My Natural Skincare Routine for Acne Scarring + Progress Pics
Okay, this is a long one! A long, vulnerable one. I can't worry about the possibility of strangers and guys I'm dating and random people I went to high school with judging pictures of my less-than-ideal current skin situation and awkward before-and-after selfies. Because, let's be real, that's the silly crap I sometimes worry about before I post things. But also let's be real again-- the people who matter don't and won't judge you based on your currently poopy skin sitch. I just want to be open, share what I've been dealing with and learning, and hopefully help at least one other person along their skincare journey.
Real quick: I want to take a minute to say that that I'm in a really good place mind/body-wise. The skin issues are definitely taxing, but I've been taking better care of my body and skin over the last seven months than I think I have in my entire life, and in turn, I'm feeling so dang good. I think of it like this: The current state of my skin is more a reflection of my past skin mistakes than of my current actions. And I'm very proud of my current actions.
So, my skin journey has proven to be a tough one. As you may or may not have read in a previous post re: natural, cruelty-free products I use, I broke out like crazy around mid-late August of 2016, which resulted in scarring and discoloration on my cheeks that I’m still dealing with nine months later. And I know I still have a ways to go. I’ve gotten really good at covering up the scarring with makeup to the point where it’s not noticeable at all and my skin looks clear, but as someone who isn’t a fan of wearing makeup all the time, I’m craving the day I feel good enough again to walk out the door entirely fresh-faced. Especially because I feel like a little dummy throwing some powder on my face before I go to the gym, and I hate feeling like I have to do that to look slightly cuter just to work out. But, alas…
BEFORE AND AFTER PICTURES OMG THIS MAKES ME SO NERVOUS BUT I'M DOING IT.
Let me just say this: Before and after pictures are weird. Even looking at my own is weird for me. They're not pretty, and the angles are awkward, but they represent me going through something far from ideal, learning from it, and improving myself and my health. So, that's pretty cool to me. I’ve never posted any kind of before/after photos of my skin, so it's about to get rullll vulnerable for me…but I feel like it’s important in order to show you what I’ve been going through, that I’m right there with you if you’re going through skin crap also, aaaand my progress. Also, keep in mind that there’s a gap of no photos between September and January when my skin was at its worst, probably because I was frustrated, just over it all at that point, and probably because I chickened out and deleted some photos so they wouldn’t pop up on my phone when I was with people. Aaaaanyway, here's a few photos to show some of the evolution and progress over time, and I have these and more posted in chronological order at the end of this post!
August 29, 2016 - right side
(When I first started breaking out)
March 12, 2017 - right side
(Mostly scarring on my cheek at this point with the occasional pimple)
April 2, 2017 - right side
(What I would call a good day these days; some redness and less visible scarring)
May 3, 2017 - right side
(Pretty much where I'm at now; I was standing right near incoming sunlight in this photo, so you can see the scarring in a slightly different light here)
May 3, 2017 - left side
(Again, this is pretty much where I'm at now. The left cheek has always had much less visible scarring than the right cheek. More photos of both below!)
WHAT CAUSED MY BREAKOUTS & SCARRING?
To this day I still don’t know exactly what the cause was, but it may have been a combination of stress (I ended things with my then-boyfriend around this time), years of popping pimples (a dumb obsession I used to have but refuse to do now), and years of using makeup wipes (which actually just smear dirt all over your face) to “remove” my makeup. Also, just age and hormones. Some of my older girlfriends said they went through something similar when they were around my age, and they call it "a second puberty." While it’s undoubtedly been a disheartening nine months skin-wise—and I seriously cannot wait for the day I feel comfortable leaving my apartment without makeup again—I will say that I am grateful that this crappy situation has pushed me to take better care of my skin than I ever have before. I’ve been doing tons of research and setting myself on a good path to healthy skin. As of right now, my skin is genuinely starting to feel healthy. And for that reason it’s a little frustrating knowing that scarring takes what seems like forever to go away, even though I’m taking such great care of my skin. All in all, though, I’m treating my body and skin right, and it’s making me a very happy human. I’m in a great place, and the scarring is getting a little bit lighter every day.
All that being said, I want to share with you my natural, holistic skincare routine that I’m loving and seeing/feeling real results from…fiiiiinally after such a long time of being lost about what to do about the scarring and redness. I hope some of this information can help you on your own journey to healthy skin and feeling confident again if you’re not where you want to be!
OUT WITH THE DERMATOLOGIST, IN WITH THE ALL-NATURAL PRODUCTS
I’ve blogged a couple times about my love of certain products and my recent-ish decision to see a dermatologist for the first time in about five years to get myself on the right track. So I think it’s really important for me to be honest about the fact that I’m human and I change my mind and opinions based on my personal experiences and learning about others’ experiences. After all, skincare is all about trial and error and finding what’s right for you. I was using dermatologist-recommended products for a few months and wasn’t seeing results like I did when I saw a dermatologist in high school. I don’t know if it’s because my skin has changed as I’ve gotten older or because my old dermatologist was more knowledgable, but I recently decided to stop seeing a dermatologist and switch over to an all-natural regimen that I’ve been loving. Dermatologists and their prescriptions can be great, but I prefer to feed my body with products I know are safe and healthy. Not to mention, my skin finally feels great, and I know the products I’m using are the reason. The results are slow, but they’re steady. And let me tell you, after nine months (so far) of very little changes, I’ll take that!
What Am I Using?
- Turmeric Cleansing Oil -> to remove my makeup and pre-cleanse - Micellar Water -> to make sure I actually get all the makeup off and because it's amazing - Rose Water -> to spray on before cleansing with honey (and to mix into the honey/cinnamon exfoliating face mask I make once or twice a week) - Manuka Honey -> as a cleanser and in a face mask once or twice a week (*raw honey is fine if that’s all you have right now*) - Witch Hazel -> as a toner - Moisturizer -> because it's needed to lock everything in - Sunscreen -> because, crucial! - Cotton pads (not the exfoliating ones, as you shouldn't exfoliate every day) -> for the micellar water and witch hazel
What Am I Admittedly Not Using But Should Be?
- Eye cream/serum! This is one product I haven’t introduced into my routine yet, because I’m still learning about what’s best for me and comparing expensive brands to cheaper brands since eye creams can get expensive. But, the rule of thumb for order of application: If your eye cream is more lightweight than your moisturizer, apply it first. If it’s heavier, apply it after. Remember, face products should be applied from light to heavy so that everything can be absorbed properly in order for you to get the benefits you’re looking for.
I try to stick to the same routine for the most part, but with little changes here and there. So, some nights I’ll use everything but the manuka honey (especially if I did a honey face mask that day). Once or twice a week I’ll make a rose water + manuka honey + cinnamon face mask. Most mornings I tend to keep it simple with just micellar water, sunscreen, and moisturizer, while others I’ll add in witch hazel and the honey for a more extensive process. It’s all about finding what’s right for you, and I’m still experimenting a little to figure that out. But I do know I love all the products I have right now!
*Always wash your hands before touching your face. This is HUGE. Wash in between steps if you need to.
1.) Wipe a cotton pad with micellar water all over face to remove grease. 2.) Apply sunscreen! 3.) Moisturize.
Pro Tip: Never put moisturizer on a dry face. Whether you splash water on your face, wipe micellar water on it, or do the full cleanse and tone in the morning…always wet your face before moisturizing, as moisturizer locks in dampness to keep your skin hydrated and give you a good ole glow. And if your moisturizer doesn’t contain sunscreen, PUT ON SUNSCREEN! This is one of those things that I looked past for so long and am finally seeing the true importance of. Sunscreen is crucial every day. I admittedly forget it sometimes and don’t reapply it enough, but it’s so important, even on a winter day. The sun is out there somewhere every day.
*Another friendly (but also aggressive in the name of tough love) reminder to wash your hands before touching that beautiful face of yours!
1.) Cleansing Oil
(Yes, even if you have oily skin. Like dissolves like. Therefore, oil dissolves oil. It’s a common mistake to think that oil is bad for oily skin. Just don’t douse your face in obscene amounts of it. :))
To remove makeup
What I’m Currently Using: Turmeric Cleansing Oil by Olivia Care - $12.95 on their website BUT cheaper at TJ Maxx http://www.oliviacare.com/turmeric-cleansing-oil.html
There are so many great cleansing oils out there, and you can even make your own DIY oil. I love the effects of turmeric, but this is the first one I’m using aside from coconut oil, so I’m going to try different things as I go and see what works, and I encourage you to do the same!
How To: With *clean* hands, rub a small amount of cleansing oil onto your dry, makeup-filled OR makeup-free face. Add more as needed, massage gently, and be careful when rubbing the eye area if you’re wearing dark eye makeup. To remove the oil(s), you can EITHER rinse it off with warm water and your hands or wet a washcloth with warm water and wipe everything off.
2.) Micellar Water
It’s an age-old miracle of a liquid that attracts dirt and oil in order to remove them. Every time I think I’ve gotten all my makeup off with cleansing oil, a few swipes of a cotton swab with micellar water always prove me wrong.
What I’m Currently Using:
Micellar Cleansing Water by Pearlessence
I bought my very first bottle at TJ Maxx about a month ago, and this is it. I’m getting to the end of it, so I may or may not go with another brand next. I'm just always looking for natural and cruelty-free!
Take a cotton pad, pour some micellar water on it, and swipe it softly all over your face. Use both sides if needed, or more than one pad, and wipe until you stop seeing leftover makeup/dirt on the pad.
3.) Rose Water
It’s incredibly hydrating and anti-inflammatory! While it can definitely be used as a toner, I use witch hazel as my toner and spray rose water on my face before cleansing with manuka honey. Rose water and manuka honey is an A+ combo!
What I’m Currently Using: Rose Water Mist by Olivia Care
Spray a few times onto face and neck before applying manuka honey onto face. I also spray some on my pillow before bed to get more relaxed.
4.) Manuka Honey
Like rosewater, manuka honey is an absolute gem. It’s the most beneficial form of honey and works wonders when it comes to soothing the skin and combatting scarring and inflammation.
What I’m Currently Using:
Trader Joe’s’ 100% New Zealand Manuka Honey (10+)
Massage into face for 30-60 seconds, being careful around the eye area and near your hair. Rinse off with warm water, and make sure you get everything off (no, thanks to bugs in my hair, ya know?). Once I get the honey off my face, I like to wet a washcloth with warm water, lay it on my face, and let it sit for a minute or so.
*Click here for a great video by one of my holistic health role models, Sarah Nagel (aka @holistichabits), on the benefits of manuka honey and how to create three awesome DIY manuka honey-based face masks!
5.) Witch Hazel
Because it’s a great natural toner!
What I’m Currently Using: Thayers Alcohol-Free Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner - $10.95 - I buy mine at Target! You can buy some online or at most drug or discount stores.
Notice this one is alcohol-free. Be careful about what brand you go with, because some contain alcohol, which can be damaging to the skin. Usually you’re okay with 14% or less, but I like to play it safe and avoid potentially damaging alcohols at all costs. Just out here tryna protect my precious skin!
Squirt it onto a cotton pad and swipe all across your face.
Because moisturizer is crucial! Some people are under the false impression that you should avoid moisturizer if you have oily skin because that will make it worse, and that’s a huge mistake. Moisturizing fights wrinkles, keep you from itching, and locks in your other products to keep your skin healthy and glowing, amongst other benefits. Some are better than others, depending on your skin type, but everyone needs to moisturize.
What I’m Currently Using:
Alba Botanica’s Hawaiian Oil-Free Moisturizer with Refining Aloe and Green Tea
After cleansing, toning, and applying any creams/serums, gently massage moisturizer into your skin (face and neck) in a circular motion until it’s all absorbed.
*Note: Moisturizing is usually the last step, but as I mentioned before, it may come before a face and/or eye serum, depending on the lightness or heaviness. Friendly reminder: Products should be applied from lightest to heaviest in order for everything to work properly. :)
OKAY, there you have it! I know that's a lotttt to take in, but I hope it's helpful! I wanted to share as much information as I can, because I've learned so much over the last bunch of months, and I know how nice it is to have important info in one place. Right below are all the before/after photos I have in chronological order so you can see my progress (and frustration, but mostly my progress!).
BEFORE/AFTER PHOTOS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER (ALSO: AH SO VULNERABLE)
* You can click through for the date each photo was taken. And keep in mind that there’s a gap of no photos between September and January, because I was kinda frustrated and didn't love having all these "embarrassing" pictures on my phone.