Feeling good about our skin is a great feeling, but the unfortunate flip side means that not feeling great about it can definitely affect our confidence, even when rationally we know it's in no way the most important thing about us. It's why knowing how to get clear skin — and also maintaining it — is a pretty worthwhile endeavor, especially if it helps us feel a little better about ourselves each day.
I spent my teens constantly in search of the magic lotion or bottle that would clear my skin of blackheads and breakouts, and looking back, I was probably actually making my skin way worse. I was addicted to harsh alcohol-based cleansing pads, and moisturizer didn't make an appearance in my skincare routine at all (my skin is already oily — I thought the last thing I need is to moisturize).
As with a lot of things I did back then, I now look back and cringe a little, wishing I knew then what I know now. At almost 30, I actually have a basic and super effective skincare routine and have accumulated enough knowledge to know to keep things relatively simple.
If you're struggling to find a routine that works well for your skin, or keep buying products only to be disappointed in the results, here are seven tips you might not know that could majorly help.
1. Keep Alcohol Swabs By Your Desk
Pharma-C Wipes, $2.95, Healthykin.com
I used to get breakouts on my chin exclusively on the side of my face where I held my office phone, and it makes a lot of sense considering your cell phone and computer keyboard have more bacteria on them than the average toilet seat. So not only is it kind of like you're resting your head on a toilet every time you use your phone, but it can also cause acne and breakouts. Keep alcohol wipes by your desk or in your bag to disinfect your work station regularly.
2. Use Chemical Exfoliants Instead Of Scrubs or Brushes
OK, I know that chemical exfoliants sound extreme, but in actuality they are very gentle and you very well may already be using one (especially if use products containing salicylic acid). According to skin care expert Paula Begoun, unlike a physical exfoliant, like a scrub or a brush, a chemical exfoliant, like an AHA or BHA lotion, gently sloughs dead and dry skin off on a daily basis, leaving your skin looking fresh and bright. For a product review of my personal favorite (and way affordable) AHA cream, see the above review from YouTube beauty vlogger LaFemme5278.
3. Get Comfortable With Clay
Professional esthetician Veronica Gorgeois highly recommended clay mask treatments for black heads and large pores on her website. She said to simply mix some pure clay with your (fragrance and alcohol-free) toner and let dry on your skin. If you have particularly oily skin she said you can use a clay mask every day for two weeks or as tolerated, and then move down to a mask once a week to maintain the results. She also noted to always follow your mask with a moisturizer to prevent over-drying.
4. Incorporate Honey Into Your Routine
Gorgeois is also a huge proponent of using natural raw honey as a skin cleanser because it is both antibacterial but will not strip your skin of moisture. She specifically recommended it for when you're dealing with acne or breakouts, but said it's great for all skin types.
Clinical Retinal Treatment, $55, PaulasChoice.com
Heidi A. Waldorf, director of cosmetic and laser dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City in a piece for Allure, said retinoids aren't only for anti-aging purposes, but also are great for clearing the skin of discoloration or unevenness. And according to an article on retinal for Oprah.com, you should use the product just before bed and give over-the-counter, non-prescription strength versions three months to take full effect.
No one likes to hear this one (I know I don't), but don't forget to give any skin care routine time to take effect. According to professor of dermatology at Columbia University David Bank in that same Allure article, even simple skin cleansers and lotions like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide take at least six weeks to really work. However, he noted that if you haven't noticed any changes or improvements by six weeks, then it's likely that the product will never work for you and that's when you should consult a dermatologist.
7. Don't Over Do It
And this is another boring, but important one to hear. "Many people have the concept that skin needs to be squeaky clean," said dermatologist Hema Sundaram in an article for Everyday Health. "But that means it's been stripped of its protective barrier. We must recondition ourselves on what clean skin means, which is dewy but not tight." The piece also noted that the same holds true of over-using creams and gels, as they can over-dry your skin and actually cause more issues. So as hard as it may be — especially when you really want to see results — stick to the prescribed amount. Additionally, Gorgeous also said to pay attention to your skin — if it feels dry or tight after a treatment, cut back usage, regardless of what the bottle says.
Nothing feels quite as nice as feeling good about your skin. Just remember that clear skin takes time and also that over-doing it with cleansers and creams will usually backfire. Oh, and clean that cell phone. Seriously.
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