My skin journey: adult acne, aging gracefully, and going makeup free

Today, I wanted to talk about something slightly different. Lots of empties to talk about but I have been wrestling and considering this topic for quite a while. How do you feel good in your skin if you have acne and as you get older?

With lots of blogs out there addressing adult acne and aging skin concerns, today I wanted to give you a bit of both, my tips for both, what actually helped me, and how I went from insecure about my skin to feeling proud of the skin I am in, both metaphorically and literally.

But first, a quick little trip down memory lane 2011 (pink dress w/ turquoise flowers) – 2013 (white T-Shirt) – 2015 (black and red hoodie) – 2017 (blue and purple scarf) – 2019 (white and blue T-shirt)

Going Makeup Free

Up until quite recently, I would not go anywhere – even the shops – without a full face of makeup.

I still like to wear a full face for work, as it helps me prepare. There is a ritualistic aspect to slapping on that makeup – kind of like kabuki or stage makeup helps you prepare and put on a different role.

On the weekend, however, I go makeup free 95% of the time.

Here are the things I do that help me get out the door on the weekends.

  • an involved skincare routine (see below)
  • a mineral makeup primer or mineral sunscreen – they usually leave a white cast on my skin, but if I blend them in carefully, they have a brightening effect that is very flattering and helps brighten your skintone.
  • a spoolie to brush my eyebrow hairs into place
  • a (sometimes tinted) lip balm to add a bit of shine or colour back into my face
  • the knowledge that no one cares what you look like – no, really. Most people are much too busy to notice you. Just go about your day and be free.

Aging gracefully

Having just hit 30, I look around me at my peers (white women who are around 30 years old) and it hits me: You really have to take care of your skin before you start seeing wrinkles.

I am not saying you have to look like a 20 year old forever, but you shouldn’t have to look much older than your actual age. Looking good for your age truly feels great and is the best gift you can give yourself.

I once heard this saying: At the age of 20, you have the skin God gave you. At the age of 30, you have the skin your deserve.

And I do think there is some truth to that. Many of my friends from secondary school have deeply lined faces and/or deep wrinkles. Especially if you’re Caucasian, it is not a secret that you are bound to look like a leather handbag a lot faster than say a person of Asian or African descent. My Korean husband is 40 and he is regularly mistaken for someone in his late twenties or early 30s, even in Korea. He swears by rosehip oil by the way ;).

Therefore, I recommend that you get on some kind of skincare regime as early as possible, though it is never too late to start in my opinion. Cutting down on smoking and drinking, eating well, exercising, drinking water etc is always a good idea, but I see deep lines in the faces of people who follow all that nonetheless.

Here are my top anti aging tips, from a ripe old 30 year old lol, in no particular order:

  • Layer a hyaluronic acid serum/lotion in between a hydrating toner. So: toner – hyaluronic acid – toner. In my experience, hyaluronic acid speeds up wound healing and helps with pimples and pimple scars as it keeps your skin elastic, so there is more stuff for your skin to draw from to aid in your skin bouncing back faster.
  • Use rosehip oil at night as it acts like a natural retinol – it will make your skin look better than ever before, I promise.
  • Keep your skin hydrated and moisturised throughout the day. My rationale is this: Skin is like leather. If you neglect to use shoe polish on your shoes, and just let them stay exposed to the elements, the shoe leather is bound to dry out and crack. Either use lots of light layers of hydration to last you throughout the day, or mist your face periodically with a moisturising face mist to keep your skin wet.
  • Use a glowy makeup base rather than a mattifying foundation. Try a silicone based primer or blurring base makeup. Slick a tinted balm or gloss on, rather than a matte liquid lip. A bit of blusher or highlighter. A bit of eyeshadow in soft colours, colourful liquid eyeliner. No harsh contours, just soft clouds of colour, gentle shimmer – no chunky glitter.
  • Protect your skin from the sun. Sunscreen, parasols, driving gloves, sunglasses, staying in the shade, long shirts or pants in a cooling material, refraining from tanning (beds) are all good ideas.
  • Find clothes you feel and look good in. You don’t have to have the latest looks if they don’t look good on you, and trying to look 13 when you’re 30 can look terribly silly. For example, that chunky sneaker trend looks good on literally no one #truetea 😀 I am not saying you should go for basics in neutral colours every day. The beautiful people of Advanced Style show you that you can be chic, outrageous and beautiful without trying to look ~young~ or overly ~trendy~.
  • Botox, fillers, invasive treatments can look proper weird unless they’re very skillfully executed. You’ll still look old even if you get treatments, except that you have a smooth forehead and less money in your wallet.
  • Even dying your hair can be proper weird to my mind. I love grizzly, salt-and-pepper, silver or white hair on older people and am fully intent on not dying my grey hairs once they start cropping up. Seriously though – what 60 year old has naturally black/brunette/blonde/… hair? Just enjoy your white and grey hair.

Teenage acne and adult acne

What you need to know is this: Acne should be addressed in a holistic manner. Lifestyle and diet, cosmetics and environmental factors all play different roles and in my opinion, you should try and look at all areas in your life and see if you can make some changes for the better.

My teenage years were troubled and full of angst, hormones and abuse. It is not surprising, then, that I had terrible breakouts. Unfortunately, I cannot show you any photos from that time as they are all stuck on physical hard drives, none of which I am currently in the position to access.

Like many acne sufferers, I did not enjoy taking pictures of myself or having my picture taken, so I cannot show you what I looked like at my worst. Just know that I felt ugly and unworthy.

I had terrible breakouts and recurrent acne from around the age of 14 – 26. I tried lots of things and researched acne a fair bit, however I did not realise or better, did not want to realise a number of key triggers that made my acne so much worse.

However, I could have done a few things to help my acne.

Makeup and Cosmetics

It took me a long time to realise that toners containing alcohol and foaming cleansers chock full of sulfates were NOT the way to go. I also realised pretty late in the game (sometime within the last five years) that oily skin is quite possibly dehydrated skin, as your skin tries to moisturise itself with its natural sebum. Ever since I started using super hydrating products, my skin has started healing itself and actually looks better now than it did ten years ago.

As a general strategy, I recommend that if you are suffering from acne – adult acne especially – that you should look into the following: Thorough cleansing, gentle exfoliation, ample hydration, sunscreen during the day or a facial oil at night and possibly makeup that doesn’t break you out.

  • Cleansing: I use an eye makeup remover and a micellar water to remove the first layer of makeup. I then follow up with a cleansing oil to help remove sunscreen, which I use to give myself a vigorous face massage and which I then emulsify with water. After this, I use a foaming pH neutral face wash. Sometimes, I will use clay masks to draw out impurities, but I am always sure to add back extra hydration.
  • Exfoliation: Once or twice a week, I will go in with my cellulose exfoliant (peeling gel). Twice a day, I use an acid toner as my first step after cleansing.
  • Hydration: Thin layers of hydration tend to help my skin a lot more than one gloopy moisturiser. Toner, hyaluronic acid lotion, treatment toner (just like Paris B set out in her moisture sandwich technique), a serum or essence, all topped off with a moisturiser.
  • Sunscreen or face oil: I cannot stress the importance of these enough. Sunscreen during the day prevents skin aging and age spots quite a bit, while a face oil used at night can be a complete game changer. When I started using rosehip oil, I saw my blemishes heal and scars fade away.
  • Makeup: A bit of a base really helps boost confidence and can protect skin even, I think! I usually use a BB cream, topped up with a bit of setting powder and makeup fixing spray. When I have breakouts or when the air is particularly bad here in Seoul, I feel as though a light layer of base makeup actually protects skin from environmental pollutants as dust etc have to cling onto something that is not your skin.

Lifestyle Factors

  • I used to smoke between the ages of 16 and 26. Smoking exacerbates acne to a great degree.
  • I did not work out. At all. Ever. I have pretty bad eyesight and terrible hand eye coordination and my PE teacher used to either make fun of me when I failed to complete an exercise, or she would make me feel bad about not being good at sports, so I avoided working out like the plague for many years following secondary school/college/uni.
  • I used to rub my face with my body towel.
  • I did not wash my makeup brushes regularly.
  • I had lots of processed food and milk coffee on the daily. My husband and I used to own a coffee shop when I was in my early twenties, so several cups of milk coffee per day were a pretty normal occurrence back then.
  • I did not change the bedding and pillow cases regularly, or clean my phone.
  • My anxiety was through the roof and I was in a constant state of mental pain, stress and fear. I was horrible both to myself and others.

Therefore, my lifestyle top tips are as follows:

  • If you are smoking, try to quit (I have heard good things about hypnosis) or don’t even start.
  • Work out, even if it is just a bit. I can only manage 3 x 30 minutes of moderate exercise a week, but it is better than nothing I suppose. I do a couple of aerobic exercises, stretching/yoga and weights. That’s about all I can squeeze into my daily routine before I get bored to tears.
  • Let your face dry naturally or use a cosmetic tissue (recyclable) to dry your skin.
  • Wash your makeup brushes regularly. While some people say you should wash them after every use, I wash my brushes once a week – every 5 uses – and only my foundation sponges after every use.
  • Try to incorporate more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your diet. You don’t have to change everything over night, but you can definitely make a few beneficial changes in my opinion. I have found that a fruit smoothie in the morning is a great way to incorporate more fibre into your diet and to keep your regular. I still snack a lot and my diet is not perfectly balanced by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a thousand times better than it used to be. Cutting back on dairy also seems to have helped a great deal, and drinking a little more water is a good idea for many people, too. I drink lots of water and non caffeinated beverages throughout the day, and also go through a 1.5l tumblr of herbal tea during work.
  • Change anything and clean anything that is in close contact with your skin. Wipe down your phone. I also now change the bedding every three weeks or so, and the pillow cases once a week or every other week. I use a hot cycle to disinfect the bedding, just enough laundry powder, and no softener.
  • Try to sort yourself out and take responsibility for your future. I have made a very conscious effort to work through my issues and get my anxiety under control. I have been living in Korea and therapy seems to be reserved for only the most severe of cases, talking about trauma and mental struggles is a huge taboo. I have also been worried that if I did seek treatment, prospective employers might be able to find out one way or another. So instead, I set out to pull myself up by my bootstraps and work through my issues myself. As with most people that I know, childhood trauma has hugely affected me, but it is not impossible to overcome it by yourself. I recommend Jordan B Peterson’s personality test and self authoring suite. Not sponsored – I paid for both of these with my own money. They helped me reflect on the past, have prevented me from blaming others, and I have stopped getting flashbacks. Meditation and painfully honest conversations with my husband or bestie have also helped me recalibrate my stress levels. As you speak or write what is on your mind, any problems that you might be having suddenly become more manageable or seem less significant than they were in your mind, unspoken
  • If none of these help, you might want to get some blood work done or some test to see what could be done about your hormones. I have heard that a vitamin D deficiency can wreak havoc on your skin, as does a hormonal imbalance.

3 thoughts on “My skin journey: adult acne, aging gracefully, and going makeup free

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