Throughout the past couple of months, I’ve found myself breaking out more than usual. In high school, it used to be one pimple here and there, but nothing major enough to make me stop and think, I have a problem. So, when cystic acne started to show up out of nowhere, I began to panic a little. At first, I figured it was because of added stress, as my boyfriend and I had to break a (very expensive) lease to move into a house, which put us out nearly $8,000 in moving fees just in the month of May alone. Yikes!
But while I waited for the financial stress to simmer its way down, I found my acne building its way up. Every time I looked at myself in the mirror, I was riddled with anxiety and felt my only option was to get in my car and go to store and see what I needed to clear my skin. My first purchase was a cheap drugstore facewash, which I bought with the hope that my skin just wanted to break out (no pun intended) of its routine. I never really needed much, as my skin had never before been a problem, so dropping $6 on a new facewash was nothing to me. But after that failed me and my friends scolded me for using a charcoal scrub from the drugstore, I headed to the Sephora skincare section for advice.
These are all the purchases I made in the last 90 days to clear my skin:
1. GlamGlow Supermud Mask Mini (Purchased twice.) – $25
2. Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser – $15
3. Mario Badescu Anti-Acne Serum – $20
5. Mario Badescu Drying Lotion (The Mario Badescu binge is obvious here.) – $17
6. Nyakio Maracuja & Yangu Soothing Oil (For the redness and irritation to my skin.) – $42
8. Ole Henriksen Glow Cycle Retin-ALT – $58
9. Ole Henriksen Goodnight Flow Retin-ALT (Obviously you have to have the same night cream!) -$55
10. Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask (The lady at Sephora advised my skin may be dehydrated, thus causing my breakouts. While this is not skin related I still felt I needed it.) – $15
11. Perricone MD Vitamin C Ester Brightening Serum (Very expensive but definitely seeing results for acne scarring!) – $69
12.Ole Henriksen Truth Serum (Ended up returning this after a month!) – $48
13. Summer Friday’s Jet Lag Mask (Again, for the dehydration.) – $48
14. Origins Clear Improvement Active Mask – $17.50
15. Ole Henriksen C-Rush Brightening Serum (Yes, another purchase from this brand.) – $44
16. Boscia Charcoal Spot Corrector (Ran of my previous overnight zit cream and needed something STAT!) – $28
17. Irish Moor Mud Purifying Cleanser – $35
18. Lush Just to Clarify Jelly Mask – $13.95
19. Beauty Nymph Spa Home Facial Steamer – $21
20. Aztec Secret – Indian Healing Clay – $10
21. Biore Charcoal Acne Scrub – $6
22. Beauty Shroom Exfoliating Acid Potion – $39
23. Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer – $24 (To cover up my acne without putting a ton of make-up on my face.)
24. Beauty Bear Anti-Aging Pillow – $24, normally $69 (A little frivolous, but a great preventative product!)
Trying to rationalize these 24 purchases and explain to my boyfriend why a black-and-white striped bag kept finding its way home with me every night was a challenge. It wasn’t always easy to fork over $50 for a brightening serum or buy peel pads when I wasn’t even sure what a peel pad was. But, the one thing that always kept me heading back to Sephora was looking in the mirror or thinking of someone judging my acne. I always found myself in Sephora on a particularly bad acne day — a day I felt as though everyone was judging the number of planets on my face. That’s when the real spending would happen. I felt as though I could be talked into any drying lotion, serum, moisture mask — you name it I bought it. To manage the expenses flying out the door, I would typically limit myself to one purchase at a time and tried desperately to keep it under $75. After I stepped out the door, I would immediately pull up my bank account and transfer the money to my credit card so that I wouldn’t spend the money anywhere else.
My nights became riddled with obsessive research on which products were the best for my skin. I’d have endless computer tabs open as I compared prices and carefully read each review of the products I was considering. After I had my research completed, I would walk into Sephora and talk to whoever was in skincare for that day and show them the product I was thinking of and see if it was right for my skin. I did this for one of two reasons: first, I began to build a relationship with all of the women at Sephora. I felt as though it was if they were all on this skincare journey with me. Second, the men and women who work in beauty have to know so much information about hundreds of different kinds of products — so many products I can’t even comprehend. With that, I genuinely trusted that they knew which ingredients would be best for my skin. So, if Zoey told me I should buy the $88 peel pads to help with acne scars (which I have a lot of), then I was going to buy the peel pads. And pretty much every time I went home, Zoey was always correct about which products were good, and which products would be bad.
But with the good, comes the bad. All of my friends had opinions products they swore by and things I just “had to try.” In the beginning, I hardly did any research, and if a friend sent a product my way, I would just go out and buy it. Products like the Ole Henriksen Truth Serum came out of recommendations like that. I don’t fault any of my friends, but often it just didn’t work for my skin, or it wasn’t what I need at the time. I later switched (per the same friend’s recommendation) to the Perricone MD Vitamin C Ester Brightening Serum to help my acne scarring. It’s by far been the biggest difference when it comes to acne scarring, and I’ve seen dramatic changes in just one week.
Now that I’m acne free for the most part (fingers crossed), I know for a fact that when I added certain items into my routine, my skin changed for the better. Without further ado, here are the skincare products that made this entire ordeal worth it for me:
1. Irish Moor Mud Purifying Cleanser. This cleanser changed my skin for life. The first time I tested it out at night; by the next morning, my face was remarkably clearer than it had been for months.
2. Beauty Shroom Exfoliating Acne Potion. If you don’t mind feeling the burn as you pat this all over your face, this stuff helped change my life and zap my zits out before I knew it!
3. Beauty Nymph Spa Home Facial Steamer. If you’re looking to get the spa experience at home without paying the price, I think this is an amazing investment. The steamer helps open your pores, giving you a clean slate for washing and exfoliating your face.
4. Beauty Bear Anti-Aging Pillow. I bought this pillow on a whim because I’ve been dying to try Nurse Jamie’s products. I didn’t expect to love it this much. Silk is so good for your skin with tons of anti-aging properties. The pillow is designed for side sleepers (AKA me) and helps with skin elasticity.
5. Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer. I’d been trying to have bare skin throughout this process, but on days when I felt as though I needed a little pick-me-up, this was my go-to for a light coverage that I feel didn’t clog my pores.
6. Nyakio Maracuja & Yangu Soothing Oil. I’ve always had red cheeks and a red nose — literally nothing ever would solve this issue for me. Lately, I’ve been loving this soothing oil to help clear some of the redness from my scars.
7. GlamGlow Supermud Mask or Origins Clear Improvement Mask. I switch back and forth between these two the most. Origins is on the cheaper side, so I tend to lean more towards that one. I love coming home and putting on a face mask aimed at clearing acne.
Now that my bathroom looks like an actual Sephora, I’m happy that my skincare journey ended in me finding products that worked best for me, and I now know what works and what doesn’t. If you’re in the same boat and in need of a new routine, head into your local beauty store and ask questions about products — before you end up buying all of them. Happy skincare shopping!
Shelby is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. There, she received her BA in broadcast journalism with a minor in sociology. After graduation, she headed off to the greater Seattle area to pursue her love of food and digital media.
Image via Unsplash