my affordable, cruelty-free skincare routine for sensitive, acne-prone skin
I have terrible skin. Maybe it’s the Celiac Disease, maybe it’s the PCOS, maybe I’m just unlucky… whatever the case, on bad days I look a lot like Deadpool without his mask. To top it off, my skin is extremely sensitive, especially on my face, and I’m allergic to benzoyl peroxide, which is the active ingredient in most acne treatments. (Luckily, I’ve gotten pretty good at covering my acne with makeup.) I’ve tried just about everything you can try for acne, from Neutrogena to Proactiv to a prescription cleanser my doctor gave me, and most of it just made my skin worse. Then, when I was just about ready to sell my soul or start bathing in virgin blood, I found these products. All of them are all-natural or mostly-natural, none of them are tested on animals, they’re all fairly cheap and available at most drugstores, and all of them WORK. My skin looks and feels amazing – for the first time in years, I don’t have any big spots or breakouts.
First of all (and this is probably not what some of you want to hear, but it really is true), what you put into your body effects your health and appearance, especially your skin. Someone who eats a lot of greasy, artificially flavored, or highly processed food will almost always have worse skin than someone who eats a healthy, balanced diet. That’s just a fact of life. And there are always going to be a few people who just have ridiculously good genes, and can consume a family sized bag of Doritos and a two-liter of Dr. Pepper every day and still have perfect skin, as unfair as that might seem to the rest of us.
My skin has gotten significantly better since I was diagnosed with PCOS (that’s Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and insulin resistance (which is often caused by PCOS and can lead to full-blown diabetes if not treated) last November. My doctor put me on a couple of medications to regulate my insulin and my hormones, and also suggested that I switch to a low-carb diet – both of those things have improved my skin a lot. If you have chronic or severe acne. especially if acne does not run in your family, talk to your doctor. Sometimes, skin conditions like acne can indicate a bigger, underlying health issue. If that’s the case (as it is with me), treating the underlying issue will often improve your skin.
Anyway, now that the PSA is out of the way, here are some things you can do to improve your skin from the inside out:
- Take zinc supplements. (Just be sure to take them with food – taking zinc on an empty stomach can make you very nauseous.)
- Take fish oil. (This one is a bit more expensive, but one bottle will last you almost a year, since you only have to take one a day.)
- Drink green tea every day. I’ve talked about the benefits of different teas on this blog before, but green tea in particular has been proven to improve your skin over time if you drink at least one cup a day. My current favorites are Tazo’s Zen and Green Ginger blends, but Yogi’s Skin Detox blend is delicious and contains other herbs that are good for your skin.
- Avoid artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives in your food.
- Switch to a low-carb, or even paleo, diet. (This one is a pretty extreme solution, but if you decide to try it, just know that it’s actually normal for you to feel sore, tired, grumpy, and sick during the first two weeks eating low-carb. This is so common that it has a nickname – they call it “the carb flu.” Don’t let those first couple of weeks discourage you – you will feel much better once they’re over.)
And if all of that sounds like way too much effort, don’t worry, because what you put on your skin makes a big difference, too. Here are the products that I use in my day-to-day skincare routine, in the order that I use them:
- Yes To Tomatoes Activated Charcoal Bar Soap - (Please note that, normally, using a bar soap on your face is a very, very bad idea. But this one is specially made to be gentle enough for it, even if you have extremely sensitive skin like mine.) I just rub it on my face, lather it up, (gently!) scrub a bit, and then rinse it off. It’s very convenient and easy.
- Thayer’s Witch Hazel Toner, Original - (As you may have already learned the hard way, toners with alcohol in them can be damaging, so even if you don’t use this one, look for one that’s alcohol-free.) I pour it onto a cotton ball or cotton pad (or, in cases of emergency, a folded up paper towel) and swab my face with it. Again, pretty easy.
- Yes To Tomatoes Daily Balancing Moisturizer - (Part of the reason I love this product is because it smells really good – but it also works really well. My skin looked visibly clearer and less red after one use!) This is EVEN EASIER than the previous two steps. I just apply it immediately after toner, and use my fingertips to massage it into my face.
Those are the three products that I use twice a day, every day, but if you want to really go all-out, here are a couple of others you can try:
- Freeman Charcoal & Black Sugar Mask - (It looks like mud. It kinda feels like mud. But it also makes my skin feel smooth, soft, and buttery, and does a really good job of clearing up acne and redness.) You just smear it on your face, leave it on until it dries (I usually do 20-30 minutes), and then rinse it off. I like to use it immediately after washing my face with the bar soap, then after I wash it off I skip toner and go straight to moisturizer.
- Lush Dark Angels Scrub/Cleanser - (Are you picking up on a theme yet? Turns out, charcoal is amazing for clearing up acne. I debated even putting this one on the list, because unlike all these other products, it is definitely not cheap, and you won’t find it at your local drugstore. Honestly, it does almost the exact same thing as the Freeman mask – which is $17 cheaper – but this one has a bit more of an exfoliation factor to it, and smells really nice.) I’m currently out of it (because it’s expensive and I’m a bit low on funds at the moment), but when I used it before I would pinch off a small amount, mix it with water to make a paste, and use it on my face instead of my normal cleanser. Then I’d skip toner and go ahead and moisturize.
- Biore Deep Cleansing Pore Strips - These are really handy if you have a lot of blackheads. You just wet your nose, smooth the strip down on it, wait for it to feel dry and stiff, and then rip it off. It is NOT painless, but it’s not as bad as waxing your legs or ripping off a band-aid. And it removes all of the gunk clogging your pores. My favorite part is looking at all of the nasty stuff left on the strip after you rip it off. It’s disgusting, but kinda fascinating. Glad all of that isn’t in my pores anymore.
Those are all of the products I like to use on my face. All of them are cruelty-free, none of them give me an allergic reaction, and all of them help my skin a lot.
Here are some extra tips for keeping your skin as soft, clear, and glowing as possible:
- If you wear makeup, you might wanna invest in a primer to create a protective barrier between your foundation and your skin. I’m currently using e.l.f.’s Poreless Face Primer (which, btw is sold at Walmart for half of the price Amazon is asking).
- Also, you should never, ever sleep with makeup on, or leave your makeup on overnight. It will damage your skin and make you break out, no matter how prone to acne your skin normally is. Even if you’re too tired to do your full skincare routine, at least swab your face down with a makeup remover wipe before you go to bed.
- Look for makeup products that are labelled “non-comedogenic” and “hypoallergenic.” Usually, these products are the safest bet for people with sensitive skin.
- Exercise has been linked to clearer skin. Even little things like walking your dog or ten minutes of yoga can make a difference.
- Lack of sleep can and often does cause breakouts. I literally cannot stress how important getting enough sleep is, not just to your skin, but to your overall physical and mental health.
- Don’t wash your face more than twice a day. Washing too often can cause your face to produce excess oil, which clogs your pores, which causes breakouts.
- Do not exfoliate more than three times a week, and never exfoliate two days in a row.
- Using pore strips too often can be really bad for you. After using one on your face, wait at least 2-3 days before you use another.
And finally, remember that other people do not look at your skin as closely as you do. Most of the time, other people don’t think your acne is as bad as you do. Your friends don’t care if you have a huge pimple on your chin, or if your nose is covered in blackheads. And even if you follow all of the advice in this post, never miss a dose of vitamins, wash your face twice a day, every day, and use masks and special treatments several times a week, you might still have occasional small breakouts or redness. And that’s okay, because no one’s skin is always perfect. Having acne or bad skin doesn’t make you ugly, and investing time, effort, and money in treating your skin doesn’t make you vain. Do what makes you feel happy, comfortable, and confident.