A tale of angry skin
My January was not dry. Not even close. It was flooded with dinners out, takeaways, impromptu lunches and family meals. Every rich morsel accompanied by espresso martinis and bottles of fizz, crisp white wines and even crisper gins. Reading this back, it all sounds pretty great, but my skin (and my other major organs) were begging me to stop.
A couple of weeks ago I got so annoyed with my textured, blemished face for daring to fight back against the barrage of booze, that I did what I have never done before. I over exfoliated. Well, maybe thirteen-year-old me armed with an apricot scrub could be accused of the same thing, but during my adult life, I tend to show a bit more restraint, in exfoliation if nothing else.
The culprit was my beloved, AHA/BHA Peeling Solution from The Ordinary. A wonderfully potent mix of 30% Alpha Hydroxy Acids (Glycolic/Lactic/Tartaric/Citric) and 2% Beta Hydroxy Acid (Salicylic Acid). This product has been my go-to Sunday night mask for a couple of years, but during this testing time for my skin, I decided it should become a Monday night mask too. I could have been wiser, knowing I’d used a pretty strong acid product in the last 24 hours, I could have reached for my gentle physical exfoliant which also happens to contain BHA, the Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant, or a light exfoliating toner like Pixi Glow Tonic. Or God forbid, I could have left my irritated face alone altogether and simply washed and hydrated it. But no, I went in again and this was the result.
This picture is literal proof that you really can have too much of a good thing. Over exfoliation mixed in with trying out a bunch of new products resulted in the congested, red and rashy mess you are witnessing here. It’s taken three weeks for my skin to regain some balance and has been more sensitive than usual lately so I’m taking it easy. If you have sensitive skin, or skin that has become sensitised due to using (or overusing) certain products, like me, you might want to check out an ingredient analysing website. I know that there are a few of these about but I use SkinCarisma. You can simply search the name of your skincare product or copy and paste the ingredients list and it will return a full run-down of ingredient facts. It can also help when researching an expensive new purchase to see if it’s really worth the hype!
I want to (be) break(out) free!
I want to mention a few products that I use when my face is breaking out, congested or generally needs a deep clean without the fear of irritation. Of course, as I’ve said above, not using products correctly or how they react to other products in your routine may cause sensitivity but these work for me. When I haven’t taken away too many layers of skin, that is!
For those days where I’m in need of a deep clean, usually after a full day in the city (especially when in London/on the tube) or after a heavy weekend I like to use a detox, clay or mud-based, face mask. The strapline for Glossier’s Mega Greens Galaxy Pack is “for when you’re feeling dirty” and I can’t think of anything more apt for this and the other masks mentioned here. I tend to rotate between three masks. Glossier’s nutrient boosting Galaxy Pack, the Wow You Hey cu-tea! mask and Aesop’s Parsley Seed Facial Cleansing Masque. The Aesop mask is by far the most drying of the bunch but does really pack a punch when it comes to removing impurities. Just make sure you layer on the hydrating products after! Wow You’s Hey cu-tea! is such an all-rounder that you really can’t go wrong. It utilises Dead Sea mud, AHAs and hyaluronic acid, plus their products are made in the UK. Thumbs up!
The other mask I use when my skin needs to feel clean but also moisturised is a little different from the others but extremely effective. Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask can be used as an all-over mask or as a spot treatment overnight. This mask contains some ingredients that may irritate sensitive skin, such as avocado oil and stearic acid, but I find it leaves my skin bright and hydrated with blemishes fading the day after.
One of the gentlest daily treatments I use and highly recommend is the La Roche-Posay Serozinc facial spray. Unlike many of my mists, I don’t use this throughout the day to hydrate but rather spray it on a cotton pad and wipe it over my face post-cleanse day and night as a toner. It has minimal ingredients, just three, which are calming and antibacterial. This soothing step is a staple in my routine.
Salicylic acid is my blackhead weapon of choice. Like an AHA it exfoliates the skin, but as a BHA it is also able to penetrate deeper and unclog those pesky pores. Glossier Solution contains a small amount of salicylic acid alongside AHAs for general exfoliation. But if you want a slightly more powerful dedicated BHA option, I have been using Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA liquid every other day for over a year. Put simply, it’s great! I accredit the drastic reduction in blackheads across my nose to this, combined with Serozinc.
Thanks to Beth’s Beauty Pie recommendation, I have also recently discovered a new daily salicylic potion in the form of the Plantastic Micropeeling Super Drops. I’ve put my Paula’s Choice on hold, just for a little while, and have been using this consistently for just over a week. I have to say I’m pretty impressed with how soft and texture free my skin feels. I can’t talk to its long-term effects on blackheads but I’m definitely excited to find out. I’ve mentioned previously, but Alex Steinherr for Primark has some effective and affordable salicylic products including a daily cleanser and a solid stick to use directly on congested areas.
So, I may be giving my abused skin a little rest right now, no strong acids, gentle exfoliation only and lots of hydration! But don’t worry, The Ordinary Peeling Solution, I haven’t forgotten you. I’m sorry I took you for granted!