If there is one thing that frustrates me as someone who suffers from adult acne and rosacea, it's the incredibly lame and ineffectual "skin secrets" you get from models and actresses in magazines and beauty blogs. I always get excited that it's going to be something innovative and useful, and it's always the same "I dab some rosewater on my cheeks and wear no makeup because I have invisible pores. That is my secret routine." And these women's actual secrets, if they're being honest, are mostly "having awesome genetics" and "being literal millionaires with access to the best skincare in the world." Which is fine, of course, but at least be honest about it.
So, in the interest of actually sharing some real beauty tips from people who have no choice to take incredibly good care of their skin (and cycle through a million different "miracle cures"), I asked my readers to share their most useful tips. For us, "just splashing some water on our face and eschewing makeup for the natural look" is not an option, so don't worry, you won't get any of that bougie "beauty blogger" nonsense here. Here's what real human ladies have to say about taking care of their skin:
1. "I have had acne since I was 9. Tried every kind of medication, wash, the blue light treatment, etc (short of Accutane). Now in my mid-twenties I am on a prescription cream that helps, but it also makes my skin extremely oily. I have found that the oil is magically reduced if I wash my face with Dr. Bronner's soap. It's amazing! (Though I would not recommend it for people who have combination or dry skin, as it literally sucks the moisture out of your face instantly... But oily faced girls, definitely give it a go. And it's cheap!)" - Madeline
2. "Clarisonic, rose water and tea tree essential oil." -Carole
3. "I didn't get acne until I was 19 and have struggled for the past 13 years to get it under control. For right now, the things that are keeping me relatively acne free are: CVS Acne Treatment Cream with 10% benzoyl peroxide; Sirius Sonic cleansing brush (Clarisonic dupe that was $20, instead of $120), and coconut oil at nighttime instead of traditional moisturizer. Every morning, I wake up and can't stop touching my face because it's so soft and smooth. Oh, lots of water helps too, but everyone is going to say that." -Angeline
4. "I've had pretty terrible acne since I was in the sixth grade that got progressively worse until I started Accutane when I was 15. It completely cleared up my acne but now that it's been about four years my acne has returned and I'm about to start my second round of Accutane at 19. As far as skin care tips go, I would say drinking TONS of water and regular exercise plus eating well always helps keep my acne under better control. Also taking biotin twice daily helps my skin plus it makes my hair and nails look much healthier! Seeing my dermatologist regularly and taking birth control also help my skin stay clear! Ultimately, nothing had helped quite like Accutane because my skin is so stubborn but exercise, diet, vitamins, and birth control have helped me tremendously. Unfortunately, because of the severe side effects, it's not for everyone but it works!" -Melissa
5. "Peony & Scrophularia Combo herbal pills! $4.99/bottle at herbal medicine shops in Chinatown! Seriously incredible stuff." -Michelle
6. "La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo, 100%." -Jenny
7. "I have sensitive, semi-oily sin and I tend to break out after just 1 session at the gym which is frustrating for someone who likes to stay somewhat in shape. What has really helped me cut down on breakouts is keeping a small bottle of face wash + a wash cloth in my gym bag at all times. This way after I'm done on the treadmill I can head to the bathroom to wash the sweat and dirt away ASAP. I used to just do a little wipe down on my face with a paper towel which meant leaving my face "dirty" for an 1-2 hrs, as I headed to the grocery store post-workout and then home to finally shower.
ALSO something that has been incredibly helpful has been using Cetaphil products which are the only ones that work for me (i've tried them all) and also changing my pillowcase every other night." -Lauren
8. "Besides the cliche obvious ones we all hear like drink water, don't pop your pimples, diet and exercise I've found ones that I've noticed work:
- Exfoliate not once or twice a week as recommended, but exfoliate as needed. You need to be able to recognize when your skin needs serious chemical/physical scrubbing and when it doesn't. Don't just exfoliate because you haven't this week. Notice if your skin looks dull, feels ridgy or is producing excess oil then you might need to. Otherwise don't be afraid to skip it!
- Honey does wonders for your skin. Mix honey with anything (brown sugar, yogurt, coconut oil etc) or just apply only honey and your skin feel smoother and brighter than ever
- Switch up and take breaks from you regular routine. If your skin gets too accustomed to a product you might stop noticing the effects. Cetaphil is amazing but after [prolonged] use it does nothing to help my skin. Try out new products instead of just sticking to something that works well. There might be something better out there.
- Don't take your makeup off with wipes and leave it at that. Wash your face thoroughly afterwards as well. Makeup wipes don't even remotely access or remove the makeup/dirt in your pores. Plus they leave your skin either extremely dry or extremely oily.
- Be aware and notice the changes in your skin. Sometimes it's difficult to look in the mirror super closely at your skin because it's not a pretty sight. But do it anyway. Observe and notice patterns in your skin; where are you getting the most blemishes, is your skin oily/dry/a combination, how is your skin reacting to something new, how painful are your pimples, how badly do they scar. These are really important questions to keep in mind because being cautious of your skin is crucial for improvement.
- Don't let anyone tell you how horrible your skin looks, or if they think it's gotten better or worse than before. Also don't let these people try and "help" you and give you tips especially if they have never had bad skin. They only make you feel more insecure and you don't need their irrelevant opinion anyways.
- Go to the doctor. Seriously, see a physician. Often mild antibiotics can clear up severe forms of face and body acne. Sometimes products and diets are not enough, it's something happening inside your body that you don't have control over. So seek help." -Fatima
9. "Thermal water. Spray it on frequently, particularly between washing your face and applying moisturizer, and twice as often during winter. It seems silly, but it keeps you hydrated and clear." -Chloe
10. "The game changer for me was skincare-addiction.com, which is a website based off the subreddit /r/skincareaddition. It's all based on science and backed up with research, so you can be sure that the tips there won't lead you astray. Basically, everything you thought you knew about skincare was wrong.
PS. Never, and I mean absolutely never, ever put baking soda or lemons on your face. Ever." -Courtney
11. "When I was younger, I had clear (but oily) skin. Then when I hit my 20's, I started getting terrible breakouts and my oily skin started getting dry and flaky in random spots. A friend suggested that I start out with the Mario Badescu Acne Starter Kit to try out a full skin care regimen (without spending $89 on the full size products). I used all the products religiously and my face drastically cleared up within two months.
I still use the Acne Facial Cleanser and Special Cucumber Lotion, but I have recently switched to the Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel and I can tell a difference in my skin." -Danae
12. "Just to make it clear (pun, obviously), my skin has never been [that] bad. It has recently broken out so bad [that] I’ve developed awful, cystic sores all over my jawline and hairline that hurt and make it hard to feel nice about my physical self. I’m almost 23 and I thought I dodged the horrible acne bullet, but no. Well, now I'm here with adult acne and I can assure you, I’ve done my research on how to mend this. I realize finding a skin care routine that works is relative, and I am still trying to figure out mine. Here are some tips i’ve found to be helpful.
- Witch hazel (I’ve been told by a friend with perfect skin who has gone ~natural~ that it takes time, but the results are amazing. I am still waiting.) It works well as a toner without drying up my face.
- I stopped using face wash. I know that sounds counterproductive and wrong but hear me out. In the shower I use a clean, small wash cloth and put it over my face. The steam opens my pores and I wipe off any excess oil and dirt on my face for a couple of minutes. Experimenting with various face washes has always had strange consequences, and this way i’m not putting possibly harmful chemicals into my skin and my face still feels clean after I get out of the shower.
- I apply the Neutrogena oil-free moisturizer everyday, mostly because of the spf protection (which is IMPORTANT.)
- Drink a ton of water. Like, a ton. Eat foods that your body responds well to. Keep the sugar intake to a minimum. Good skin comes from a series of things, but I think taking care of your insides is the key to long-lasting results.
- Don’t touch your face. Don’t pick at your acne. Just don’t. I am bad at this.
- I’ve tried the oil cleansing method people rave about. It made my skin worse. Dramatically worse." -Carolina
13. "Masks. Masks are your godsend always. I will swear up and down by the Boscia black but masks masks masks masks masks." -Ella
Image: Flickr/Alex Naanou