Complexion Perfection

Friday, June 22, 2012

My husband and I decided a few years ago that there were no more bambinos in our future. So at the suggestion of my nurse practitioner, I opted for a more long term the form of the Mirena IUD. TMI? Sorry about that. Anyway, what I thought would make my life easier ended up being a HUGE problem for my skin. "Oh yeah, progesterone will do that," was her response upon hearing my complaints. Uh, thanks? You could have warned me! Sure, I didn't have to remember to take a pill at the same time every day, but about six weeks after getting it installed my skin exploded. I was breaking out like crazy! It wasn't just my face, either. My neck and upper back were adversely affected, too. Sexy, right? I'd had the normal breakouts on my T-zone as a teen and struggled with oiliness in adulthood, but I had no idea how to handle this. And bacne? Fuhgetaboutit. I'd always been blessed with pretty decent skin and almost ten years on The Pill hadn't hurt, either. I tried everything I could find, yet the problem persisted for the first 18 months I had the IUD. Prescription creams just dried out the skin around my zits. Proactiv worked pretty well, but it bleached the necklines of my shirts and pillowcases. And while effective (but drying), Proactiv was annoying to buy. Get it sent regularly and risk having too much or too little of one product, or spend forever finding a mall kiosk. Ugh. Being a beauty product hoarder in the making at the time, I decided to seek out some awesome, effective products on my own. However, navigating the world of acne products left me feeling like Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth. Minus the Muppets. And David Bowie. Wait, those are my two favorite parts! Bummer.

There are a million products out there and it is really easy to spend a fortune trying to find what works. For the past three years or so my skin has (thankfully!) been under control...just in time for me to get my Mirena replaced. I haven't been able to let my guard down, though, and I still use these products diligently to maintain my clear skin. I've actually considered going back on The Pill for fear of dealing with this again. Don't be afraid of Mirena, though. This was just my experience and everyone is different. Otherwise it has been fine. If I do go back for more, at least I'll be more equipped to handle the inevitable breakouts next time around. As a result, my hope is that I won't experience the same skin struggles I did before. This post is intended to help you navigate the world of acne products. My biggest piece of advice: give them time to work. I would get frustrated when my skin wasn't clear in two days, but it does not work that way! Sometimes my breakouts would initially get worse. Then they'd get better. Give a product a week or two of daily use before trashing it. Trust me. I wish I'd had me four years ago. Or something like that. Oh, you know what I mean.

Best Cleanser:

I would marry this product if I could. We have developed a close, personal relationship over the last several years and I'm a better woman for it. In all seriousness, Murad's Clarifying Cleanser has been a lifesaver. It has a nice citrusy smell and gives my skin a cool, tingly feeling. I use it every day and love, love, love it. It is non-drying and contains salicylic acid so it won't have a bleaching effect on your clothes and towels. The bottle is pretty big, too, so I've been going strong for a year and still have plenty left. Murad has a whole acne treatment line that this belongs to. I recently bought the toner after using up a sample size. It has the same effervescent feeling and makes my skin feel refreshed.

Best Spot Treatment:

I have been obsessed with Philosophy's lip glosses for ages. I should really find a support group because my purse is bursting at the seams with delicious lip lovelies. Acne treatment, though? Well, they proved me wrong. The On a Clear Day spot treatment is awesome. I put it on before bed and my zit looks way better in the morning. I've slathered it on my whole face before out of sheer desperation. It is also non-bleaching, as it uses sulfur rather than benzoyl peroxide to dry out blemishes. Sure, it smells a little like putting a tiny dab of fart on your face, but hey, if it works it works. And the smell really isn't that sulfur-y.

Best Tool:

I initially cringed at the thought of recommending this because it is not cheap (around $120) and I'm all about reasonable prices. But it is just too good not to mention. I bought the Mia a couple of years ago after coveting it for a long time, and I still maintain that it was worth the investment. I use the sensitive brush heads and never feel over-exfoliated. You know that feeling, and it is not pleasant. I started out using it three times a week and have worked my way up to using it with the Murad cleanser every time I shower. The only exception is if I'm using another exfoliator. One charge lasts for 20-30 uses (it turns off automatically after 1 minute so you don't overdo it), so I keep it in my shower. My skin easily looks dull, but this has never failed me. Shop around with this one for sure. Many websites offer coupon codes (the website attached to the pic has a 20% off code). You shouldn't have to pay full price.

Best Kit:

I purchased this while going through my "I'll do anything to get out of this skin" phase. It is a two step process that involves applying the exfoliant (in the jar), then the peel portion. Once added it foams up in a very satisfying way. I use it only occasionally now that my skin is under control, but I remember why I love it so after each use. It has a lovely orange scent. My skin glows like crazy and is more balanced. My blemishes improved considerably for at least a week after using it. It is pricey, but one set has lasted me two years with occasional use. Even when I was using it weekly, a little went a looong way.

Honorable Mentions:

I was first introduced to this product through my Birchbox subscription (more about that in a future post). It looks like a little container of baby powder, so I was interested to see what it had to offer. It also feels a lot like baby powder (its main ingredient is rice powder). You sprinkle some of it into the palm of your hand and add a little water to form a paste. Then gently rub into your skin for a bit. It doesn't feel grainy at all, so the first time I used it I thought it was a mean hoax. I have real skin problems, people! However, my skin felt awesome! Smooth, calm and balanced as a baby's butt. Now I keep a vial in my shower and use it a couple times a week when I want to feel fancy. And butt-like.

This mask was another Birchbox introduction and is made by June Jacobs. It is a creamy moisturizing mask that smells so good I've been tempted to lick my own face. I have a really long tongue. You probably didn't want to know that much about me. Sorry. My only hang-up is the price. The thought of paying $60+ for 3 ounces of something I rinse off after ten minutes makes me feel icky inside. But it feels SO good on my outside. I'm still milking my sample for all it is worth, but when it is gone I am going to be forced to have a really intense conversation with myself about the cost of my beauty habit. It is super balancing and calming. I want more.

I tried to put this one as far away as possible from my "Proactiv is a pain" comments. But I'd be remiss not to share it with you. And in all fairness, I did use words like "effective." When I was knee-deep in acne, this product really did help me crawl out. I smeared it onto my face, neck and back like a junkie. I still maintain that Proactiv is a pain, though. I didn't use the toner, and the Repairing Lotion lasts a really long time, so I was always running out of cleanser and stockpiling the others. It wasn't cheap, either. I keep a bottle of this in my medicine cabinet for times when my skin decides to be all-over naughty. A little dab covers a large area, so one bottle lasts forever these days (at least a year). It can be drying in a I'm-going-to-claw-my-skin-off kind of way if you use it daily but don't moisturize. That's the nature of the beast in acne care, though. Just remember to wear a scrappy shirt and use a white pillow case or one that you don't mind ruining. For those times when I'm feeling out of control (especially on my neck and back), it's a good tool to have. It is the only product in the line I use, and rarely anymore, so I buy it at a kiosk if I know where one is. I also included a link to Amazon, who sells it for less than half the kiosk price. If I need more in the future, I'll probably get it there. Murad also makes something like this, but I haven't tried it as it is pretty expensive and I just can't justify paying that much for a product I very rarely need anymore. If I have the same experience I did before skin-wise and my other products aren't cutting it, I will definitely give it a try.

So this is my acne arsenal and it works incredibly well for me. It just took a while to compile it. Part of the problem was the fact that I was trying mostly drugstore products in the beginning and they simply were not effective in my case. In fact, they frequently made the problem worse because they were so irritating. When I realized that spending a little more for really good, quality products would make all the difference, I was liberated. Besides, it wasn't really that much more expensive if I thought about it. Trying ten different drugstore products actually cost three times as much as one bottle of the Murad cleanser. I try to take really good care of my skin in general, and although rough, that 18 month period really reinforced the importance of good skin care. Silver lining and all, folks. A post on the the other products I use is on the way, but I have an eight page paper analyzing Fifty Shades of Grey due tomorrow for my Human Sexuality class. Being a blogger is a big responsibility! But I love you all dearly and would never let you down, even at the expense of my graded homework. Now leave me alone and let me write.

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