Saturday, June 27, 2015

Healing My 30-Something Skin - 2 Week Check-in & Current Routine

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For those of you that read my original post discussing my transition from perfectly even (but super sensitive) skin to extremely sensitive, dry, whitehead plagued skin this year, I'm here to share my 2-week update since beginning my serious attempt to fix it naturally. I suggest reading that first post as I mentioned quite a few products I've previously tried unsuccessfully. I'll also be sharing my current morning and evening skincare routine at the end.

For someone like myself that only struggled with sensitivity, this experience has been crushing, frustrating and panic-attack inducing. Yes, it's only skin and there are far worse things than not having a perfect complexion, but given the amount of stress we've been under lately with our little guys I think that on top of the fact it's my FACE really just made this a miserable experience.

Step 1 - Cleansing Without Drying
skincare routine with oil cleansing healing acne whiteheads

While the random whitehead breakouts on my chin were making me crazy (I can't even begin to describe the inner turmoil these have caused), after a great deal of research I decided the first thing I really needed to tackle was the extreme dehydration of my skin. Dry skin can actually exacerbate and even cause breakouts from what I understand, so I knew that while re-hydrating my skin might not be the total fix-all I wanted, it was a great first step.

The first thing I wanted to tackle, which goes hand in hand with step 2, was being able to cleanse my skin well without drying it out. Every cleanser, from those with mild detergents to those without, killed my skin. The healthy skin on my face would look fairly good, but the skin that was struggling would practically scream at me when I washed it. 

After more research, I decided I wanted to go back to oil cleansing, which can be very gentle and hydrating when done properly. I've oil cleansed in the past, but I've never had to be so incredibly careful with which oils I used. Yes, I used oils recommended for oil cleansing in the past, but I found this year that many of those oils were suddenly insanely drying for me (some oils are actually astringent and more drying) and the ones that weren't drying clogged my skin horribly. Believe it or not, I even found rose hips oil didn't do the trick for me, which is often one recommended for people in my situation. 

Then I came across info on hemp seed oil.

What's So Special About Hemp Seed Oil?

Hemp seed oil is not only rated zero (0) on the comedogenic scale, but it has a reasonable portion of oleic acid and a high portion of linoleic acid. What does this mean for skin? When skin is low on linoleic acid it produces oleic acid, which is harder and stickier than linoleic acid--the type of gunk found in acne blemishes, whiteheads, etc. Using hemp seed oil for oil cleansing in theory should help not only clenase my skin, but balance it out a bit as well. Many people who do the oil cleansing method add a little bit of castor in as well, which I intend to do in weeks 3-4. I wanted to give my skin some time to adjust as changing your skincare routine too quickly can cause issues as well.

Hemp seed oil does require refrigeration. Pumpkin seed oil is another great oil from what I've heard and read, but it does have a higher comedogenic rating (2). If you aren't worried about that it may be a better choice if you don't want to refrigerate, but you want an oil that will hydrate your skin and that has a healthy dose of linoleic acid.

I did experience some purging when I first went back to oil cleansing, which I've always read is normal. I do feel my skin is still purging a tiny bit, but not as drastically as the first week. If you do decide to oil cleanse keep in mind this can happen!

*I purchase my Hemp Oil from Whole Foods.

Step 2 - Rehydrating My Skin

I've always had dry skin, but it's never been hard to hydrate it with the right products. For some reason, no matter what I tried my skin was just not having any of it! Everything irritated my skin, nothing hydrated it and in the end I was getting exasperated. 

skincare routine with oil cleansing healing acne whiteheads shea butter
I researched my buns off and tried quite a few products unsuccessfully. Then I read some great info on raw, unprocessed Shea Butter. You can apply it lightly if you want to avoid that initial "greasy" feeling (it does absorb fairly well), but if your skin is as dry as mine initially was you're going to want to slather this on at night in particular. It's also important to get unprocessed Shea Butter so that you get the full effects. 

What's So Special About Shea Butter?

Believe it or not, from what I've read it seems that the moisturizing properties in Shea Butter actually mimic those of your own sebum. Why is this important? Because it will prevent your skin from over-producing sebum. Additionally, Shea Butter is non-comedogenic and will not clog pores. Amazing, right? Shea Butter actually has a lot of other great qualities, but these were the 2 main reasons I chose to use it.

*I purchase mine from Whole Foods

Step 3 - Spot-Treating, Reducing Blemishes

The last thing I really wanted to address was the actual whiteheads themselves. I tried an 8% AHA gel and it did seem to help, but I wasn't overly thrilled with some of the ingredients in the one I had and I found that while it somewhat reduced my whiteheads, it didn't help with blemishes that had gotten a bit more ... enthusiastic. 

Again, I researched my little heart out and came across something I'd heard before but long-since forgotten. Potatoes.

Yes, I know this sounds super strange. It is strange, But it works (for me and a lot of other people). If you don't believe me, head over to and read the reviews of those with many forms of acne that have tried it! Potatoes are high in starch, vitamins, etc. From everything I've read it seems that they not only exfoliate skin gently (part of the process is rubbing thin slices gently over breakouts), but the starches draw out infection and dry out blemishes. Potatoes can also lighten scarring/hyper pigmentation from what I've read.

According to resources I've read, potatoes are high in vitamin B6 and a good source of potassium, copper, vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, dietary fiber and pantothenic acid. 

All I can tell you is that they work for me. I'll share how I incorporate them into my skincare routine below

*I use organic russets because they're a bit firmer and easier to cut thin.

Step 4 - Microfiber Makes a World of Difference

I've taken classes/workshops where they've discussed only using microfiber cloths for wiping clients' faces off when cleansing during prep. Microfiber is soft and gentle, but it also grabs and lifts a great deal of water/product off the surface of the skin.

I invested in a large pack of microfiber washcloths for myself (I had them in my kit, but never purchased for myself) and it made a huge difference in my routine. When oil cleansing you want to make sure you don't leave any of the oils used to cleanse behind on the skin when rinsing off. These work perfectly!

My Current Routine

For those curious about how I go about my current skincare routine I've broken it down for you here!

Step 1 - gently and lightly rinse face with warm water

Step 2 - gently rub Hemp Seed Oil into skin

Step 3 - soak microfiber cloth in fairly warm water, ring out most of the water and place over face

Step 4 - allow the warm water in the cloth to steam face for 10-20 seconds

Step 5 - using upward motions, gently wipe hemp seed oil off of face

(I usually repeat the cleansing process a second time)

Step 6 - if there are blemishes, I use a freshly cut, thin slice of potato and rub it over the infected area (using a new slice for each area of my face I need to treat)

Step 7 - after allowing the starchy moisture from the potato to dry on my skin, I gently wipe away any excess starch left behind (you can also use a damp cloth to wipe it away, different people use it differently)

Step 8 - after warming raw shea butter in my hands I gently smooth it into my skin using an upward motion (I apply it on more thickly at night than during the day)

*One day a week I use a straight French Green Clay mask on my face.

My entire routine takes about 10 minutes or so from start to finish. Oil cleansing in general is more time consuming, so keep that in mind if you're considering it. Also, I can't recommend what you should do for your skin, but this is merely the routine I'm currently using.

Skincare from the Inside Out
In addition to changing my skincare routine, I've also added some skin beneficial supplements to my daily diet. I'm currently taking the following daily:
  • 1 Tablespoon hemp oil
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • raw, organic garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon raw cacao
While these all have other health benefits, they can help with skin hydration, breakouts, etc. from what I've read. Some have powerful antioxidants while others are great for preventing bacteria from causing outbreaks. I already eat a modified diet due to allergies and my health, so some of these I had taken prior and some I've recently added to the mix. 

I have heard about some people using apple cider vinegar externally on skin to spot-treat--diluted of course. My skin is too sensitive for this at the moment, but it's something you may want to research if you're looking for a topical, natural blemish treatment.

Results So Far

So far I've done 2 straight weeks of this new routine and my healthy skin is gorgeous while my irritated patches have calmed dramatically and are looking more hydrated. The overall texture of my skin has improved. I have far, far less whiteheads around my chin, but still a few. I also have a lot of melanin in my skin so anytime I get even the smallest blemish (even if I don't touch it) it leaves behind a lovely mark so I'm working on lightening those--which will simply take time.

I'm thankful to see some change and I'm trying to remind myself it's going to take time to get back to where my skin has always been in the past.

I'm trying to be brave so here's an updated pic from this weekend. I just had my lovely monthly mini breakout (yay hormones!), which is what you're seeing here. But I have to say it was pretty mild compared to the last couple months so for that I am thankful. As I mentioned above, anytime I get any sort of blemish at all it leaves a mark. Thankfully the rest of my skin is doing really well and the few blemishes I did get weren't hard to begin to clear up. Gotta look at the positives, right?

My Routine Week 3-4

Now that I've spent the last 2 solid weeks dedicated to the same routine to start the repair/rehydrated process, I'm going to try to introduce 1 or 2 new things. It's important not to change up your skincare routine too quickly and too often, so I want to make sure I do this progressively as my skin heals. I'm going to continue to wear no makeup on my affected skin around my chin (unless I have an event where I need to look halfway human).

Change 1- I'm going to add Paula's Choice 8% AHA gel to my routine on a trial basis. I've read a lot about BHAs and AHAs and their benefits, especially for those of us 30+. According to a lot of articles I've read, skin begins to shed at a much slower rate with age. If the dead skin isn't exfoliated it can sit in pores with the oils naturally secreted and cause breakouts. Chemical exfoliators like AHA provide a non-abrasive way for individuals to exfoliate and resurface their skin gently. I've had negative experiences in the past with chemical exfoliators on my sensitive skin, but the 8% AHA has been gentle and effective enough for a lot of people who have reviewed it, so I'm willing to give it a try.

Change 2 - I'm really contemplating going back to double-cleansing now that my skin is a bit more under control. In the past I've always double-cleansed, but given how sensitive my skin was I didn't want to allow anything to irritate or dry it out, which is why I whittled down to such uber basic skincare products. Now that things are a bit more under control, I may see if my skin can handle it once again as I really think it's a great way to go about cleansing skin effectively.

What is double-cleansing? It's when you oil cleanse 1x, then cleanse right after with a gentle, regular face wash. This supposedly cleanses off any excess oil and dirt loosed by your oil cleanse.

I'll be sure to report back in 2 more weeks with how my skin is doing and what my current routine is.

Final Encouragement

For those on a skincare journey, don't lose hope! There have been so many moments along the way where I've freaked out or felt so heartbroken over this change in my skin. When I've given in to that panic I usually either go nuts and suddenly mess with my skin or I feel so down I don't even want to wear makeup. Neither is good!

I know it's hard, but tell yourself you're doing a good job and that healing your skin takes time because it does. I wish there was a magical overnight cure, but for me there hasn't been. It's been progressive and I've had to talk myself out of getting down as I watched my skin purge a bit, gradually clear, cycle with my period, etc. 

You are beautiful and your skin will heal with time! <3

Are you currently struggling with your skin? Have you found anything super effective to help it heal?

Note: All products mentioned above are ones I've personally purchased. All opinions above are my own based on my experience, research, etc. I am not a doctor or dermatologist. I recommend seeing one and doing your own research prior to choosing skincare products and treatments. 

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