One of my biggest concerns about going off of birth control this year was the possibility of having to deal with acne for the first time in years. It seems like a trivial concern — unless you've experienced severe acne before, in which case you know how devastating it can be for one's self-esteem. When I got on the pill at age 18, my skin went from constant breakouts to a smooth, clear complexion. I didn't even do much to take care of it; there were many nights when I went to bed with makeup on and suffered zero zit-related consequences. Not anymore.
Now that I've been off birth control for a few months, I've been extra careful to take good care of my skin so that it doesn't regress to the broken-out mess of my teenage years. So far it's been working really well: I haven't broken out at all yet. I attribute this to being much more vigilant about following a consistent skin care routine that works for my skin. It's pretty simple; in fact, I can break it down into five steps.
Everyone's skin is different, of course, so I'd recommend working with a dermatologist to sort out your perfect individual routine. But if you want to test some methods out before your appointment rolls around, check out the top five tricks that I stick to for keeping my skin clear.
1. Cleanse my face well every night.
Glossier Milk Jelly Cleanser, $18, Glossier; Simple Micellar Cleansing Water (2 PK), $14, Amazon;
Obviously, this is an essential step, especially if you wear makeup. If I didn't wear makeup that day, then sometimes I'll be lazy and just use micellar water to gently remove dirt and oil from my face. Usually, however, I do a two-pronged approach. First I remove the majority of my makeup with micellar water; I love it because it's great for my sensitive skin. I either use Simple Micellar Cleansing Water with cotton pads. Then I follow that up with a hydrating cleanser to make sure my face is thoroughly cleansed. I switch up my cleanser often but right now I'm enjoying Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser; my dry, sensitive skin seems to like it. My skin feels soft and clean without feeling stripped (although I don't know how efficacious it would be for removing all my makeup if I didn't use micellar water first).
The goal is to completely clean your face without using anything that is too harsh that might strip your skin of its natural oils — so if your skin feels tight and dry after cleansing, switch to a gentler cleanser.
2. Use toner.
Fresh Peony Toner, $60, Nordstrom
Once I've washed my face, the next step is toner. I never used to use toner but I've recently become obsessed with Fresh Peony Toner. Not only does it smell lovely, it also feels very gentle and hydrating on my skin. Most importantly, it preps my skin for the next step, which is very important.
3. Use chemical exfoliants.
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum, $90, Amazon
It's important to exfoliate skin regularly to get rid of dead skin and clogged pores, but if you have sensitive skin like me it's best to avoid any physical exfoliation (i.e. scrubbing). Instead I prefer chemical exfoliation. There are two kinds of chemical exfoliants: alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). You can choose which one is better for your skin type and then dial up the intensity as strong as you want, depending on what your skin can handle and the product you use. I like to start out slow with any product that contains AHAs or BHAs to make sure my skin reacts well.
Right now I love using Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum which has the AHA glycerin. I use it almost every night; it hydrates my skin and makes it look smoother and brighter. It also increases skin cell turnover and unclogs pores, keeping my skin clear.
Just be careful to use sunscreen when using AHAs and only use AHAs at night because they increase photosensitivity.
4. Moisturize daily.
First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Overnight Mask, $38, Amazon
It's never been a question for me that I have to moisturize daily because I have very dry skin, but if you have oily skin you may be tempted to skip any sort of cream. Don't! It will only force your skin to produce more oil to overcompensate and then you will break out. A good moisturizer will keep your skin balanced without making you look greasy. If you have oily skin or you're just dealing with summer humidity like I currently am, consider using a light gel-based moisturizer. I like to use First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Overnight Mask at night, since it is very hydrating but is completely absorbed by my skin by morning. Be careful about using moisturizers with natural ingredients like coconut oil; some people's skin can tolerate heavy oils but it could also break you out.
5. Keep my environment clean.
Practk Palmat Makeup Brush Cleaner, $10, Amazon
Remember to wash your pillowcase and makeup brushes every week. For brushes, you can just use your facial cleanser or even baby shampoo along with warm water (and be sure to dry them upside down to avoid ruining the handles). I also like to use the above-pictured Practk Palmat to clean my brushes. It's a textured mat that you can wear on your hand and rub your wet, soapy makeup brushes against to really get all the gunk out of them. It's easy to use and makes cleaning my brushes much easier and faster.
You should also try to remember to wipe down your phone screen and computer keyboard every day. Keep your hands clean and do your best to keep them away from your face. This will help keep your pores from getting clogged with dirt and oils, leading to fewer breakouts.
Of course, everyone's skin is different. Even if you follow all of the above steps religiously, you might still break out. Keep in mind that sometimes one's diet can affect one's skin, especially when it comes to dairy. You might also want to look at all the products you're currently using and determine if any of them are causing breakouts. And if it's serious, be sure to talk to a dermatologist first and foremost.
Images: Kelly Dougher