Skincare-related changes I start adopting (and maybe you should too)

Skincare-related changes I start adopting (and maybe you should too)

Skincare is, to me, one of the most difficult science to figure out. Sure, you can determine your skin type and condition; you can also watch a crap ton of skincare related videos on YouTube but at the end of the day, skincare stays as a confusing science. As such, I find myself watching a crap ton of skincare tips and tricks on YouTube, constantly reading articles on The Klog and browsing ingredients on Skincarisma  — which is exactly what I’ve been doing these past few days as I freaked out over six new zits on my chin. Yes, a good six that is enough to make me stay on Google day and night just to see what is happening (it’s probably hormonal period acne but six is quite a number, at least for me).

Normally, when people hear the word acne, they immediately seek help from antibacterial and anti-inflammatory spot treatments such as the infamous benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil or salicylic acid. This isn’t completely wrong per se but they are not an all-rounder miraculous cure. In fact, I personally hate using the ever strong benzoyl peroxide because it’s just too damn harsh. Flaky skin is ugly, you guys, and I’m so over dermatologists pushing benzoyl peroxide and accutane to my face. Not only does accutane elevate my depression and mood swing, it's an awful medicine that may or may not damage my kidneys in the long run. I tend to have trust issues with dermatologists who lean towards quick, instant solutions to acne.

Instead, I rely on another route to maintain my skin: changing my skincare routine and have been doing huge trial and error for years now. Yes, I perform skincare experiments on my face. 

Do take note that I have combination to sensitive skin; oily, sensitive and rosacea acne-prone T-zone and normal to sensitive skin elsewhere.
I am not a skincare expert and I do not have any degree in dermatology but I’m a skincare junkie who educates myself from videos made by skincare experts and people who know what they’re talking about. Do take what I say with a grain of salt. I am by no means telling you to stop seeing a dermatologist because if your current treatment suits you then please continue it. I am only here to give you a few suggestions you might be interested in practicing because I personally think that using a quick solution such as accutane is only viable as last resort. In the end, our skin is ours so you are the only one who’d understand what your skin needs.

This is not a sponsored post.

No Harsh Cleansing

I’ll admit, I used to be guilty of this. It took me years before I finally stopped using conventional drugstore cleansers that are marketed as part of acne treatment, oil-free or worse, with microbead scrubs. Generally, when people have combination to oily skin, they tend to seek foaming cleansers that will give them that squeaky clean feeling. This is bad news because not only do they contain detergent (also known as SLS, SLES, ALS), they will most definitely be alkaline cleansers with pH level higher than 7. Since our skin is acidic by nature, it’s advisable to use a mild and acidic cleanser, preferably somewhere around pH balance of 5.5 to 6. At the same time, I’m also avoiding artificial or synthetic fragrance in my cleanser. Like surfactants, fragrance is a huge enemy to sensitive skin. In short, harsh cleansers are bad for all skin types and skin that are more alkaline than acidic creates an environment loved by bacteria. And with this I say, bye Shiseido Perfect Whip, I’m breaking up with you.

Current loves: Cosrx low pH cleansing gel / Purito defense barrier pH cleanser / Hada labo gokujyun moisturising face wash

Further reading: 
Why you should switch to a low pH cleanser 
Can your cleanser cause breakouts?

Always analyse skincare ingredients

Sounds petty? It’s a necessary kind of pettiness. I remember people around me (like my family and my boyfriend who are too lazy to even put on sunscreen every time they leave the door — shocking, I know) saying how complicated I am as a person for always taking all the time in the world reading ingredient list of every product I pick in store. In my opinion, it’s necessary or even mandatory for us to analyse the ingredients of our skincare products. In my opinion, it makes detecting the ingredients you are allergic to a lot easier. Imagine buying multiple products containing products you are allergic to and asking why none of them works for you. Obviously different products contain different formulations and percentages so even though Cosdna and Skincarisma made it possible for us to analyse ingredients, these ingredient database are never absolute. Even so, it’s best to have a certain benchmark of what ingredients to avoid. For example, if you have oily, sensitive and acne prone skin, you might want to avoid certain oils like coconut or soybean oils.

Confusion aside, the bottom line as to which product is the best for your skin can only be evaluated if you use them. As someone who’s always keen on trying new products, I personally don’t mind changing products as long as I know what I’m allergic to. Trial and error is always one way to test this out, however, if you refuse to compromise then do avoid common comedogenic ingredients based on your skin type.

Some ingredients I will avoid: artificial or synthetic fragrance, comedogenic oils like coconut and soybean oils, high percentage of alcohol and tea tree oil, high percentage of shea or cocoa butter (I suspect this is breaking me out)

Ingredients I love: centella asiatica, azelaic acid, green tea extract, matcha, AHA and BHA

Only chemical exfoliators

Back in high school, I used to think I have thick, boar-like skin that unless I’m using microbeads or scrubs to exfoliate or wash my face, I will never have smooth skin texture. This is such a stupid thought. Not only are physical exfoliators extremely abrasive, they also aggravate existing acne. No matter how au naturale the scrubs are (some companies love to market their scrubs as safe for sensitive skin due to using natural ingredients such as brown sugar and coffee grains), physical exfoliators are never recommended especially for us sensitive skin gals. Instead, opt for chemical peels known as AHA, BHA or even the recent rising star PHA.

For me personally, I mainly rely on AHA and BHA for my once-to-twice a week exfoliation because AHA is lenient towards dry and sensitive skin, working its magic on the surface while BHA penetrates deep into the pores, making it suitable for oily skin. I haven’t tried a lot of PHA yet so I can’t really say, although I do have a feeling I’m going to prefer BHA way more. My personal favourite forms of AHA & BHA products are usually as toners since I am a real believer in toners to prep my skin.

*acid percentage in this product are less than 1% making it ideal for really all skin types and to be used almost everyday, depending on how sensitive your skin is.

Coconut oil is NOT a miraculous multitasker!

There, I said it. Coconut oil is not your solution to everything. It is also especially bad for acne-prone skin as coconut oil is highly comedogenic and can clog your pores. Similarly, coconut oil is not advisable as moisturizer for the same reason. I personally try to stay away from coconut oil in my skincare products but under certain circumstances where the percentage of coconut oil-based ingredient is, I assume, very very minimal, I may or may not try the product just out of curiosity. If it does break me out, however, that’s when I know that it may be caused by coconut oil and several other ingredients as well (this is why ingredient database sites like Cosdna and Skincarima are really helpful.) That said, I’m so over beauty influencers recommending coconut oil for everything because to us, oily sensitive and acne-prone gals, coconut oil is bad news.

Further reading: No, You Should Not Use Coconut Oil on Your Face

#FoundationFree Challenge

I don’t wear foundation every single day but I do wear BB cream with built-in spf instead of using a solo spf and then spot conceal my blemishes. The reason is because while I love the widely acclaimed, cult classic Biore Aqua UV Rich, I’ve noticed small bumps on my skin if I use it everyday — probably whiteheads or fungal acne, I can’t decide. It also pills up into this flaky little balls whenever I try to blend it on top of my moisturiser. Because of that, I end up relying BB Cream to double as spf and coverage which, in my opinion, isn’t ideal. I personally believe that optimal sun protection comes from solo sunscreens and not when mixed with complexion products. With that said, as I continue my hunt for the best sunscreen, I’m also doing a #FoundationFree challenge as a mini-detox for my skin. I’m still going to use concealers though because I still need to spot conceal my rosacea so people won’t recognize me as a crab in disguise. Mind you that I never wear foundation whatsoever unless a). I’m going to work or a date and b). there’s an event. Still, it might be much much better if I eliminate foundation for at least a week, regardless if I’m going to work, on a date or an important event. In the end, it’s like what everybody says: skincare comes first before makeup.

Further reading: Here’s what happened when 3 people went foundation free for a week

Sunscreen no matter what

I’m one of those people who hate wearing sunscreens and not because I’m avoiding white cast or that greasy, sticky feeling (these days, you can easily find “watery” lightweight sunscreens, especially for chemical ones.) I avoid sunscreens because I haven’t found the right one for my skin. No matter how diligent I am with double cleansing, I find that all the sunscreens I’ve tried have given me small bumps that I suspect are either whiteheads or fungal acne. As such, I’m currently on a mission to find the right sunscreen that won’t cause me to obsessively check every inch of my face at the end of the day, wondering if said sunscreen is giving me clogged pores, whiteheads or fungal acne. My problem aside, everybody needs sunscreen no matter what. It doesn’t matter if you have pale or tan skin or even if you’re indoor, you still need sunscreen! Do not skip it, ever. Period.

Further reading: PA? PPD? Broad Spectrum? The ultimate guide to understanding and choosing the best sunscreen

One product at a time

Who’s guilty of introducing multiple new products at the same time because you're just that excited? Yep, that’s me. I’m guilty of being a little too excited. I know this is probably such a simple step but believe me when I say some of us tend to get carried away when we have new products to play with. For me, I give about a week or two to see whether the product is causing purging or breakout. Purging normally occurs when your products contain active ingredients like AHA, BHA or retinoids but this isn't always the case. Here’s how you can differentiate between skin purging and breakout. Similarly, it is advisable to stick to only one active ingredient at a time.

Supplements actually work

Most people do not believe in vitamins and supplements. We like to think those are just marketing gimmicks. Trust me, I used to think like this too until I experience the benefits myself. In truth, they are not entirely frauds. Daily vitamins such as Vitamin A, B, C and D are actually infused into some of our skincare products in the form of retinoids, l-ascorbic acid, ascorbyl phosphates, etc but for some reason, we lean more towards choosing products with these vitamin derivatives than actually supplying ourselves from the inside out. I'm not going to preach anyone into taking supplements, of course, but like skincare expert and owner of Krave Beauty Liah Yoo always say, treating acne is more than just piling on skincare products and hoping for some miraculous results; it's something that should also be done naturally, through our diet. For me, eating 'real' food like oat, organic food and whatnot does not come easy as they get pretty expensive. Instead, I help myself with some supplements, particularly vitamin D which is what I really lack in (the sun and rosacea just don't mingle well.) Of course, I'm not saying everybody needs it and I'm only speaking for myself.

Some supplements that I'm currently taking include vitamin D3, daily multivitamin, omega-3 fish oil and spirulina as my antioxidant of choice. I personally believe in spirulina regardless of my general physician telling me that spirulina or any antioxidant is kind of bullshit. Like I say, we are the only ones who understand what our body, or in this case skin, needs so if it works out for me, I'll continue to do it.

Further reading: The best supplements for acne and rosacea

Reduce sugar and dairy intake

Alright, this is something that's going to kill me. If anyone remembers, I used to and still brand myself as Mlkbx almost everywhere on the internet which is an edgier term derived for milk box. Why, it’s because I am obsessed with milk. I love anything milk-based so you can probably imagine how hard this step is. Likewise, sugar is something I tend to crave when I’m under stress — which is basically my entire life. My entire life is a massive stress, you guys. No joke. To make matter worse, I never knew how bad sugar actually is for me until I realised that it also disrupts my hormone when that time of the month approaches. Unfortunately, I was born with a moody bunch of hormones so the moment something disturbs them, they go crazy and start giving me all sorts of negative outcomes. I wonder if my natural born moody vibe comes from my hormones too, hmm.

*some articles have debunked this as a myth, however, most dermatologists and people who have suffered long-term acne have tried avoiding dairy and sugar for a few weeks and have seen some changes with their skin. with that said, even though there are mixed reviews to this, I’m willing to do a test on myself….if I can commit, that is.

Further reading:
Top 7 foods that can cause acne
'I had acne and then stopped drinking milk – this is what happened'

Coffee fasting

I used to stop drinking coffee because my stomach disagrees with it. Fast forward to now, I’m back to drinking coffee like it’s my mineral water, which is bad. Coffee itself does not lead to acne but taking coffee with milk does. Even though I don't take sugar in my latte or cappuccino, I can't do black coffee and will always require milk with it. Also when it comes to coffee, it tend to make my stomach feels so...occupied and because of that, I end up drinking water less. Again, it's bad. We all know drinking water is one of the many solutions to basically everything, especially if you're born in an Asian family then you'll know what I'm talking about. To add salt to injury, coffee elevates my insomnia and less sleep means more acne so... I guess this is what they mean by what comes around goes around, no? Yeah whatever, I'll start this coffee fasting starting today.

Like I said in the disclaimer, I am not a skincare expert. Liah Yoo is, not me. But I like to think that my thirst for skincare related knowledge has given me some information that are worth your time. If you have any other tips or specific skincare routine or diet you've adopted recently (and if they work for you as well), do not hesitate to share them in the comments below!