facing it

About a year ago my face was at its worst. Today? It is okay!

Welp, good talk guys, cool check-in bro.

Ahh, who am I kidding, I can’t end there. Let me pull on my “I <3 Excruciating Detail” t-shirt and dive in.

After I wrote that last post, the first thing I tried from the recommendations in the comments was the 2.5% benzoyl peroxide solution from Acne.org. Not the whole system, just the BP — I already had other cleansers and moisturizers and didn’t want to pay for more. I think I shelled out $16 for 16 ounces, and I still have about a third of the bottle left. It arrived in the mail just in time for a quickfire challenge: two back-to-back multistate weddings. And… it came through. I barely had to fret about my face during that whole trip, which was liberating to say the least. Once I started using the BP, all the hormonal acne on my neck and jawline disappeared, and any other blemish I did get tended to be small and fade quickly. So, I kept it up. It’s been 12 months now and I still have the same routine.

I slather the stuff on in the morning after I wash my face and wash it off again at night. I keep a separate white towel to dry my face and hands whenever I touch the benzoyl peroxide, and so far I’ve mostly avoided staining our colored towels and sheets — I think the lower percentage (most formulations have 10%) plus washing it off before I go to sleep really helps. I moisturize after I apply it in the morning, if I remember (I don’t!), and after I wash off the BP at night. Other than that, I don’t do much else to my skin. I only put on face makeup if I’m going to a wedding or meeting a Kardashian for brunch. That’s not because I’m too cool for face makeup! It’s just something I reserve for fancy times.1

I want to stress that this post is not meant to be fervent pro-benzoyl peroxide propaganda. I am happy to have found a method that works okay for me, but clearly there is no one magic bullet product or system for everybody. I am mostly writing this followup because I love reading followups from other people, plus I’ve realized that the other parts of my routine need to change soon and this understandably fills me with some measure of dread.

By the time I finally arrived at the BP last year I had tried so many different things for so long that I was eager to hit the pause button. The BP had worked fine with the cleansers and moisturizers I was using at the time, so I gladly embraced my new method with open arms. No need to muck about with a good thing, right? Trouble is, the cleansers and moisturizers I was using then (and am still using now) may as well be made from the tears of the baby Jesus, they’re so expensive. Currently I’m running out of moisturizer so last night I went to order more and as I hovered the pointer over the “add to cart” button I suddenly had a clear vision of what I was doing. I was about to spend $44 plus tax and shipping on one scant ounce of baby Jesus tears, was what I was doing.

I’ve been avoiding the cold hard gaze of how much I’m spending on washing and lubing my face in part because I actually like the products. They have feel-good names like “Forest Mint Gentle Foaming Milk” and “Geranium Sap Purifying Cleanser,” which are names that help me feel better about my overall success. “I may be a chump with a forgettable career and a mostly empty passport but at least my face has been purified in the waters of Lake Minnetonka foaming forest milk.” And yet this lifestyle is unsustainable! The hundreds of dollars per year I’m spending on geranium sap (?) could be going to something legitimately useful, like a water trampoline or a pair of brand new lederhosen or a jumbo pack of condoms.

So, I’m holding myself accountable. I need to reopen the self-experiments and find new face products to use alongside the benzoyl peroxide, which I am never gonna give up / never gonna let go so long as it keeps the hormonal acne away. In theory it should be easier this time around, since I have already found the key ingredient that controls my zits and now just need to find cheaper options to replace the other stuff. Which is where you come in. Crowdsourcing ho! If you like your cleansers/moisturizers, please tell me about them. Hell, tell me about them even if you don’t like them, I’ll lend a sympathetic ear. Maybe we’ll even get the baby Jesus to weigh in, I dunno.

1 I do, however, wear eye makeup every day, but that’s because I have hardly any eyelashes and I look spooky without it.

Image credit: Illustration by Patrick Leger // www.patrick-leger.com

8 Responses to “facing it”

  1. My recommendations are either http://www.burtsbees.ca/product-line/radiance/radiance-night-creme.html or the Olay Regenerist face cream. Both should be significantly cheaper where you are…..here $44 for a face cream is actually pretty good. Bloody mark up on cosmetics.

    But yay for socialised medicine!

  2. I like Olay sensitive skin moisturizing cream– it’s light and scentless, has SPF, and I don’t feel greasy after I put it on. My wife has oilier skin than I do and she likes it as well. Plus, it’s about $8 for four ounces, hah.


  3. I have 2 product lines that I absolutely worship at. The first is Simple, which is a British brand, but generally available in drug stores here. My shower currently looks ridiculous because I have 4 (4!!) different Simple face washes in there. The main one I use is the Refreshing Facial Wash, which is strangely no longer available in the US (except on Amazon), but this is the replacement for it – http://www.simpleskincare.com/our-products/product/foaming-cleanser.html.

    Also, the British product line is much more robust, with some oil balancing and acne-controlling products. You can get them here, but you have to be creative about it, and it’s more expensive – say $16 instead of $8.

    The other thing I use is Say Yes. For me and my crazy skin, I use the cucumber line, specifically the Daily Gel Cleanser. These are more expensive than Simple but still widely available in Target, Walgreens, whatever. And still cheaper than $44; they only use the tears of a minor saint.

    I started using these because of my roseaca, and they’re largely for sensitive skin, so I don’t know how helpful they would be for you. But my 2 cents anyway.

  4. I use one of the Neutrogena oil-free moisturizers with SPF that I can buy at Target or CVS. My requirements are non-greasy + SPF + affordable. I think it’s $10 for a 4oz bottle? Most of the intense facial lotions are too heavy and greasy for me. I’ve tried a bunch of different ones, some fancier then Neutrogena, but this is the one I currently like the best.

    For cleansers, I’ve been using Cetaphil daily cleanser for normal to oily skin for the past few years. It’s very basic, doesn’t have a smell, and doesn’t clog my pores.

  5. I bounce around a lot for cleanser and basically anything I put on my face. So excited to hear you used to have hormonal neck acne! It means I’m not alone in feeling crazy gross. Seriously who’s neck breaks out? Mine cool. I’m going to have to try the 2.5% solution.

  6. So in 2009 I realized that the fact that my face burned intensely after washing it, if I did not get mosturizer on it *immediately* (and sometimes I had to re-mosturize within minutes to stop the burning from returning) was probably not a good sign. After thatrealization, I switched to Cetaphil and used that for a few years, until I looked at its ratings on the Skindeep database. Then I switched to an Aveeno baby wash for sensitive skin (which was better rated) and used that several years. I liked that okay. But I still needed mosturizer with both.

    Then I experimented very briefly (a week?) with olive oil washing, which was too intense for my face (I didn’t cut it with anything and I think you are supposer to), then in April 2013, I tried washing with coconut oil. That works great for me. I don’t need a mosturizer any more. It’s like a 2-in-1.

    I was having a few problems with some breakouts near my jawline (before and after the coconut oil switch), towards my ears (probably hormonal since it started after I went off the pill?), but the coconut oil was still better for my face than my previous products.

    But then a few months ago, I decided to try tea tree oil as an astringent. And for me, that is my perfect combo! Coconut oil twice a day, then following with tea tree oil as an astringent a few times a week. That tea tree oil is amazing for me. That acne that I could never get to go aware before….gone! And if I do get a zit, it’s like you were explaining….smaller and gone really quickly. It’s so amazing. (And I also use the coconut oil for a mosturizer too on my body, after my shower. Though it is not quite intense enough for my stomach which is super dry/sensitive. I use actually soap on my body…a gentle oatmeal soap.) I am a happy camper overall. (Still trying to find the solution for my hair though!) I also switched to using cornstarch as my face powder (an experiment when I was on the brink of ordering a small amount of organic face powder for $25, then remembered reading that the biggest ingredient is cornstarch anyways (in the Zero Waste Home book, I think). I have been using that 3 months maybe (with a touch of cocoa powder mixed in). Works better than the $$$ stuff I was using. :)

    Good luck in your more budget-friendly search for cleansing products! It is so hard to find a system that works (and doesn’t cost a fortunate AND is non-toxic/healthy).

  7. My face freaked out a little when I moved here. I started using Boots moisturizer – I think its a British brand, at Target and really like it. I use one for day and one for night, which is way more effort than I’ve ever put in before. They’re a little bit pricey but I think they will last for a while, and they don’t have a lot of chemical crap in them, don’t test on animals etc. If you’re interested I can send you which ones I specifically use.

  8. Never wash my face anymore but when I did I used this stuff from Aveda. ~$30 per bottle but one squirt does a face and so the bottle lasts 27.5 years. I no longer wash my face because last year in Belize I discovered hemp seed oil. I have seborrheic dermatitis and the antiseptic properties help enough so that the moisturizing isn’t too intense. Two little bottles have lasted me a year and I just ordered a case for like $56 US so that should be good for six years. They have it at Whole Foods too, of course, but I trust the horse that brung me or whatever, ya know? So my big beauty secret is Itch-A-Way :)

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