The Long Road To...Perfect Skin?

This was originally supposed to be a video, but damn do I suck at filming myself and trying to convey my thoughts clearly. So whatever, I'll just write it.

This is a skincare post, but not like the other ones I've done when I just recommend products I've used and liked. I want to talk about an annoying problem (is it too dramatic to call it a struggle?) I've had since I had puberty and that is..ACNE. Fortunately I haven't had severe acne, it's been mild to moderate but consistent enough that it's affected my self-confidence and made me antisocial at times. I won't bore you with my story from the beginning but let's just say that I've been to numerous dermatologists and have tried even more medications which include antibiotic pills, non-antibiotic pills, birth control, infomercial products, prescription and OTC gels, creams, facials, deep exfoliating treatments which made my skin look like beef carpaccio, laser treatments (which are very expensive/not covered by insurance/require down time because my face will be bright red and flaky) so let's just say I've been there and tried that. Now I refuse to ever set foot into another derms office again unless it's for another reason besides acne. You can argue over what works best for breakouts, but of course everyone is different so what may work for you may not work for me and vice versa. I got into a heated discussion awhile ago with someone who argued that loading up on products probably makes peoples' skin worse and that we should all wash our face with water. Well HELLO, while I agree that you should keep products to a minimum, you have clear skin so of course you'd say that no one needs to use anything ever. If only we could all be so lucky...

If you can empathize, you know that having bad skin doesn't just stop at having bad skin - it effects you emotionally and psychologically. I can't tell you how many times I've looked in the mirror during a bad breakout and burst into tears because I had to go somewhere and I felt so hideous and embarrassed. Or not wanting to join my friends at the beach because I'd rather die than leave the house without makeup. There have been countless other situations that I've avoided simply because I knew I would feel insecure and uncomfortable because of my skin. It may sound vain and I guess it is,  and it's so easy to judge "wow, that's stupid..just get over it and live your life" but this is our face we're talking about here. The first thing people see when they meet you and the main thing they're looking at while you're having a conversation. If I could change anything about my body it would be to have a flawless and glowing complexion. While I'm still a good deal away from looking like Cate Blanchett, I've tried new things in the past two years and I found them to be effective and safe enough that I'm comfortable sharing them with you.

Last September my skin took a turn for the worse and FREAKED out. Like I said I always had mild to moderate acne, moderate being when I was on my period or something but this was different and I needed to fix it fast. I turned to my cousin who is an acupuncturist and has a clinic in Midtown, Numinous Health, to help me because I remembered she once said acupuncture can definitely help and I knew my problem was internal, not just superficial. We began with once a week treatments and upped it to twice a week for a few months. Let me just preface this by saying my body usually is slow to react to new meds/treatments so it takes awhile to see results. I went online to read about other peoples experience with fixing their acne with acupuncture and some could see improvement within a few weeks, I was so hopeful! By the winter my skin calmed down a bit but still needed more time to heal. During the time my diet was pretty strict, I was making veggie juices at home with my Hurom and doing my best to avoid excessive sugar, white flour products like bread/cake/pasta and eating lean meats and veggies.

Fast forward to now, my skin has vastly improved and if I still stuck to my good diet it would be even better. Since I cleared up I kind of went back to eating shitty with healthy meals every now and then, which is bad I know. But in addition to acupuncture I want to talk about some other factors that have helped too. This is really long I know, so bear with me or just skim over and read whatever catches your eye.

Get Gorgeous tea: I know the packaging is super kitsch but this tea has kind of been remarkable. The main ingredient is rooibos which is a super antioxidant. Forget green tea, pick this stuff instead. I'm sure you can drink other less expensive brands of rooibos tea, but I think this particular one adds  other ingredients to give the extra kick your skin will need to clear up. I drank up to five mugs a day (three is recommended but no hurt in drinking more) and the flavor is pretty bad but I'd bring it down to room temp and chug it. Even if you don't have problem skin you should drink this to keep looking youthful and everyone benefits from antioxidants.

Herb tea: While getting treated by my cousin, she prescribes a series of different herb blends which come in powdered form to help your internal system balance itself out. I've gone through about five different formulas now, they were all different so I can't tell you what was in each one but they help and are essential in the process.

Daily Green Supplements: If you aren't able to maintain enough fresh fruits and veggies, taking a supplement doesn't hurt. It's not the same as consuming the real thing but it's better than nothing! I get mine from GNC.

Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash: I believe I posted this before but it's the face wash I've been faithfully returning to after trying others. Its got ingredients like salicylic acid and natural ones such as tea tree oil and eucalyptus so it's not too aggressive and I don't find it drying.

Clarins White Plus Moisturizer: I'd been testing out moisturizers with SPF for some time now and none of the ones I liked were suitable for my skin. I have combination skin and while it tends to be more oily than dry, if it's not hydrated well it feels taut and uncomfortable. Even certain moisturizers labeled "ultra hydrating" didn't cut it, so when I received the Clarins one in a birthday package from Hong Kong (thanks, Stella!) I was pretty impressed. Really impressed. It's got a light clean fragrance and it doesn't feel greasy or heavy. My makeup goes on top nicely and most importantly it hasn't caused any breakouts! Definitely one I recommend to others, especially if you don't have SPF in your regular routine. It's a little pricey though.

Cetaphil Ultra Hydrating Moisturizer for Dry/Sensitive Skin: I think I also posted this before at some point. I've been using it for years now and it's perfect. Maybe heavy for some people, especially in the summer, but I use it all year round.

Neutrogena Naturals Makeup Remover: Standard make-up remover.

My last trip to the dermatologist, I was still on Differin gel. Since it expired I didn't know what to use and I must have prescripton strength acne gels. I don't love the idea of using a pimple gel from the drugstore or Sephora because they're not strong enough. I happened to be at the allergy doctor doing some tests and somehow he ended up prescribing me these two gels. Clindamycin to use during the day and night, switch that out for 2-3 nights for Epiduo. Are they miracle products? No, but like I said my skin issues come from within so I don't expect any face products to solve the problem.

Egyptian Magic: So, with breakouts come the scars and sometimes they're worse than the pimples themselves because they stay longer. My skin scars very easily and the marks don't disappear quickly at all so I'm always on the hunt for a great fader. The Egyptian Magic cream is more like a balm that you rub in your hands to melt into an oil. Reviews on this are very mixed, some swear by it and others say it's just a gimmick. Obviously the product needs time to do what it says it will, but when I use it I wake up with extremely soft skin and redness has diminished a bit. I've only purchased it a few weeks ago so I'm still waiting to see results but yeah, it makes my skin so so soft in the morning.

 Clarisonic Mia 2 Brush: The cleansing brush everyone's been talking about! Let me just say that after using this, washing my face with just my hands..is NO comparison. I use it once a day, usually at night so it can remove any leftover makeup residue and so that the products I put on after will seep in more effectively. A worthy investment
And lastly, additional supplements I like to take that are beneficial for the skin and of course overall health. Omega 3 if you didn't already know is a good fat that improves skin, hair, and nails. I won't go into details on how it works but of course you can look that up. There are capsules for omega 3, 6, and 9 but I personally take just the 3 because most foods in my diet already supply 6 and 9 and not enough of the 3. Turmeric, the bright yellow spice you're probably familiar with because it's used in cooking but what you may not know is that it has a multitude of health benefits. Prevents Alzheimer's, the common cold, aging, as well as being an anti-inflammatory. When I first heard of this I went out and purchased the powdered spice and drank it in warm water - DISGUSTING. Then stupid me learned it comes in capsules! Durr. There's turmeric and then there's curcumin..basically, curcumin is much more potent to put it in simple terms. Adding these two to my vitamin routine has done nothing but good. If you don't pop molly, just pop these instead ;)

So there you have it, my experience with trying to correct my acne. I think the only thing I have to try hard to get back on track with is my diet, which is absolutely crucial for having beautiful skin because you are what you eat! But aside from that, these are the products I use to keep everything else in check and hopefully this was all very helpful!

If you're interested in acupuncture I do recommend my cousin, Young-Sun, who's young and savvy to all of these issues. Her office is very intimate and it's just her so she really listens and will try her best to understand what's going on. Check out her website Numinous Health and she of course she doesn't deal with just skin issues. She's helped me when I've pulled muscles or other aches, when my boyfriend had colds, my migraines, the list goes on..

*Edit* The one prescription medicine that did help significantly was spironolactone. I'm a little wary of even mentioning it on here because it's a serious drug. Not quite as serious as Accutane, but still risky enough that you're required to take birth control while on it because it will cause birth defects should you get pregnant. I was on it for FIVE years, that's a really really long time to be on that medication and I didn't even know it until I switched derms and he told me that I needed to get off of it because it would only be dangerous to my health. Originally meant for heart conditions, doctors discovered that a side effect of spironolactone was helping to clear up acne so that's why derms now prescribe it. Downside was that my skin had to get much much MUCH worse before it got better. For a good three months my face was totally broken out and not with red big bumps, but with those little ones that just cover your entire face..so gross and not to mention completely unattractive. Also, I would get my period every TWO WEEKS and they would be very heavy. Another reason to take b.c. so it can get regulated. If you're dead set on continuing to see traditional dermatologists, then inquire about spiro and see what they say and if it's right for you.