September 24, 2008

Skin Care Share

I've noticed in some blogs, girls (even some with difficulties far different than hirsutism) are sharing what products they're currently using.

I've tried various regimens over the years, but it used to be that simple warm water would work for me. In the fifth or sixth grade I was diagnosed with perioral dermatitis, which had people calling me "crocodile face." I laughed along with them, because hey, it really wasn't pretty. Nor was the medication, though it did help. I haven't had it since, but was advised to stay off all facial soaps except for Cetaphil. Back then, Cetaphil was far too expensive for a single mother to add to her grocery list regularly--still is, I think. And so, it's only been in the last few years while battling adult acne that I've been brave enough to try other products.

A really aggressive regimen (oil and acne fighting facial soap, astringent toner, face cream with salicylic acid in it) helped for a few months, then ended up only making me look like I had chicken pox. I remember going out on my twenty-second birthday and feeling so terrible about how I looked that I started weeping uncontrollably in a restaurant. The words "I feel ugly and I want to go home and hide" never escaped my lips, though. I hate to admit how much it bothers me.

So I switched, gathering up all the things I remember using when I had tolerable skin in the past. I'm still willing to experiment, but for now, my skin is the best its been in ages thanks to the following:

I start the day with a store-brand sensitive skin cleanser with exactly the same ingedients in exactly the same order as Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, for about half the price. I was using Cetaphil for a while, but recently their price went up as their logo changed, and I got a spurt of courage prodded by a thinning wallet to try the no-name version. Works just as well, and my bank account is a little happier.

A couple of times a week, I give my blemish control regimen a bit of a boost by replacing the gentle cleanser with St. Ives Blemish Control Apricot Scrub, because it has a bit of salycilic acid in it, and the exfoliation cuts down a bit on ingrown hairs. This is also great for my chest and back. It doesn't restore my skin to perfection, but it's been the one thing my skin does seem to miss if I don't pick it up regularly at the drug store.

When it comes to shaving, I haven't found a shaving cream that works for me. I can't get out of the head space that "shaving cream for the face is for men", whereas look at the little pink
 canister of leg shaving cream! It must be gentle, because it looks so girly! I did a semester's worth of color theory in college; I know how
 irrational this thinking is. I'd be very curious to see if a man's shaving cream would make a difference--besides smelling very manly. For now, though, it's women's shaving cream, and disposable razors which are--let's face it--much more affordable than refills for a permanent blade. Right now, Schick's Xtreme3 Comfort Plus for women (it has aloe and vitamin E! Really, do those little strips actually make a difference? Really?) is my favorite. I find that as about two weeks rolls around, it's far too dull to work cleanly and closely to my face, but will do just fine for my legs. So I don't go through them too fast. Can't afford to.

Moisturizing is a part of the process I haven't pinned down yet. I have skin that is usually shiny by midday, but constant shaving has dried out my jaw and chin. Lotions for oily or combination skin don't seem to have the power to rescue the flaky areas the razor has ravaged, but oily lotions make the shine on my skin even worse. To make matters more pressing, if I don't keep the flakiness down along my jawline, it becomes impossible to cover with makeup, and camouflage any blemishes, ingrown hairs, nicks, and the omnipresent ghostly shadow of stubble below the skin. Right now, I'm using Lubriderm for sensitive skin, and fragrance free. It works all right. I also recall the more intensive lotion with sea kelp was nice--calming 
scent, a little heavier cream, but didn't contribute too much to shine for some reason. But I'm still on the hunt for that perfect moisturizer.

At night I use my gentle skin cleanser again, and follow with Clean & Clear Persa Gel 5. It has 5% benzoyl peroxide in it, which I've found works better for me than any spot treatments containing salicylic acid. An employee in a drug store recommended it a while ago when a hunt for such a salicylic acid treatment prove
d fruitless, and though I've gone back out of curiosity, nothing has worked so well yet. It does have a drying effect, so I try to keep it away from my jawline and just use it on spots. Over the years it has performed a few miraculous reversals on those zits you can feel coming for days before you can even see them, but most of the time it's just a preventative measure, not a cure-all.

Other spot treatments I use are Polysporin or some similar antibiotic on any small open sores or nicks to prevent little persisting infections. And straight-up vitamin E oil is great for hurrying healing and reducing scarring once they've healed over. I've found it to be pretty expensive in Canada, but we raided a CVS when we were down in the States, and I still have a bottle of that I'm using two years later. A little bit goes a long way with that stuff, and because both these ointments are oily, they can add to breakouts, so I use them carefully.

The last thing I do, which amuses my family to no end, is smear honey on my face twice a week. While in a particularly frantic skin phase, I was trolling the internet for something that might calm and relax as well as help. I came upon recipes for home made facial masks. Let me tell you, this is something that may not only help, but also makes you feel incredibly self-indulgent and feminine--or in the case of my household, sticky and laughable. The honey mask, it seemed, was perfect for me to try. Not only is honey a natural disinfectant, but we'd been given a big jar of unprocessed honey as a gift and no one was eating it--favoring the easy
 squeeze bottles, you know the kind. Anyway, I warm up about a tablespoon of honey in the microwave, and after washing my face with warm water and making sure all my pores and nice and open, I smear on the honey and let it sit for about 15 to 20 minutes. In summer, it's so warm that I find it will drip--into mouths, teacups, onto laptops... The skin feels softer afterward, and I do notice blemishes get more populous if I fall out of the routine. My cycle could be partly to blame for that, but the mask certainly isn't hurting at all. And if you believe something you're doing works, it just makes you feel a whole lot better to do it. Stressing about blemishes is one thing nobody needs.

Some honey mask recipes:
Homemade Facial Masks on - Honey is the fourth heading down
Honey Face Mask on - Adding different ingedients to the honey
Reviews of the Honey Mask on - Find out how it has worked
 for others

As far as make-up goes, I'm reluctant to experiment beyond what already works for me. I have very pale skin and it's difficult to find things that match, and that will work with the bizarre dry-oily balance of my oh-so-special skin. I find a lot of concealers are just too thick, so a water-based liquid foundation works best because of the dryness where I shave. But it's often iridescent, and won't totally hide the five o'clock shadow. So I also really, really like the very fine compressed powder in Cover Girl's Fresh Complexion Pocket Powder Foundation. It not only mattifies and controls shine, but its "extra-fine powder" doesn't catch in dry, flaky skin nearly as much as other powders will. I do have trouble finding drug stores that will carry it, but WalMart usually has it in stock.

Now, please remember that these are recommendations based on my own experiences. Every woman is different and may get different results. You know that aggressive regimen I referred to in the beginning of this post? That was recommended to me by a teenage relative to has gorgeous, flawless, porcelain skin. I ended up breaking down in tears in public, and it took ages for my skin to recover. I even went on one of those skin-friendly diets to try to regulate it, which only made me hungry and desperate for caffeine. (College students can't cut caffeine out of their diet, it's completely counterproductive.)

But the important thing is to keep trying to find the products that will work for you. Let yourself get excited by a new discovery, revel in a pleasant smell or pretty package, but if it doesn't work, just set your jaw in determination and move on to the next.

Never give up.

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