Aug 042012
 

I have noticed that there are many people struggling with acne marks and scars and so I thought I’d share a solution for getting rid of acne and acne scars that I kind of put together for myself. I hope some of you find it helpful :-).

From the age of around 14 to 21, I suffered from acne on my face. It left me with scarred and pitted cheeks that remained with me for the next 9 years. Then at the age of 30, I suffered from another bout of acne leaving me with a few more scars.

Unfortunately, my skin does not heal very well. Most of my skin injuries leave me with a visible, dark scar. As you can imagine, I did not appreciate having a face that looked like the surface of the moon – pits, dark spots and all. I set about doing some research on the Internet about how to get rid of these vestiges of my teen and adult acne. The solution I came up with did not remove the pitting to any great extent, but it certainly stopped the pimples, almost completely cleared the dark spots and improved the overall texture of my facial skin.

I have included a couple of snaps here to show you what I looked like before and after starting my remedy. The ‘Before’ snap is the only proper snap of my face that I have from the period before starting my acne remedy. It was taken with my camera phone and so it’s not a good quality one. The ‘After’ snap was taken with an SLR camera and is, therefore, of much better quality. However, I would like to point out that the poor quality of the first snap should have blurred my scars and made me look better :-), whereas the high definition of the second snap should have made all my spots painfully obvious. In spite of this, you will see that my face in the second snap looks considerably better than that in the first snap.

Before (A): Scars before starting my acne remedy

Before (B): Scars before starting my acne remedy (scars circled)

This snap was taken when I was going through my second bout of acne or my adult acne at the beginning of this year. I’ve circled the marks in the second snap since this is not a good quality snap and you may not be able to distinguish the marks easily. They were a dark, dull brown at the time of this snap. At least if they had been black, I could have passed them off as beauty spots :-).

Update: Okay, so I managed to find another clearer snap of my acne scar face. These were taken with the SLR camera so every blemish is painfully obvious. Even so, I’ve circled the marks in case you can’t see them. Here they are:

Before (pic 2): Scars before starting my acne remedy

Before (pic 2): Scars before starting my remedy (circled)

And now here’s a snap of me after 2 months of using my acne remedy:

After: My face 2 months after starting my acne remedy

See? Loads better! The scars have either gone or faded and the texture of my skin is way better than before.

My solution:

  1. For internal skin repair (dark spots, uneven skin tone) I started taking 2 capsules of Seven Seas cod liver oil and 1 capsule of Evion Vit E (400mg) daily.
  2. I switched to a face wash that contained salicylic acid (beta-hydroxy acids or BHAs). The one I’m using now is Garnier PureActive Pore Unclogging wash. I also have Clean & Clear Morning Burst which is another face wash suitable for oily skin that contains salicylic acid. I used the facewash only twice a day.
  3. I stopped using toner. If I felt my pores needed tightening, I’d just use ice all over my face.
  4. I found a good moisturiser for my oily skin. It was an aloe vera gel by Forest Essentials. It works fine in the summer. I need a slightly heavier one for winter.

The above routine started showing results within the same week. By the end of a month, all my dark spots had faded to almost nothing. Only the really dark and stubborn ones were holding on for dear life. And now, in the 3rd month since I started this routine, even the stubborn ones are fading away. As for the pimples, they’ve disappeared altogether.

Why did this routine work?

  1. The cod liver oil provides the extra Vit A that acne-prone skin needs. This works in conjunction with the Vit E. Therefore, they have to be taken together. There is an optimal proportion of Vit A to Vit E. For details on the role of these vitamins in fighting acne and the quantities, you can read http://www.acne.org This is just my simplification of the information given in the website. Basically, these 2 vitamins reduce the scars and improve the texture and appearance of your skin. If you have issues with consuming cod liver oil capsules, the above-mentioned website suggests intake of certain quantities of butter or palm oil.
  2. The salicylic acid in the face wash is a kind of non-abrasive exfolliant which cleans out the pores. It removes the dead skin and sebum (oil secreted by the skin) which cause whiteheads and pimples. Apparently, this process happens naturally for people with normal, acne-free skin. However, those with acne-prone skin have sebum glands that work overtime and so these people need a little outside help.
  3. I found out that toner and astringents can dry out the skin more than necessary. This is especially the case if you’re already using a drying facewash like a scrub or one with salicylic acid (which is an exfolliant). More dry skin means more dead skin getting into your pores and mixing with the sebum to create whiteheads and pimples. Frankly, I found that my pores reduced in size a bit after I stopped using toner.
  4. Moisturiser is necessary for your skin even if it is oily or acne-prone because those pimples are not formed ONLY from the excess sebum. They are the result of a combination of dry or dead skin cells and sebum. The cleansers that help acne tend to be drying so you need to replenish the moisture (NOT the oil) lost during cleansing. Therefore, a good OIL-FREE moisturiser is essential. If you don’t follow this step, all the other steps in this skincare routine are rendered useless.

I also continued my routine of going for a facial once a month. However, I do recommend going at least twice a month initially until all your whiteheads and blackheads have reduced significantly. The only reason I didn’t do it was because I didn’t have the time. Perils of being a mummy :-)! Do make sure that your facial is done correctly. A bad facial can put all the scars back onto your face.

Sunscreen made its way into my skincare routine at the same time that I started the solution described above. This is because I realised that I was not really giving my skin a chance to recover if I kept exposing it to harsh sunlight that would damage it further every time I went out. Find one that has a high SPF and that is oil-free or at least light in texture. I am using Biotique’s Carrot sunscreen lotion at present.

I’m sure you all know this tip but I’ll repeat it anyway because it is so vital: don’t pick at pimples or at the scabs left after the pimple has burst. And lastly, lots of water, a good amount of sleep, limited intake (not absence) of oily food are all obvious parts of any acne-fighting routine.

Jul 112012
 

How do you know if you’re getting a good facial on those monthly trips to the beauty parlour?

When you go for a facial, you usually find out about a week later whether it was a good one or the type that left your face looking worse than it did pre-facial. Most of the time the bad effects of a facial show up in the form of bumpy skin, more breakouts, blemishes, hyperpigmentation and scarring which all appear a few days after the facial. Unfortunately, then it’s too late because you can’t go back in time and undo the facial. When it comes to ensuring that you get a good facial, prevention is best.

After getting my face damaged by a few facials, I have learnt to watch out for signs of a bad facial or more specifically, a bad beautician. It is the person who is doing the facial for you who’s important when you are assessing a facial. The facial itself is fairly easy to choose and is hardly actually designed to ruin your skin. By definition, they are all good in some way. It is, as I said, the beautician or the one who’s doing your facial whom you have to observe and question.The best way is to rule out a bad beautician at the very start.

The advice in this post is particularly meant for women in India; I don’t know how things are elsewhere.

Tip 1: Avoid going to those tiny beauty parlours that you see mushrooming all over the place. Aim for the known names or chains in the salon business. You may think, “But my face looks so clean and smooth after the facial, she really gets all the gunk out.” A facial is not supposed to be like that. It’s not like pouring Drainex down the sink to unclog the drain. Anyone who scrapes vigorously and hard at your face is actually damaging your skin in the long run. Such scraping damages the top layer of the skin and causes your skin to defend itself by producing more skin cells to cover up the sore areas. This makes your skin dull, hyperpigmented and full of blemishes and scars.

Also, the instruments used in such places are less likely to be properly cleaned than those in the salon of a higher-priced beauty salon chain. I’m not saying that the instruments in the chain salons are 100% clean; I’m just saying that there’s a higher chance of them being cleaner than in the other kind of parlours. Pay a little more so that you avoid having unwanted bacteria entering the skin  during a facial that’s meant to heal and clean it.

Another point to consider, is that the beauticians in the salon chains usually have standard in-house  training. Those who work in the tiny miscellaneous parlours often have no formal training and if they do, it is from a motley assortment of beauty academies.

Tip 2: After choosing a clean salon in which to do your facial, you will need to pay close attention to what the beautician is doing. When the scrub is being massaged onto the face, the pressure needs to be very light or else you can get grooves or minuscule cuts in the skin. So if you find the beautician scrubbing very hard (meaning that it feels like the scrubber meant for washing utensils is being used on your skin), then immediately ask her to reduce the pressure. Do not assume that she must know what she’s doing because a scary number of these beauticians actually don’t know what they’re doing. I have recently received an account of what really goes on in beauty salon courses that has put me on my guard about such beauticians.

Tip 3: Also, scrubs must never be used over the eyes. I know that that happens as well in some beauty parlours.

Tip 4: Pay attention to how the beautician is removing the whiteheads and blackheads. Is she scraping your entire face in rough strokes with the removal instrument? Or is she carefully nudging each one out? She should be gently nudging each one out at least in the problem areas like the nose, chin and forehead. If she isn’t, immediately ask her to go slowly.
As I’ve said before, excessive and vigorous scraping does more damage than good. It is better to repeat the facial 2 or 3 times at intervals of 2 weeks to get rid of all the whiteheads and blackheads, than to try and get them all out in one go.

Tip 5: Lastly, the beautician should remove the mask applied at the end of most facials by gently rubbing the skin with a wet sponge or washcloth. She must not scrub at your face. If she does, stop her and tell her how to do it or just do it yourself. It’s better than having damaged skin.

Other tips:

  • If you do find a beautician who’s good at her job, make a note of her name and stick to her the next time around. Otherwise you’ll have to go through another session of trial and error with a new person.
  • Mention any specific problems that you have with your skin before starting a facial.
  • Also mention your skin type if you know it. I suggest that you find out your skin type before going to the salon because beauticians are not always good at determining the skin type correctly.

All the tips given above have helped me to finally start getting a good facial every single time. These tips will help you ensure that your facials actually help your skin rather than making you go back to repair damage caused by  the facial itself.