I’ve written so much about my skin care struggles here and it continues to be a work in progress. In an effort to improve what has been a 15+ year struggle I have tried many things — medications, antibiotics, expensive facials, and even Accutane (CLIFFS NOTES: DO NOT RECOMMEND!) — but since about 2010 I’ve taken a different approach.
I changed my diet to a Paleo template and as most most people know, many folks in the Paleo community have a real shared love for finding the root cause of health issues instead of just trying to make the symptom go away — myself included. I firmly believe acne is a symptom of an underlying health problem, and more specifically an underlying gut problem. I don’t think it’s just something that happens as a fluke, it’s absolutely an indicator of something going on inside your body.
With that in mind, over the last few years I’ve tried many different things in order to uncover a solution. I have experimented with eliminating foods, learned a ton about digestion and it’s relation to skin, I’ve added helpful supplements (Liz Wolfe’s Skintervention Guide has some great advice here) and then in the middle of 2012 I made a marked effort to move all of my products toward the “natural” side of the spectrum. I know “natural” doesn’t mean a whole lot these days, but essentially I decided I was going to simplify the sheer amount of products I was using, and leave as much of the chemical skin care stuff behind as I could.
I focused on gut health and how it relates to skin for about a year and in many ways my health got better. But my skin results were always inconsistent. I’d go through periods of time where it was great, and periods of time where it was only ok with no rhyme or reason, but even at its best, my skin was still so very far from where I wanted my skin to be. Also not to state the obvious, but I’ve continued to get older. Prevention is still important with respect to skin, but also I would like to UNDO some of the damage, scarring and pigment issues I’ve got going on as well.
In October of last year, I decided go back to a few “more traditional” skin care items. I did it in response to giving nutritional ketosis a try (man I still have to blog about my Keto experiment) because among many developments, my face was overtaken by SUPER SEVERE acne. So bad it felt equivalent to the time in my life when I decided I should try Accutane. I was literally having some mini panic attacks about it and my coconut oil and baking soda face wash was basically laughing at me on the sidelines. I was fretting about the potential for scars (I already have enough!) feeling sad about the additional pigmentation problems (I’ve had freckles since I was born and breakouts don’t make it better!) and so one day I just impulsively made a bee-line into some retailers who sold my old tried and true skin products from my back in the day.
Probably two weeks later I was ASTOUNDED by the change in my skin. But truth be told, I was also conflicted about the positive results.
Day after day my skin was improving — the look, the spots, and the texture were all getting better. Consistently. All of the things that I had hoped to attain by moving toward more natural solutions were happening — except natural skincare lovers would certainly say my products had “questionable” ingredients in them. I wrestled with this for a while, and then one day I woke up, shook myself, and said “Save your stress for the things that matter, Holly! You can’t win every battle at the same time.”
The facts are: I am really happy with my current results. Do I wish I was accomplishing these results with only coconut oil, baking soda and the sweet breath of unicorns? YES! Absolutely! And someday I might get there. I aspire to get there, actually. But I also have a lot going on in my life right now, and a finite amount of resources in the problem solving department. I believe in allowing yourself some evolution (Paleo Joke!) and in my opinion, the people who are the best example of this Paleo LIFESTYLE (gag) are the people who interpret all the ancestral wisdom through a modern lens. And right now, I’m happy that in these modern times I have a Clarisonic and a Sephora.
I know this has been a lot of words so far and I haven’t even talked products, but I wanted to give you some context. If you have any other questions about why I turned on a dime and went running back to retinol — feel free to leave them in the comments. But for now, here are the things that are just rocking my world lately when it comes to taking care of my face.
The Game Changer: Clarisonic Mia 2
At the beginning of last year I finally ponied up $100+ for a Clarisonic because I couldn’t go five feet without hearing someone rave about it. I used it for a few months and was only mildly impressed. Then I found out IT WAS A FAKE! A fake that I had purchased on Amazon from an unreputable retailer. (Be ye not so stupid. Only buy on Amazon from legit places!) I went most of the rest of the year without it but when I had my skin care scare that I mentioned above in October I decided that the next time I saw a good deal from a legitimate retailer, I would pounce. And on Black Friday I did just that. I purchased a kit from QVC, that included a cleanser that I didn’t care about at all and a travel case, and from the first week on I’ve been absolutely in love. If you need additional endorsement? I got Garrett to use it (“Hey babe, try this vibrating hot pink face washer the next time you’re in the shower, ok?” HA! You should have heard his response) and even HE is an evangelizing devotee now. Masculinity be damned. It is worth it.
The AM/PM Everyday Cleanser: Fresh Soy Face Cleanser
Remember the cleanser I got with the Clarisonic that I couldn’t have cared less about? It was this! And I was shocked by how much I loved it. It’s incredibly gentle, has only a few ingredients, a very light cucumber scent and it makes my face feel wonderful. When I first purchased it I was just using my Clarisonic with Cetaphil thinking the cleanser you used didn’t really matter, but the difference was remarkable. I’ve already repurchased a second bottle. It’s pricy, but it’s so worth it.
The Wild Card: Acure Unscented Argan Oil Facial Cleansing Towelettes
Sometimes on days when I am wearing a lot of makeup I like to do a little pre-wash before I use the Clarisonic. These work great to get a ton of makeup off. Also, these are awesome in my gym bag. They don’t dry out my skin, are very gentle, and have a non existent scent.
The 3 Nights Per Week Cleanser: Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Wash
I used this years ago when the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion was all the rage and I didn’t even have a hint of a reason to use anything glycolic (For the record, the drying lotion does NOTHING for me.) I picked this up on a whim at Ulta around Thanksgiving and it’s just an awesome AHA exfoliating face wash. I only use it 2, maybe 3 times a week (usually at night) — depending on if my skin is feeling dull and it brightens it right up. This is also one that Garrett rolled his eyes at and is now using religiously. It’s a really great product that makes a noticeable difference in my face.
The Toner: Dermalogica Multi Active Toner or Dermalogica Antioxidant Hydramist
Post washing, I like to use a light toner, but I don’t have the patience for liquids and cotton rounds and all of that. Dermalogica makes, HANDS DOWN, the best toners out there in my opinion. I’ve been a long time user of the Multi Active Toner, but decided to try the Antioxidant Hydramist because it is a part of their Anti Aging Line and I am VERY. ANTI. AGING. :) Not sure which one I like better, but I will always keep at least one in the rotation. I love that Dermalogica makes travel sized products, and it is a great way to try out their line without breaking the bank. I think it is worth every penny, but it’s always nice to try a small size if you’ve never used something.
The Everyday Moisturizers: CeraVe AM Lotion with SPF 30 + CeraVe PM Lotion
Absolute Drug Store STEALS, and really amazing moisturizers. I like the separation of AM and PM because of the sunscreen issue, and they are really hydrating without using a lot of product or making you feel greasy. I find the bottles last a long time too, which makes a $10 purchase feel like even MORE of a deal.
The (2-3x per week) Night Cream/Tip Toe Into Retinol Products: RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream
This was an impulse purchase (what isn’t in my life, JEEZ!) and honestly I am not that up to speed on Retinol type products so I’m still sort of researching my holy grail version of this or if I even want to continue using it. But I got it in a 2 pack, and I’m going to use it all up. Mostly because it is gentle (probably because it doesn’t have a large percentage of retinol? retinoids? See? I’m still researching) but when I use this a couple of nights a week, I wake up with the tiniest pores in the morning. It’s actually kind of weird. But good weird, you know? Plus it doesn’t smell too chemically.
The Occasional Nightime Dry Skin Reliever: Julep Luxe Repair Skin Serum
This is a little too oily for me to use on a daily basis, especially as part of my morning routine, but we’ve had a couple of weeks this winter where it was really cold (For California! I know!) and the first thing to revolt was my skin. Those days when I was feeling a bit parched, I would just slather on this serum and be right as rain the following day. And despite it’s viscosity, no breakouts at all. I’m on the hunt for a better serum, but I do like this one in the meantime and will happily use it all.
The Once Per Week Anti Aging Treatment: Philosophy The Microdelivery Triple-Acid Brightening Peel
Hands down this is my favorite skin discovery in probably the past five years. It is an at home chemical peel that I use once per week (I do some juggling with my skin care schedule to use all of the products for sure!) and usually once I put it on my face and neck there is enough to use on my chest and hands. It’s amazing, feels luxurious, and in is far, far better than similar products like this that I’ve tried by Bliss and Peter Thomas Roth. The best price around is at QVC and while it seems spendy, it last forever because and remember it is only a once per week treatment that you will make a NOTICEABLE difference. $4 each is a steal and I’ll skip a latte in favor of this brightening peel any day.
The 2x Per Week Spa Solution: Karuna Masks
I have always been a sucker for masks, and I find that as well as they work for my skin, they also work for my LIFE — because to sit down (on my couch or in a bathtub) twice per week for 20 minutes to do a mask on myself is such a great stress reliever! I love these Karuna masks but you can always find fun ones at TJ Maxx or Ulta to stock your collection.
What I’m Still On The Hunt For: A “worth it” Vitamin C Serum. Haven’t found one yet — any suggestions? Anything surprise you? Any questions for me?