As I open my mouth with outstretched arms and stinky breath, I arise and half-step into my tight bathroom. As I prepare to execute my morning facial routine, I notice a few pimples on both of my cheeks.
GASP! What is happening to my face? Throughout the next month [following the horrific bathroom bust], my acne grew worse, blackheads got bigger, dark spots/pitted scars formed from the pimples, and I crawled into a very dark hole of inadequacy.
Though, I’ve struggled with eczema since birth, my face has always been a smooth site of minimal black heads and zero acne. Over the past 5 months, I’ve dedicated my time and resources to discovering the formula for clear skin [for me]. I am neither a dermatologist nor licensed esthetician but have dedicated many hours to finding affordable solutions to my skin issues.
BE ADVISED: Prior to adding any new products/steps to your face routine, please consult your doctor/dermatologist/licensed professional for professional tests, procedures, & recommendations for your specific skin type.
My Skin/Body Type:
I have oily-prone sensitive skin. Oily skin occurs when the sebaceous glands in the skin make too much sebum. Sebum is the waxy, oily substance that protects and hydrates the skin. Sebum is vital for keeping the skin healthy. However, too much sebum can lead to oily skin, clogged pores, and acne.
Also, I was diagnosed with Poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) at age 15 and have a hormonal imbalance, which causes excess facial hair, slight breakouts, and inconsistent periods, but I have gotten it under control [over time] through healthy living and routine OBGYN appointments.
My dermatologist advised that the consistent wear of masks is the root cause of my breakouts—our faces are the most sensitive organ on our bodies and will be easily irritated by constantly encountering a foreign object, such as a mask, but [please] wear your mask! We will just have to show our faces extra loads of love during this COVID-19 season!
Current Medications/Oral Supplements (I'm Taking):
Triamcinolone acetonide ointment (topical eczema medicine)
Multi-woman’s vitamin (Nature's Bounty Gummies)
Hemp Seed Oil vitamin (Nature's Bounty, Buy 1 Get 1 FREE)
FLO vitamins (Subscribe & Save)
Adapalene Gel & Differin Products:
Adapalene is a Vitamin A derivative (used to treat acne), that was [once] only accessible via prescription. Fortunately, Differin produces an over-the-counter topical adapalene gel, which is recommended by many healthcare professionals—my dermatologist recommended this brand and it has worked wonders on my mask-ne.
AM Products Used:
1. Differin Daily Refreshing Cleanser
2. Differin Toner
3. Differin Adapalene Gel
4. Differin Oil Absorbing Moisturizer with SPF 30
PM Products Used:
1. Differin Daily Deep Cleanser
2. Differin Toner
3. Differin Adapalene Gel
4. No Moisturizer (because I want my pimples to dry out overnight).
Differin offers a safe skin care alternative to other processed [fragrance containing] facial products—there is no fragrance in any Differin products! They are lightweight and contain acne-fighting medicine.
Please be advised: Most Differin products contain alcohol or alcohol-based ingredients, so make sure to keep a good moisturizer on hand. For oily-prone skin types [like me], water-based moisturizers & gels are best.
Accessible (sold at Target, Walmart, Amazon, Walgreens, CVS, etc.)
Dermatologist approved ingredients
Sensitive skin approved
No fragrance, aluminum, or phthalate
Dries skin out A LOT
Needs consistent use over 60-90 days to see real results
Alkaline Water & Balancing my pH:
Our human body’s pH lies in a tight range of 7.35-7.45—any minor alterations from this range can cause severe reactions. Oftentimes, I hear buzz words such as “Alkaline,” and ignore any chatter surrounding it. But, Keke Palmer, who [also] suffers from PCOS & severe acne, expressed to her Instagram followers that Dr. Sebi’s Alkaline Guide has helped to lessen her breakouts.
This encouraged me to do a little research: our body’s pH levels should not drop below 7.35, but regular drinking water only contains 7-neutral – NOT GOOD ENOUGH. If you are suffering from any type of acne or inflammation, consuming alkaline water/alkaline prone food may help reduce outbreaks/flare ups.
Try your best to avoid acidic foods, such as, dairy, nightshades, beef, and white bread/sugar. Lastly, our human body pH should not exceed 7.45, which means it is possible to consume TOO much alkaline—pay attention to your body and find your balance.
Personally, I started drinking at least 2-3 full cups of alkaline water every day and saw a huge decrease in pimple breakouts.
Natural Ways to Balance pH:
Fermented foods (yogurt & kimchi)
Fruit (Apples & Melons)
Apple Cider Vinegar (in moderation)
Lemons & Oranges (in moderation)
Using Condoms (alkaline semen will disrupt vaginal pH levels).
Antibacterial All the Way:
What causes acne?
Acne occurs when the pores of one's skin become blocked with oil, dead skin, or bacteria. Though, we want to rid our faces of bacteria, we should not use antibacterial soaps or gels on our FACES!
AGAIN—our faces are the most sensitive organ on our bodies. Unfortunately, most anti-bacterial soaps/gels are too harsh for our faces and will dry the skin out [too much]! Instead, opt-in to using Tea Tree/Other Essential Oils and Aloe Vera Gel on sensitive facial areas. These products are antibacterial and offer a sensitive way to remove bacteria from the face.
Essential oils can be used as a moisturizer or face steam/face mask additive, but if you have oily-prone skin, please do not go oil crazy—1-2 drops max should do it.
Be advised: Aloe Vera [independently] can be used as a cleanser, face mask, or gel, but should always be washed off after use.
Natural Antibacterial Products:
Tea Tree Oil
Echinacea (Purple Coneflower)
Pure Bee Venom
Clean Towels (Disposable over Reusable):
Do you wash/dry your face with a reusable towel?
How often do you switch-out/wash your face towel?
Well, using dirty towels and sleeping on dirty bedsheets can certainly cause you to breakout. The bacteria, dirt, and dead skin embedded in the material can easily clog your pores. To minimize the possibility of breakouts, be sure to change and wash your bed sheets once a week and your pillowcases twice per week. Also, be sure to always use a fresh face towel.
Clean Towels are the first disposable, organic, and 100% biodegradable face towel. It ensures the skin is perfectly clean and untouched by bacteria and germs that harbor on regular washroom towels. They are made of viscose (derived from eucalyptus) and sustainably sourced.
I use clean towels every day; love their durability and ultra-soft texture. The Clean Towels can be used to dry your face after cleansing or wet to remove your makeup, facial masks, or pair with a cleanser.
Fresh Water & Finding the Right Face Mask:
New realization: The water coming directly out of my sink may not be fresh enough for my face.
Recently, I’ve began boiling water prior to cleansing my face. Yes, it is an extra step, which takes up more time, but I have been using boiled water to cleanse my face for 2 months [now] and can see a noticeable difference.
Be advised: Allow water to cool down completely prior to washing; usually, I’ll add half a bottle of cold purified water to half bowl of boiling water to accelerate cool down time. Alternatively, one can purchase a water filter—there are [even] hands-free alternatives! Remember, our faces are breaking out due to bacteria and excess oil, which means we want to avoid bacteria at every moment. Bacteria lingers in tap water and old pipes, so it is beneficial to cleanse [your face] with fresh water.
Similarly, to the importance of fresh water, finding clean/safe face masks are an essential to clear skin. Face masks can be great but using masks with the wrong ingredients [for your skin type] can be detrimental. Currently, I only utilize face masks 2x/week when I steam my face (more details below). Masks offer a great way to cleanse open pores, reduce redness, and closeout a rejuvenating steam session.
An easy but powerful cleansing mask is Aztec clay/Apple Cider vinegar. The acidity of the vinegar will help to soften and exfoliate skin while the clay removes oil (for those sensitive to acid, water can be used instead of ACV).
For pre-made masks, stick to all natural/vegan masks [when possible]; clay, charcoal, and peel off masks are best suitable for those with oily/acne prone skin.
Vitamin C/Honey brightens, Lavender calms, Avocado moisturizes, and Eucalyptus softens/heals; look for these ingredients in any pre-made masks you purchase.
Que Bella (Target)
Soap & Glory Hydrating Sheet Mask (Walgreens)
LOOPS (Loops Beauty & Ulta)
Green Smoothies & Semi-Clean Eating:
The Point: Our bodies need to be detoxed often [especially as we get older].
Intaking leafy greens and hearty fiber, such as flaxseed, can detox your body naturally. Honestly, I am not 100% a clean eater, but since incorporating [at least] one green smoothie into my diet daily, I’ve achieved clearer/more relaxed skin. JJ Smith’s 10 Day Green Smoothie Cleanse offers the detailed benefits of clean eating and removal of processed foods from one’s diet.
Essentially, stay away from high fructose corn syrup/processed sugar & eat salads (or drink the greens like me)!
Instead of buying expensive detox products filled with harmful ingredients, eat foods that will clean your colon out naturally. Moving your bowels once a day is a MUST! If you are not actively detoxing your body, your skin can suffer, as the toxins attempt to release through your skin. Exercise or [just] breaking a sweat can help release toxins from the body [as well].
Remember: It is important to rotate your greens often so that alkaline does not build up in the lining of your stomach.
Best Leafy Greens:
My Go-to Green Smoothie Recipe:
2 handfuls leafy greens
2 cups water (blend greens & water together first)
1 cup grapes
1/2 cup pineapple
1/2 cup mango
2 tbsp flaxseed
Kojic Soap & Natural Skin Brighteners:
What is Kojic Acid? A natural ingredient derived from mushrooms and other fermented Asian acidic foods (soy sauce, rice wine). It is used to help fade hyper-pigmentation and dark spots. It can stand alone or be paired with other lightening ingredients. Also, it is a great antioxidant.
This under-the-radar acid works to inhibit tyrosinase (an enzyme that produces melanin/pigmentation)—which means it stops discoloration at the root. Most dermatologists pair Kojic Acid with hydroquinone (Vitamin A) for a prescription strength lightening effect.
Be advised: If you are new to Kojic soap, start slow with weekly use (once or twice/week) and then slowly upgrade to daily use. Prior to sunlight exposure, make sure to moisturize skin with sun screen/SPF [post cleansing with Kojic soap].
Inhibits excess pigmentation or dark spots
Antioxidant (evens skin tone & anti-aging)
Anti-inflammatory and antiviral
Excessive use overtime can make one sensitive to sun damage & pollution
May dry skin out.
Causes redness and irritation if overused
Steaming & At Home Spa Treatments:
The GRAND TRUTH: Steaming stopped my pimples! Face steaming is a method used to open pores fully, which allows access to cleansing bacteria/oil at the root. Though, this phenomenon has greatly propelled my skin journey, steaming must be done properly and in moderation. Failing to close one's pores fully [post-steam] or opening one's pores too often, can invite more bacteria in and have an adverse effect.
How do I steam?
Boil water in a large pot
Transfer boiling water to a bowl
Add essential oils/herbs to bowl (My additives: Tea Tree Oil, Eucalyptus Oil, Lemongrass Oil, Green Tea herbs, & Peppermint herbs).
Place Towel over your entire head and lean over steaming bowl
Do this in 2-3 minute intervals while cleansing your face in between
Steam (2 minutes), Wash with deep cleanser, Steam (another 2 minutes), Wash with exfoliant, Steam (3 minutes), Apply face mask immediately after (Clay or Peel off mask will be best for acne prone skin types).
Be advised: Sensitive skin types may not be able to take exfoliant or face masks while pores are open - pay attention to your skin and adjust accordingly. Furthermore, it is normal to feel a little tingly sensation or slight burn, but if your skin continues to burn for more than 30 seconds STOP STEAMING or WASH OFF mask immediately.
After washing face mask off with warm water, apply a fresh/cold towel to face to close pores.
Add your usual acne medicine/gel/serum to face
Finally seal the deal with oil; currently, I use MedinaBySonata Rose Facial Oil (click me to shop). MedinaBySonata offers natural/clean homemade beauty products at an affordable cost. The Rose Facial Oil smells divine and leaves me with a stunning glow.
Be advised: When steaming face or cleansing pores with exfoliants, toxins can be brought to the surface and cause pimples to be temporarily inflamed. Dermatologists say this is completely normal and at times our skin will need to get worse (as it purges), before it can get better. Personally, immediately after a steam, my face will feel smooth, but pimples will be inflamed. I steam on a day that I do not have to go outside [for the remainder]. Post steam session, stay in the house and avoid direct sunlight [if possible], go to sleep on a clean pillowcase, and wake up to beautifully smooth skin/shrunk pores/less pimples.
Taking Toner Serum(iously):
What is Toner?
Toner is an astringent liquid applied to the skin to reduce oiliness, even skin tone, and shrink the appearance of pores.
Why is Toner important?
Toner is beneficial to people with oily and acne prone skin because it temporarily minimizes the appearance of pores. This creates a smoother looking appearance and offers additional protection against bacteria. Additionally, it can restore skin's pH balance and help prevent in-grown hairs.
Currently, I use Differin's Pore-Minimizing Toner (click me to shop), because my pores have been extra big (especially with mask-ne). Store-bought toners have great results, but plain witch hazel can offer similar affects. Tone after cleansing and prior to adding serums or moisturizes. Think of it as Wolly in the Middle. Witch Hazel or Wolly always goes in the middle!
Speaking of moisturizers—oily-prone skin can benefit from a [water based] serum prior to moisturizer application.
What is the difference between Serums & Moisturizers?
Serums are intended to penetrate deeply into the skin to deliver targeted active ingredients, whereas moisturizers help to fortify the surface of the skin, bind skin cells together more effectively and work at the surface of the skin to increase hydration," says Dr. Corey L Hartman (board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, AL).
Essentially, serums are thinner and lighter than moisturizers. They have active ingredients in them that work to penetrate the skin deeply [as possible]. They absorb quickly and can be used both morning and night. They're not meant to replace your moisturizer, but can be used to boost its hydrating effects.
How to incorporate serum into my routine?
Rule of Thumb: Layering matters; skincare products are layered from thinnest to thickest with the thinnest products being applied to the skin first. Serum should be applied after any acne medicine/gel and directly before moisturizer. Serum contains ingredients we want to penetrate deeply into our skin and moisturizers are a thicker agent used to seal all those ingredients into the skin.