The start of a new year seems like a better time than any to make a huge change in my life that makes me feel physically sick even at the thought. Having already read the title, you’re probably thinking “Ellen, you’re overreacting”. However I believe that we all have our physical insecurities and for me for the last 12 years it has been my skin. By my skin, I mean my oily and acne-prone face, which sometimes spreads to my neck and chest depending how run-down I am and how poor care I am taking of myself. I would also like to take this opportunity to share my vegan & cruelty free skincare regime. So, without further ado, let’s talk about spots.
My Skin History
I have had troublesome skin since I entered puberty at 12-13 years old. Back then I had an issue with acne on my forehead and eyebrow area (ironically the clearest part of my face now). Alongside ridiculously fast growing boobs, these new additions did not compliment my tom-boy style. As a result, I was crippled with self-confidence issues for my entire teenage years and until I was around 17 years old (and suitably inebriated) I didn’t have a single photo taken of me except for my passport.
As for make-up, I’d never really care for it to be honest. I didn’t wear a speck of make up until I discovered black kohl liner in Year 9 and proceeded to drag it all over my waterline until I was 17 and finally knew better. The first face make-up I ever wore (and actually stayed loyal to until my early twenties) was Natural Collection’s Tinted Moisturiser.
My memory of the quality of my skin from 17-22 is pretty blurry, but I know it was never perfect as I always pined for great skin and glared jealously for anyone with blemish-free cheeks.
Gradually, I became more interested in make-up and started to explore and find my own style. As a result, I started wearing more face products, including foundations and concealers. Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer has always been a trusty handbag fave for me, and I went through a phase of wearing only Nars Sheer Glow Foundation in Mont Blanc, before the company decided to start selling China and therefore no longer be Cruelty-Free earlier this year.
Throughout 22-26, I’ve suffered (yes, I’m going to use that word) with cystic acne on my cheeks, jawline and sometimes chin/lips depending on time of the month etc. Not only does acne suck because it makes you incredibly insecure – the amount of times I’ve complaint to Craig that by my late twenties I shouldn’t have spots anymore is ridiculous, he truly deserves a medal. Not to mention the pain. A particularly bad flare up can wake me up in the night, and often I can start a day with reasonable skin and end with four cystic spots. This is what has brought me to attempt a make-up free month, as I don’t believe covering my spots with concealer or foundation is helping at all – in fact, it’s definitely hindering any healing taking place.
I’ve already mentioned diet in my post about “Why Veganism Isn’t a Cure All” so I won’t go into it in too much detail but, in my experience, this is how it goes: eating healthy doesn’t automatically give you good skin, eating unhealthy does give you bad skin, drinking alcohol gives you bad skin, eating too much sugar/high fat foods does give you bad skin… etc. In summary, I know how to make it worse, just not better.
As a teenager, I did take medication for my acne. I don’t remember the name specifically, but I believe it was an antibiotic. I’m not in a place in my life where I’d like to take antibiotics for a long period of time at the moment, so tackling my acne is something I’m determined to do through sheer will power and lifestyle changes.
So, I think I’ve covered the back story so, for context, here are some photos of my face from the last 12-18 months which probably highlight the problematic areas. Like I said earlier, my acne can be cystic but I also have issues with scarring.
Below is a photo of me right now – completely make-up free, obviously. I don’t have any cystic spots (probably due to the fact I’ve not worn make-up since Monday), but I do have a lot of scars, which I am keen to heal in the process as well. Sorry about the yellow lighting – it’s 6.30pm so I had to stand by a lamp and didn’t want to use a filter because that would defeat the point (blogger fail).
Why Make-Up Free?
So here I am, sitting in my flat wearing my pyjamas, having not applied make-up since Christmas Day due to a poorly timed stomach bug that reared its ugly head on 27th Dec, resulting in my not being able to leave the house for three days. The last time I didn’t wear make up for this long was on our annual holiday to Rhodes in August, on which I found my skin cleared up pretty well in a matter of days (until Aunt Irma came to visit towards the last few days!).
I’ve always known that wearing less make up would give my skin a chance to heal, but there’s a difference between knowing something and actually acting on it is huge when it’s something that affects me so deeply. Working in an office means I feel self-conscious every second of the day anyway (that’s probably more my nature than my colleagues). In recent months, I’ve become more comfortable with leaving the house without make up, to visit the shop or a trip to the pub, but the idea of going to work or on a night out makes me feel ill.
So, for all the reasons listed above, I’m vowing to a month make-up free to see if I can heal my skin once and for all, while moving past my insecurities and learning to love myself. And I’m telling everyone on the internet for no reason whatsoever.
My Vegan & Cruelty Free Skincare Regime
For anyone interested in my vegan & cruelty free skincare regime, here are the products I use morning and night to take care of my skin.
Recently, I’ve abandoned all harsh exfoliators and foaming cleansers. One big lesson learnt this year is that products marketed for “oily acne-prone skin” are often the worst to use, especially if you skin is also sensitive like mine. Foaming cleansers and micellar waters tend to dry out your skin, causing your pores to produce more oils to compensate for the dryness and, before you know it, you’ve got even more spots and pores like canyons.
I’ve been using Boots Botanics Cream Cleanser for All Skin Types, which I would say is average at best. It doesn’t remove make-up particularly well, but it will probably do for my make-up free month as it’s very moisturising.
Next pay day I think I will shell out for either the Pixi + Caroline Hirons Double Cleanse, which contains a cleansing balm as well as a cream. I really like cleansing balms, having used the Boots Botanics one before I was vegan (contains beeswax) and I have read nothing but rave reviews about Ultrabland from Lush, which also contains beeswax and honey too, I believe. So it’s great that Pixi offer a cruelty-free and vegan alternative which hopefully has similar results. To cleanse, I use an organic cotton muslin cloth, which I wash after every single use (never ever re-use!) to gently remove any dirt from the day.
Another great tip I’ve picked up recently is to rinse with freezing cold water after cleansing and this just helps to close pores and calm any aggravated areas.
Oils & Serums
If you’d told me a couple of years ago that I’d be using oil on my face I’d be horrified. A popular belief is that you shouldn’t use oil on oily skin, but this isn’t necessarily true. If you use the right oil, in the right way then you’re going to get some really great results. I’ve found two great oils that I alternate between morning and night, the first of which is The Body Shop’s Vitamin E oil. I find the Body Shop one is ideal for daytime wear and works well under light make-up.
At night, I opt for Sukin’s Rose Hip Oil, which is slightly more heavy duty and super nourishing for your skin. This one is quite pricey but I would highly recommend, every morning after using this my face is noticeably less inflamed and supple.
My one tip for using oil on your face is that DO NOT use too much, you literally only need a couple of drops on the palm of clean hands and dab into your cleansed skin.
This is another step it can be tempting to skip when you’re dealing with acne. It seems counterintuitive to put a cream on your face when it already feels oily all the time, but as with the oils and cleansers above, I’ve found that the more nourishing and moisturising products are much better for calming nasty break-outs.
For day cream, I have been using the Pacifica Cactus & Kale Oil-Free Renewal Lotion, which has quite a strong rose scent (not my fave) but works well to cool my skin and as a base for make-up. In the evening, I reach for the Sukin Sensitive Calming Night Cream, which is super thick and smells delicious. I’m a big fan of this and, again, it always makes my skin look and feel significantly better in the mornings after using.
I used to always choose face masks which were clay or gritty in texture, again hoping to declog pores and make spots miraculously disappeared. But if you’ve read this far then you’ll know by now that skin doesn’t work that way at all. Recently, I’ve fallen in love with the Lush Jelly Masks, having used The Birth of Venus, which contains lavender and seaweed gel for calming effects, and my personal favourite FOMO, which has a calamine base and rose scent (again, ew but does its job). The effects of the latter have been unbelievable and worked a lovely treat during my last few days of being housebound with norovirus.
When tackling my make-up free month, I’m going to attempt to keep my fake tan topped up as not only does it give my skin a healthy glow, but it also acts as a confidence boost. I’m currently using b.tan Gradual Tan Lotion, which I found Superdrug and I am pretty sure if vegan and CF. Despite being a gradual lotion, you will DEFINITELY need to use a mit or glove for this because it has a very dark colour and stains easily. Obviously, I wouldn’t apply this directly to my face but I do sometimes add a drop to my Sukin night cream to add a slight colour to my naturally ghost-like face.
And that’s that! I’ll be keeping the blog updated through the month and I really hope I manage to go make-up free for the entire month as I do feel that it will be hugely beneficial to my skin to give it a break from make-up and hopefully heal some of my scarring I’ve had for years. Do you have problematic skin? What are your top tips for dealing with adult acne? Let me know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading – Ellen.