Skincare Saga: Turning it Over to the Pros
Please note NOTHING in this post should be taken as medical advice – these are my own personal experiences. Any medical treatments should be worked out between you and your doctor.
(Spoiler: this post contains a 20% discount for you!)
I’ve detailed my skin woes at length, but for those of you just tuning in – my skin and I, we’ve had a kinda tumultuous relationship. My early/mid twenties were particularly rough because even though acne is supposed to get better after your teens, mine got way way worse. It gradually progressed from just a couple annoying spots to full-blown cysts that hurt so much I’d wake up crying if I turned over the wrong way at night. I wanted it to just go away, and believe me, I tried all the potions. Fancy systems from tv infomercials, different kinds of goop from Ulta and Sephora, department store stuff that really stretched my budget… nothing worked.
And you know why? I had no clue what I was doing. Ever since I can remember, skincare has been treated like a cosmetic issue, something you can fix with a cream or a lotion if you just fork over enough money. It’s a brilliant marketing strategy, I admit, but not very helpful to me. I didn’t have any real understanding what was actually happening to my skin, let alone figuring out causes or solutions. It took me waaaaay too long to realize that skin is an organ and I might need professional help to straighten it out. I mean, if your eye is red and swollen and infected, are you going to let that go on for years? Yeah, me neither.
After a lot of research and experimentation I eventually got fed up and made an appointment with a dermatologist. Life pro tip: that really shouldn’t be a last resort. My first go-round with the doc had its ups and downs. Her opinion was that pesky hormones were causing my acne, so she recommended Accutane pretty early on. I’m stubborn, so I had to try basically every other treatment first. Another life pro tip: your doc went through a gazillion years of specialized training so maybe if you’re paying them to tell you what to do, you should actually do it.
After about five months of Accutane my skin was perfectly, blissfully breakout-free. It stayed that way for over a year, and I was even able to get rid of most of the hyperpigmentation and redness left over. Unfortunately earlier this year a new medication made it start going bonkers again, but this time I was smart and got myself straight back to the derm’s office (and got a skin cancer screening while I was at it, that checked out fine). I specifically asked for tretinoin cream because my skin tolerated it pretty well before and not gonna lie, I don’t mind the anti-wrinkle ‘side effect’ either. That wish was granted, and this time we decided to stomp the hormones with spironolactone, which works as an androgen blocker and keeps oil glands from going into overdrive. Plus it’s better than paying my insurance copay every month so I can go in and pinky-swear not to get pregnant. So far the combo has been working really well for me, and my breakouts stopped almost entirely after a couple months.
But wait, there’s more
Difficulty: did I mention spironolactone also acts as a diuretic? Because it does. So now my skin is producing less oil and the tretinoin dries it out and I’m usually at least a little dehydrated if I forget to chug liters of water. I’ll take that over breakouts any day, but it does make my skin a bit red and dull. It’s also so flaky that I had to switch from buffing brushes to a blending sponge for foundation (the horror!).
Now, I like experimenting with skincare products as much as the next person, but I also wanted to get this under control ASAP. For kicks and giggles I hopped onto the Nordstrom site and clicked ‘All Skincare’. Do you know how many products there were? Two thousand nine hundred thirty-four. At one store. Good luck with that!
I’ve had good luck with Paula’s Choice skincare products before and I was properly thrilled when they offered to put together a custom skincare routine for me. I didn’t know it before, but they have a free service where you can call in (1-800-831-4088, if you want to try it) and get a personalized consultation to help you choose the best products. They also have enough options to make your head swim (I swear, they have something for everything) but it’s less overwhelming when you have someone telling you what to try!
All in all my consultation took about 10 minutes. I explained the medications I was using and what my concerns are (redness and dryness, mainly). The consultant I spoke with really knew her stuff. She was familiar with the treatments, and more importantly, with the side effects. We decided to moisturize aggressively and she knew exactly which products to recommend for that. It’s not just a tell-you-what-to-buy session either; we went through how each product works, how to apply them, what order to use them in, how often, etc. She accounted for my prescription cream in how often to use each product, and gave me the very wise advice to introduce each product into my routine gradually. I learned that lesson the hard way one time when I used benzoyl peroxide all over my face and woke up covered in welts, so I definitely approve of that warning. The products we picked out covered all the bases in a full skincare routine.
For cleansing I got the Moisture Boost cleanser, which as promised is very gentle. It has aloe and sodium hyaluronate for moisture and chamomile for an anti-inflammatory. I’ve used cleansers before that were non-drying, but I think this may be the first one that actually makes my skin feel more moisturized. The Resist Advanced Replenishing Toner follows it up with tons of moisturizing and anti-inflammatory ingredients. It’s really light and soaks in quickly so I use it morning and evening (I only cleanse at night).
Then we have the exfoliants & treatments. Btw, I love that the products are labeled with which category they fall into. The 2% BHA liquid has salicylic acid, which is a good acne treatment, and it also exfoliates dead skin to keep it from building up. It’s meant for daily use but I keep it to about 3x a week so I don’t overwhelm my skin. The 10% AHA liquid is a bit stronger so I use it once a week on a day that I don’t use the tretinoin cream. The Resist Pure Radiance treatment uses niacinamide, licorice extract, hyaluronic acid, ceramides and a whole list of other stuff to fade dark spots, reduce redness and rebuild skin barrier function.
And finally we come to moisturizers. The Moisture Boost Hydrating Cream is my night moisturizer. It’s not heavy, but it is thicker and more emollient than most daytime moisturizers, and it doesn’t have SPF. That’s what the Moisture Boost Daily Restoring Complex is for. I use around 1/4 teaspoon (enough to get the rated SPF) and it doesn’t feel heavy or greasy. My makeup goes on well over it, so thumbs up for that too. The tube looks really small so at first I thought I’d go through it really fast at that rate. Then I realized that 2oz is more than most of the other sunscreens I’ve used (they typically are 1.7oz) and this one is way less expensive than a lot of them. As for the Barely There Sheer Matte Tint, I’m kind of cheating with this one. It wasn’t actually part of the routine I set up during my consultation, but I already had it and I do use it most days. It has very decent coverage and looks natural even if I go for the 1/4tsp route. Sometimes I use it as a sunscreen/primer under my regular foundation, and other times I just slather it on when I don’t feel like doing a full face.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been slowly adding everything in, and now I’ve completely replaced my old routine with it. Obviously it’s too soon to see some of the effects like anti-aging and fading dark spots, but I’m making good progress with the redness and flakes. I even used my Tarte foundation brush the other day, which would have been guaranteed to pull up dry skin everywhere a month ago. So as it turns out, handing things over to the professionals actually does get results! Shocking, I know.
I totaled up the costs of all the products I received and it came up to $191 ($211 if you count the Sheer Matte that I already had). Which is not an insignificant amount, but it’s much more cost-effective than most of the stuff that’s currently in my bathroom cabinet. Not to mention every product is backed up by cited research, so I trust that they’ll work. If you’re not ready to go all-in, your personal skin consultant can recommend the things that will give you the best bang for your buck, and Paula’s Choice also sells sample sizes of most products for between 50 cents and a few bucks. Or you could just use the 20% discount from PRIMP Perks, which is good through December 31, 2015. You can keep up with other perks and look up product reviews by downloading the PRIMP app.