Having had the distinct experience of inheriting severely acne prone skin from my parents (and treating that) and working in the beauty dept for a high-end store, I’ve seen my fair share of common mistakes people make when buying products to treat their acne. At this point, before someone even walks away with a product, I can tell if they’ll be successful or not. That’s because the vast majority of consumers make some common mistakes. With that said, green beauty consumers – those who study and carefully read ingredients lists for only clean botanicals, are in general a little more aware of what they’re putting on their skin and what it will do. However, I’ve also noticed that there are common mistakes made. Consider this list a compilation of misconceptions along with my personal advice that is gathered from trial & error and working with others:
A clean product is always better
Many people think that by switching to natural skincare, their skin is automatically going to be better. If you’ve never had a problem with your skin and have pretty good non-sensitive skin, you might notice more benefits just because the ingredients tend to be fresher. However, for acne prone skin, this isn’t always the case. If you asked me for an SPF recommendation for oily blemish prone skin, Peter Thomas Roth Max Sheer Moisture Defense SPF 30 & Ultra-Lite Oil-Free Sunblock 30 are both better options than any ‘clean’ sunscreen I have tried. It’s light, sheer, and non-greasy, as opposed to the ‘better for you’ ingredients in most clean sunscreens that are heavy, greasy, and chalky which is terrible for your pores. Yes, there are parabens in the formula and I don’t like that but guess what, parabens won’t make you break out.
Natural Ingredients are good for Acne Prone skin
So many people say “I want natural skincare to help treat my acne” and that really isn’t saying anything at all. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it is right for your skin. The reason I can’t completely transition to natural skincare is because of something as simple as a moisturizing cream. If you look at the creams on natural retailer Spirit Beauty Lounge, every high-end moisturizer has at least one of the following: shea butter, plant/fruit butter, plant/fruit derived wax – these are not great for acne prone skin. Sure they’re natural, have great antioxidant properties, and truly moisturize the skin, but they’re also going to potentially clog your pores, increase your breakouts, and suffocate your skin. And that potential carcinogen in the non-clean moisturizer I like? It’s listed as the 4th last ingredient and provides just the right level of moisturizing without making my skin a mess, I think I’ll take my chances here.
Less is always more
“I only wash my face with water in the morning because Linda Rodin (Rodin Olio Lusso) does that”, she’s also approaching her 70s and doesn’t have zits and cystic acne to worry about, you do! Just because someone you look up to in the beauty industry says one thing doesn’t mean it will work for you. Working at a retailer, I will tell you most of these ‘founders’ of brands have never really had a legitimate skincare concern in their life when compared to those of us who have been on rounds of antibiotics, accutane, etc. They don’t understand trouble skin or acne so don’t take advice about acne from them! Wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser that won’t aggravate or strip your skin, deal?
I saw one post recently from a green beauty brand that taught you how to extract your own pimples, and no. Just no. Take it from someone whose self-confidence was an issue for years due to scars left over from picking at her cystic acne that lumped on top of each other. If I could go back in time, the single most important thing I’d do is slap myself silly and tie my hands behind my back so I’d never touch a single zit. Never, ever ever do it. Every time you feel the urge, just imagine me pleading with you. Also if you know what article I’m talking about, I take offense to the assertion that people who have ‘chronic acne’ have something ‘not quite right’ with their body, such a dumbass statement made by someone who truly doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Acne prone skin is a skin type, while diet and lifestyle do play a part, the severity and ease of having a blemish is often genetic. You won’t tell someone with dry skin that their body is out of whack would you? While others may have headaches or high blood pressure, those with acne-prone skin may breakout, this doesn’t mean our body is messed up, this is just how our body responds. The most powerful acne medication, Accutane doesn’t work through “changing hormones”, decreasing stress, affecting mood, or changing your diet as that idiotic article says are the root causes of acne, in fact Accutane has been shown to cause depression and you’re encouraged to eat a high-fat diet for it to take effect. How does Accutane work? By essentially changing your entire genetic disposition (you can’t be pregnant, you need to have monthly blood tests, etc because it messes up your immune system, and even the composition of your blood) – so acne prone skin is innate and not a personal failing.
I can’t use this because it has Essential Oils
You have acne prone skin, you’re not a burn victim. Essential Oils might aggravate the most sensitive skin, and even then not all essential oils will irritate all skin types. This is what is so frustrating, people read about others saying how rosemary (or insert whatever botanical) essential oil made their skin red, and all of a sudden rosemary is BAD for sensitive skin. No, rosemary was not suitable for that one person whose skin had a reaction, that doesn’t mean you will have these experiences. If you don’t want to use ingredients that anyone has had a bad reaction to, I will sell you a skincare product that is perfect for you, it’s made out of Water + Glycerin, enjoy. Essential Oils are powerful and active, a lot of them, such as thyme, tea tree, lavender have been shown to ward off acne and yes for some people you might get irritation or contact dermatitis if the concentration you use is too pure. Just don’t swear something off because someone who essentially has to live inside a plastic bubble environment on No More Dirty Looks said so.
First Impression is the most important
They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but we all do. Sometimes, especially if you’re just switching to a natural skincare regimen, your skin might start purging for a few weeks. So many people will give up right away because they think this is a “bad reaction” when really your skin just has to adjust. When you start on Accutane, the first 2 weeks are pretty much the worst your skin will ever look. The same for Retin-A, Differin, Antibiotics, etc. See the trend here? Sometimes skin needs to purge and adjust, give it time.
On the flipside, sometimes you get a wonderful green beauty product that smells amazing and applies so well that it clouds your judgement of how good the product actually is for you. For instance, I would never use any facial oil that contained photosensitizing oils. Over time they really will give your skin brown spots and age spots. So I could never understand those people who swear up and down for something like May Lindstrom’s Youth Dew which smells AMAZING and feels AMAZING but has grapefruit oil, sweet orange oil, & lemon oil – why would you ever put this stuff on your face!? Similarly Dr.Alkaitis’ Nourishing Treatment Oil smells divine and has wonderful ingredients in there but have you seen the full ingredients list? St. Johns Wort, and various roots? It’s all good stuff for sure, but for acne prone skin it’s a little like feeding Ginseng or viagra to a college kid. Overload. If you don’t believe me, put a few drops into your mouth, you might feel a buzz – now imagine that on your skin every day and night. Our skin type already has a lot of “heat” energy, we don’t need more root herbs or energizing botanicals. Sure everything is medicinal, but even with medicine, you shouldn’t be taking it every day.
The take away is this: listen to your own skin and not others. As ‘wholesome’ as the green beauty movement is, it is still commercial, meaning companies are still trying to sell you stuff and not everything is going to work for you. If you’re only oil cleansing every night and leaving the residue on for moisture, don’t be surprised that you keep getting breakouts. Also, have some perspective over ‘not clean’ ingredients versus automatically loving everything natural. Realize that not every natural line is going to be suitable for acne prone skin and that these two are not necessarily mutually inclusive ideas.
I know this is a long post, but feel free to sound off in the comments!