Skintervention

Alternate Title: Way Too Many Words About My Skin Care Struggles

So. I have a long and sordid history with my skin that I don’t really like to think about. But now that I’m in my 30s, it’s really just time to bite the bullet and get things in order.

In my teenage years my skin was pretty flawless. I barely wore makeup, I’m sure I broke out, but I don’t even remember if I had a “skin care ritual.” I did go to the dermatologist though, and I can’t even really remember why. Probably because everyone else was going, so I made my parents drag me — I had good parents like that. Copays for non-existent problems! Certainly! I wouldn’t even remember those appointments I’m sure, except that these days my high school dermatologist is pretty damn famous.

One day during one of my office visits we started talking about things, life and the soap opera that is high school and I mentioned that I was a cheerleader. She then launched into this long story about how she and a colleague were making a product, and they wanted to film an infomercial with an “All-American group of kids” who would use it and talk about their results. So she gave me all of this information and I was to take it to my squad and talk it over. I did, and in my memory no one was really interested. It was like — yeah, MEH — is that going to cut into our cheerleading/boy-chasing/studying time? Then probably not. So we never did it. But my dermatologist’s product?

So yeah, 15 years later I can’t decide if that was a good decision or a bad decision. I mean, on the one hand it would be a fun story. But on the other, I’m not sure I want my legacy of fame to be a role in an acne lotion commercial you know?

Anyway — THAT was a sidebar.

So. Fast forward to my 20th birthday and all of a sudden my skin is taking the most mysterious and spiteful revenge on me. I try all sorts of dramatic interventions and nothing works. (Of course I’ve tried Proactiv. Unfortunately it did not work for me AT ALL.) Years later I would look back and think of all the drinking and eating take-out I did and it would seem a little less mysterious, but finally I threw my hands up and gave in to taking Accutane at the recommendation of the dermatologist I was seeing then.

Have you heard of Accutane? (I can’t wait to see the spam comments I get on this post.) The side effects are intense. From a warning:

[Accutane]must not be taken by patients who are pregnant or who may become pregnant. There is a high risk that isotretinoin will cause loss of the pregnancy, or will cause the baby to be born too early, to die shortly after birth, or to be born with birth defects (physical problems that are present at birth).

NBD. I may just have kids with webbed-feet (you know, if they survive at all) but I’m sure it’s not doing anything TO ME while I’m taking it. OHMYGOD. I can’t even believe I took it when I look at those (very abbreviated) side effects. There were so many more! I had to sign all sorts of stuff that said I would use 3 types of birth control, had to come in for monthly pregnancy tests for a year (at my dermatologist’s office!) and agree to seek therapy if I felt the early twinges of anxiety and depression. Also, I couldn’t eat carrots.

Sounds healthy, right?

But let me tell you, for about 6 years I had the best skin of my life. I mean, I also spent two years on anti-anxiety medication that I’m now SURE was a side effect of all that, but you know — no pimples and all that! (CRIMONY)

My skin began breaking out pretty badly again about 7 years ago (in my mid-20s — hello, bitter) but at the same time I got back on The Pill and that helped tremendously. But fast forward to about 6 months ago when Garrett and I agreed we would kick The Pill in preparation for our upcoming *Make A Baby Sometime* Project and no joke, not 30 days into all that business, my awful skin came back.

You guys it is like PTSD up in here.

I have quit eating dairy, I have tried new face wash (Older Lady Naturals, obvs), I have been incredibly diligent and to no avail. I’m convinced it is totally hormonal since my skin is ok (not great, but not awful) for about 2 weeks out of the month and then REVENGE OF THE PISSED OFF CHIN ZITS (for about 2 weeks out of the month) and it is just the most awful thing. Garrett could not care any less and every time I bring it up he tells me not to worry and that it’s kind of all in my head. But emotionally it is difficult because it takes me right back to all those years ago when I felt that my skin was so awful that I would rather take medicine that could KILL A BABY than have zits.

I am no longer that person though. I don’t even take Advil when I have a headache. Mostly because I don’t get headaches because I’m super anal-retentive about everything that goes in my body. I turn to holistic solutions before I take ANY kind of medication, so obviously Baby Killing Drugs are not what I’m looking for. I’m also not looking to sound like a total douche, so if that paragraph above sounded that way — please know I’m not a total freak about everything that goes in my body. I’m just more mindful, I guess now. But I’m also at a loss. So this is where you come in. The internet always has advice, and I WOULD REALLY LIKE SOME!

Have you had experience with adult acne? Have you tried something that worked? Tell me about your skin care regimen because I am curious, even if you don’t have crazy skin? When I posed this question on Facebook I got a lot of Clarisonic/Obagi love…have you invested in either. (And I do mean Inve$$$$ted?) Is it worth it?

Talk to me girls. Let’s pretend like we work for Cosmo, only let’s come up with more helpful stuff than the same 50 recycled tips to have the BEST! SEX! EVER!

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39 comments to Skintervention

  • Elizabeth
    September 21, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    ok, so for years I had the worst skin EVER. Ever. The only time it was good was if I was on the pill in which case my skin was so awesome strangers on the street would tell me my skin was glowing, (too bad I was INSANE otherwise) or else when I was pregnant. The rest of the time I ALWAYS had at least one breakout, usually three or four. I tried EVERYTHING. Philosophy, Aveda, Neutrogena, Proactive, you name it, I tried it. Then I got a bottle of Sensitive Skin Cetaphil, and that was it. I wash my face with it every single morning and I literally haven’t had a zit since, and I never do anything else. Nothing. Best skin of my life, since I was 12, and I am telling you, it is AMAZING. I am a convert to the church of Cetaphil.

    • Holly
      September 22, 2011 at 11:26 am

      I used Cetaphil for years and always loved it. I think I stopped because Garrett hated it and I got too lazy to find space for two face washes in the shower. But when I say that out lout (er, type it) that sounds like a lame excuse. I may have to pick up a bottle again. So gentle! And my skin is so sensitive it cries at toilet paper commercials.

  • Tamara
    September 21, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Oh man, you already tried mine. I gave up milk (I think it’s the hormones in non-organic milk that do it to me) and I try to only eat really good cheese (not the kind that comes labeled “cheese product”) and that cleared my chin cysts right up. I still occasionally get a gigantic cystic zit thing on my neck or jaw line, what up Su Chin Pock (as I like to call them)? But no real problems with acne anymore. So basically, I’m telling you that I have no answers for you. Only commiseration. Have you had all of your hormone levels checked yet? I only have because I’m going through the hell of infertility, but I think something slightly out of wack can make your skin go nuts. Also, I’m currently being brainwashed by acupuncture, which I’m not sure would help in this case, but I love it all the same.

    Anywhoooo, stepping slowly away from the computer.

    • Holly
      September 22, 2011 at 11:28 am

      I’m actually really interested in acupuncture overall (I wonder if it WOULD do anything for my skin) but I’d love to hear more about your experience! Su Chin Pock (HA!) is taking over my freaking life! Also, 9 times out of 10 I’m pretty diligent about dairy but I wrote this post yesterday and then promptly drowned my sorrows in frozen yogurt, which, you know: NOT PRODUCTIVE. :)

  • Carla
    September 21, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    I had bad skin as a teenager when I ate shitty processed foods… since I’ve cleaned up my diet with literally NO PROCESSED foods, no dairy, my skin glows & I’ll get like 1 pimple during my TOM, kwim? I use Dr.Bronners Organic Tea Tree Oil Liquid Cleanser on my skin with a “buff puff” to get rid of dead skin cells & Burt’s Bees Carrot cream, which is all natural as well. No chemicals touch my skin, ever. The Dr.Bronners costs around $10 (Cdn) and the carrot cream is just under $20. (it’s for dry skin). Both of these products last me many months!!

    Good luck! :)

  • Melanie
    September 21, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    I wish I had some super-helpful information, but I don’t have much more than commiseration. FWIW, I noticed no difference on Proactiv either.

    I have a Clarisonic (husband got it for me one Christmas), and, while I like it, I don’t use it every time I wash my face and I don’t think it’s worked any miracles.

    My skin has also gotten worse in my mid-to-late twenties, and, according to the internetz, changed from teenage to adult acne, where it’s now concentrated in the chin/jawline area. I mean, really, it’s not that bad, but it’s super annoying. Also, I’m still on the pill, so I hate to think how bad it may get whenever we ditch that (in the semi-distant future).

    The internetz also rave about the Oil Cleansing Method (or OCM – http://www.theoilcleansingmethod.com/), which I’ve tried two times now. But it kind of terrifies me, since, OMG my face is already oily! I’m also worried about not getting all the oil off and making things worse, so there’s that. But I’m trying to go more natural in all areas of my life, so I may try it out a few more times and see if I notice any difference. I’m hoping that eating cleanly will help too.

    I currently have a 25/75 blend of castor & sunflower oil, but I’m thinking of adding jojoba, tea tree, or some essential oils too. Note that I can’t endorse it yet, but apparently it works wonders for some people.

    Good luck! And I need some too!

    • Holly
      September 22, 2011 at 11:31 am

      Good to know about the Clarisonic. It looks fun but I’m just not dying to go out and spend that much money on a brush…for my face. I think I’ll wait. I actually tried OCM last year in December, but only did it for 2 weeks because I got an enormous rash on my face and we were about to go see Garrett’s parents so I quit temporarily — didn’t want to be the rash-faced girlfriend — HOT!

      I think I was doing too much castor oil though, so I may tinker around with that again!

  • chelsea
    September 21, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    I’ve been blessed to have relatively normal skin my whole life. I’ve used Purity, but if I skip even a day, my face breaks out. It’s like my skin becomes dependent on it. Mike loves it though, and he had some nasty acne when he was a teen.

    When I do get breakouts, I use the Sensitive Skin Cetaphil ‘Gentle Cleanser’ in the shower for about 30 seconds or so. Only thing that I don’t have a reaction or makes my face hot.

    • Holly
      September 22, 2011 at 11:32 am

      I feel like my face is hot all the time. I know that exact feeling. Damn sensitive skin! I didn’t know Cetaphil had a sensitive skin line. That must be pretty damn sensitive! ;)

  • Michelle
    September 21, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Daybreak Lavender Farm’s website will yield the amazing “Rhassoul/Prarie Oat Mint” soap duo. I have used this with great results. Also, I have found that cold pressed extra virgin olive oil works well as a moisturizer (if it can make Sofia Loren look that good at 77, it can certainly help me!). And lastly, the “clean your face with oil” method works great…….it involves mixing castor oil with a carrier oil (I use EVOO) and steaming your face, wiping away the dirt & gross stuff on your skin, repeating, etc. before rinsing clean. You really see the dirt that was on your face come off & it helps!

    • Holly
      September 22, 2011 at 11:34 am

      I’m going to try the OCM again — less castor, more carriers/moisturizers. I was using grapeseed/jojoba oil last time, maybe I will try with EVOO this time. Thanks!

  • Erica
    September 21, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Oh man. Proactive killed me. I tried it once and had the worst reaction. Ugh. I’ve had worse acne since going off the pill but it’s getting better. Not that it will help you since I’m using a retinoid and that’s bad for babies too. I do think that sensitive skin dove bars work great for face and whole body and CeraVe lotion is awesome. Dermatologist recommended and not too pricey – you can buy on Amazon. Reminds me to head on over to Amazon and get some more.
    Good luck. Hey if you get preggers you’ll have like a million more things to worry about so the acne thing won’t be much of a bother anyway.

  • Natalie
    September 21, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Hey Holls! I have lots of friends who use & love Obagi but you can’t use it while you’re pregnant. And not to be a downer but you’re skin will probably go crazy during pregnancy/post-partum. Oh the joys of womanhood :) Have you ever tried egg whites? I know it sounds crazy but my cousin & brother used to do it & it works. You smear it on, let it dry & rinse off.

    • Holly
      September 22, 2011 at 11:35 am

      Oooh, I didn’t know you couldn’t use it when you are pregnant. Thanks for the heads up. Not that I’m preggo. Or will be anytime soon, but you know. Never tried egg whites, but honestly I’m game for ANYTHING at this point! Thanks for the tip.

  • Kristin
    September 22, 2011 at 1:16 am

    I took Accutane in high school. I was so young and didn’t even really know what I was putting into my body, but my gosh did it work wonders on my horrendous skin! I too went in for monthly pregnancy tests and had to take birth control even though I was only 14 when I started taking it. My skin isn’t awesome now, but not terrible either. I use apricot cleanser each morning and that seems to work well, although it can be very drying.

    • Holly
      September 22, 2011 at 11:36 am

      Yeah I have never had better skin than the first year off Accutane. Man! But I was so hard on my body and for YEARS I had related side effects. So awful. The things we do when we’re young! :)

  • Kyla
    September 22, 2011 at 2:12 am

    I use a combination of laziness, honey, and the Oil Cleansing Method (20% Castor/80% mix of olive, jojoba, & sunflower oils).

    If I wear makeup (2-3x per week) I wash that night with the OCM. When I have a morning shower, I wash my face with honey. Otherwise, I use warm water and a face cloth.

    When I need to moisturize, mostly in winter, I use virgin coconut oil or jojoba oil. When I’m feeling wild, I spray on some rose water.

    Works for me :-) Zit free for the last 8 years. Including those TOTM grossies. Also, my friends are noticing I don’t have the wrinkles they do. (We’re all teetering toward that 4-0 number) When they ask for advice, I tell them to get a little lazier with their routine. Too much of a good thing is maybe… too much. And to stop eating grains. Ha!

    Also, it took my skin a couple of months to figure out I wasn’t going to slap chemicals on it anymore and that it could calm down.

    A great natural skin care site to check out is Crunchy Betty.
    http://www.crunchybetty.com/

    I got the idea to use honey from her.

    ps. I’m enjoying the 30 Days of Denim. Who’da thought I’d feel the need to start my day by checking out what some woman I’ve never met is wearing. Oh, that crazy Internet.

    • Holly
      September 22, 2011 at 11:41 am

      HONEY? So crazy! I guess I’m going to have to check out Crunchy Betty, sounds right up my alley. LOL And glad you are enjoying the denim! The internet IS crazy — I do the same thing ;) I will probably do a series of posts on OCM and this honey experiment. What good is having a website if you don’t post embarrassing pictures of your awful skin, right? (AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!)

  • bethanyrx
    September 22, 2011 at 10:38 am

    I was going to give the honey-face-wash tip as well (which is, yes, from Crunchy Betty), but I think Heidi does it with 43243024320 times more hilarity: http://www.franticallysimple.com/2011/07/25/sweet-honey-challenge-and-other-updates/

    mug shots, and all that. ;)

  • Erin @ Expert in Everything*
    September 22, 2011 at 11:18 am

    I’m also struggling with adult acne right now. I’ve found a line of products I love called Formula 10.0.6 (some of it is available at Ulta but I ordered most of my products from their website). I love their mud masks especially, and the tinted mositurizer, but I’ve been happy with the whole line. They smell great and do contain some natural ingredients, but I do believe that acne will only be killed with chemicals. This line is kind of the best of both worlds.

    I also use a gentle sort of scrubby cleanser from Noxzema, it’s called Clean Blemish Control Daily Scrub. These products, combined with staying hydrated, remembering to take my makeup off, and eating a little cleaner have really helped my skin. I still have hormonal breakouts but not consistently bad skin.

    • Holly
      September 22, 2011 at 11:42 am

      Well thank god we have an expert! ;) haha I love a good mud mask. I’ll have to check it out. Although Me + Ulta is ALWAYS dangerous. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Lisa
    September 22, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I’m also a Cetaphil person. It is the only thing that doesn’t break my face out.

  • Amy
    September 22, 2011 at 11:43 am

    My sister-in-law and mom sell Mary Kay (JUDGE AWAY!) and I was reluctant (to put it mildly) to try it…and then I did. And I’ve got the best skin I’ve had in a long time. They have a day thing and a night thing and microdermabrasion and an acne gel and it’s the best shit ever. I KNOW. No one was more surprised than me.

  • LizScott
    September 22, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    So, I totally cheat on the OCM and buy the premade stuff from CocoaPink (I think it’s cocoapink.com) — it was cheaper than me buying all the various oils, and lazier than me figuring out what worked, and it seemed to work for me, if you want the lazy man’s OCM

    • Holly
      September 22, 2011 at 1:19 pm

      HA! cocoapink.com is a dating site, apparently. But cocoapink.net — now that is some useful info! Thanks! I will probably do that because I AM LAZY.

  • sarah
    September 22, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    I use clinique bar soap, I got it as a free sample at Sephora and liked it so much I bought a full size one. The really cool thing about it is because it is a bar, it takes forever to go through, like 4-6 months!! Also, they have a bunch of different kinds and I am pretty sure I use the regular one. I think if you go to the clinique counter, they will proably give you a sample too.

  • simply heidi
    September 23, 2011 at 1:49 am

    bethanyrx – Thanks for the endorsement! And Holly – thanks for subscribing. I love making new friends. :)

  • Jessica
    September 23, 2011 at 11:18 am

    I’ve always had horrific skin. Nothing worked. Retin-A makes it better, but “better” for me is still “not good” for most people. My dermatologist said we’d tried everything and my skin was as good as it was going to get without Accutane. I wanted a baby, though, so I didn’t take it.

    My first pregnancy (girl) was terrible on my skin. I was covered in zits all. the. time. I had to try very, very hard to not care about how I looked, but I still sometimes cried about my skin. You can’t use much in the way of pharmaceuticals while pregnant OR breastfeeding, so I had that awful skin for almost two years.

    I went to the dermatologist when we were getting ready to have a second and she said “you never know! sometimes a pregnancy HELPS with acne!” It was hard to restrain myself from laughing in her face and I know I gave her a look that said “you’re CRAZY, lady.”

    I got pregnant (a boy this time), went off the Retin-A again, and waited for the breakouts to start. They didn’t. They never did. The baby is three months old now, I’m breastfeeding and still not using anything pharmaceutical on my face. I get the occasional zit, but overall my face is pretty clear.

    So, that old wives tale that says if you have a lot of acne, you’re having a girl (because the increased estrogen causes breakouts)? I don’t know if it’s true for everyone, or even enough people to count as a ‘thing’, but it was SO TRUE for me.

    In summation, I guess my only advice is to have a baby boy.

  • Jill
    September 23, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    I’m also a Cetaphil person. I tried Proactiv and while it did dry up all the zits and my skin looked great, it made my eyelids swell and turn a lovely reddish/pinkish shade. It looked like I was getting my ass kicked daily. Also, since it didn’t happen right off the bat, it took me way too long to figure out what was causing that reaction. That was a fun couple months. I also use Murad spot lotion and toner. The soap was a little too harsh, but that spot/blemish lotion is amazing.

    • Holly
      September 23, 2011 at 5:04 pm

      Wait, are you telling me you don’t LIKE swollen eyelids??? weird. hmmm. ;) Good to know. Where is cetaphil to sponsor me a 30 Days of Blemishes?

  • Jessica
    September 23, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    So one of my very most special friends is a dermatologist…she actually pumped me full of botox the last time I visited. I do anything she tells me. And while I don’t have perfect skin, I do have much improvement. She recommended Neutrogena Acne Wash/Mask. Its a combo. I just use it as a wash…I follow it up with Cereve lotion (day/night). I alternate with a mild soap. All recommended. She also has me on Ziana, which is an Rx with Retin-A. The botox was great, but the microdermabrasion she experimented with was AWESOME! If I decide to invest in any facial treatment, it would be microderm. Also, facials help me too. That week, my skin glows.

  • Christy
    October 2, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    HI!! I’ve never posted, and I don’t know you, but I have followed your blog for a very, very long time. Also never commented, and it’s now so late after your post you likely won’t even see this comment

    I have always been proud of my skin. Through high school and my early twenties it was perfect, glowing, radiant and blemish free. Before my Nana passed away she always complimented me on my skin which is why i think I was so proud of it.

    Within the past year I have been officially diagnosed with PCOS and am on a battery of medication to regulate my hormones. As a result I have acne. My acne is around my mouth and chin. ‘They’ say that this area signifies hormonal acne.

    After trying tones of other products ( I am a total self professed product junkie) like Dermalogica, Aveda, Proactiv, Skoha, Philosophy, Murad, Clinique, Boscia, Ole Hendrickson I finally found an entirely organic line called Eminence.

    Eminence has changes my life!!! 100% organic skin care line from hungary, and specialized products to treat hormonal acne. I use Stone Crop Gel Face Wash, and Eight Greens serum and moisturizer, and it’s been the only product to clear my skin, and reduce the red marks left by pimples without drying my skin. I have been using it for 6 weeks and I am back to the stage where I am comfortable wearing no makeup and my skin looks healthy!!

    Also, I have heard it takes 7 weeks for your skin to go through it’s own ‘cycle’. So make sure you give whatever you try a fair shot.

  • A Few Updates of Little Importance
    October 24, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    […] The Update – Ok seriously, you all came through with some amazing recommendations/commiserations about my skin crisis. Gold star for you because skin drama is just the pits! I actually made a spreadsheet of your recos […]

  • Heather R
    October 24, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    This doesn’t help you now, but my skin was AMAZING when I was pregnant. I don’t have terrible acne, but I have combination skin normally…oily on my forehead, nose, and chin, and dry on my cheeks. My skin was not oily or dry, it was smooth and I think I literally didn’t have ONE zit during either of my pregnancies. I also had amazing hair! It was shiny and full or body and never fell out at all. But, about 6 months after having each baby, everything went to shit again.

  • January Is For Cheap Thrills
    January 16, 2012 at 8:03 am

    […] convenience of a drug store container.  At under $6 I thought it was worth a try, since you know I’ll try just about anything when it comes to skincare. Even Garrett likes it, although every time he gets out of the shower he […]

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