Problem Skin

“My skin has really been getting me down lately – I’m 15 and it was perfect before getting spots a few years ago. Now, it’s a disaster. I’ve got enlarged pores, under-skin spots (that never surface and don’t hurt), an un-even skin tone and very minor acne marks/scars. How can I get my perfect skin back? Has it been ruined? I use M·A·C Studio Fix, but on my problem skin it just looks caked on and obvious so I don’t wear it too often… I cleanse, tone and moisturise with Simple products and exfoliate once a week. My diet isn’t bad at all either – I eat quite a lot of fruit and veg and hardly any sugar but I still break out. One thing I can think of is I do smoke… Could this cause such a problem with my skin? If so – I’m quitting starting today!”

Well, I would say that the biggest contributor to your spots at the moment is hormones. You’re 15, which is pretty much when your raging hormones are at their peak. Unfortunately, as a teenager, there’s not much you can do about that — they have to run their course. The good news is that being a teenager doesn’t last forever, so in a few years you should be back to your fabulous self.

Having said that, if you want to make your concealer look a bit more natural, use primer on your face first, then dab it on any offending areas & blend it like mad. It is easiest to do this with a brush. If you have spots, remember to clean your brushes regularly or you might just spread more bacteria around!

It sounds like you’re doing pretty good things for your skin, but a couple of minor tweaks should improve things a lot. You still might get spots, but this will make it easier for your body to deal with them. They won’t last as long & they will clear up more easily.

Here’s my guide to clearing up problem skin!

Get super-hydrated & eat more vegetables & fruit — raw if possible
All that stuff about how “you are what you eat” is 100% true. If you eat & drink things that are good for your body, rather than what is just cheap/easy/quick, you will see it manifest physically through your skin & body.

Lots of water doesn’t keep the outside of your skin moist, but it does keep your insides hydrated — & it’s hard to look beautiful when the inside of your body is desperately fighting off corn syrup, caffeine & alcohol! You really can’t drink enough water (unless you’re one of those demented frat boys who has water-chugging competitions!), so keep a huge glass or bottle by your side & fill it constantly. Yes, you will go to the bathroom a lot, but every time you do that, water is passing through your system & clearing out toxins. It all results in a happier body, clearer mind & cheerier disposition! Just call me I.P. Freely!

Raw fruit & vegetables are full of water, fibre & protein (as well as about a billion other great things), & eating them in decent quantities will make you feel & look absolutely phenomenal. It’s no coincidence that my skin is perfect when I eat raw. Eating fruit or vegetables in their natural form is best for you, since it preserves the most nutrients. If you cook them too much, you destroy most of the good stuff, so if you can’t hack it raw, try lightly steaming or quickly stir-frying them instead. If you want to transition to raw, it’s not that hard — & I’m going to write an article on it soon!

You might also want to look into giving dairy the flick: a study of almost 50,000 women showed that drinking milk increases the risk of severe acne. Major acne was 22% more prevalent in the group of women sampled who had the highest intake of dairy (more than 3 glasses of milk a day). This is most likely because the steroid hormones & other components in dairy suppress your immune system, meaning it can’t fight infections. Ouch!

They say happiness is an inside job. I strongly believe that beauty is, too.

Make sure you wash your pillowcase regularly
Think about it — you press your face against that sucker all night, every night! If it’s covered in sweat, old make-up & god knows what other bodily fluids, of course that is going to create problems! There’s no point in washing your face before you go to bed if you’re just going to bury it in a pile of filth for the next 8 hours! Okay, so, you get my point. Wash your pillowcase! When was the last time you did? I don’t think anyone really does it often enough. Chuck it in the washing machine at least once a week.

You might like to investigate your washing powder, too — get the gentlest thing you can, because harsh cleaners might aggravate your skin, too.

Cleanse, tone & moisturise every day, & exfoliate once or twice a week
You’ve all heard this before, but it’s really important. Go & get yourself some proper skincare products — you heard me! No soap! Dear god, no soap! The skin on your face is delicate & it’s the first place to show age, so you need to take care of it! Don’t come crying to me when you have an “it bag” where your face should be!

What you use will be different depending on your skin-type, but here are some ideas. I love my routine at the moment & don’t want to alter it at all. In the morning I use Simple Purifying Cleansing Lotion, apple cider vinegar + purified water, Christian Dior Capture Essential serum (face & eyes) & Nivea Soft. In the evening I remove my make-up with a baby wipe & moisturise again.

If you’re keen to change up your products, read How To Adopt A New Skincare Routine!

Use AHAs
AHA stands for alpha hydroxy acid, & yes, it is actually acid. While it sounds crazy to use it on your face, the sort you buy from beauty spas & pharmacies has a very low concentration. It works as an exfoliator, & helps get rid of the old dead cells. It improves the appearance of wrinkles, roughness & mottled pigmentation, as well as giving you a smoother over-all look.

I occasionally use a product by Ultraceuticals called Even Tone Serum & when I use it, I can definitely see the difference. It helps stop a spot dead in its tracks!

You should know, though, that if you’re using AHAs on a regular basis you must wear sunscreen, as using them makes you more susceptible to the sun’s effects. Of course, you should be using sunscreen anyway, but even moreso if you’re an AHA kid!

Quit smoking!
Smoking is terrible for the skin. As well as causing impotence & well, death, it also ages you like mad. The cumulative effect of inhaling all those chemicals is that the tiny blood vessels in the outermost layer of the skin get constricted. This decreases blood flow enormously, as well as starving the skin of oxygen & nutrients. This damages the elastin & collagen in your skin, meaning you lose strength & elasticity. So your skin will hang down & be all droopy, & there’s nothing you can do about it!

Additionally, people who smoke always make the same movements with their face when they do it — so they might purse their lips when they inhale or squint their eyes to stop smoke from going in them. Doing this repeatedly causes wrinkles — not pretty ones, either. You will end up with a mouth like a cat’s bum! Not luscious!

There’s nothing wrong with having an occasional cigarette, but if you’re smoking regularly & often, you will look aged way before your time. No one wants that.

Don’t pick!
Don’t pick, squeeze or otherwise frig about with your face. If you have an ugly pimple brewing, chuck some AHA at it, but if that doesn’t seem to quell the beastie, you have permission to squeeze it. Just make sure you do it with clean hands, & make sure you remove any last traces of anything yucky that you might have smeared about. Read this for the low-down on popping a pimple.

I’m grossing myself out! Remind me never to write about this again!

See a dermatologist
This should be the last thing you do if nothing else works — I am all for natural (& free!) solutions to problems! However, there are a lot of people who finally visit a dermatologist after years of horrific acne & swear that it changed their life. From what I understand, you usually need a referral from your doctor, but after that it is smooth sailing.

Having said that, before you start a course of treatment, I would recommend that you always research the side effects of anything prescribed to you. It might disturb you to find out that there is a link between using Roaccutane, depression & suicide, for example. Have a read of Some Side Effects Of Acne Medications & this article from The Daily Mail, get informed & make your own decisions.

Here’s to spot-free fabulousness! Ring-a-ding-ding!