This is a blog post I’ve been meaning to write for a while. Well over a year, in fact, but one excuse lead to another and I never got around to it. But a couple of weeks ago a colleague approached me for some advice about managing acneic skin. They asked if I could email it over so it would be easier to digest, and before I replied I realised: whatever I sent back to them would be what I wanted to put in this post. So, this one is for you, my friend!* And anyone else who fancies reading about my thoughts and opinions on acne…
*I won’t be saying their name because that would be rude of me and embarrassing to them. I like when people feel like they can speak to me in confidence, and if you haven’t gathered from my previous posts my integrity is something I hold dear.
First and foremost, before I tell you about all the products in these pictures and why I like them, we should probably get something straight first: I am of the opinion that acne is a legitimate medical condition that must be diagnosed by a medical professional. Quite clearly, I’m not a medical professional so everything in this post is not necessarily scientific fact, but rather what I understand from reading medical journals, talking to my GP and dermatologists and from my personal experiences. For me this boils down to: acne is caused from within (and by ‘within’ I don’t mean our diets, but rather it’s caused by our hormones) and therefore must be treated from within. But good skin care, diet and overall health are helpful too.
To oversimplify: acne commonly presents itself with teenagers during puberty, pregnant women, women during menstruation and women going through the menopause. Notice a correlation? All those life events relate to fluctuating and changing hormones.
Outside of these times it seems as though acne can be an outward affliction of an underlying condition, which is why I suggest you should talk with your GP if you think you’ve got acne. I say that from personal experience: my acne was a by-product of something else going on in my body, and once that was addressed the acne began to clear up. Now, nearly a year on, my acne is gone but my skin is still prone to spots and acne at “that time of the month” when my hormones fluctuate.
And there’s another thing we should be clear about: acne isn’t your everyday spot and I don’t think it comes from falling asleep with makeup on or as a reaction your skin has to certain foods. Acne can be annoying, painful and, if I’m honest, a real blow to the ego.
So talk with your GP, figure out why it’s happening, then treat it.
Outside of that here’s my general approach to happy skin:
- drink plenty of water
- eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, veg and all other nutrition (unless you have a medical condition, I’m under the impression that all foods are fine to consumer in healthy proportions and quantities – including cake!)
- exercise, or generally just be active – it’s good for you! (And it makes me feel happy.)
- get plenty of sleep, because everything about your body (and your mind!) will thank you
- don’t overdo it on the alcohol… or excercise, health foods, etc. because even ‘good things’ can be damaging in excess!
If I’m doing all those things then generally my skin looks a lot happier than it does otherwise. And if I’m cleansing properly and following my skin care routine (more on that below) on top of all that then my skin looks amazing.
Now that you know what I think about acne and managing good skincare, let’s move on to my favourite products for managing my acne-prone skin (which is also oily and tends to get dehydrated easily).
First up: milk cleaners! I love a good cream or milk cleanser, something gentle and soothing to make sure my skin is simply clean. I use one in the morning, and also in the evening after a balm cleanse. These three have been in rotation for a while now and I’m happy with all of them, and can switch them out without my skin getting grumpy.
In the evening my first step is a balm cleanser to properly remove makeup (it just melts away with this stuff!) and then follow up with a milk or cream cleanser, like the ones pictured above. Ever since I introduced balm cleansers to my routine I’ve found my skin is less irritated because I can properly remove all of my makeup (no matter how much I’ve slapped on) and I no longer have a bit of foundation residue when I wash my face the next morning.
After cleansing my next step is a toner, and I love having an acid toner to hand to exfoliate my skin. This helps remove the top layer of dead skin, which helps keep pores from getting clogged, which helps keep breakouts from happening. Acid toners have basically changed my life.
It took a while for me to find acid toners that my skin is happy with (some are too harsh and make my skin dry – it’s a bit trial and error to find what works for an individual!), but the Pixi Glow Tonic (pictured above) and La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution (which I buy in the USA, and I’m now, sadly, out of…) are two of my go-tos. But I only use acid toners once a day because my skin tends to go red when I use them morning and night. (During the other wash I’ll typically use a toner to help control oil production, or redness, depending on how my skin is acting.)
Next in my routine is a spray, and if I’m honest this is the first step I’ll skip if I’m in a rush, have limited packing space for a vacation or if just running low on cash this will be the last step in my routine I’ll replace. That aside, I love floral sprays for hydration on the day to day, but the La Roche-Posay Serozinc spray is my favourite when I’ve got acne or other breakouts. I find it’s soothing, calming and overall just helps my skin calm down and chill out.
After spritzing I go in with an eye cream, and then it’s time for a serum or treatment!
Sunday Riley’s Good Genes is pricey (I got mine in the USA for a bit less than it costs in the UK…) but I like it for when my skin is being particularly troublesome. It tingles when I apply, and it seems to help even out an uneven complexion (such as hyperpigmentation left from acne/blemishes past) and makes my skin look a bit more radiant. Because of its price I don’t use it every single day, but it does feature 1-2x weekly and I’m convinced its helped with how my skin looks now!
Caudalíe’s Vinoperfect is designed to treat dark spots and for evening out complexion, and that’s exactly what I’ve noticed when I use it. Simply put: I think this one does what it says on the tin.
Kiehl’s Dark Spot Correcting Serum is another one I bought in the USA, and I find it works similarly to the Caudalíe Vinoperfect except that the results show more quickly. However, I find the Vinoperfect is a bit more gentle, and this one is a bit more harsh. So I mix them up and get the best of both worlds.
I probably have a dozen (no joke) moisturisers in my cupboard, but if I’ve got an acneic breakout I reach for the Caudalíe Vinosource moisturiser because it’s lightweight, doesn’t irritate and also moisturises. For those reasons it’s also a favourite when it’s hot outside!
Moisturiser goes on after serum / treatment (and pre-makup) in the morning, and if it’s winter I might put some on at this stage before bed if my skin is feeling dry… Otherwise I skip the moisturiser.
And then, once all of the above is done, if I’ve got a pesky blemish or acne spot I’ll go in with a treatment. The Aesop Control Gel (which I’m out of at the moment) is a favourite, so I’ve been using the Anti Blemish Spot Lotion by sk:n* (which isn’t currently for sale on their site due to stock limitations) and the La Roche-Posay Effaclar A.I, Targeted Breakout Corrector. I find that all three of these products help spots and blemishes (particularly the red, bulbous acne ones) move along more quickly and can reduce redness.
I just put a small amount (not even the size of a pea) on that sucker and let it do its thing. Depending on the size of what I’m dealing with I’ll put some on multiple times throughout the day – while keeping an eye to make sure I’m not causing irritation (such as added redness), which can happen sometimes!
If I’m feeling particularly ambitious I’ll apply a face mask, usually no more than once a week. Anything with green clay can be beneficial for skin that breaks out easily, and while my acne was at its worst this Caudalíe Purifying Mask was a favourite.
Side note: I’m lazy and can’t remember the last time I put on a face mask! But I like them when I get around to it.
And, finally, let me introduce you to MY FAVOURITE PRODUCT FOR ACNE SKIN. This is Differing 0.1% Gel. I can’t link you to it because I got it as a prescription from my GP when my acne was at its worst. It has helped with the scarring (I didn’t have much scarring, but it got rid of most of it so my skin doesn’t look as pitted), helped my acneic blemishes move along and has been significantly more impactful for evening out the uneven skintone from hyperpigmentation, etc. I used this in place of a serum / treatment at night and never layered a moisturiser on top. It sometimes made my skin feel a bit dry, so when that happened I’d cease using it for a few days (and use my normal serums / treatments instead). If you’ve got acne, I strongly recommend talking with your GP or dermatoligist to see if something like this would be beneficial to you – because, depending on what’s causing your acne, your skin type, etc. it may / may not be.
I hope this book of a blog post has been helpful, and I hope that if you’re struggling with acne it goes away soon!
Much love, Katie xo