I used to be a full time Counter Manager and Makeup Artist for a colourful and alternative premium cosmetics brand. Forgive me for not disclosing the name of this company; I get a kick out of trying different names and new products, and I hope to provide cosmetics reviews that are honest, thought-provoking and unbiased.
I’ve decided that my first ‘beauty’ post is going to focus on my skin rather than my makeup, as we will have plenty of time for my penchant for pigments.
Early puberty lead to my cracking rack, a height of 5’11, mega oily skin, and bouts of acne on my cheeks all before I turned 12. My mum, bless her, wasn’t too clued up on skin-care herself. She didn’t have much to offer other than a Clearasil face wash, and the doctor gave me steroid creams that would dry my skin out but still leave it red and blotchy. Fast forward to university and I think I began using a generic mattifying moisturiser alongside my Clearasil facewash and toner. This was a very basic routine, and among the late nights of working in The Warehouse nightclub and long days of rehearsals and lectures, it’s a wonder my skin was mostly clear through those years. Cheap makeup and forgetting to cleanse properly only lead to several pimples here and there, and I’ve always had large pores on my nose which lead to blackheads. Ugh. The irony is not lost on me that within that time of my life I had the worst diet, least sleep and complete lack of skincare routine, but overall most of my uni pictures show a glowing complexion:
Classy or trashy, my drink of choice in 1st year
As my job in cosmetics required me to wear a beautifully full face of makeup every day, I now found my cleansing routine to be really important and I love feeling squeaky clean at the end of the day. All the makeup and cosmetics I use are proven to not ’cause’ blemishes, and I’ve gone makeup free for an entire week before and still grown a pepperoni pizza on my face. I always reiterated this fact to my ex who was convinced I got spots because of ‘all that shit’ on my face everyday!
Up until this year, I tried a different product every time the other one ran out. With no specific routine and a mix-match of different anti-blemish brands and creams, I couldn’t honestly say that I had given them an actual chance to work! From January this year, I decided enough was enough and pledged to begin an adult skin care routine. I had recently been re-introduced to The Body Shop and their new and improved selection of affordable and specialist skin care. The one for me? Their Tea Tree range (for adult blemish prone skin). Here’s what they have to say about Tea Tree:
“Tea Tree is nature’s alternative to harsh ingredients…clinically proven to give clearer skin from one week…the range also uses tamanu oil extract which is reputed to help generate new tissue and improve the healing process for skin. So say goodbye to shine and hello to clear skin!”
My morning routine consisted of the tea tree facial wash, a quick dab of the mattifying tea tree toner, moisturise with the skin clearing lotion and prime with the pore minimiser. In the evening, I would use the foaming cleanser, the facial wash and toner once again, the night lotion and finally tea tree oil on individual blemishes. I also treated myself to the tea tree face mask which I would use once a week and the squeaky clean scrub which I would use whenever I washed my hair (so about 3-4 times a week). What a routine!
I must admit, I always felt fresh and clean after using these products, and although the scent of tea tree isn’t for everyone, I found it pleasant enough. My poor ex on the other hand hated the smell, and was forced to fall asleep every night with a concentrated nostril-full of good old tea tree. I used them in the exact same routine for 6 months, only having to re-purchase the lotions, face wash and foaming cleanser. Overall, the range was extremely economic. Each product is priced on average between £6-£7, but often in the shop they do a special bundle offer. I believe I got the foaming cleanser, toner, scrub, and clearing lotion for £22, saving at least £5 and starting my set off nicely.
Unfortunately, periods of stress and an overly-hormonal body means that I haven’t been ‘spot free’ at all this year. I believe the tea tree range helped with mattifying, and I didn’t suffer from dry skin at all (which can often be a problem accompanied by anti-blemish treatments). The upper half of my face was consistently clear and fresh, and using a day and night cream definitely made a difference to my skin in the morning. It felt softer and plumper, and my day cream would mattify the excess oils from my sleep. After 6 months, this is roughly how my skin looked on a regular basis (photo taken at the start of June):
As you can see, my forehead, cheeks and generally the top half of my face is clear. Usually, my nose was clear of blemishes too. You will notice I have a rather red nose in this picture, this is due to a bout of Impetigo at the time, a common skin infection that causes blisters and sores. I am prone to this around 3 times a year as a direct result of my hypothyroidism, which leads to a weak immune system. Then there’s the bottom half of my face. Why do grown women get spots?
Usually from the late 20s (but in my case a little sooner), estrogen levels decline faster than testosterone. Because testosterone is an androgenic hormone, it boosts oil production, plugging your pores and causing blemishes. The difference between adult acne and the teenage type? Small red bumps are more common when you’re older, and acne along the jawline or around the mouth are a telltale sign that you’re dealing with a hormonal breakout (information from a WebMD feature for Marie Claire magazine).
So my jawline, chin and upper lip area have been polka-dotty pretty much from the age of 21. After 6 months of my tea tree routine, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to try something new.
Enter La Roche-Posay. Most commonly accessible in Boots, this French brand uses a unique thermal spring water in all their skincare products. Their various ranges focus on problematic and sensitive skin. The Effaclar range is for all types of imperfection and blemish-prone skin. After reading rave reviews and discovering their cult product Effaclar DUO[+] anti-blemish cream, I decided to take the plunge.
Evening: after a cheap facewipe, the Effaclar face wash, Effaclar clarifying lotion (a micro-exfoliant astringent lotion, a little stronger than a toner and more of an anti-bacterial step), Effaclar DUO [+] once more and finally the Effaclar A.I breakout corrector on individual spots.
Basically, I wanted to create an entirely new routine, just to give my skin the freshest approach to this new range. It is a higher price point than The Body Shop’s selection, but after reading plenty of reviews and understanding the dermatological approach this brand had to offer, the investment seemed worth it. Here’s my skin 4 weeks later:
My nose is still healing from the Impetigo, but what can we see? No improvement with the blemishes and actually more spots than before. Don’t worry! Studies show it can take at least 4 weeks for your skin to ‘purge’ itself after trying new skin care. New chemicals and products encourage the skin to shed it’s dead skin cells, pores begin to unclog themselves and generally old product that your skin has retained gets pushed out. Sexy!
I didn’t lose faith at this stage as I was aware of the ‘purging’ aspect, and I could genuinely feel my skin getting tighter and smoother due to the astringent aspects of the Effaclar range. It has now been almost 3 months in total since I began my La Roche-Posay journey, and this is what I looked like this morning after my routine:
After a particularly stressful week, I would say my skin is probably the worst it has been this year. I’m still using my tea tree face mask once a week and exfoliating about twice a week. My skin has been a little oilier due to the warmer weather, but to be honest I’ve been wearing little to no makeup after a weekend off. I’m now getting blemishes on my forehead and I’ve had ‘repeat offender’ spots on each side of my lips for the last 4 weeks.
The main thing I don’t like about my spots isn’t their unsightliness, it is how painful they are. They hurt when I talk or yawn, and I often can’t lie on one side of my face at night if they are particularly big. As previously mentioned, a lot of adult spots are small, red bumps rather than yellow, cystic pimples (again, sexy!). My spots start out as small red bumps that hurt if you prod them. They then become bigger red bumps that stretch the skin around them and become even more sensitive and painful. Finally, they either go back down by themselves (this usually takes up to 3 weeks) or they ‘come to a head’ (I’ve always hated that phrase!) and I have the compelling need to ‘pop’ them (for any pop-a-holics out there, check out Dr Sandra Lee, enjoy!). I’ve been told popping spots ‘creates more spots’ etc, but I can’t leave the house with a chin like a great big sheet of bubble-wrap. Makeup does not cover these kind of spots either. I ‘pop’ in the most hygienic way, using a special tool and astringent on the skin. I’m usually left with a sore, open area that takes another week or two to heal, and often leaves me looking scabby, but at least it can be covered with makeup (majorly sexy!).
I think I am going to use up the remainder of these products and unless I see improvement in another few months, I will most likely go back to The Body Shop Tea Tree range. At the end of the day, it was more affordable and seemed to produce slightly better results for my skin. This won’t be the case for everybody, and I must stress that people need to follow their own pattern and routine when it comes to skin care. If you have seen a good review for a product and you want to try it, do it! But please give it at least 3 months before you make up your mind. There is no such thing as ‘the perfect moisturiser’ or ‘the perfect foundation’, everyone’s skin is different and our requirements can vary dramatically.
I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my skin probably won’t clear up until I reach my 30s, skincare can only do so much and hormones control the rest. Various experiments with contraceptive methods have often helped other women, but I’ve had several different versions of the combined pill and the implant, none of which made a massive difference to my skin. I will of course keep this subject updated on the blog, and I do hope I can post a ‘no-makeup selfie’ that is blemish free one day, but today is not that day!
I do not feel uncomfortable putting these pictures up on the internet. I am not dirty or unhygienic. I’ve explained the details of my routine, and you can see for yourself that sometimes external products can only do so much for an internal problem. I am always complimented on my skin when I’m in work or on a night out, yet I always feel that I have to point out that it is just good makeup, not good skin. I’m not ashamed of this, I know I’m good at makeup! But all I am doing is reflecting on the outside how I feel on the inside. I’m not using makeup to disguise my facial features, I’m just bringing out the ones I prefer and toning down the ones I don’t (like my spots!). Here is a happy, smiling selfie with full makeup, and I’m proud to say I’m good at covering my spots. After all, it’s my job!
I hope some of you can relate to this post, and don’t worry, there is gonna be a hell of a lot of makeup posts to come! Thanks for reading my rants and let me know what you think!