First things first, you guys are the best! I get the nicest comments about my skin on this blog and social media channels, and I truly appreciate every single one. However, few of you know that it wasn’t always so nice and clear. I am pretty happy with my skin’s overall appearance right now but it took a lot of work to get there.
I got the idea for this post after seeing some passive-aggressive comments on someone else’s Instagram. The blogger in question was recommending an anti-acne treatment and a lot of people mentioned that she already has perfect skin and they would rather have someone who actually struggles with acne endorse such products. I know what they meant, and I felt the same way on some level, but I would never leave comments like that because that’s just plain rude.
That got me wondering if my readers felt the same way, though, because I really only show my bare face when it’s in good condition. I think it’s only natural that we want to put our best face forward, and today I wanted to share part of my journey to healthy skin with you.
I always thought I took good care of my skin, even when it wasn’t the case. That was before I knew that companies can put misleading claims on the packaging, because technically most skincare products are not drugs and don’t have to be regulated by the FDA. In retrospect I now understand that the magazines and websites I went to for skincare tips and advice were full of bad information that lacked any ingredient research whatsoever.
I almost gave up on trying to deal with my skin’s constant breakouts that I could barely control, plus I started noticing fine lines and wrinkles slowly creeping up on me, and I wasn’t even close to my 30s yet! My acne scars would fade very slowly, so it was just a constant struggle to keep the face in good enough condition so I could cover it with foundation and call it a day.
CHANGE #1 – SUNSCREEN:
The first correct thing I did that really helped my skin was sunscreen. I know that everybody knows about it these days, but 7 or 8 years ago when I made that switch it was still not a wide-spread concept. Tanning salons were everywhere, and going for a quick tan during lunch break was a normal thing to do. Now we know more about the effects of UV rays on our skin than ever before, including the fact that prolonged sun exposure permanently damages your skin. That’s right, one good tan and your skin is damaged forever, even when the tan goes away. Suddenly, a tanning bed is not so appealing, is it?
After doing a ton of research on the effects sun radiation has on our body, I made a decision to stop tanning forever, and started using products with SPF every day, even if I am spending it indoors. I wouldn’t say that this method preserved my appearance from my mid-20s, but I definitely didn’t notice any lines pop up in several years, so I think I experienced the fruits of my labor firsthand.
Using sunscreen daily helped with fine lines and wrinkles, but I was still dealing with acne on a regular basis. I tried a lot of recommended products, and some popular ones even made my skin look worse than before. Yikes!
CHANGE #2 – KOREAN BEAUTY:
Around that time I got interested in Korean dramas. One day I was googling the name of an actor because I wanted to see more shows he starred in, and stumbled upon an ad with that actor endorsing a beauty brand. I got curious about the products and started looking up reviews. In turn, those reviews lead me to discover some amazing kbeauty blogs that I always refer to these days.
Since I was so new to kbeauty, I literally had no idea which brands were good, and which products I even wanted to try. The brands were not the only new thing though, the variety of novelty product types was overwhelming, too. Essences? Boosters? Ampoules? Sleeping packs? I mean…
At that point I was pretty familiar with the concept of beauty boxes [this used to be a box-only blog!], so I started wondering if maybe there are sampling services for kbeauty, too. That’s when I discovered Wishtrend’s Wish Boxes [I don’t think they do them anymore], and YesStyle sample boxes. I bought multiple versions of both and instantly found some new must haves.
I was really surprised that a lot of my Korean beauty finds worked better than skincare products I had used before. There was also a price shock: on average, Korean skincare is considerably cheaper than its Western counterparts. If you think there’s a lot of competition between the brands here in the US, you haven’t seen how harsh it is in Korea. Companies simply can’t afford to have bad products there, because the consumers are extremely savvy. Korea is truly a skincare-centric culture, and a compliment to your skin is one of the greatest to receive.
One of the biggest misconceptions about Korean skincare is that 10, 13, 15 or whatever steps is necessary. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. This is actually more of a concept, an approach toward building a customized routine that fits your skin’s current needs. It makes perfect sense when you think about it, but most of us have this ingrained cleanser-toner-moisturizer lineup that we have to follow if we want to have any shot at having good skin. How is that any different than being a slave to a 10-step routine?
I no longer remember what my routine was at the time, but right now it kinda looks like this. Yes, that’s a lot of steps, but this is what my skin is loving right now.
- Micellar water or gentle foaming cleanser.
- Tea tree essence for redness.
- Snail slime essence for repairing.
- Eye cream to depuff.
- Saccharomyces fermented ampoule for inner glow.
- Balmy moisturizer.
- Lightweight sunscreen.
- Oil cleanser.
- Foam cleanser.
- Micellar water.
- Eye cream.
- Retinol serum.
- Tea tree essence.
- Snail slime essence.
- Sheet mask.
- Oil serum.
- Balmy moisturizer.
- Sleeping pack.
This routine is tailored to my combination/dehydrated skin’s current needs. I work from home and my office is right next to a huge sliding door that lets a lot of sun in, so a sunscreen is a must. I am also in close proximity to a heater vent, so my face constantly feels dehydrated, hence the heavier moisturizer and serums. I also use tea tree essence religiously because it helps keep my breakouts at bay and calms any redness. In the evening I like to use my anti-aging retinoid and really load up the skin with good ingredients that will slowly soak in throughout the night.
CHANGE #3 – CLEANSERS & pH:
Simultaneously with discovering the world of Korean beauty, I also learned about the importance of low pH cleansers. That was my second biggest skincare shock after the sunscreen thing. It’s the kind of realization when you feel so sorry for yourself and just want to start the life over because you messed it up so bad. I know I am being dramatic, but honestly the way I felt was pretty darn close to that. I realized that I let you guys down, too, because on this very blog I raved about cleansers that I now wouldn’t touch with a 10ft. pole.
In short, the idea is to only use foaming cleansers with pH5.0 to 5.5 to protect your skin’s acid mantle. There is a lot of research to support this concept, so at this point it’s not even a question whether this is just another skincare fad or a real discovery anymore. There is literally no benefit to using harsh cleansers, only the cons. Did you know that compromised acid mantle is actually one of the leading causes of acne? Well, now you do!
I predict that eventually low pH cleansers will be the next big trend in skincare, kind of like BB creams are everywhere right now.
CHANGE #4 – DIET:
The last change made me finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. This will probably be the hardest one for a lot of people to do, because literally every thing on this list is something that most of us love and eat/drink daily. After a lot of research, I eliminated [or greatly limited] the following products:
- Refined sugar.
- Processed food.
… basically, all the good things in life 🙂 However, it really made a difference. It took about 1 or 2 months before I realized that my breakouts are slowly going away, my skin doesn’t get congested immediately after cleansing, and the texture of my skin has improved a lot so it feels a lot smoother. Most importantly, my back acne was finally gone completely. I battled with it for a very long time and nothing helped, then all of a sudden it was gone just like that. The existing pimples healed up and never reappeared again, and all I have as a reminder of those days is a constellation of scars.
Just so we’re clear, I am not totally hardcore about these exclusions, because there’s nothing wrong with having a slice of a good New York style cheesecake once every few weeks or a cup of coffee when I am feeling particularly drowsy. However, like I said, these are no longer part of my daily life, I don’t even have them weekly to be honest. But if it happens it happens, and I never beat myself up over it.
The result of these changes is the face you see today on my blog and social media channels: my complexion is brighter [even whiter I’d say?], more even, and with very little post-acne pigmentation remaining. It took me years to learn how to research the best ingredients and listen to my skin’s needs, but in the end my efforts finally paid off. My face is no longer a scarred, irritated mess that I want to cover with a thick layer of foundation. Actually, I just bought a medium coverage pressed powder for the first time since high school, and I can’t wait to start using it!
Here are just some of my favorites that helped me get where I’m at right now:
Do you have a skincare journey to share? What is your biggest skincare concern these days? Have you tried Korean beauty products? Let me know in the comments below!
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