For the love of pores, keep it simple!

**WARNING**

This post will be highly opinionated, and is primarily based on my own experiences (and whatever semblance of logic I have left). If you take personal offense to what I have to say, I’d suggest never using the internet ever again.

I know just how easy it is to get enticed by the allure of trying a new skin care product. Even when I think of how silly it sounds, I still can’t shake the idea that there is one product out there that will be my holy grail product, and I will never have to worry about zits, dryness, or redness again. Sure, there are fabulous products out there, but they are often on the exact opposite end of the shelf you had been gawking at for the past 2 hours and 45 minutes.

It won’t be long before skin care brands sell cleansers that promise to make our boobs bigger, butts tighter, and our brains grow these cyborg sidekicks that read minds. The point is, cleansers do NOT need to be these powerhouse products they are turning into. The purpose of a facial cleanser is to gently, non-abrasively remove oil and dirt from our skin’s surface. We do not need all of the extra frills that many cleansers claim to have, whether it be a cleanser that claims to provide a deeper clean, keep your skin clean even after you’ve washed, or cleansers that contain some degree of salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.

It is not that you never want to use products that contain ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or other skin-enhancing ingredients, but you aren’t going to see much of a benefit from these products in a cleanser. The product is only on your face for about 30 seconds, or less, and then it is washed off. So, smartypantses, why add extra ingredients to something, when it is totally unnecessary!?

Save the zit-zapping ingredients, and whatever other remedy-specific ingredients your skin requires, for the treatment products you apply after you cleanse. For example, toners, acne gels, moisturizers, serums, or even masks, and peels. These products sit on / absorb into the skin over an extended period, after you’ve cleansed, so you they have time for the ingredients to actually treat your skin woes.

Stick to cleansers that describe themselves as fragrance-free, gentle, a cleansing milk / cream instead of a gel, hypoallergenic, non-irritating, or for acne-prone skin. Many of the cleansers I’d suggest are not cruelty-free (Cetaphil, Spectro Jel), but there are cruelty-free options too (the Acne.org cleanser, for example). I’d suggest checking out Acne.org’s review section: it is a fabulous community!

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Chemical Exfoliation: Not as Radioactive as it Sounds

Stay tuned for an update on a new favourite in my skin care collection: Andalou Naturals’ Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask!

This is the side of exfoliation that gets me extremely psyched! It definitely is not as intense as it sounds, and can actually be quite gentler than the mechanical methods of exfoliation I mentioned in my previous post.

Chemical exfoliation refers to the use of certain chemicals to facilitate a sloughing off of dead skin cells, and these chemicals also promote the regeneration of new skin cells. When you see words like brightening, or regenerating, it is often referring to the chemical exfoliation process. This is the ideal method of exfoliation if your skin is dry, sensitive, acneic, or if you’d like to get rid of red/brown spots from acne!

NO SCRUBBING REQUIRED!

The most common chemicals used to provide chemical exfoliation are AHAs, and BHAS (alpha & beta hydroxy acids). To find these ingredients in products, you want to look for ingredients called glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or lactic acid. Acne.org offers a10% AHA 6 oz tube (or 16 oz) for a pretty decent price (not to mention their version of AHA is fragrance and dye-free, and specifically formulated for those with acne-prone skin).

AHAs work by encouraging the skin to regenerate itself, and using them will result in a thinner outer layer of skin, that reflects light better and ensures dead cells aren’t sitting on the surface, dulling your complexion.

There are unique benefits to using either of the AHAs mentioned, but they all work on the skin in similar ways. Salicylic acid, a BHA, works very well at exfoliating our pores. It is used in 2% doses for spot blemish treatments, but used in other concentrations in products to promote exfoliating of the skin.

From what I have read (and I did research for this article – I will specify my sources below), lactic acid is the most effective of the AHAs, as well as being less irritating. It must be said, though, that what works well for one person may not work at all for another.

A warning for those interested in using AHAs – they can make your skin sun-sensitive, so it is either best to invest in a good sunscreen / makeup with SPF, or to only wear your AHA products at night.

Retinol (or Vitamin A), is also a commonly used product in products that claim to be anti-aging, exfoliating, or brightening. It can be harsh if used too often, but definitely effective in a mask or treatment that you use 3 times a week!

Be sure to pick up a papaya, pineapple, or pumpkin fruit enzyme mask, if you’d like to try a gentler form of chemical exfoliation! Alba makes a really great one (IT IS CLEAR AND GREEN, HA!), that I really enjoyed.

You need not grab that facial scrub to get the super smooth and soft skin you so-eagerly desire!

Sources

The Dermal Institute: http://www.dermalinstitute.com/us/library/20_article_Methods_of_Exfoliation.html

Discovery Health: How to Exfoliate Skin: http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/cleansing/tips/how-to-exfoliate-skin.htm/

Exfoliation (Cosmetology): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exfoliation_%28cosmetology%29

Acne.Org’s take on AHA: http://www.danielkern.com/product-p/aha-6.htm

My favourite moisturizers during breakouts!

Okay, so already I spilled my guts about coconut oil, and how much I love it. Don’t be surprised when I bring it up again, like in this post. BUT – I’ve got more for you; I swear.

I went through a shitty, and horribly zitty breakout in July, that seems to finally be tapering down. Typically, I’ll get a zit or two. But this time it was intense, and I felt like a creepy old troll. I found Acne.org, and have since incorporated advice from that site with my own knowledge of what works for me.

There have been three goodies I’ve used in this new routine, and they are affordable, cruelty-free (well fml if that organic virgin coconut oil ain’t cruelty-free), and work better than any expensive high maintenance brand ever has.


The deets: morning, and night, about 5 minutes after cleansing (with a boring, plain, fragrance-free cleanser), I mix about 4-5 drops of the roman chamomile in jojoba oil, with enough coconut oil to slather on my face (play with the amounts until you find what is right for you – enough so your skin feels comfortably moisturized, not tight, and soothed). If I feel the need, I will also will slather on some of the Earth Science Almond Aloe Fragrance Free Moisturizer. This facial moisturizer contains helpful ingredients like hyaluronic acid, jojoba seed oil, panax ginseng root, and licorice root extract! It is gentle enough for sensitive skin, and helped a lot to moisturize and heal all those stinkin’ zits.

GREEN MONSTER!

I have also put an end to all my insanely intense ingredient-packed face masks – except for my DIY clay masks. I have added roman chamomile in jojoba oil (about 3-5 drops), to my green clay paste (which is just green clay + water). The simpler, the better.

My skin feels so much better, and is well on its way to being clear again!

A Quick Recommendation: Acne.org

I made a post about essential oils a little while back – yes, it is true. Using too many oils, too much at a time, can really eff with that sweet face and bod of yours. It is important to figure out what works and what doesn’t work for your skin type! Unfortunately, that means we have to experiment, and breakouts are inevitable. It can be extremely perplexing for those of us who prefer to stick to cruelty-free brands when we shop. After a recent breakout (and I rarely break out beyond one zit here and there), I found myself at a loss at the drug store. I wanted to find a benzoyl peroxide treatment that was from a cruelty-free source, and failed miserably!

Upon doing some research, I stumbled onto a community called Acne.org. The founder, Dan Kern, offers acne sufferers a community in which to gather. There are how-to videos, advice, product reviews; it is essentially a one-stop shop for everything healthy skin! The site is supported solely by the profits of The Regimen, which is a 3-step acne treatment program formulated by Dan himself. It includes a gentle cleanser, benzoyl peroxide acne treatment, and a moisturizer. Extras include alpha hydroxy Acid (an exfoliant), and jojoba oil (he is as into jojoba oil, as I am into coconut oil!).

While many of the product reviews include products that aren’t cruelty-free, I was pleased when I heard back from Brandy at Acne.org, who confirmed with me that the products sold in the Acne.org store are in fact 100% vegan and cruelty-free. Not only this – they are affordable!

Check ’em out!