Do you ever wake up, turn the alarm off, and lie there under the blankets for a moment, not wanting to get up? The day can seem too hard, too long and too full of effort. You just want to close your eyes and lie […]
Month: October 2017
Acne sucks. But what sucks even more is having your skin clear up, only to find you’ve got to deal with what’s left behind (as if pimples aren’t enough). You might have a few small pink spots, crater-like dents or raised skin toned bumps. To […]
People always want to know the best things they can do for their skin. There are so many answers to that question, depending on your current skin condition, lifestyle, and skin goals. All most people focus is on treatment, quick-fixes and instant results.
But prevention is arguably an even more effective way to cure skin issues. Whether your concern is acne scarring or ageing or skin cancer, what not so many people know about are things that cause damage to their skin every day and create these issues. Let’s learn about them so you can improve your habits!
In my last sun care post about hats, you might have gotten the impression that the sun was something to be avoided. If so, you’re right. The sun is a major cause of ageing and triggers the development of skin cancers such as melanoma. The sun ages us by creating free-radicals that damage collagen production.
We are lucky to live in an age where there is a plethora of sun protection options, from the beauty conscious to the eco friendly. You should be wearing sunscreen on exposed skin every day you go outside or will be sitting near a window.
Smoking reduces oxygen levels in your skin which impedes hydration and slows cell regeneration and wound healing. Ever hear the term ‘antioxidant’? These combat cell damage by preventing oxidants from attacking and destroying cells. But smoking delivers a huge hit of oxidants to your system. Smoking’s direct effect on your skin and also your overall health will leave you dull, dry, and more prone to infection.
Consider quitting smoking as soon as possible – your whole body will thank you for it.
Alcohol consumption dehydrates your bloodstream. Dehydrate yourself enough or habitually and you’ll start to dry out the deep layers of your skin, resulting in the appearance of more fine lines and exacerbated skin conditions. Alcohol abuse can also lead to early-onset skin diseases like rosacea, adult acne, and infections.
Alcohol intake should be kept below the suggested daily limit and within weekly drinking guidelines. In Australia, this is less than 2 standard drinks a day, with two alcohol-free days a week. More info on the science behind these limits can be found in this article.
I struggle with a disorder called CSP or compulsive skin picking. This means I regularly and involuntarily pick, scratch, squeeze or dig at my skin. It can be using my nails, tweezers, nail clippers or even scissors (see more photos of this in my skin care journey post). While not everybody suffers from a condition this severe, skin picking (especially picking at acne) is a widespread bad habit that manifests itself in blotchy, swollen, irritated skin. Our skin is very intelligent and wonderful at keeping itself healthy and clean, and you should keep your hands off!
For those who have issues with skin picking compulsions, try visiting r/CalmHands or r/CompulsiveSkinPicking for a supportive group environment. Otherwise, I strongly suggest you ask your GP to point you in the right direction for professional help.
Lots of people who follow bad skin habits like using baking soda scrubs claim that their skin seems fine so therefore no harm done. But consistent irritation of the skin can create undetectable inflammation. Inflammation promotes skin ageing and encourages skin barrier dysfunction. These effects only appear over time, so while your skin might seem fine now, irritating routines will have a real negative impact in the long run.
So drop the alkaline cleansers and rough granular scrubs and focus on hydration and healing. Addition of anti-inflammatory ingredients will also help fight irritation and the associated ageing and skin disorders.
On a similar note to irritation, high levels of stress can wreak havoc on your skin. I can attest to this as I went through a few years of intense emotional stress and boy did my skin show it. Stress and the hormones it produces encourages inflammation and has been linked to all kinds of skin diseases such as acne, dermatitis and psoriasis.
Our society is a high-stress one, but there are things you can do to try to improve. Try to reduce workload or pressure on yourself when possible, take mental health days when you need to, visit a therapist to work through your problems, use skin care as a form of self care, and practice mindfulness, meditation or yoga to slow your heart rate and train of thought.
If you can change your lifestyle to improve upon one or all of these factors, you’ll be helping yourself in the long run. When you treat your skin preventatively, you’re not fighting an uphill battle in your daily routine. Don’t make things harder for yourself!
I hope you learnt something new today! Let us know in the comments below which habit you find the hardest to kick. Hope to see you again on the blog soon!
When I was a child, I envied the skin care routines of the women in my life. Looking at them pampering themselves with great-smelling foams and creams made me feel like I was missing out on so much! So when my older sister got her […]
Everyone always talks about how important a good moisturiser is in your skincare routine. But what makes a good moisturiser? And how do you pick the right one? The key is in knowing the three classes of moisturising ingredients, and what each one does for […]
Disclaimer: This post gets pretty real, and is picture heavy with some gnarly and unflattering pictures of my damaged skin. You’ve been warned.
Right now, my skin is the best it’s ever been.
It’s clear, soft and calm, with no redness and not even a single pimple. But the road to where I am now was a long and painful one. I’ve struggled with many different skin issues over the past 9 years, some of them genetic and some of them self inflicted. I know I never had it as bad as some people, but my skin has still caused me a huge amount of issues throughout my life. For the sake of this post, I’ll break up my experience chronologically into the three major difficulties I faced.
From the tender age of 11 onwards, like many others I suffered with acne. It was like I woke up one day and my skin revolted. All through my teen years, I envied those girls who’d get a tiny bump on their chin and sulk, hiding my face with the huge, sore cysts that would leave nasty red marks behind once they’d left. There were pimples all over my face, and it destroyed my self confidence.
After some begging, my mum took me off to a dermatologist and I was prescribed Duac, a strong benzoyl peroxide and clindamycin antibiotic gel. The problem, I think, was the dermatologist’s willingness to prescribe strong medication to a teenager without giving proper directions.
Off I went from their office, envisioning my new life free of my acne, but little did I know of the issues I’d cause myself. From then on I used Duac religiously every day, followed only sometimes by a light moisturiser, usually with more acne fighting actives. Now, with more experience under my belt, I know that this is a recipe for skin irritation and disaster. After doing this for a few weeks my acne was 90% clear, but I had practically burned my skin to a crisp. My face started to burn all day, and even splashing water on it hurt. I had started my journey with dehydration.
DEHYDRATION & SENSITIVITY
My skin was so damaged from improper care with strong medication that I had created a new issue – severe dehydration and sensitivity. Acne was less of a problem though it still reared its ugly head from time to time. Even though I went to a private girls school with a strict no-makeup policy, you bet you’d find me every morning in the school bathroom layering on cheap mineral foundation to try and take some of the redness away. I mention the redness because that was always been my main skin issue – I looked perpetually sunburned. I was teased in high school, made fun of for my ‘ski mask sunburn’. The redness came right up around my eyes and stopped suddenly in a perfect goggle shape.
You could see a distinct line between my burnt face and my neck.
My skin was flaking and peeling off, and the foundation just made it look drier. Still, I never wanted to be seen without my makeup. I continued to use the Duac sporadically, trying in vain to find a balance between acne and burning skin. Even years after I stopped using it, my face retained a raw, red and peeling appearance. This led to a third issue – skin picking.
COMPULSIVE SKIN PICKING
As I reached my elder teen years and the stress from school grew, in an effort to be free from my remaining acne I began to pick at my skin. This is something I still struggle with a lot to this day, and I hope to write a blog post about it soon. It quickly became a ritual of mine to sit in front of the magnifying mirror and scour my poor, scabbed face for each and every blemish and squeeze the life out of it. I even had moments where I’d take things like pins, scissors or nail clippers to my face and do some serious damage. I would scratch of cut off anything I could feel that was ‘imperfect’. It felt like I was taking control of my skin and improving it, but looking back I see how much damage I caused. I even have some lasting scars from particularly bad wounds.
At this time, my skin care routine was still very minimal. I was studying out of state, with very little money or time on my hands. I had never found a combination of products that didn’t cause me deep, sore cysts, and I stumbled into a routine of washing my skin with Cetaphil gentle cleanser (which I now know I’m sensitive to and it contributed to my breakouts) and moisturising with whatever I could find. I just didn’t have the room in my life to care about my skin any more. The dehydration and sensitivity persisted, and this coupled with my incessant skin picking meant I had pretty crap skin for a few years.
Over that time I experienced a series of stressful life events, including graduating from a small high school and entering a huge new university, living in a borderline abusive household, dropping out of my university degree and unexpected, gut-wrenching heartbreak. This triggered a time of extreme emotional stress where I took very little care of my skin and suffered a lot because of it.
My stress was so high that I began experiencing full body rashes, especially on my face, neck, chest and arms.
My skin became covered in spots that would itch and burn. I hated the way I looked and felt so self conscious I would never leave my apartment or I’d find places in public to hide and cry. Self care took the wayside and as I grew more frustrated with my skin I started to wash it with whatever bar soap or shampoo and leave it to dry without moisturiser.
My skin started to peel like a snake and I could feel it crack and sometimes bleed.
I hate to admit it, but I even used baking soda scrubs day after day in the hopes that my skin would somehow be smooth and soft again.
Finally, I began also suffering from a painful skin condition called seborrhoeic dermatitis, a fungal infection of the scalp and face. At this point, my skin was the worst it had ever been.
My face was covered in red patches and tiny bumps, and my eyes swelled up. I had scabs and blisters and every pore stuck out like a sore thumb. My skin felt like sandpaper and for the first time ever I realised I needed help.
I had an infection on the skin beside my eye which was posing a threat to its health. After going to my doctor and coming away with eye drops, an ointment and strict instructions for gentle skin care, something in me changed. I decided that I’d had enough of the pain and stress. I wanted to turn my skin and life around.
THE ROAD TO REPAIR
I got help for my mental issues, went on medication, moved back home where I had the support of my family and got into a relationship with someone who is my number one fan and best friend. I changed my life direction and my degree, cut out many toxic people from my life and focused on small goals. I made my skin’s health one of these goals and began caring seriously about the products and routines I used. Research became a huge hobby of mine and I was ravenous for information on how skin really worked. I became aware of how much misinformation I had absorbed without realising it. I learnt to focus on hydration and repair, and finally understood that my skin had the capability to heal itself if only I would let it.
MY LIFE NOW
Over the course of the past year and a bit, my skin has made a complete 180.
It’s no longer red and peeling from dehydration. I beat seborrhoeic dermatitis with a prescription ointment from my dermatologist. My skin no longer reacts negatively to the wrong ingredients in my products and as a result I’ve experienced a huge reduction in acne.
Now I only get one or two small blemishes every week, and they heal in no time. I’m still working on leaving my skin alone and not picking anymore, and I still have some red marks, but I can see an improvement every day.
Most of all, my mental health has been in such a huge upswing now that I’m not battling stress in my daily life. I’m off medication and feeling truly happy for the first time in so long. Looking at these pictures and reliving my late teen years really shocks and saddens me because I can remember vividly how unhappy I was. But everything’s changed for the better and life is looking up again. I’m unbelievably glad that I’m not where I used to be, and I can’t wait to see where I’ll be in another year’s time.
If you’ve made it this far I applaud you for sticking around. Self care is so important and far too often forgotten in our hectic lives. I hope my story can be both a cautionary tale and a wake up call for you to make time to look after yourself. If my journey and pictures inspire you to make just one change to your habits, then I’ll be happy. I learnt to care for my whole body and mind just by starting with my skin, and I know you can do the same too.
If you read yesterday’s post about skin types, you should already know whether you’re dry, normal, oily or combination. But that’s not all – there is another factor that impacts how your skin behaves and the routine you should use. Let’s talk about skin conditions. […]
The most common question I hear from beginners just dipping their toes into the world of skin care is “How can I figure my skin type?“. This question is usually coming from a place of confusion, and for good reason, because it can feel like […]
Our skin has a natural protective barrier called the acid mantle. This is a fine layer of sweat that carries small amounts of bodily acid, excreted through the oil glands. Acid is anything below a pH level of 7 (neutral), as opposed to above 7 (alkaline) on the pH scale.
Once this sweat evaporates, all that is left is the acid layer, known as the acid mantle. This layer can naturally fall anywhere between a pH of 4.5 to 6.2.
What does the acid mantle do?
Our acid mantle protects the inside of our bodies from bacteria. This works because human blood is alkaline (around a 7.4 on the pH scale). Pathogens have usually evolved to only exist in a very narrow pH range. Because our skin’s pH is so different to that of our blood, bacteria which can survive on our skin and enter our bloodstream are unsuitable to our internal pH, and the bacteria that would theoretically thrive in our alkaline blood are unable to breach this acid mantle at all.
But what does this have to do with skin health?
The acidity of our skin, along with healthy oil (sebum) production and natural exfoliation of old skin (desquamation) all work together to deter bacteria which cause common skin conditions like acne, or in some cases rarer ones like MRSA infections. Those who suffer from barrier defects like eczema are commonly found to have a weak acid mantle and skin with a high pH. By using products that are of a balanced pH (that is to say, slightly acidic like our skin), we do not disrupt our skin’s defence mechanism. This keeps our skin healthy and functioning to the best of its natural ability.
So what can I do to keep my skin at the correct pH?
Here are two easy, cheap ways to keep your skin’s pH in the healthier range.
1. Avoid putting anything alkaline on your face
Often, the culprit behind dry, irritated skin and a damaged acid mantle is our cleansers. Anything with a pH of 6.5 or higher is too alkaline for our skin.
This means NO BAKING SODA. I’m looking at you, Instagram “gurus” and Pinterest DIYs. Baking soda is often touted as a wonder exfoliant and cure-all for those with acne or other skin issues. This is absolutely not true. With a high pH of of 8-9, baking soda is not a safe ingredient for skin health. The problem arises when baking soda’s unbelievably high pH comes in contact with your naturally acidic skin. It essentially neutralises your acid mantle, allowing harmful bacteria to multiply in the hours following your ‘scrub’. If anyone tells you that using baking soda on your skin is great for whatever reason, run far, FAR away.
Skin care minimalists won’t like to hear this, but nothing alkaline also means no bar soap. The soap manufacturing process utilises lye, almost the most alkaline thing you can get your hands on, with a whopping pH of 13 (that’s 10,000,000x more alkaline than your skin!). The final bar product usually falls at around a 9 or a 10 similar to baking soda and is bad for the same reasons. On top of this, soap is a very effective remover of oils and grease, which is (perhaps surprisingly) not a great quality for a facial wash. This irritates and sensitises the skin. We want to gently cleanse the dirt from our face, not dry it out.
So what should you wash your face with instead?
2. Use a dedicated facial cleanser that has a pH of 4.5-6
This tip sounds scary, but you can find a huge list of cleansers alongside their pH levels over on Skincare Dupes. Shoot for something in this range and you’ll be a huge step closer to healthy happy skin! Those with dry or dehydrated skin might try something creamy like Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Face Cleanser, while more oily skins or those who just prefer a foaming texture could try Cerave Foaming Facial Cleanser or Simple Kind To Skin Refreshing Gentle Wash Gel. All of these are easy to find and affordable, but most importantly fall within a safe pH level range. Don’t trust claims on the bottle like ‘pH balanced’ or ‘for sensitive skin’ – these aren’t regulated and are often misleading.
See, it’s easy to keep your skin healthy with a little knowledge. I hope you learnt something new today!
For the science geeks among you, here is some more reading on the science behind skin & pH: