MY ACNE STORY & MY CURRENT SKINCARE ROUTINE (UPDATED)

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When I was 15 years old, I would get pesky little whiteheads so I don’t think I’ve ever had clear skin from that point on. I would get more and more pimples as the days went by and it wasn’t until my Mom told me I should see a doctor that I realize I have an acne problem. I was 16 years old and I knew nothing about skincare. It didn’t help that my Mom wasn’t a skincare pro either so I didn’t know what I was supposed to do about my skin and what works. So, at the age of 16, I started seeing a dermatologist.

MY ACNE STORY 

The first dermatologist that I went to is Doctor Kon. He’s a popular dermatologist in Kuching, almost everyone knows him. When I saw him, he evaluated my skin and gave me a ton of topical creams to use. The nurse told me to stop wearing comedogenic products and wash my face really gently. However, the topical creams he gave me didn’t really work and they were really expensive. I felt like the creams were a bit too harsh on my skin and I hated them. I hated that my skin was peeling and would sometimes hurt. So, I stopped seeing him. Since then, I’ve seen two other dermatologists in town who, both, helped clear up my skin but as soon as I stopped seeing both of them (I didn’t see both of them at once btw), my skin would break out again. Dermatologists are very helpful but you actually have to go through the treatment very regularly for a really long time (depending on the severity of your acne) and that’s definitely a pain in the ass. I’ve heard a lot of success stories with dermatologists so don’t be afraid to book an appointment with your local dermatologist, they can really help and take the load off your shoulders.

Since I was 16 years old, my skin has broken out and cleared up, broken out and cleared up again and it’s become a never-ending cycle. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about my skin, what it likes and doesn’t like, what works and doesn’t work and so on. I know for a fact that my skin loves organic and plant-based products or gentle products. So, I try to go for products that are within that range. I don’t really try products out either. I’m really picky and reserved when it comes to products and treatments because I know my skin is the same. Some people have recommended fresh aloe vera gel, tea tree oil, Oxy products, rosehip oil, argan oil and I would always refuse. I’ve tried fresh aloe vera gel, tea tree oil and Oxy products before and they don’t work on my skin. Yeah, the things that would typically work on others don’t work on me. That’s how difficult my skin is.

Last year, my skin improved tremendously through March until August 2016. However, with all the stress and horrible sleeping & eating habits that I adopted during my final semester and all the travelling I did through October and November, my skin wasn’t very happy with me. It broke out and became a lot worse than it did earlier that year. It wasn’t until I was introduced to Korean beauty that I think I’ve found hope in my skin again and it hasn’t disappointed me since.

MY CURRENT SKINCARE ROUTINE

Let’s begin with a little background on my skin. I have oily and dehydrated skin, and acne prone skin with hyper-pigmentation and skin texture issues. Since I’ve had acne for quite some time, I’ve gotten a decent amount of pitted acne scars which contributed to my skin texture issues. So, it’s very important for me to find products that could help me with my acne, hyper-pigmentation/dark spots and skin texture issues.

For the past year, I’ve learned a lot about Korean skincare and adopted a lot of it into my own skincare regime. We all know that the Korean skincare usually comes with at least 10 steps but don’t worry, I finally got it down on lock and shrunk it down to 5 simple steps.

1. CLEANSE

Cleansing is a very important step in our skincare routine because that’s when you’re taking all the dirt and gunk off of your face and turning your skin into a fresh and clean slate for your skincare products to lay on! I take cleansing very seriously so I don’t play games. I know some people swear by make-up wipes, cleansing water and regular water but not for me! You would never be able to guess the number of times I’ve broken out because I didn’t cleanse my skin well enough. With cleansing, I do it in two steps; oil-cleansing and regular cleansing. This is called the double cleansing method where you use an oil-based cleanser to remove any oil-soluble dirt on your face then going in with a regular water-based cleanser to remove any remaining water-soluble on your face. It’s perfect science!

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For products, I currently use the Neogen Real Fresh Green Tea cleansing stick in the morning then at night, I use an oil cleanser (currently using the Biore cleansing oil, a great drugstore option!) and the Simple Kind To Skin Refreshing facial wash as my water-based cleanser. Sometimes, I would go in with a cleansing water before I cleanse to remove the top layer of my make-up.

My favourite form of an oil-based cleanser is a cleansing balm. I’ve tried the Banila Co Clean It Zero and the Clinique Take The Day Off cleansing balm. There are a few cleansing balms on the market that are said to be a lot better than these two but I have yet to try them out. The Banila Co Clean It Zero is excellent at cleansing because it really gets into the nitty gritty of your skin. It’s a basic cleansing balm that I think everyone should have in their skincare collection.

2. TONER 

Believe it or not, I never used to use toner and I never believed in it. I thought it was too excessive for me but as soon as I started doing it, I love it. What toner does is it takes off any leftover residue you might have on your skin, helps revive the pH balance of your skin and puts back some moisture as well. Some toners actually do more than those three things so it’s really up to you to choose the right toners for you! With toners, you need to be careful with the alcohol content that might be in the product. Always find a toner that has a very minimal amount of alcohol in it (or none at all) because alcohol may actually strip your skin’s natural oils and it’s indeed bad for you in the long run.

I’ve received a lot of toner recommendations but the one that I always go back to (because it’s convenient and cheap) is the Simple Kind To Skin Soothing facial toner. It’s convenient, it’s cheap, it’s easily accessible, no alcohol and it does the job right.

The one that I am actively using right now is, however, the Blithe 9 Essential Seeds Vital Treatment Essence. I’m trying to get into the Korean 7 skin method, where you layer on a hydrating toner 7 times. It is a method recommended by many dermatologists in South Korea for dry and dehydrated skin but it’s great for oily skin types as well because it works well to deeply hydrate your skin, which would help with oil and sebum control. So, I was on the lookout for the perfect toner/essence that would go well with this method and I discovered this product. This product is a toner essence hybrid so you can use it as a toner and essence in one step. It is packed with 9 superpower seeds like baobap seeds and fennel seeds, and it’s supposed to help rejuvenate and brighten your skin while being super hydrating and gentle as well. I can feel the difference this makes for my skin, my skin feels nicely hydrated and more plump & bright the more that I use this.

3. TREATMENT 

Now, here’s the fun part about skincare; treating your skin and taking care of the skin issues you might have. With so many products available out there, it’s definitely hard to choose only a few to include in your skincare routine. Well, at least I have that problem. With treatments, you can honestly do whatever you want. Between serums, essences, ampoules and cream, the beauty world is your oyster.

What I do with my skin is I want to treat it by giving it lots of moisture while fading out my acne scars and pigmentation, and smoothing out my skin texture. In this step, I like to incorporate an active ingredient and the active ingredient that I like to use is vitamin C.

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Vitamin C is a great ingredient to fade dark spots and brighten the complexion of our skin. There are different vitamin C derivatives available in the market but the one that I use is L-ascorbic acid. It is the most common vitamin C derivative out there but it’s also one of the most unstable. It oxidizes with the slightest touch of sun and oxygen so be really careful with it because the more it oxidizes, the less nutrients you’re getting from it, the less effective it will become. However, the product that I use, the Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop serum, claims to have a stabilized formula but I still use it very carefully. I keep it out of the sun and I only use it at night. You can use it in the day but make sure you wear sunscreen. Some people say you shouldn’t use vitamin C everyday because it’s a very active and potent ingredient but this Klairs serum only has 5%, which to me, doesn’t seem too potent and my skin hasn’t reacted negatively to it.

To know more about active ingredients, you can click here.

4. MOISTURISE 

A very common misconception people have with moisture is that it’s only vital for dry skin but did you know that we all need moisture regardless of our skin types? As an oily skin girl myself, it’s actually very important for me to moisturise because it works to seal in every skincare product I used beforehand (especially the hydrating toner), and keeps them from evaporating too quickly, so I’m giving my skin the best hydration and moisturization it can get. The way our skin works is that, it produces oil to compensate for the dehydration and dryness of our skin so for oily skin, our skin is over-compensating for the dehydration in our skin. Therefore, the best way to combat that is to pump our skin with lots and lots of hydration and moisture!

What I use to moisturise is the Centella Blemish Cream from COSRX. I used to think that this is a treatment product but I recently found out that it’s actually a moisturiser. This product uses centella asiatica leaf, another favourite ingredient of mine, which is an ancient traditional ingredient that people used to use to heal wounds. Since acne-prone skin is also wounded skin, this product is perfect to help with acne scars, skin texture and lighten dark spots! This product also contains 50% centella asiatica leaf water, which will provide loads of hydration to your skin!

You can learn more about moisturizing/moisturizers here.

5. PROTECTION

On to the last step of my skincare routine, I’ll keep this short. In the morning, I use a sunscreen to protect my skin from the sun. Since I have hyper-pigmentation, it is very important to me that I keep my skin’s melanin production at a bare minimum because my skin produces melanin at the most vulnerable spots on my face and that means acne. Sunscreen can help by reflecting the sun away from my skin. I wear sunscreen even when I’m staying indoors because sunlight could touch my skin even through a reflection of a mirror. I use the Innisfree Perfect UV Protection Cream Long Lasting SPF50 (for oily skin, there are two types).

At night, I use an overnight spot treatment. The treatment that I use is the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, which I have previously talked about. This is, by far, the best spot treatment I’ve tried. I don’t know how to explain it to you but it’s just really effective at drying out your spots and sucking out all the bacteria. Another product that I like to use to help treat & get rid of spots are the Miacare Pimple Patches. I like to use pimple patches when my spots have turned super white and they look like they’re about to burst any second. I use these overnight so when I wake up, I’ll take it off and the patch would pull the zit with it. This way, I’m not using my dirty fingers and I’m not putting any traumatizing pressure onto the zits, which would cause scarring.

If you want to learn about Korean skincare (or just skincare in general) as well, here are a few people you should check out :

LIFESTYLE CHANGES

Acne might appear on the surface of our skin but the truth is, the problem run a lot deeper. There are many things that could contribute to acne, such as sleep deprivation, a bad diet, our cleanliness and our overall health. So, other than focusing on using the correct products and getting a solid skincare routine, I try to make changes to my lifestyle to help the health of my body and skin improve. A healthy body leads to healthy skin so it’s very important that we take care of our health holistically. There are plenty of ways you can do this. A lot of people do this by cutting out dairy out of their diet, going vegan or a plant-based diet, working out, getting more sleep etc.

I, on the other hand, do it in ways like these :

  • taking off my make-up as soon as I can
  • quickly treating my skin after cleansing
  • applying toner upwards to prevent wrinkles and saggy skin
  • patting treatments onto my skin instead of rubbing
  • drinking a lot of water
  • wearing sunscreen even when I’m indoors
  • avoiding dairy
  • avoiding food high in sugar and sodium
  • getting enough sleep

MY TIPS IN BATTLING ACNE 

This is my fifth year battling acne and I think I’ve experienced it all. I know there are people who have had more severe acne than me. I know people who had to go through accutane and extreme skin treatments but thankfully, my acne is still very mild and I pray so hard that it stays mild or even better, just go away.

My main tip is to stay patient. Skincare, just like fitness, should be a journey. You should learn more about your skin and work with it and not against it. A lot skincare products in the market, especially in Western beauty, are very harsh on the skin and that tip off the balance of your skin and make it even worse. So, treat your skin like a best friend and work with it by using nourishing and gentle products. Consistency is very important too, if you’re not consistent, you’ll never see results.

I hope you found this post somewhat helpful. I obviously speak from my own experience and yes, everyone’s experience with acne is different. I truly believe in my skincare regime, no matter how excessive it may seem to some people. I don’t get immediate results with it but I’ve seen a lot of improvements since I started it in January.

Don’t give up on your skin, give it all your love and lots of TLC and good luck!

Talk again soon,
Hani Lutfi

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