I was 26 before I realized my Clean & Clear acne scrub wasn't cutting it anymore.
Yes, I realize now that I was about 10 years too late on this epic realization, but, what's the saying? If it ain't broke, don't fix it? For me it was more like, if you're not getting acne in your 20s, your in-shower face wash is probably "good enough."
Whatever my reasoning was for sticking to a brand marketed toward teenagers, I realized that since my mid-20s are actually now closer to my 30s than my teens, I should probably be more "adult" about my skincare habits, especially since I'm already adulting career-wise (at least, that's what I tell myself).
I decided to get the scoop on what someone in their mid-20s should be doing for skincare, and get some answers from dermatologists on why the f*ck I was getting acne as an adult anyway.
Here's what I found out:
I Still Had Changing Hormones
Turns out, being in your mid-20s doesn't mean your body realizes you're "adulting," even if the rest of you does. According to Dr. Adam Friedman, Associate Professor of Dermatology and Residency Director at George Washington University, it's possible (yet unfortunate) to have your first acne issues in your mid-20s.
He tells Elite Daily:
Hormonal acne can do this, as one's sensitivity to what are called androgen hormones can change as we age (not to mention environmental factors and stressors).
Changes in our skin and things we do to it can influence the intricate harmony between all of the organisms, enabling certain ones to overgrow and influence our skin and immune systems.
It's a huge myth that hormonal changes are done happening in your teen years, as Dr. Friedman confirmed. For me, this made a lot of sense, as I found myself shaking up my schedule in more ways than one after I hit 25.
I Was Going To The Gym
I've been dreadfully afraid of sweating for most of my life; there's nothing more uncomfortable to me than being hot. But I figured I needed to incorporate some cardio into my routine for health reasons. After trying a few things, I fell in love with cycling classes.
I use Cetaphil makeup wipes before and after I hit the studio. Other makeup wipes with fruit-infused scents leave my skin feeling like it's on fire after I've scrubbed the day off my cheeks. If my face was going to go through 45 minutes of a sweat-dripping workout, I couldn't just ignore the stress my skin was taking and think toweling off was enough.
You know what really makes me feel like an adult? Being prepared. Keeping these wipes in my gym bag allowed me to be sure I was taking care of my skin, and clearing off my makeup before sweating allowed my pores to remain as unclogged as possible as I sweat my brains out.
These wipes are cooling and easily wiped away my waterproof eyeliner. (Pro tip: Your eyes did NOTHING to deserve waterproof mascara being glooped on, so please avoid this at all costs. It's not worth the scrub off).
I Needed A Multi-Step Regimen
According to a recent survey conducted by Differin and shared with me by Dr. Levin, 88 percent of women between the ages of 25 and 34 believe washing your face with soap and water is enough to help stop acne. Though I wasn't using soap and water, I was definitely one of those people who believed in the "one and done" method with face washes.
Though drugstore products often offer 2-in-1 — or even 3-in-1 — products, having healthy skin is about adopting a routine.
Dr. Friedman recommends starting off with a gentle cleanser as your first step. Since I loved the makeup wipes, I stuck with Cetaphil for a daily cleanser since it's affordable and easy on my skin. The foaming face wash removes makeup and calms sensitive skin that is prone to redness. I use this cleanser in the shower before I hop out to begin the rest of my routine.
Once I stopped looking at skincare as a time waste, and viewed it as a moment I could practice some self-care, getting into the routine was much easier. There's nothing more adult than taking a few moments to be kind to yourself. For me, a calming skin routine provided an easy way to self-care, while feeling like I was being proactive about something.
I Started Using A Retinoid
If you haven't heard about retinoids, you seriously need to do your homework. Retinoids not only help stimulate collagen in your skin cells, they also help get acne under control. According to Dr. Friedman, "Retinoids are uniformly considered first line for all forms of acne." They work to control acne by regulating cell turnover in your skin, making sure caked layers of skin don't work to clog pores.
Retinoids are mostly available through prescriptions, but you can start out with some low-doses in your 20s to prep your skin for future use in your 30s. Making a long-term skincare plan helped motivate me to stay on track now, since I'll be preparing for the next step in my 30s. (Did I just give myself a five-year plan? You bet, and it feels good.)
Using a retinoid can be a little intimidating at first; since your skin is shedding the extra layers of skin, your face will feel tight and even a little inflamed when you first start. It's important to use a moisturizer regularly, and wear SPF on your face daily to prevent harmful UV rays. "Inflamed skin can become more inflamed easier than healthy, intact skin. Acne scars are weaker than normal skin, and become more apparent and fragile due to sun exposure," says Dr. Friedman.
I Invested In A Night Cream
According to Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, board-certified NYC dermatologist and clinical instructor at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, day time creams aim to protect your skin from environmental stressors, and nighttime creams focus on repairing the skin.
Dr. Levin suggests looking for a night cream that has Ceramides, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and/or dimethicone.
She tells Elite Daily,
A good moisturizer should add moisture, contain occlusive ingredients, which slows water evaporation, acts as a humectant, which draws water from the deeper layers of the skin, and restores that matrix.
I used to just slather on whatever body lotion I had laying around on my face if my skin was feeling dry, which was very "teen" of me. Having a night cream with dermatologist-approved ingredients helps my skin not only stay hydrated, but repair itself.
I Found A Weekly Face Masque Suited To My Skin Type
Rene Rouleau's website has a quiz you can take that assesses your skin type and provide products best suited to your needs. The Rapid Response Detox Masque is perfect for my oily and acne-prone skin. It has ingredients like tea tree oil and Salicylic Acid to not only soothe current breakouts, but help prevent new ones from forming.
Figure out what your biggest skin issue is, and track down a masque you can use once a week to keep everything in balance. This masque is no-fuss; it's not for taking selfies like those popular foaming face masks that make your face expand.
Taking time out of my day once a week to tend to my face is very adult for me; I don't even spend the time scrolling through Instagram anymore. Sometimes you need a reason to be screen-free, and a 15-minute, self-indulgent face masque is a great one.
You Are What You Eat
OK, so once my face got it together, I started looking for easy ways to step up my health food game. For me, that meant finding a healthy breakfast that didn't have any added sugar. I rarely bring my lunch to work, but I like to bring breakfast into the office.
When I found out about collagen-boosting Pearl Butter, I knew that would be an easy way to aid to my new collagen-focused skin regimen.
Pearl Butter's Beauty Butter has enzymatically activated pearls and whole coconut flesh, that naturally increase production of collagen in the body. Doing some food-based research is a great way to add to your new skin regimen to help the work from the outside in. If you're already putting in the work on the outside, why not see how you can make changes to the inside?
I used to spread peanut butter on my bananas in the morning for a protein-filled breakfast, but now I add this beauty butter. Yes it's pink and totally Instagrammable, but there's no sugar, no additives at all, and no hydrogenated oil in this baby, so swapping this out for the child hood PB staple feels like a win in itself.