Welcome back to my blog! I hope you’re all having a great start to 2020. Over the past 10 years, I’ve been writing on all aspects of beauty: skincare, haircare, makeup, and more recently, beauty treatments offered by dermatologists. My intention with this blog, 50 Tips To Get Clear Skin is to compile all my learnings from being a beauty writer, skincare enthusiast. I will also be penning down expert advice from dermatologists and cosmetic physicians whom I’ve interviewed during the past decade. This is a long-form blog, so I request you to make most of the menu and jump through the sections that are of utmost importance to you. Please note: all tips mentioned in this blog are practised by me at one point or the other.
What I mean when I say Clear Skin
Clear Skin are two magical words that can mean different things to each of us. For some, it’s what meets the eye: acne-free skin whereas to others it means blemish-free, poreless, dewy complexion. However, at one point or the other, we’ve all tackled issues when it comes to clear skin. From breakouts, dull skin to body acne, dark spots and pigmentation, clear skin is a broad term in itself, and we will try to tackle those.
PS: The purpose of this blog is to stay focussed on tips that can actually be added and enjoyed in your routines. I’ve strictly tried to stay away from product recommendations just because I feel there is enough of that information out there.
Add These Tips To Your Morning Routine To Enjoy Clear Skin
- Wash your face with a gentle, pH-balanced face wash in the morning. Remember, you’re washing your face to get rid of overnight sebum, any face pack residue (in case you use masks, products in the night).
- Keep two towels next to your sink: one for your hands, and one for your face. One of the biggest skincare mistakes is to use the same towel on our face that we use to wipe our hands. I do this and it’s made a ton of difference when it comes to breakouts.
- A considerable part of getting clear skin is hydration. And it’s all about the right time. Make sure you apply your products like a day cream or body lotion when your skin is damp. It helps lock in moisture better, which simply means you won’t need to reapply it hours later.
- Opt for paraben-free, sulfate-free and fragrance-free shower essentials. One of the biggest personal revelations for me has been just how harmful fragrances, parabens and sulfates are for your body and skin. Parabens are essentially preservatives in skincare and haircare products that often end in methyl-, ethyl-, butyl-, propyl that help products have a longer shelf life. However, there have been more and more studies that have indicated towards abnormal functioning of hormones, fertility and an increased risk of breast cancer. Artificial fragrances often cause breakouts and sensitize your skin so when choosing body washes or shower gels, READ the label like a hawk. I did the same and threw out half the products that were on my shower cabinet.
- When it comes to toners, there has been a ton of discussion on what’s better: alcohol-based toners or alcohol-free toners. After writing many articles, this is what I know. Alcohol like ethanol or isopropyl are good in the shorter run but overdry your skin in the long term. But not all alcohols are bad. Good alcohol or fatty alcohol labelled as cetearyl alcohol can actually be good for your skin. They don’t dry out your skin. If you’re religiously investing in skincare products, check out the labels before purchasing.
- Stay away from skincare products that have bad alcohols like ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, alcohol denat.
- Keep your back acne-free with the goodness of tea tree oil. Add a few drops of tea tree oil to your bath water to avoid any breakouts or infections whatsoever. If the acne persists, it’s better to bring in the experts who will probably put you on oral and topical medication.
- Damp skin, in combination with heat and humidity, can lead to irritation, infections, and boils. So wipe yourself dry with a 100% cotton towel before you get dressed.
- A dermatologist once told me our skin doesn’t absorb about 60% of the product you put on. So take out 30 seconds to massage a day cream on your face and neck. Use your fingertips in a circular motion so that the skin absorbs it better.
- Make sure you apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen: UVA and UVB protection. Don’t spend thousands of rupees on an expensive sunscreen. You’re supposed to use a lot of it so invest in a reputed brand that knows what it’s doing or speak to your dermatologist; they have tons of medicated sunscreens that are not high on advertising but AMAZING!
The In-Between Routine
- Soothe angry, irritated skin with the goodness of pure mists with rose water, lavender, jasmine. Invest in a travel size product, It’s easy on the pocket and great for the skin.
- Stop touching your face: you’re always collecting dirt and sweat on your hands. It took me a long time, but I think I touch my face a lot less now and there’s a huge difference.
- Clean your phone, laptop, earphones and any other devices you frequently use. Cellphone acne is a real thing! Acne Mechanica is doubling up in numbers, and experts say it’s usually caused by constant rubbing of your phone against your cheeks. So be smart, use headphones or airpods as often as possible.
Add These Tips To Your Evening Routine To Enjoy Clear Skin
- Now is the time to make most of double cleansing. As you probably know, double cleansing is an essential part of Korean beauty that applies to most of us since most of us wear sunscreen and some kind of makeup daily. Even if you don’t wear makeup, double cleansing has opened my eyes to just how much pollution, dirt and sebum is hidden on our skin. So I usually start with micellar water on a cotton swab, it removes makeup, dirt and general grime. After this, you can use an oil-based cleanser or a face wash that suits your skin type (if you have acne-prone skin, you can use an AHA-based toner). You can also skip micellar water and start with an oil-based cleanser and then move on to foam-based cleanser.
- Alternate between using a toner or AHA-based exfoliant to exfoliate your skin up to 2 times a week chemically. AHA or alpha hydroxy acids help get rid of bacteria, reduce pore size and rev up exfoliation without using a physical, granular scrub. Brands like COSRX, Mario Badescu, PIXI Glow have become viral for their iconic products, and I think there’s enough out on websites and vlogs, so I leave it up to you. However, don’t over-exfoliate your face because it’ll overdry your skin.
- Apply a sheet mask at least once a week. It’s one of my favourite things to do just because it gives you an instant glow and helps you catch up on hydration. Use a jade roller to increase blood circulation and serum absorption.
- I like to use a clay mask to get rid of superficial blackheads and clogged pores at home, and it’s been a total game-changer. Since I have combination skin, I only apply it on my T-zone and then use a blackhead remover (I bought it online) to extract the ones ready to come out. The rest I leave for my facialist since microdermabrasion is a much safer, painless method to extract blackheads, whiteheads without breaking your skin out.
- Apply an overnight sleeping mask if you have dehydrated skin. Notice I didn’t say dry skin? That’s because dry skin is something many of us are born with whereas dehydrated skin is a causal reaction (I have dehydrated skin most winters due to indoor heating).
- Opt for a night cream/serum with botanical oils and retinol, retinoic acid or lightening agents like vitamin C, kojic acid, hydroquinone, kojic acid, azelaic acid. While both Vitamin C kojic acid is found in small concentrations without prescription, it’s better to start with a low concentration and make your way up. Hydroquinone is often used to lighten stretch marks, but I would suggest going to a dermatologist before introducing it into your routine. (I have addressed retinol in detail down below. Click here to jump to it. )
- If you have a pimple, apply an acne-reducing topical cream like Clindamycin (safe for pregnant women too, this was told to me by Dr. Geetika) or an acne patch and go to sleep!
Retinol, Acne & Clear Skin
What Is Retinol?
A form of Vitamin A, retinol has achieved cult status in the last decade or so where no one really talked about the ingredient. Retinol, retinoic acid, and derivatives called pro-retinols are used to get clear skin and reduce acne. Not just that, retinol is a crucial ingredient in anti-ageing skin routines.
- If you’re just starting retinol, start with small concentrations that don’t require any prescription.
- Retinyl propionate is a milder version and will not irritate your skin.
- Retinol enhances collagen production, smoothes skin and evens out pigmentation.
- It takes roughly 12 weeks for effects to show so be aware, the journey to clear skin is also one of patience.
Retinol And Acne
So, as most of you already know, there are different types of acne. An odd pimple here or there is not really a cause of worry, but if you have papules (pore or hair follicle becomes clogged with bacteria and leads to many pimples), pustules, nodules (large, hard bumps underneath the skin’s surface) and cysts ( severe inflammatory reaction and probably the worst form of acne), you may need to seek expert help. A lot of dermatologists use lasers, peels, carbon facials, in combination with retinol or isotretinoin, a retinoid used to treat nodular or cystic acne.
I will not be giving out any tips on how to use retinol for acne simply because I’m not an expert neither have I been through it (I recently had an episode of hormonal acne on my chin which has subsided with my diet and topical creams) and so this is just for information or to help someone going through this. If you’re undergoing a bout of acne, please visit an expert.
Treatments To Get Clear Skin
- Microdermabrasion: It’s a non-invasive procedure that uses tiny crystals or other exfoliating surfaces to help remove the superficial layer of dead skin cells. This helps minimize pores, boost blood circulation and pigmentation. It’s usually the first step of a facial so feel free to opt for a medi facial like an oxygen facial, carbon peels etc.
- Gene Induction: It enables an improved micro-needling procedure along with an immediate infusion of a powerful active serum-like salicylic acid or glycolic acid. Gene Induction helps tackle open pores, congested skin and visibly reduces acne scars.
- Laser Skin Resurfacing: Fraxel laser skin resurfacing is a fantastic laser treatment that effectively improves both skin tones and textures. The benefits of Fraxel treatment include reduction of the appearance of acne scars, improvement in skintone, pore size as well as pigmentation.
- Laser Toning: Typically done with Q-switch lasers, laser toning can help diminish acne scars and correct skin pigmentation, whether they’re at the surface or buried in the dermal layers.
- Cocktail Peels: A combination of salicylic acid, or alpha-hydroxy acids can be prescribed to treat all kinds of acne while smoothing the skin after just one treatment.
- Dermapen: A patented device that is a frontrunner when it comes to micro-needling, it is used to treat active acne and to reduce the appearance of acne scars. Known as collagen induction therapy, the device uses microneedles to break down collagen in acne scars while puncturing the skin with tiny needles. We make most of this latest technology to improve and heal the after-effects of acne, blemishes and dark spots.
- Carbon Laser Facial: Another facial done with the help of Q-switch lasers, the procedure involves putting a layer of liquid carbon on the patient’s face and blasting it off with a laser. It significantly improves acne, scars and pigmentation, getting you one step closer to clear skin.
Other Tips To Get You Clear Skin Through The Year
- Clean up your makeup brushes, skin gadgets and beauty tools. Set up a reminder if you have to.
- Organise your products according to seasons. In summer, stick to lighter formulas and stash those liquid foundations, heavy creams out of sight and do the opposite when seasons change. Simple things like these go a long way in achieving clear skin consistently throughout the year.
- Make sure the makeup you’re using (eyeliner, foundation, blush) are not past their expiration date. Buy a new mascara every 5 months; their residue can actually seep into your skin and pop up as zits.
- Facial waxing and bleaching can irritate or burn your skin. Opt for microblading at home to get rid of vellus hair. There are many videos of it online. Otherwise, a more permanent option is laser hair reduction.
- Try avoiding the sun before you opt-in for a facial/clean-up. Make sure you’re comfortable with the strokes to avoid marks/aggravated skin. If you have an event/party coming up, go for a facial at least 2-3 days beforehand to make the most of it. Follow the post-facial routine as told by your facialist. And don’t skip sunscreen to avoid photosensitivity at all costs.
Diet & Clear Skin
Clear skin, by no means, can be achieved by the use of topical products. Your gut health and mindful eating play a vital role when it comes to healthy, clear looking skin. Let’s address a few basics.
- More and more dermatologists are now telling patients to cut down dairy and sugar as it causes inflammation. When it comes to dairy, stick to plant-based sources of milk: lactose-free milk, almond milk, soy milk, rice milk and coconut milk are great options to replace cow’s milk. You may not always see immediate breakouts (ask the women battling hormonal acne just how bad sugar can be for your skin), but even patchy-looking or dull skin can be a result of sugar in your diet. Make an effort to eliminate or restrict visible sugars in colas, your morning cup of tea/coffee, milk chocolates and more. Stick to natural sugars found in fruits. Two pieces of dark chocolate a day or dried fruits are better alternatives. On a personal note, I’ve done the above and it’s made a huge impact on my gut health and my skin. Sure, there are bad days when I find myself indulging in Coke, but yes, the evidence is there!
- Smoking directly releases toxins in your body and alcohol dehydrates your body. So smoke and drink in moderation, and make sure you make up for lost hydration in the form of water, coconut water, juices, fruits, salads, and IV drips, a new form of wellness therapy.
- Detox your system with fresh fruits like watermelon, papaya, grapes, strawberries, blueberries and more.
- Stay hydrated and energetic by investing in a fruit-infused sipper. Add a few slices of lemon/berries or any other citrus fruits. Top it up with salt, chia seeds, and you’re good to go!
- Load up on natural Vitamin C through berries that are low on the glycemic index. Eating berries can actually reduce the risk of pimples.
Your Pre & Post Workout Guide To Clear Skin
I don’t really work out (I know, I’m so bad!) but in my line of work, I’ve done many stories on workout skincare routines. I’m sharing a few tips that have made it to each and every one of my stories.
- Wash your face both before and after you exercise. Leave no makeup on your face, or it’ll mix with your sweat, and lead to clogged pores.
- Post-workout, take a 10-minute break, cool down and head for a shower. Look for a product with salicylic acid for post-workout-shower. This way you’ll avoid boils, breakouts and clogged pores.
- I don’t work out, but I do use an antifungal powder on my back in summers and a dusting powder on my vagina, feet and other areas most days of the year to avoid infections altogether.
DIYs To Get Clear Skin
- Need instant glow? Keep a stash of sandalwood powder in your house. Mix it with a teaspoon of milk/rosewater. Apply on face, neck (make more if you need it for back or legs) and keep it on for 20 minutes. Wash off with cool water.
- Retain your skin’s elasticity by using gram flour on your face from time to time. Take a tablespoon of gram flour and mix it with plain water/rosewater. Keep it on for 20 minutes and you’ll see your skin feels tighter and brighter.
- Use potato peels or tomato juice to lighten elbows and knees at home. They have natural lightening and exfoliating properties that help you get clear skin.
- For clear skin: take a tablespoon of coffee powder, 1 teaspoon of honey (organic) and a spritz of lemon juice. Mix it well and apply it on any part of your body that needs a pick me up. Keep it on till it’s dry and wash it off with lukewarm water.
- Make yourself a pitcher of lemon-cucumber-mint infused water and drink it for at least 2 weeks. Not only will it detoxify your body and aid digestion but bring a gradual change in your skin tone and texture.
Please note: do a patch test at the back of your ear if you haven’t tried these before, especially before applying lemon to your face.
Well, that’s it from me. Those were 50 tips that can get you closer to clear skin. Feel free to leave your thoughts/tips in the comments below.
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