How To Beat Problem Skin Into Submission

A question:

I was wondering if you had any advice or product recommendations for those of us with “problem” skin. I still get acne at the age of 27, and though I have been searching for years, I can’t seem to find anything to control it. I am loathe to ask advice at a department store, as I’ve tried so many things before that either make my break-outs worse, or in some cases cause an allergic/sensitivity reaction (Thanks a lot Neutrogena and Estee Lauder!). I’ve started using Angels on Bare Skin from Lush after you recommended it here, and it has improved the texture and look of my skin, but has done nothing to help clear it up (yet…). I’m also using a benzoyl peroxidase cleanser, that seems to reduce the breakouts, but it’s quite harsh – it actually burns the skin on my neck if I don’t wash it all off at night! I already eat well and drink plenty of water, and yet…

Hi kitten.

Here are my thoughts.

In terms of Lush products, if you’re breaking out I would recommend something other than Angels On Bare Skin. Angels is a great product, but it’s pretty ineffective when it comes to spots. Angels is part of my daily routine, but if my skin is giving me trouble, I switch up my regimen.

My complete “oh my god my skin makes me want to throw myself out a window” routine from Lush would be:
Cosmetic Warrior mask
Fresh Farmacy or Herbalism as a cleanser
Tea Tree toner
Enzymion or Celestial moisturiser

Cosmetic Warrior
This is an incredibly stinky mask made from fresh garlic, eggs, grapes, honey & tea-tree oil. When I say fresh, I mean FRESH! Pots of it are kept on ice in the Lush stores, & when you get it home, you need to put it in the fridge. (You might want to tell whoever you live with that it is not hummus or some other delicious concoction for spreading on crackers. Be warned!) Anyway, like I said, it is stinky. It pongs. It is vile. Rank. Repulsive. But the importance of owning sweet-smelling cosmetics falls away when you realise that… it works. I like to coat my face in it about ten minutes before I take a shower. Let it dry out & then wash it off. Use it a few times a week for best results.

Fresh Farmacy
An amazing cleanser. Amaaaazzzzzing. It’s made in huge blocks, & if you want some, all you have to do is walk into a Lush store & ask them to cut you a piece. It’s light pink & kind of a soft consistency — my recommendation is that you keep it somewhere dry, or it will disintegrate. It contains calamine (which is what gives it its colour) to soothe the skin, & a wonderful combination of antiseptic oils to stop spots. Lather it in your hands, wash your face with it, then rinse off.

The other cleanser alternative is Herbalism. Herbalism has the same consistency as Angels On Bare Skin & is used in the same way — get a pea-sized amount, mix with a bit of water, smooth over your face then rinse off. Herbalism is basically the Angels counterpart for people whose skin gives them the gyp — not as strong as Fresh Farmacy, but will do the trick if your skin can be mildly problematic.

Tea Tree Water
This is a toner containing copious amounts of tea tree oil, which is great for angsty skin. After using your cleanser of choice, spray some of this on your face & remove with a cotton pad. It’s really a lovely toner. Keep it in the fridge for hot summer days.

Obviously you need to choose a moisturiser which is right for your skin-type. As you didn’t mention yours, I’ve given you two options: Enzymion & Celestial. Enzymion is a great moisturiser for people with skin that is prone to oiliness. Grapefruit & lime oils will invigorate your congested wee pores. It’s excellent for matte-ifying your skin while keeping it soft & lovely.

Celestial is Lush’s best moisturiser for truly sensitive skin. Most “sensitive” moisturisers smell awful — not so with Celestial. Vanilla water & almond milk sweetly fragrance the concoction. It’s a very gentle formulation, containing glycerine & cocoa butter as well as dove orchid extract. Parfait.

Everyone’s skin is different, so what works for your friend may not work for you. The best thing you can do is try, & if something doesn’t work, don’t lose hope! Just try something else. If Lush isn’t your thing — or you want some other options — here’s some basic information which may help you.

Most people think that if they can feel their skin “tingle” while using a product, it must be doing a good job. THE OPPOSITE IS TRUE. That “tingling” (unless it comes from peppermint oil or similar) is your skin being irritated. Stop using anything that causes this feeling!

Use a 1% or 2% beta hydroxy acid product (BHA) or an 8% alpha hydroxy acid product (AHA) to exfoliate your skin. BHA is apparently more effective at cutting through oil, so it’s the preferred option, but some people are allergic to it, so will need to use AHA.

Benzoyl peroxide & tea tree oil are about equal in terms of disinfecting the skin & fighting spots.

If all else fails, prescription treatments may be a good option for you — try Accutane, Retin-A, Differin or Tazorac — but quiz your doctor like crazy & do your own research before embarking on any course of medical treatment. Okay?

Extra For Experts:
Here are some books with good ratings that might give you additional information:
The Acne Cure by Terry J. Dubrow & Brenda Adderly. 4/5 stars on Amazon.
The Clear Skin Prescription: The Perricone Program to Eliminate Problem Skin by Nicholas Perricone. 4.5/5 stars on Amazon.
6 Weeks To Sensational Skin by Loretta Ciraldo. 4.5/5 stars on Amazon.
Beauty By Nature by Brigitte Nars. 5/5 stars on Amazon.