It has been a few months since I did a product review, since I have been focusing more on articles lately, and really this is about several products. I wanted to discuss some products that have recently saved my skin, literally! I usually try to focus more on makeup products, but a healthy foundation for your makeup (no pun intended) comes from your skincare. The importance of taking care of your skin cannot be stressed enough, and this is something that I see fall to the wayside all too often. To be honest, this is especially common amongst younger individuals, especially those with naturally good skin. Those who deal with breakouts, acne, or dry/oily skin usually have to bring their skincare to the forefront, whereas those who don’t deal with these issues can often push it to the back of their mind.
There are many misconceptions when it comes to taking care of your skin. For example, people think that if you have oily skin, you shouldn’t moisturize. This is absolutely untrue! You just need to find a moisturizer that isn’t as heavy, and is made for oily skin. I have seen so many people in makeup groups saying things like, “My moisturizer and primer weren’t mixing well, so I started skipping moisturizing and am just using the primer.” That is the complete opposite of what you should do. Your primer just sits on top of your skin, it is providing no real benefits other than to your makeup. Clearly the ingredients in these two products aren’t mixing, so you should be finding ones that do blend well rather than tossing out the one step that you should be doing! If you are unsure on how to care for your skin, seeing a dermatologist or an esthetician is highly recommended. They will examine your skin and provide you with information on how to keep it beautiful and healthy.
Now, though I am not a professional or expert when it comes to skin, I have learned quite a bit during my studies and work in the makeup industry. However, I am actually looking at becoming a licensed esthetician, because having an understanding of the skin is so extremely important as a makeup artist, and the more you know the better. You need to be able to recognize and sometimes work with or around certain conditions. You should know what not to use if your client comes in with a sunburnt face. You need to know their allergies, so that you can ensure that you are not using any products that will give them a reaction. You have to analyze their skin, and determine what products and ingredients will give them the best results. But I also want to learn all of this for my own benefit as well. So even if you are not a makeup artist, I still recommend learning as much as you can about skin care. Trust me, when you’re 50 you will be happy that you started taking care of your skin at 15.
So now on to the actual reason for this post!
I will say that I have been blessed throughout my life by having pretty great skin. I had some minor breakouts in high school, and I tend to get hormonal breakouts around that time of the month, but that has always really been the extent of it. I learned pretty early on that I was allergic to soy, which was causing my skin to break out. I still break out within hours of eating anything containing soy. So by completely cutting it out of my diet and making sure none of my beauty products (shampoo, conditioner, body lotions, moisturizers, etc.) contained it, I pretty much eliminated any additional breakouts I had been experiencing. Unfortunately, this changed about a year ago when I began getting some pretty extreme breakouts. My health has been at an all-time low, brought on by extreme stress and not taking care of myself regarding my food allergies (because I have several). I have always had hormonal issues, which I have successfully treated in the past with Chinese herbs and natural remedies. But it seemed that years of stress and unhealthy eating habits had worn my body out, and I began getting hormonal cystic acne which is something I had never experienced before. You can usually identify the causes of acne if it is confined to a specific area, and mine has been specific to the chin and jawline which is a classic symptom of hormonal imbalance. It is painful, both physically and emotionally, and it has been a rough battle to tame. At first I was able to keep it in check just be cleansing my body, I was juicing every day using herbs and vegetables that restore hormonal balance to the body. And I actually had great success, is eased up for many months. But I made the mistake of stopping once it cleared up, rather than continuing to treat it. Then I found myself laid off a few months ago, and the stress brought everything back up and it was even worse than before. I finally got the kick in the pants to get myself into better shape, inside and out.
Being one who is more into natural remedies, I began studying methods from Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and different homeopathic and herbal practices for balancing hormones and treating cystic acne. The most commonly mentioned herb was turmeric, which I was already familiar with as I had been using it in my juices for this purpose. Some people suggested making a mask with it, mixed with lemon juice and apple cider vinegar, but with how much turmeric stains I wasn’t so keen on that idea. Plus, I needed something to help internally, or else whatever I put on my skin wasn’t going to do the trick. I didn’t want to just bandage the problem, I wanted to fix it. Ingesting it seemed like a better idea, and because it is a common treatment it can easily be found as a supplement at places like Sprouts, Whole Foods, Co Ops, etc. So I ended up purchasing turmeric in capsule form, which I began taking twice daily to start getting my hormones in check.
But I did still want something to use directly on my skin as well, to bring down the inflammation and help it heal. In Ayurvedic medicine, neem was mentioned often as something that helps cystic acne because it draws the heat from the body. It was recommended to be used as a supplement, but it wasn’t as beneficial as something like the turmeric. I saw a few people talking about actually using neem oil on the skin as a treatment, so I looked at some skin safe versions of this oil. I am familiar with neem as a form of pest control, so I was intrigued by the idea of using it on my skin. As I researched it more, I discovered that part of the reason it is so beneficial is because it is non-comedogenic, and actually penetrates the top layer of the skin (which is the key when it comes to using oils on the face) therefore it absorbs quickly and helps retain moisture. It is rich in fatty acids and vitamin E, which are known to help prevent and reduce the appearance of scarring. It also reduces inflammation, soothing the skin to assist it in healing. One site that I was looking at states that neem is an anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, analgesic (relieves pain), and anti-microbial. I wish I had discovered this sooner, it kind of seems like a wonder oil!
Here is some additional info on using neem for the skin, and treating acne through Ayurveda and Chinese medicine:
So now I had something to help internally, and I had an oil to use directly on the skin. That was really all that I had intended on using, but while I was looking at oils I ended up coming across this face wash that a few people mentioned using in addition to their neem. It is called Neem & Turmeric Face Wash, from the brand Himalaya Herbal Healthcare. I read through the information and the reviews, and it seemed pretty perfect for me. I mean, neem and turmeric, those were exactly what I had been looking for and here they are combined in a face wash! It says it is for normal to oily skin, which is of course also great for me, and is also SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) free, paraben free, and phthalate free, with no artificial colors or fragrances. And to top it all off, no animal testing! This may as well have had my name stamped on it! So I ordered this with my neem oil, and was pleased when I received it and read the full list of ingredients.
Because it is soap free, it has a gel like consistency and doesn’t lather which I actually prefer. I apply onto moist skin, and let it sit for a few minutes until it feels like it is starting to dry. I wash it off with warm water, sometimes using my Makeup Eraser to exfoliate slightly and make sure I am getting all of the cleanser off. It usually leaves my skin pretty red, about as much as if I had used a clay mask or something of that nature. I then use a cotton pad and apply my Thayer’s witchhazel and aloe toner all over my face and neck. I let that dry, and then it comes time for my neem oil. If you have any experience with neem, I am sure you have one major concern about putting it on your face: the smell. Neem oil is extremely pungent; the scent can be pretty overwhelming so having it right there under your nose can be a huge turn off. I saw a few people mention that they diluted it slightly with an essential oil, some mentioned cypress or even patchouli. I happened to have Tea Tree oil, which is actually quite effective in treating acne as well since it is an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Plus, I absolutely love the scent!
Read more about the benefits of Tea Tree Oil here:
TTO, however, has to be used at very low strength (usually 5%) and should not be used too often. So I only do this oil treatment every few days, otherwise I just moisturize after applying the toner. When I do use the oils, I mix a 2:1 ratio of neem and vitamin e oil, and add just a drop or two of tea tree to it. You want just enough to cut the scent of the neem oil, and even a drop will provide your skin with the benefits of the oil. I massage the mixture into my skin, making sure there is a good even layer but not overdoing it and leaving my skin too greasy.
I am sure it is common knowledge, but I would like to add that you want to be sure to keep this away from your eyes! The tea tree oil especially will cause irritation if it gets too close or gets in the eye. I always make sure to bring it no further than the natural outline of my socket. So I let this sit on my face for a while, sometimes I put it on while I am working and leave it on for an hour or so. Since it is non-comedogenic, I don’t personally have any qualms about letting it sit on my skin for this extended period of time. I essentially treat it like a face mask, I let it do its magic on my skin and then remove it. Different oils have different absorption rates, and cold pressed neem seems to be on the slower end of the spectrum which is why I like to let it warm on my skin and give it time to provide all of its vitamins and healing benefits.
This great website shows the absorption rates of different oils that are commonly used on the skin:
I then rinse it off, usually using a micellar water or similar gentle cleanser that will break up the oil. I apply the all-natural goats’ milk cream moisturizer that I purchased from Etsy, which is absolutely amazing, by the way. It is so lightweight, and it deeply moisturizes without leaving any kind of oily residue. This makes it perfect for oily skin! I can wear it all day without feeling oily, so it is great for wearing under makeup. If you have ever user Nurturing Force Blot Out Offensive (one of my favorite kit products) it actually feels and acts very similarly! I highly recommend it if have oily skin, and like me are careful about what you put on your skin.
I have been following this routine for a few weeks now, paired with the turmeric supplements. I have also made some slight changes to my diet, such as beginning to eat meat again after 3 years! This is significant because it means I have been cutting out artificial meats, which contain soy and wheat gluten, both of which are not good for me. As I mentioned, I have a lot of food allergies and sensitivities! So far I have noticed that I have already begun to lose weight, and that my skin has been clearing up tremendously! There was a while when I would not leave my house, it looked like the bottom half of my face was covered with boils and sores. It was disgusting, and I felt too ashamed to even take a before picture. But I know that others deal with this every day, and have for years. I have only dealt with it in this extreme for roughly a year, and it pains me to say that it had an extremely negative effect on my self-esteem. You’ll see in these images that the blemishes have begun to fade, and the scarring appears to be minimal. I’m hoping that the extra vitamin e oil that I am using in my mixture will help eliminate any scarring. But so far it is looking pretty good!
Battling conditions like cystic acne is never going to be simple or easy, it requires both internal and external treatment. Something like acne, though it appears on the skin, isn’t simply a skin condition. Remember, your skin is your largest organ, it is connected to the rest of your body and all parts operate together. Getting your acne in check will take more than just cleaning your face, you may have to make more changes to things like diet and even your lifestyle. It seems like I am off to a good start so far, with this skincare routine and the supplements, but I have also been making other changes as well. I have been trying to ensure that I get enough sleep every night, and practicing breathing exercises to calm my nerves and anxiety. I have even added just 20 minutes of yoga to my morning routine, to help relieve stress and bring harmony back into my body. Stress and sleep deprivation are additional causes for hormonal imbalance, as well as acne. When your body is out of whack, you see and feel it.
And remember, there is more to “curing” your acne than just what I have discussed in this post. I was simply showcasing a few products that I felt had the biggest impact, but there are many other things that you need to keep in mind. My own doctors talked to me about how important it was to not touch and pick at the blemishes. They are essentially contagious, the bacteria inside can spread and create more cysts. If you’re popping them and just moving from spot to spot, chances are fluids have gotten on your fingers and are being spread over the skin. Not to mention the pollutants that are already on your fingers! The bacteria then get into other pores, creating new pimples. If you must pop them, be sure to wash your hands with an anti-bacterial soap and immediately wash your face. They also told me that soaking the affected areas in hot water, either while showering or with a hot compress, will also help hold off the spreading of the bacteria and open the pores to release what is trapped inside. You also want to be sure to wash your pillow cases regularly, as well as any other items that regularly come into contact with your face. These collect dead skin cells and oils from the face, for hours every night. Bacteria will build in the fibers and your skin will keep touching it.
There are many other important tips, which you can obtain through a consultation with a doctor or skincare professional. I hope that you all find the remedies that work best for you, whether you pursue it through my route or another. I never understood the struggle of dealing with something like this, until now. Many of my friends in high school dealt with this, to a much worse degree than I have, and looking back now I admire their strength to go through it at such a young age and still be so confident. I am disappointed that I did let it get me down, but I am feeling more confident now that I have the power to overcome it.
As I have already stated, I am not a professional or expert when it comes to skin. If you are having issues with hormonal break outs, seek advice from medical professionals. Often times, medications such as simple birth control will be recommended to balance hormones. I have made personal choices to utilize natural remedies, and I am stating only what has proved effective for myself. I make no claims that these methods will provide any kind of cure for this condition, and always recommend seeking treatment from a dermatologist. It is possible that some health professionals will recommend treatment similar to this, however it is always wise to consult with them before beginning a new regimen of any kind. If you’re like me and you would rather visit a Chinese apothecary or an Ayurveda practitioner, that great too! But no matter what, professional advice should be obtained before beginning a new treatment.