I hated my skin for about a ten year period from my mid-teens to mid-twenties. I had the horrid combination of puberty hormones + terrible teenager and early 20s diet practices (soda, sweetened ice coffee and wine coolers in my college years) as well as irresponsible lack of hydration! As a result of this perfect storm, I was self conscious of my face, tried a range of terrible practices that didn’t help (probably actually hurt the situation) and tried to cover my acne with cakey makeup. It was rough to say the least. Not only did I have oily, acne prone skin, I have always been quite fair skinned and grew up in the late 90s/early 2000s when the coolest thing you could be was to be perfectly bronzed.
I’ll spare you the gruesome details, but it’s been quite the journey through my 20s trying to find the best form of hormonal birth control to help regulate hormones, not have terrible side effects and calm my skin as a side benefit. I think I’ve finally found the right fit after a lot of trial and error, but over the last year I really committed to not relying so exclusively on birth control to clear my skin. Instead, I’ve put in place good habits in diet and building a facial regimen that would help my skin and stop fighting it. I take my skincare seriously, but I don’t obsess over it. I have finally (and I can’t express how huge this is) gotten to a point where I regularly leave the house with no makeup or just a swipe of concealer on my under eyes. I’m finally comfortable in my own skin.
So what are some of the products and habits I’ve used to calm my skin? I detail them below, all of these products are easily accessible at drugstores or online and all are under $20. Not to say that you shouldn’t invest in your skincare, but I’m always excited when I find a great product and it has the bonus feature of being affordable.
I don’t wash my face with soap most days. If I’m wearing a lot of makeup (which I normally do not), I will wash with a gentle facial cleanser. Most days I just use lukewarm water and a microfiber cloth to remove my concealer. I would say I wash my face with soap once every three days or so. I highly recommend the following cleansers:
I use a gentle toner every morning and every night. I’ve tried some really astringent toners and they make my skin feel tight and it burns when I apply them. I’ve decided (duh) I don’t want to put anything on my face that makes it hurt, but I think many who have dealt with oily skin can relate to using really astringent toners and intense face washes that leave your skin red and raw. This toner linked below is my favorite I’ve found yet – it is alcohol-free, so no pain and my skin feels refreshed. I spritz it on after I get out of the shower or after removing my makeup and let it dry on my face.
I use a serum with hyaluronic acid every morning. I apply this over the toner. My favorite serums I’ve found thus far are Neutrogena brand and Pearlessence, which are both under $20 for small bottles. I’ve tried a few others, including some more expensive brands and haven’t liked them that much. You don’t need a lot, just a small pump to spread over your face, so a bottle will last you a long time.
- Neutrogena Hydro Boost Vitamin E & Hyaluronic Acid Serum ($15)
- Pearlessence Radiance Perfecting Serum with Vitamin C ($12)
I use a gentle moisturizer every morning and every night. My key mistake as a teenager was assuming that if I had oily skin, I didn’t need to add more moisture. Little did I realize that I was drying my skin out horribly using astringent cleansers, toners and topical creams and my body was fighting between the products and my natural oils. Using a moisturizer every morning and night helps to balance the oils in my skin and I’m not excessively oily in using moisturizers. I use the CeraVe brand for both AM and PM, but my AM moisturizer has SPF 30 protection. I switched from creams in a pot (where you’d scoop product out with your fingers and apply to pump bottles. I read that there is greater risk of contamination with your hands going in and out of the product. Yuck.
Remember to moisturize your entire face AND your neck!
- CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM with Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($10)
- CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion ($12)
I use a hydrogel moisturizer at night before I apply my PM moisturizer. I’m not at all sure if this is redundant to use two moisturizers, but I use this heavier gel moisturizer only at night because it’s pretty thick and makes me shiny and it’s greenish and I look sort of alien when I put it on. I apply this to my entire face and neck. I found this brand at TJ Maxx and once I’m done with this bottle, I’d like to try the Neutrogena Hydro Gel moisturizer.
I wear sunscreen every day when I’m going to be outside. I reapply it every 90 minutes! I use very generic a sunscreen on my body that is SPF 30. On my face I use a higher SPF zinc sunscreen as it is less greasy and I don’t breakout when I apply it to my face. I only use cream based sunscreens – not sprays! I don’t think the coverage is nearly as good with spray sunscreens. It’s important to remember that non-zinc sunscreens take about 15-20 minutes to be active and effective in sun protection. Zinc sunscreens work immediately upon application because of how they block rays.
I drink a TON of water everyday. I try to drink between 90 – 100 ounces of water everyday (roughly my Nalgene water bottle filled three times). Yes, I have to pee pretty much constantly, but my skin has cleared up significantly with this approach.
Possible contributor to skin health? I drink kombucha at least four days a week. Kombucha (and probiotics in general) help with gut health (which was the primary reason I started drinking it). There is little science backed evidence that kombucha actually promotes skin health, and it may be a coincidence, but it’s a relatively inexpensive item to purchase and I enjoy how it tastes. I’ve seen a few articles as well with other people finding that adding probiotics into their diet has worked for their skin, too.
I don’t do dairy! I quit dairy almost 100% last winter after realizing that I just don’t feel good after eating it. I will still occasionally use butter for baking and won’t freak out if a place only has regular coffee creamer, but dairy is not a regular part of my diet. If you do a Google search on “dairy and skin problems”, you will find numerous articles about other people who experienced the same positive changes to their skin when eliminating dairy.