I have a confession: I’m 40 and have a serious acne problem. A skin concern that should, by all accounts affect women less than half my age. Having been a beauty editor, this does not sit well with me. My skin should be youthful-looking, spotless and glowing, right? But even with my access to top skincare experts and products my skin is behaving like a naughty child, refusing to do as it’s told. I’ve used multiple products to battle my acne-prone skin: dermatologist faves—both mechanical and chemical exfoliants—such as AHA’s (glycolic acid and lactic acid) and BHA, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, zinc oxide, retinol, etc. I’ve also tried products for sensitive skin (gentle, fragrance-free, sulphate-free). I even went the all pure route (organic, tea-tree oil, plant-based, all-natural). And nothing has worked.
Now for a long time I thought my breakouts were PMS related. They would come around that time of the month, stick around for a few days and then shrink away, always leaving a scar as a reminder of its visit. But over the following months I noticed that my acne was arriving before, during and after my period, plus taking much longer to heal. I started self-treating with products—mainly because I had access to a wide variety of them—and had high hopes. I even followed all the lifestyle rules to limit breakouts: not holding my phone to my face, regular laundering of sheets, swapping out laundry detergents, face cleansers and moisturizers…Nothing. My husband urged me to see a dermatologist, but I felt that I’d interviewed so many of them about this skin issue that I had an idea of what they would recommend (use products with all-of-the-above ingredients, or give me medication).
Now remember, I’m 40. My skin is like the freakin’ Sahara, bears a collection of brown spots from sun damage, the hormones are back into overdrive and I still have to deal with wrinkles. (Ok, so I have a lot of issues). But deep down I knew this particular acne needed a bigger fix than trying to unclog pores. And let’s get one thing out of the way: I am not going on Accutane—or anything close to it. While Accutane has been the Holy Grail for some, I am not about it. The side effects are vast, and at my age I can’t afford to have anything else go wrong with me.
So here is where I start my journey as to how to fix my skin from going to S@!T. My first stop: a naturopath, with the hope that she’ll help me from the inside-out and rebalance my hormone rollercoaster.
Dr. Sapna Patel Flower (seriously, that’s her real name) is my kind of naturopath. She’s direct, realistic and not at all, hokey. She tells me that I’m not alone and that acne at my age is complicated. “With hormonal changes—post-pregnancy, coming off birth control or increased stress—your body changes its optimal hormone profile, making it higher in male hormones, cortisol (stress hormones) or both. When this happens our body can produce more oil and hence, clog pores starting the anti-inflmmatory/acne crusade,” she says. Before I can barrage her with questions she adds, “There’s never a black-and-white answer with our hormones. You could also be using the wrong skincare products or feeding the bacteria that causes acne.” Great. So where the hell do I start?
Fearing the worst (I know that sugar, dairy, red meat and carbs could all be banned from my kitchen) Dr. Flowers assures me that we’ll take it slow. “We want to be realistic and taking on any extreme diet isn’t sustainable, especially around the holidays. We need any solution to be reasonable or you won’t do it.” (She knows me so well already). And while she confirms that yes, sugar, carbs and dairy are acne triggers, she’s going to start with tackling my existing acne with skin supplements and her favourite, tried-and-true cleanser (you’ll see, it’s a classic!). “Skin takes the longest to see results, so it’s hard to pinpoint anything conclusive until at least 6-8 weeks.” Good Lord. If this is the case then I better get started.
I leave her office with my bag stuffed with pills, a vow to eat better (less sugar, dairy and meat!) and renewed hope that my skin will clear up before I have to do anything extreme. Here’s the beginning of the grand-master plan.
FROM THE NATUROPATH
START ON SUPPLEMENTS Vitanica Skin Assist (3 tablets, twice daily) A bevvy of nutrients (hyaluronic acid, magnesium and Burdock root, to name a few) are packed into this pill to help prevent acne, strengthen skin and counter-act scarring. Vitamin D3 (1 pill, once a day) to reduce inflammation, and AOR Zinc-Copper Balance (2 tablets, twice daily) to dry out acne and prevent comedones (plugged hair follicles that look like they have something in them–ewwwww!
MY A.M. SKINCARE ROUTINE BeautyCounter Lustreo Face Oil 01: Natural plant oils hydrate and soothe my sore skin (contrary to popular belief, putting oil on the skin will not cause breakouts). Tarte Rainforest of the Sea Water Foundation, a gentle foundation that evens out my skin tone and reduces pimple-redness. Dr.Roebuck’s PURE, a hypo-allergenic ultra-moisturizing day and night cream formulated for problem and sensitive skin. Clè de Peau Concealer, for the ultimate, natural-looking zit coverage.
MY P.M. SKINCARE ROUTINE Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash (Dr.Flower’s reco), which uses 2% salicylic acid to unclog pores and release nasty pimples from my skin (it’s seriously gross, but satisfying…). Dr.Roebuck’s Ultimate Hydrating Serum and Eye Rejuvenating Cream, because I’m 40 and need hydration and anti-aging help. Dr. Roebuck’s PURE, which also can be used for night-time.
So here’s to the next 6-8 weeks. Until then, wish me luck.