I wanted to go a little off topic of my normal posting about ingredients and things that go into the products here at Soapsmiths and talk a little bit about why some products are better than others for different skin care applications.
I was recently on a forum I frequent and contributed some information to another member regarding battling adult acne. It is something that many adults deal with and it can be annoying, embarrassing, painful or all three. There are different types of acne and different reasons that people have it. Some may be easier to treat than others and some do need a medical professional to intervene and help them resolve the problem.
Let's start from the beginning. What is Acne? This is a loaded question because acne is sometimes a product of genetics, environment (external) medications (internal), bacteria and other triggers such as hormones, stress, cosmetics and food. The exact definition as stated in Milady's Standard Esthetics Fundamentals is this: a chronic inflammatory skin disorder of the sebaceous glands that is characterized by comedones and blemishes.
As defined by the book listed above there are 4 grades of acne, these range from minor to major with the 4th category being cystic acne which does need to be treated by a dermatologist. If you are not sure, please seek the help of a physician in order to get the proper treatment.
Great, how do we fix this? Well it depends. First you have to know what is triggering your acne, not always the simplest task, I know. You can start by eliminating external triggers such as foods and cosmetics. For example, do you notice that you break out after eating or drinking something specific? Try eliminating processed foods, alcohol, over-the-counter medications, perhaps even dairy, grains and other foods that are known for causing allergic reactions. Sometimes a breakout is your body's way of telling you that it does not agree with what you are putting into it. For example, every time I get a cold and take cough medicine I completely break out all over my jaw line, literally all over, it's embarrassing. It took me awhile to figure this out but I finally put A and B together, nixed the cough medicine and no more breakouts (at least cough syrup related).
As for cosmetics, are you sanitizing your brushes after each use or better yet using disposable applicators? Are you double dipping your applicators into your cosmetics (a big culprit of bacteria related acne). Are you following the hardest rule of all and tossing those cosmetics that are past it's due date? I KNOW! It seems like throwing your hard earned money away, but your skin will thank you because you are saving it from the bacteria breeding ground that cosmetics tend to become. And really, isn't that sometimes why we buy cover-up? To cover blemishes? Less blemishes could equal less cover-up needed and more savings in the end!
Here's another one that I hear about commonly, do you wash and scrub the heck out of your face and still have acne? Well STOP! Our face skin differs from other skin on our bodies in that it is more sensitive and in some spots very thin, over rubbing, over exfoliating, and whatever else is all too much for this part of our body. There is actually a term for this, it's called acne mechanica. This type of acne can be totally avoided with a change in your skin care routine. In addition to rubbing your skin right off your face you are also rubbing all of your sebum away and most likely causing micro-tears in your skin, this presents new problems to your skin. 1- many times people exfoliate to remove dirt, grime and bacteria from their skin but OVER exfoliating also effects the sebum balance in your glands (found mainly on your jawline) causing it to produce more and faster, which leads to "oily" skin. Stop rubbing and start nourishing and your sebum glands will calm down. 2- Micro-tears are a by-product of using exfoliants which are not meant for your face such as a sugar scrub or something that has very sharp granules (salt, ground walnut shells etc.) If it hurts your face stop using it, your skin is telling you that it's no good! You are causing micro-tears, aggravating your skin and opening yourself up to possible bacterial infections (from those dirty make-up applicators perhaps?).
Alright so this information is great but what should I use? Well the options are endless and the type of acne and skin that you have will dictate what it the best skin care regiment overall. Remember, skin care is not just choosing one product, it's more choosing a group of products and coming up with a consistent regiment. As someone who makes products, specifically handmade soap it pains me to say that handmade soap is not appropriate for acne prone skin. Why? Because handmade soap generally has a pH of between 8-9 or so and our skin's pH is 5.5. Using a handmade soap will unbalance your face and cause it to over produce sebum in order to get back to that acidic pH of 5.5. Now the whole process of re-balancing itself generally takes no more than 20 minutes, but in that 20 minutes your skin will feel oily or possibly tight and dry and who wants that after just washing their face? Not me. What do I use? Because I have acne prone AND sensitive skin I vary my selection of products but keep the regiment. For example, my process is: cleanse, tone, moisturize. I will 1-2 times per week use a gentle exfoliant and 1-2 times per month do a light (very VERY light) steam with a nourishing mask. I have information on both masks and exfoliants in previous posts for your viewing pleasure (sorry I am having trouble linking them right now).
Since the original publishing of this post in 2012 my skin has changed and I have different types of products I prefer to use. I no longer use oil based products on my face and instead opt for gentle surfactant based cleansers and oil free moisturizers. I have formulated some and also purchased commercial products which I found to work quite well. This is a change I felt was needed in order to accommodate my changing skin needs. I left the information in because it will still be relevant for others and there is a formulation below that will works quite well as a cleansing milk. ~Enjoy
For my trinity of skincare products I have found that my skin likes a gentle cleansing milk which is soap free, it's basically a very thin lotion, it's completely nourishing, gentle and since "like attracts like" it pulls the oils and grime from my skin and pores with ease. I make this myself, I have been formulating and testing variations of this recipe for months and I am very happy with the latest version. Since I prefer this blend to be very thin it has a high water content, in order to get some additional "yumminess" into this product I designate part of my water portion to a hydrosol with chamomile, rose and lavender being my favorites. This cleanser smells so sweet and feels so silky. If formulating scares the pants off of you you can simply do the oil cleansing method (OCM) which is exactly what it sounds like. Olive oil is great for this since it has the same pH as our skin. Cotton ball, gently wipe your face and leave it be. I find this cleansing method to be great in the winter when my skin is super thirsty and prefer to do it before bed so I don't feel all shiny when I am out and about. Also I prefer avocado oil because my skin really drinks it up, but again, it's a matter of preference.
If you feel like getting nutty and formulating your own, I will share with you the basics of my recipe (done by weight, not volume):
Phase 1 - Water Phase - Heat to 160F and hold for 20 minutes
Distilled Water 70%
Phase 2 - Oil Phase
Phase 3 - Cool down phase - add these ingredients once your formulation is below 122F
Preservative (I used germaben @ 0.5%)* Also since the time of this writing Liquid Germall Plus is now recommended at 0.1%-0.5%. I use it at 0.5%
Vitamin E oil 1% (this is an antioxidant, not a preservative)
Essential oil of choice @ 0.5%-1%, I prefer lavender and keep the % low since it's on my face and very near my nose. (geez of course it's near my nose! My nose is on my face, lol, I left what I originally wrote there because now it's just funny) :)
In the end your formulation should equal 100%. From there you can decide how many ounces or grams of cleansing milk you want to make and multiply it out.
Phase 3 is very important, you MUST preserve this formulation. Any product with water in it needs to be properly preserved, you are making this to help your skin, don't hurt it by leaving the preservative out. If you are unsure or nervous about preservatives, I have other posts about different ones on the site and you can also check with the manufacturer about different ones for different types of formulations.
Alright, on to toner. I have made it before but I am going to be completely honest, I cheat and purchase toner. I have only so many hours in my day and find the toners available in the store to work very well for me, why torture myself? Let's look at what toner really does. Benefits: freshener, pH balancing and astringent. Toners remove any residue which is left over from cleansing, it can temporarily make your pores appear to be smaller and should return your skin to it's normal pH as well as offer some hydration. I prefer non-oil based toners because they just make my skin feel fresher, although they should not contain alcohol, just read the label to be sure. You can apply it with a cotton ball or spritz it on. Hydrosols also make wonderful, gentle toners.
Last is moisturizer. In the winter I use either straight oil or a very heavy facial moisturizer at night, I feel that it plumps my skin while I sleep and makes it super soft, I generally prefer avocado oil, however I have recently tried just jojoba oil and find that it is also wonderful, did you know that jojoba is actually a wax and has properties that mimic our skins natural sebum?!?
Well, there you have it, a ridiculously long post about acne and products......I could write for days about this topic!In the summer I just cannot stand the thought of something heavy on my skin and opt for lighter cremes. If you are going to be in the sun get a moisturizer with sunscreen in it. It's such an easy step to take to protect yourself from sun spots, wrinkles and of course skin cancer. Think you are too young to get skin cancer? I have a list of people who are my age and younger who have already dealt with this at times disfiguring disease. This is the largest organ on your body, protect it as if your life depended on it! I digress, For those times when you just want to moisturize, I have actually been using my cleansing milk as my moisturizer, it's super light and soaks in like a dream, after all, it is just a thin lotion. Find something that you like and that feels comfortable to you and go with it. While I am sure the cremes that cost $65+ an ounce are great, I am just not interested in spending that! Yes, they have some superb ingredients but topically applied lotions and potions do not penetrate past the top most layers epidermis. I prefer to have something affordable that I can apply as I need to instead of worrying that I might run out and not be able to buy more because my payday has not yet arrived. Again it's a matter of preference, I have had to the good fortune to be able to try the ridiculously expensive as well as the less expensive and also hand made and my preference is for the less expensive and hand made.
~Best in acne-freeness
Disclaimer 1. This post raged out of control in terms of length and I only skimmed the surface.
Disclaimer 2. I am not qualified to give not medical advice nor do I aim to, if you have long term, serious or painful acne or other skin conditions please stop surfing the net and please seek professional face-to-face help.