literally looks like a pepperoni pizza the next day. Keep a food diary and whenever you have a breakout, ask yourself what foods did you have the day before and try to eliminate them from your diet. Now, I do still eat pizza but knowing that I will face the consequences of a bad breakout the next day!
Skin healthy foods: Lots of green tea and water. Fresh fruit and veg packed with vitamins and antioxidants like tomatoes (check out recipes like Huevos Rancheros), kale (you could throw some into my Quadruple Green Sweet n Sour dish) and yellow bell peppers (dice them into Classic Lasagne) Check out this list of 25 Best Foods For Your Skin.
2. The drugs don’t work.
Okay, that’s a bit harsh. A lot of medication does work. I’ve spent years being prescribed different drugs but, more often than not, they only provide short-term solutions. My skin would clear for a few weeks but my spots would soon fight back with a vengeance. Having said that, Roaccutane will clear severe acne undoubtedly. I have never used it but know many friends who have clear skin now as a result. It comes at a price though: mood swings, dry and flaky skin, sore bones and joints… It just depends on how severe your acne is if you’re willing to try it. If you are really suffering from your bad skin, do go to your GP. They will offer a sympathetic ear and hopefully provide you with some form of solution to your problem. My only advice is to follow these other tips in conjunction with medication. Don’t expect a drug to fix it all if you’re not looking after your skin in other ways too.
3. Let it breathe, let it breathe…
If you don’t need to wear makeup, don’t. If you’re off work for the day then avoid putting any makeup on; cleanse and moisturise skin as usual and let your skin breathe. On days where you can’t avoid make-up, clean your face immediately when you get home. Don’t wait until late at night if you don’t have to. Likewise, wash your face thoroughly after gym sessions and don’t wear makeup when you’re working out. Taking your makeup off as soon as you can is really important to let your skin breathe and heal itself. On this note, try to avoid really heavy-duty foundations. I know it’s tempting to cover up with a heavy slick of Double Wear – been there, done that – but you’re only prolonging the issue. Try a lighter coverage, even a tinted moisturiser if you feel you can, with some concealer on problematic areas. See my next tip for my favourite and least favourite foundations for spot-prone skin!
4. Start at the foundation.
I mentioned Estée Lauder Double Wear because it is the holy grail of heavy coverage. When my skin was really bad, I felt more confident covering myself up with a thick layer of this foundation. I used it for a year plus and thought it was amazing but I’ve since realised that the heaviness was only worsening the issue. Heavy foundations will clog up your pores and prolong the inevitable. The best foundation I’ve ever used for my skin is Arbonne Perfecting Liquid Foundation. It is made with really natural ingredients which soothe your skin rather than damage it with nasty chemicals and it still gives a great coverage. Bonus points: it contains an SPF 15 for sun protection and it’s vegan-friendly.
5. Back to basics.
There is no use in applying a chemical-free foundation if you are damaging your skin with a disagreeable skincare regime or, worse, not using one at all. If your skin is prone to spots it is important to find a cleanser, exfoliator, toner and moisturiser that work for you. Start with your cleanser. Don’t use make-up wipes. I love Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish with their muslin cloth. It’s a cleanser that will remove makeup, clean impurities and act as a gentle exfoliator at the same time. I have never found a better cleanser and have repurchased several tubes. For me, nothing works like it. I’m trialling and enjoying Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm at the moment so I’ll let you all know how I get on with it. It smells lovely and feels very luxurious so hopefully, it clears up my current breakout. I love Liz Earle for toner and moisturiser too. All their products are very light, enriched with skin-loving nutrients and leave my skin feeling soft, radiant and clean.
6. Be prepared for change.
When I first went to the doctor about my skin, she explained that a woman’s body goes through a hormonal overhaul every 7 years. Not just puberty. That means every 7 years, your skin can change dramatically. You may have crystal clear skin all through your teens and twenties but could wake up with acne in your thirties. Do not get complacent with your skincare routine! One of my friends had been using the same moisturiser for years when suddenly her skin took an adverse reaction to it and she experienced redness on the sides of her face. She gave it up, swapped it for a different moisturise and the redness quickly disappeared. What I’m saying is: don’t be afraid to change. What was once your knight in shining skincare armour could quickly become your worst enemy. Similarly, the weather has a dramatic impact on your skin. You might find your skin gets uncomfortably dry in the wintertime so you have to opt for a more moisturising regime. Likewise, the heat of summer might cause you to sweat more and, in turn, cause breakouts so you need to be wary of any oily makeup. I go between Liz Earle‘s moisturisers for Normal/Combination and Combination/Oily skins depending on how my skin is feeling at the time.
7. Don’t be afraid of moisture.
It’s a common misconception that you want to dry your skin out to combat spots. I never moisturised until I was like 19 because I believed it would make my skin oilier and therefore spottier. I was so frightened of adding any moisture to my face but I later discovered that my skin was severely dehydrated in some areas especially under my eyes. You should moisturise morning and night. Period. Look at your skin: is it oily? is it dry in some patches? is there redness? Like I said, there are moisturisers to suit your skin needs so use them! If, like me, you have combination skin then apply your moisturiser first in dry areas, like your cheeks, and blend out to your oilier areas, like your t-zone. If you’re really fancy you can use different products for different areas but that’s expensive!
8. Get ready to fight back.
Have a go-to emergency regime when you have a really bad burst of acne but don’t have a lot of time for slow healing. There are plenty of tips online but I think one of the best things you can use to combat a bad breakout is tea tree. Bodyshop does a great range of tea tree products. I’ve trialled several of them including the foaming cleanser, scrub, toner and night lotion. Do not overdo it with tea tree products because they will really dry out your skin.
My emergency regimen: I wash my face as normal using Tea Tree Skin Clearing Foaming Cleanser or my ordinary daily cleanser using an abrasive muslin cloth in order to gently exfoliate my skin. After cleansing, I splash my skin with cold water to close my pores and gently pat it dry. Once my skin is dry I’ll sweep Tea Tree Toner over my face with a clean cotton pad and moisturise as normal. I then apply a small amount of Sudocrem Antiseptic healing cream (for nappy rash) with a clean cotton bud on any spot breakouts. The next morning I find the pain, redness and unsightliness have reduced dramatically and I can return to my usual less-intensive routine.
9. Treat yo’ self.
When your skin is really bringing you down, your self-confidence can plummet so it’s nice to pamper yourself once in a while. Why not book into a spa for a deep cleaning facial? It’s a good way to lift your spirits when your self-esteem is low. It will leave your skin feeling totally refreshed and recharged and you’ll get the chance to talk to a professional about your skin problems. Beauticians often have a lot of skin-loving wisdom to pass on. I’ve received some amazing tips from beauticians over the years and they certainly know a lot more about dermatology than me! If you don’t have the time or money for a spa trip then set aside some cash for a luxury skincare product once in a blue moon.
My Future Splurge Products: Elemis Skin Buff and La Roche-Posay Effaclar 3-Step Anti-Blemish System (I was recommended La Roche-Posay by a beautician and adored their products but have never justified the price again since I ran out)
10. Learn to love your skin as it is.
This is easier said than done. You can buy all the fancy skincare and beauty products in the world but there is no telling that your skin will ever completely clear up. One of the most important pieces of advice I can give to anyone suffering from spot-prone skin is to learn to accept it. Spots may be a physical problem but the emotional turmoil they can cause can be awful, especially in your teenage years when you are so preoccupied with your looks. My self-esteem has been greatly affected by my bad skin over the year. I was always envious of my friends with perfect skin and perpetually worried about the redness and bumps all over my face. By no means am I saying that I like having spotty skin now. There are days when it drags me down but more and more I have come to accept it and not let it bother me as much. Now I can go out without makeup and feel comfortable enough in my own skin because the truth is the stress caused by worrying about spots will only make your spots worse! Remember: there are a lot worse things in the world than spots and while I try to reduce them as much as I can it’s important to remember that your complexion is not a reflection of how much of a funny, intelligent or kind person you are!