In the last 6 months, my skin has been all over the place. Luckily I’m coming out the other side now, but I’ve picked up a few tips to help anyone else who is on a rollercoaster with their skin. If you’re here for a quick fix, then sorry, but you’re not going to find that here… or anywhere. Your skin doesn’t work like that. But if you are looking for some changes that you can make to your routine that should benefit your skin, then keep reading!
I should mention that, though it was never looked at by a dermatologist, I suspect I had a damaged skin barrier. I think it came from using a few strong chemical exfoliants and then made worse by the fact that I didn’t realise what was happening and tried to carry on as if everything was fine testing out new products. I had dry areas of skin that felt tight and breakouts on the lower half of my face (chin, around my mouth, jaw) that couldn’t often be seen, but then a few would get really big and come to a head (and not disappear for weeks).
The below worked for *ME*. This advice is mainly focused towards others who have a damaged/compromised skin barrier. I can’t guarantee that it will work for you, but I do feel that there are some key pieces of advice that *should* be a pretty universal take away from all this.
Strip back your routine
We spoke a little while back about the Skincare Diet (all the info in the link), but in short, it’s about realising sometimes long routines can do more harm than good. When it comes to finding what is irritating your skin, obviously the longer the routine, the more chance there is for irritation. When your skin is in freak out mode, it’s recommended to strip your routine right back to cleanser, moisturiser and SPF (for day time) – AKA the essentials. Not what you consider essential, but the actual essentials of keeping your skin clean, moisturised and protected. This might be a bit of a painful thought for you skincare addicts out there (as it was for me at the start), but your skin needs to focus on repairing.
Please, for the love of all that is good, don’t go in hard thinking babyfacial will fix your damaged skin. Likely story is that it won’t. Do not start hammering your skin with physical or chemical exfoliators, hold the retinol and leave the vitamin C for a little while. If your skin barrier is compromised, the last thing it needs is you doing even more harm under the illusion you’re doing some good.
Cut out irritants
Ingredients that previously never affected your skin may be causing some irritation. The key (possibly) irritating ingredients to cut out are essential oils, artificial fragrance (as well as Linalool and Limonene) and bad alcohols. If you’re ever in doubt about the ingredients of a product you’re using, I’d suggest heading to the incidecoder website – it’s really clear about which ingredients are possible irritants as marked by a yellow exclamation mark. If you have cut out all the typical ingredients and you’re still seeing some irritation, then it’s time to look at other ingredients that you could have an issue with. For me, I found that products containing niacinamide were also irritating my skin, so I had to cut anything out that contains that too.
Load up on good ingredients
When you skin is looking to repair, more simple ingredients decks seem to be the way forward (without the aforementioned irritants). However, it’s important to add in some saviour ingredients that will help to calm and heal irritated or damaged skin. The big one to add in is ceramides. They help to reinforce your skin’s moisture barrier (a damaged moisture barrier is a common cause of irritation) and increase hydration. Other good ingredients are Aloe, Niacinamide (if you’re a normal person), Centella Asiatica and Green Tea to just name a few.
Most importantly, give it time
Time really is the best healer. While we may want quick results, it’s just not always possible. The epidermis (the top layer of the skin) takes 12 weeks to repair itself, so cutting down your routine for a week and then adding it all back in so quickly will not help you out. Give yourself time to heal. You might not have the brightest, glowiest skin during this time but your skin will be on the mend. The aim of the game is to reduce irritation, in what ever form it is for you.
Don’t go back to your old ways too fast
When things start to go back to normal and your skin stops being so reactive/sensitive/dry, please don’t add all your products back in immediately. Tread carefully and add things back in slowly, just as you would do when you’re trying new products. Add a new product and wait for 3 or 4 days to see how your skin reacts. If you have no reaction, then you would be okay to add more in. But think about what your skin actually needs, rather than just adding in heaps of products because they’re trendy or because you used them before your skin freakout. If you’ve survived this long on a basic routine, you can go a bit longer without your 10 step routine. Ease yourself back in with gentler acids and use them more infrequently than you would have done before. Add things in very cautiously and up things very slowly. We don’t want to undo all our good work!
It took my skin 3 months to stop breaking out at the tiniest change to my routine. I’m feeling hopeful that my skin is on the mend, but I’m not going to risk it and overload it with new products! I’m going to still try and avoid the bulk of irritants for the near future if possible just to play it safe. Let me know how you get on!
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