This summer I turn 30 and I can’t help but think how far my skin has come since the beginning of the decade. Its been an eventful journey full of twists and turns but I’m pleased to say at this moment in time I’ve reached a happy place.
I began my 20s with oily acne prone skin alongside patches of eczema, but with some persistence and a lot of trial and error I have finally discovered what works for me. In this post I hope to pass on the tips that I wish I had known during my teens-twenties which might have made the transition easier.
- Discover skin care before make up: Like a lot of girls I found make up much more enticing than skin care, I began using it before I knew anything about my skin and how to look after it. This was a disaster, not only was I using products that weren’t appropriate for my skin type but I was also not removing it properly which worsened existing eczema and acne.
- Look at your skin and know your skin type: I didn’t properly look at my skin until I was in my 20s, I knew I got shiny and had spots but I didn’t identify myself as having oily congested dehydrated skin until I really began trying to categorise my skin into a type. Once I identified my skin’s issues, I was able to research and find out what would work best for it.
- Have a routine: It doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated, just getting into the habit of cleansing, exfoliating and moisturising with the right products will make a world of difference when done regularly.
- Always remove make up: Personally I notice a massive improvement in my acne when I don’t wear make up and just focus on skincare, however I love make up so in order to get the best of both worlds, I make sure I do a thorough double cleanse. When I first started cleansing with a face brush, I was shocked at how much make up was still on my face after a first cleanse with just my hands. Since getting in the habit of doing a second cleanse when wearing make up and using a face cloth/brush, I have noticed my skin is far more radiant and less acne prone, it’s no wonder really given all the extra gunk I’m removing!
- Pay attention to how your skin reacts: When I used to start using a new skincare product, I was so desperate for them to work that I would use them in spite of my skin telling me to stop. There are myths about products causing a purging process, or making things worse before they get better, in reality anything that breaks you out or makes your skin drier or more inflamed is not worth the risk of long term scarring or pigmentation and shouldn’t be something you put up with. Switch quickly and move on. There is bound to be something else that works.
- Change 1 thing at a time: It took me years to understand what my skin liked and what it didn’t. When you’re trying different cleansers, moisturisers and treatments it can be difficult to assess exactly whats working. It wasn’t until I started changing only 1 item at a time that I could appreciate what was breaking me out and why. You can narrow down problematic ingredients by checking exactly what a product contains and how your skin reacts to it.
- Oily skin needs some oil: I spent my teens stripping every bit of oil from my face with a foaming cleanser, partly because products aimed at oily skin led me to believe that this is what I needed. I’ve since learnt that this totally disrupts the skin’s acid mantle and by altering skin’s natural acidic pH, you cause more harm than good. Since using balms and oil based cleansers which help maintain an acidic pH, I’ve become less oily and less acne prone, proving that even oily skin needs some of its oil.
- Don’t pick spots: As well as seeming to get rid of a spot quicker, there is no denying that picking a spot is thoroughly satisfying. That is of course until you’re left with bleeding, a difficult to conceal scab and long term pick/crater scarring. I find a lot of spots that look ripe for the popping will eventually burst during a gentle cleanse/exfoliation, or they will go down without the need to dig your fingernails into your face which potentially worsens scarring. Scars are almost impossible to reverse without laser treatment so if anything can be done to avoid them, it’s worth doing.
- Exfoliate with an acid: As a teen I equated exfoliating with using scrubs and rubbing rough particles into my skin until it was red raw to remove all the dead cells. This was never particularly effective and if anything was damaging to my skin. Acids on the other hand will break away dead skin which clogs pores and looks dull to reveal more radiant glowing skin. They come in different strengths and formats so whether you like toners, serums or face masks, there will be an acid that works with your routine.
- Use sunscreen: A laborious and boring task but incredibly important. I wish I’d started sooner. By far the most ageing element to skin is UV light. Not only does it cause wrinkles, sun spots and pigmentation, there is also worry of both benign and cancerous lesions. If you’re partial to exfoliating with acids or using retinol products then you are even more vulnerable and must use SPF. In any case preventing sun damage in your 20s, will definitely make a difference to your skin in later decades.
- See a doctor: if your skin issues bother you or don’t resolve with simple measures as above, see a doctor. Don’t put it off. Most people I know wish they had done it sooner. There are lots of options and in particular for acne the earlier you go, the more longterm damage you can prevent. My own experience with the hormonal pill was brilliant and whilst my skin did go downhill a little when I had to stop taking it, by then I had a resilient enough skin regime to be able to deal with the problems.
- Address your lifestyle: I know I don’t exercise enough, get enough sleep or lead a stress free life. All things that would help my skin significantly. However some habits, such as drinking alcohol and smoking are so drastically ageing to skin that it’s almost inexcusable to not avoid them. I can almost always tell which of my patients are smokers by how aged their skin looks compared to their actual age and it easily adds 10 years.
- Drink water: I know I am stating the obvious but it often surprises me how little water many people drink. Dehydrated skin, skin without enough water, effects both oily and dry skin types and is a problem that many skincare companies are addressing through the use of hydrating molecules such as hyaluronic acid. However most of your hydration will come from what you drink. Given that skin is 70% water it’s a good idea to try and get 2-3 litres of water a day, most of which should come from plain water and not caffeinated drinks/juice/soft drinks.
- Food doesn’t cause acne: Eating healthily obviously has many benefits but no particular food type has been proven in medical research to worsen acne. Unless you have specific allergies causing dermatitis that you have been tested for, I would not advise cutting out major groups of food. The myth that chocolate, dairy products and oily foods will cause break outs is unproven. Of course it may effect your health in other ways so I would always advocate a balanced healthy diet.
- Don’t be overwhelmed: With so many products on the market and the possibility of having to interact with a salesperson in a department store, purchasing skincare can be a daunting prospect. It shouldn’t be. Decide on a budget, think about your skin type and the rest is a bit of trial and error until you find the products that work for you. Where possible don’t be afraid to ask for a sample and don’t get sucked into believing that more expensive = better. It doesn’t.
- Read before you buy: Reading reviews is a good place to start but bear in mind skincare outcomes are very subjective. The best reviews are those that explain why and how a product works for certain skin types, what the evidence is behind the ingredients and which type of skin a product is best suited to. Some of the best online resources are Caroline Hirons, Paula’s choice, Beauty by the geeks and of course skinformed!
- Don’t be hard on yourself: I got my skin care wrong many times. There will be products that should theoretically work that your skin will absolutely hate, at other times something that you least expect to work will become a staple. It’s a learning process and you are not alone in getting frustrated when having a setback, but keep it in perspective, many skin setbacks will eventually resolve.
- Be persistent: There is no quick fix product or routine. Most changes occur gradually over weeks to months and over that time your skins response may alter. I don’t review anything unless I’ve used it consistently for 6 weeks at least as this is how long it usually takes to get a reliable indication of any impact. As long as product or regime doesn’t have obvious detrimental effects, try to stick with it at least 6 weeks before you give up on it and try something new.
- Don’t get complacent: I see many positive reviews about skincare regimes and products by people who still appear to have really problematic skin, it makes me wonder why anyone would promote a routine that doesn’t really seem to be working effectively. I think it’s easy to get stuck in a skincare rut, where you become happy to use the products you’ve used for a while but haven’t really stopped and considered if they are actually working as well as you would like. It’s a good idea to review your routine and products every 3 months and decide if they are resolving your issues and what could be improved or changed to make it more effective.
- Your skin WILL change: The best and sometimes most difficult thing about skin is that it changes all the time, it reacts & responds to a lot of things either positively or negatively. Luckily every 27 days we’re blessed with a new layer of skin and this means we have another opportunity to get it right. For me, good skincare is knowing how to respond to the constant change and knowing which products to use for particular problems to keep my skin as healthy as possible. Hopefully skinformed will equip you with the information you need about skincare to be able to do the same!
I hope you all find the tips useful, if you have any tips/products of your own to recommend please leave a comment, I’d love to hear them!