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All opinions are honest + my own. All products are put through a 2 week test period conducted on myself.
About 4 years ago, I had one of my worst acne breakouts. It was out of control & not letting me rein it in despite all my best efforts. Worst – it was July, the height of the summer, a time when everyone’s wearing the least amount of clothes coverage. Skin exposure is at its lowest tidal ebb. And my skin was at its worst. Yay.
Usually, summer was the one time I was a bit less pimply, and I could get a slight pressure release from my struggles. This breakout just made no sense.
Nothing was in play that “you just have to be more diligent” or “you have to take better care of yourself” could claim any ownership from what I was experiencing.
- I was not stressed at all – nothing stressful in my work or personal life.
- My sleep levels weren’t suffering. In fact, they were great!
- I wasn’t “eating badly”.
- It wasn’t even that time of the month.
Then I Thought – What If Something I’m Using Daily Is Causing This?
Call me ignorant, but until then, I had so many voices telling me I just wasn’t trying hard enough to prevent or control my breakouts. This was the first time I had a moment when I was absolutely sure it wasn’t something I was doing wrong.
So, half determined & half feeling I was going down a bizarre path with a dead-end, I pulled together an annoyingly wide list of ingredients. They included: a) what everyday people online believed was affecting their skin b) anything noted as known or possible acne causers according to articles out there. Call it one part acne sufferers poll, one part research.
Taking this list, I spent almost 2 hours at my local drug store – my closest ASAP toiletries source when I was living in NYC. I was there so long they asked me 2 or 3 times if I needed help. I’m sure I looked like a weirdo kneeling on the floor in the middle of the night, squinting at a bunch of bottles while I scoured the ingredient lists of shampoos, conditioners, & body wash. But, finally, I found a few that fit.
The Test-Avoid List:
I wanted as pure an experiment as I could get for the clearest answer possible. So, this meant being strict about sticking only to these. No post-shower hair adds – even if my hair needs it.
Within 4 days, my skin calmed & almost cleared. Within a week, my skin was clear enough to go nearly make-up free. That is, from full coverage make-up to only touching-up the healing areas or post-acne dark spot zones. I kid you not.
My skin was reacting to a product.
Most importantly, I was starting to see a pattern: my skin was aligning with ingredients commonly described as “for sensitive skin”.
What I came to figure out was SLS/SLES, a foaming detergent found in most shampoos & body washes, was too much for my skin type. And silicones, frequently found in conditioners to give that lovely silky smoothness, were also too clogging for my skin. Basically, my skin was getting a 1-2 punch.
Even after all my dermatologist appointments and 15 years of acne, I had no idea that products were my core problem. I thought I just had normal, acne-prone skin.
Jump to Part 2