My (Ongoing) Skincare & Acne Journey

I’ve struggled with rubbish skin since I hit puberty – on and off acne on both my face and back, always getting what felt like massive crater-like monsters on my nose or my cheeks, blackheads, random patches of oily skin, random patches of dry skin, red patches – my skin has changed so much through puberty I still don’t feel I could define what kind of skin I have aside maybe just calling it ‘a mess’.

Growing up, and I believe I’ve made a blog post about it before, I had a really tough time with skin-picking and scratching at my face and it took me a few years to realise I mostly did it when I was anxious or stressed. If you want to read the post I’ll link it here.

So obviously because of the cycle of getting acne or spots, picking at them and causing scars and more spots (I’d be really gross and pick a spot and sometimes forget to wipe it or clean my hands), I’ve ended up with very scarred and red cheeks naturally (that’s where all my acne/spots seem to go) and last year due to many things my acne flared up again and I decided this year I wanted to try to improve my skincare and hopefully make my skin look nicer. I do tell myself a lot that completely flawless, natural skin isn’t a thing because at the end of the day it isn’t. Everyone has pores, everyone gets wrinkles and scars, everyone gets those pesky blackheads and build up of sebum on their nose. It’s completely natural to have flaws but I am glad this year I managed to figure out what stuff benefits my skin and has helped it heal and I thought I’d share it to obviously remind myself down the line and maybe help other people!

DISCLAIMER: Everybody’s skin is different. Acne can occur for plenty of different reasons and can react differently to different products. Some of the things I mention in this were recommended by my doctor so I always recommend going to your GP for advice. I am not fully educated in skincare and health, I am just someone who struggled with skin picking, acne, acne scarring and found stuff that’s helped my face. 🙂

What I think caused my recent acne flare up

Like I said, I’m not a skin expert and the assumptions I make towards my skin could be false! But based on the habits I had and what is usually said as being bad for your skin, the main causes of my skin flaring up so bad, I believe, could have been from:

  • Skin picking
  • University stress and anxiety (Goes hand in hand with skin picking)
  • Fizzy drink consumption
  • Winter/Christmas eating
  • More alcohol consumption than usual
  • Hormones

Comparison Photos

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January I started taking photos because I had just been to the doctors about how upset I was with my skin and as of this she changed the birth control pill I was on and gave me a cream (I will talk about what they were in a bit), I was also in the midst of most of my first semester deadlines and a lot of university related anxiety. From then on I started using different products and such that I will talk about in a bit. Around April time I started occasional microdermabrasion appointments and finally July is where we are now and how my skin looks now! (As you can see not completely perfect, I still have a couple of spots and acne marks remaining).

Changes I made and what I believe has helped my skin

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Water
First of all, the most clichĂ© change I made – and I’m sure everyone is sick of hearing it but it really makes a difference – is drinking more water. I have drinking way more water recently than I ever did last year and not just because of the ungodly heatwave we’ve had recently in the UK, but because it has so many benefits and I can feel the change it’s made. It helps my skin feel a lot more calm, less dry in places, less oily and just a lot more regulated, I’m seeing barely any spots and I’ve noticed tiny spots are more likely to pop up after days where I’ve been drinking just soda/caffeinated drinks instead of water. I’m not perfect I still drink coca cola and I have a current obsession with iced coffees but getting in at least two or three glasses of water a day really helps.

Vitamins and supplements
My mum originally bought the Vitabiotics Perfectil Tablets for me to try when I was teetering on the anemic side back early last year and was constantly fatigued and in general my nails and skin were in really poor condition cause of it however I started taking them again this year because for me they are really benefiting my skin – I’ve found my skin’s started to clear up when taking them and feels a lot more supple. I also recommend if you are a skin picker like me, taking vitamin C tablets when your skin is going through a phase of healing and scabbing from the picking or whatever. It really helps speed up the healing process.

Cleanser
This cleanser has been a life-saver for helping any scarring on my face! Obviously, it can’t get rid of the marks and scars that are quite settled in my face however I’ve noticed nice changes to my skin as I started using the Palmer’s Ultra Gentle Facial Cleanser, my skin feels a lot softer and after spots have gone from my face they aren’t leaving marks as much as they used to. The cleanser is great for removing makeup as well, which goes hand in hand with trying to prevent breakouts since leaving makeup on or not removing it properly can lead to getting spots. Also during the past few months I’ve started to not exfoliate as much as I used to (back in January I was probably exfoliating my skin everyday), and I feel it may have been a gentle benefit to my skin and helped the healing process better as over-exfoliating can damage your skin!

Gels
Instead of moisturizer the past month or two (mainly cause I ran out of moisturizer and keep procrastinating buying a new one), I’ve been applying Aloe Vera Gel to my cheeks and where there is spots because of the obvious benefits of both aloe vera and tea tree oil. The tube I got was very reasonably priced and I feel was a better choice for my skin than getting a fancy branded moisturizer that only has a tiny portion of aloe vera in. It’s also been very good for calming any red or stressed bits of my skin because of its cooling feel!

Duac Once Daily gel was prescribed to me by doctor when I originally saw her in January – it is a gel you apply once a day (I normally did it before bed), and it helps to try and unblock the pores but also target any bacteria or spots on your face. It has anti-bacterial properties and has benzoyl peroxide in it. When I used it I definitely felt a change in my skin in the morning after (make sure to wash it off when you wake up) and I felt it dried out any spots on my face quicker than most spot treatments.

SPF/Sun Cream
Enough said really. I’m a firm believer in trying to apply spf on your face everyday because it prevents the skin from aging and wrinkling and it also helps protect your skin from sunburn and just in general benefits the gentle skin on your face. Here is my favourite from superdrug.

Microdermabrasion
Finally, I was recommended microdermabrasion by a lady at work for getting rid of acne scarring and I decided whilst my skin was in quite a calm state (I was having less flare ups and picking less, the only thing troubling me was how red and scarred my cheeks were, to the point I didn’t even like applying blusher because it just felt like I was making my face look ridiculous). Microdermabrasion is a facial treatment where they exfoliate your face to take off all the dead skin cells on the outer layer of your skin. The lady who did mine was very friendly and we sat down beforehand I explained to her where I felt the problem areas on my skin was so she knew where to focus on the most. She would also cleanse and moisturize my face as well as putting a hot cloth on it to help open the pores. It was all a very relaxing experience with a great outcome! The first treatment doesn’t instantly give you the exact result you want and it is a thing where if you want to focus on clearing up deeper scars in your skin you’d have to go back but even after two treatments I can tell a lot of my scars have faded and become less apparent. My explanation is not the greatest of ones, but I definitely recommend it! If your favourite beauty salon or such nearby does the treatment definitely ask for a consultation and talk to them beforehand so you understand what will happen and how it works!

 

Sorry that was such a ramble and a lot to take in! Of course, I have not mentioned the birth control tablets and changes I made or individual little face masks or moisturizer I tried in the past few months or makeup I’ve used because I didn’t want to write a dissertation on the topic! If you managed to read this whole thing reward yourself with a piece of cake or a face mask because you deserve it! I hope some of the things on this helped or gave you an idea of changes you could make in your routine!

Thank you for reading,

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Period Survey Update

Hello guys, sorry it’s been a bit of a delay from my last post where I spoke about looking into the recent reveal of young people not being able to access sanitary products in the UK. In good news I read about how Bodyform are planning to donate 200,000 free sanitary products to people who are unable to access them by 2020. The products will be donated to ‘various charities who support women and girls affected by homelessness, poverty, disabilities, illness and domestic violence’. I read that story not long after I made my post talking about it so it makes me happy to know it is being taken as a serious problem. You can read the article about Bodyform’s plan here!

This’ll be a quick post where I lay out the statistics and data I got from my small survey, which got 62 responses! I’m so happy that people filled it in and wasn’t expecting that many responses so thank you to people who filled it in and took the time.

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So for example the first two questions where I asked how many tampons do people go through in one period and how many pads and I noticed a majority of people in the 62 responses don’t actually use tampons and when it comes to pads, majority use 11+ sanitary pads in one period. But still even in the tampons question a good 22.58% of people use 11+ tampons. I feel this starting data proves why not being able to access sanitary products is a bigger problem for young people than others may think. Most basic packs of sanitary pads have around 14 pads in them, so a lot of people would need at least 1 or 2 packs of pads a month.

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The next question is looking at the average of how long periods last to put it into perspective why people need 11+ tampons or pads in one period. Only 3.23% of 62 people have very short periods. So this starting data is all very basic but if I was to go through with an idea of donating products to a charity or saving up for some it gives everyone a brief idea of how many products each person may want for one period.

Other data we look at is putting into perspective how real the problem is, even when you are luckier than most. Out of 62 people only 1 person has never had the ordeal of having to make shift something to replicate a pad when bleeding. A lot of the open answers discussed having to use toilet paper or making a ‘pad’ out of toilet paper when they couldn’t get a pad or tampon. I feel this data shows us maybe making pads/tampons accessible in toilets, schools and work a lot easier when people are not carrying the products or have the time/money to go and buy some.

Another depressing statistic is that 16.13% of my responses said they have had to skip school because of lack of sanitary products. Majority of respondents felt like their school didn’t do enough to provide sanitary products.

From reading all the respondent’s answers to each question (again, very grateful to everyone who took time out to answer), I feel it opens up the reality of the situation and what it’s like growing up and requiring sanitary products. I’ve been a bit busy the past week but hopefully this week, using this data and having a look at what suitable charities and donation boxes there are in my area I will then type up what my plan is to try and do my own contribution! I’m thinking of maybe setting up a small donation/sponsors page so I can get sponsors if I was to make period packs or buy bulk sanitary products to donate to charities!

Thanks for reading, I’ll keep you updated!

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#TimeToTalk Day

Mental Health (n): In regard to an individual’s psychological and emotional well-being.

Mental health problems can affect anybody. Sometimes it can be triggered by something or develop at any given moment. Nobody has a choice in how their well-being is affected and it is nobody’s fault if they develop a mental health problem. People with mental health issues can be as strong and kind as people without any.

If you suffer from mental health problems you should never sit alone and blame yourself. You are not alone and there is nothing wrong with you. However I know when your mental state takes a turn, the world can feel completely different.

It is actually a myth that depression is highly uncommon. According to statistics recorded in 2014, there was around 1.6 million people got in contact with mental health specialists. Obviously all of these cases won’t always be depression. They can be related to bereavement depression, post-natal depression, anxiety, OCD, schizophrenia, a range of personality disorders, PTSD, sleeping disorders, eating disorders, stress, addiction, body dysmorphic disorder, bipolar or even trichotillomania. A lot of these can even interchange with each other and that is highly common. Some of these disorders can even be symptoms of another thing.

So as today is Time to Talk day, I’ve decided to write this post to encourage people to speak up and talk to others. Whenever I suffer from symptoms that affect my well-being and mental health I do find it helpful to talk to someone I trust and have a discussion. Bottling things up is never healthy and can even cause more anxiety or stress. Even if it’s not you personally who is struggling, if you believe someone else is, the best thing you  can do is try and encourage them to talk about it or even speak to their GP if they have continuous symptoms. A lot of excellent organisations including Rethink Mental Illness, BEAT, Mind and Time to Change talk about symptoms and different disorders on their websites.

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Illustration by Stephen Collins

I am someone who suffers from mental health disorders and struggles with my mental well-being. Some symptoms I have never been able to pinpoint the name for them or get a diagnosis but I know I am not the only one who suffers with these battles.

So this is my personal message on Time to Talk day to make anyone feel less alone and know they have someone like them. I know what it’s like to feel so extremely low you feel like there is no point in getting up to the day, I know the effort there is to get yourself out of bed to college or work and not let yourself get overwhelmed by other people and their attitudes, I know what it’s like to look at yourself in the mirror and not like what you see, no matter what exercise you do or food you eat. I know what it’s like to binge eat without even realising what you’re doing and then suddenly crash and feel guilty and sick. It feels like your stomach is filled with toxic material that you just want to release. I know what it’s like to want to scream but know nobody will hear you. I know what it’s like to feel alone.

But I promise you, you are not alone. There will always be somebody out there to talk to. Whether it’s family, friends, your doctor or a counselor. There is so much in the world for you to explore.

You are a warrior and you can do it.

So try and find someone to chat to, in person or online and have a brew. Have a conversation.

It’s time to talk.

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Helena x

 

Skin Picking

So my disclaimer to this post is that it might gross people out a bit. It’s a habit I’ve had for a good few years now that people always give me disgusted looks for or even get impatient with me when they catch me doing it.

Since puberty my skin was obviously cursed with the despicable teenage acne. I used to get really bad crowds of whiteheads on my back, chest and face. My nose and upper lip has always had blackheads and my face would always get those annoying under-the-skin, throbbing pimples at least every other week. I am thankful my acne is not as bad as it was when I was in high school or college, however every often I still get bad spots. Makes it even worse that I pick. I scratch and squeeze at spots that I get and if I don’t do that, I spend the day stroking and touching the bit of skin that has the blemish on it. At first when growing up, I used to pick and scratch at acne because I wanted it gone, part of me thought if I picked out the gross pus or dirt underneath the spot, I would help get rid of it quicker.

However now in recent years, I’ve noticed I do it when I’m stressed or anxious. If I’m anxious about going out and getting ready I find myself scratching at spots. When I’ve had a bad day, going up to a mirror and squeezing and roughly picking any blemish I can find on my face – even a blackhead not even someone with perfect vision would probably notice – distracts my mind and calms me down. Doing my own research, the skin picking seems very relevant to my anxiety and possibly ‘BDD’. When I am anxious or stressed, I become preoccupied with my skin and picking and scratching feels like I am getting rid of dirt or bad stuff on my skin. It is almost relaxing to me but at the end of the day I really damage my skin and end up with scabs and wounds that last longer than a spot would or even acne scars that last months.

I write this post today because, although the past few months I’ve gotten way better at not picking at my skin, I am having a regression week where two spots on my face I  can’t stop picking and the day after they heal with yellow scabs and I end up picking them off again. I hope maybe admitting to my problem on ‘paper’ might kickstart me not doing it again. But I also wanted to share some tips I have, in case anybody else believes they might have a problem with acne/skin picking.

  1. Putting plasters on pimples or blemishes when at home/in private to prevent picking.
  2. Face masks! Not only do they help cleanse and soothe your face but also prevent mindless picking.
  3. Always clean your makeup brushes and take makeup off before sleeping. This prevents any blemishes from dirty makeup. Which then prevents picking.
  4. If you do unfortunately scratch, wash your face and then finish washing with cold water. Cold water helps close open pores preventing further dirt entering.
  5. Gloves – admittedly I don’t do this often, but I’ve heard on other blog posts that people with compulsive skin picking have written, gloves can create a barrier.
  6. When you feel like picking, paint your nails. This gives you a reason to keep your hands still.
  7. Continuing the painted nails – if you feel like picking your skin, pick at the varnish on your nails instead.
  8. If you can, stroke a pet when you feel like picking. This is a numbing situation in which you can zone out whilst stroking your pet, much like you might zone out and relax when picking or after squeezing a spot. Plus your pet will love you!

If anybody else can share any other tips – believe me I’d appreciate them!

Thanks for reading,

Helena x