For almost 15 years I dealt with adult acne.
You know what fixed it?
Science. Not the all-natural, crunchy hippie products I used for years because I thought they were so much better for my skin. Oh I did it all. Castile soap cleanser, lemon juice “peels”, honey and sugar scrubs, chick pea flour and turmeric face masks. I never met a Pintrest hack I wouldn’t try, except maybe that Elmer’s Glue and charcoal mask because what the fuck? How is that a good idea?!
Long story short: I committed a lot of skin sins.
But then last year I was reading an article on Slate about Korean beauty (The 10 Step Korean Skin Care is a Radical Act of Feminist Self Care), and frankly it made me really curious. After some Googling I found the usual suspects of K-Beauty blogs, and while the snail slime and sheet masks might get all the headlines I was super impressed by these bloggers reliance on science.
I learned all about the importance of pH in skin health and skincare products (here & here), the importance of fatty acids (here), and embracing ingredients like vitamin C, niacinamide (vitamin B3), hydroxy acids, and synthetic actives like tretinoin and clindamycin that have years of studies proving their benefits and safety.
Just switching my cleanser from something with a pH of 9 to something with a pH of 5 cleared up my acne, and eliminated my sensitivity and redness. Synthetic detergents ftw. And once I switched to the Korean method – although I don’t strictly use Korean products – my skin became soft, dewy, and luminous.
But stupid crunchy products aside, I do still use a lot of products that are more natural than not, including my favourite cleanser and toner. Because natural products aren’t anymore inherently bad than they are inherently good.
You just have to look harder to find products that are formulated well; that aren’t loaded with irritating essential oils that are just as bad or worse than synthetic fragrances; or that aren’t at a pH that is totally going to trash your moisture barrier; and that please – for the love of god – have a decent preservative because mold and bacteria are waaay worse for your skin than parabens.
But they’re out there, if you look.