Why I Used Chemicals To Cure My Acne Instead Of Natural Products

I was a proponent of chemical solutions to acne for years. I hoped the cause of my acne to be surface level, so I took care of the surface level with various skin care. It didn't occur to me that acne was more than that.

I learned the hard way that not all skin care products are created equal.

From Oxy, Proactive, Dior, Clarins, Guerlain, Nuxe, L'Oreal, Clean & Clear, Neutrogena, Jamieson, Nivea, Avene, Vichy, La Roche Posay, Acne.org, Paula's Choice, to Bioderma I tried a lot of skin care products over the years and sometimes caused more harm than good. I even tried Jojoba Oil about 7 years ago when my lifestyle and diet were at their absolute worst.

I was in University, and first year dorm life wasn't conducive to healthy eating. What healthy eating?

Years of turning sugar, pasta, dairy into a daily habit wouldn't allow for healthy eating. I ate cookies, cake, and pizza every day! My Benzoyl Peroxide had to work overtime to keep me from looking like a pizza face!

With a diet like that, most products didn't work, including Jojoba Oil. When I first tried to quit Benzoyl Peroxide and try oils to cure my acne, I turned my mild acne into wild acne. It was BAD. I was also interchanging it with almond oil (which could have been the real culprit for my new acne).

Dependence On Products

My experience with natural skin care scared me into finding and sticking to a chemical-based skin care routine that kept my skin clear. I took my skin care extremely seriously, and experimented increasingly less for fear of the concequences.

I'm extremely proud of my last skin care routine. It had the most gentle cleanser, a resurfacing toner, the most potent Benzoyl Peroxide on the market, two good moisturizers (one for warm weather, one for the cold), and a broad-spectrum sunscreen.

I also found makeup that definitely didn't cause me or anybody I knew to break out. My foundation, concealer, mineral powder, and blush were/are incredible.

I thought I had it figured out.

However, skin changes with age. I'm no longer a hormonal teen, nor am I young adult who takes bad care of herself. I'm an adult now - I mean I'm in my late twenties, doesn't that make me an adult?

As an adult woman, I eat extremely well, sleep enough, love myself, and have more or less clear acne-prone skin. For all intents and purposes, I no longer have acne.

I realized that I had the same skin care routine as I did when I had acne. The fear of acne returning made me rely on all these products...But fear ain't gonna keep us down!

The fear of acne returning made me rely on all these products @olenaloves #adultacne

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It was time to simplify things. It was time to loosen my rigid grasp on my products, and venture into new skin territory.

Traveling with huge bottles of products, and stressing out when running low on an given one inspired me to seek alternative skin care. You know that saying, when the student asks a question, the teacher will appear?

Right around this time I discovered Tracy Raftl. I keep mentioning her, because she's a huge inspiration to me. Her before pictures are even worse than mine, but she didn't resort to the quick solution of curing acne with products.

You can't actually cure your acne with products, you can only start there. Products only mask the symptoms (pimples). You have to cure yourself - your health - otherwise the acne will keep returning when you stop using the products.

My first attempt at turning to natural skin care was a huge disaster because I wasn't taking care of my body. Going off Benzoyl Peroxide and trying oils made my acne worse than ever. It could have been that I just saw what my acne really was like without Benzoyl Peroxide. It was too frightening to bear, so I went back to my comfort zone.

There's a wonderful awakening now. People are caring increasingly more about food, nutrition, health, and wellness. Thank God! The kind of rhetoric about healing yourself from within to have great skin wasn't available to me when I was growing up. I only came to it myself through trial and error.

You'd think that dermatologists would promote a healthy lifestyle before promoting harsh topicals or Accutane. My dermatologist had no qualms prescribing Accutane to me at age 14. My age, diet, and obvious hormonal imbalance weren't factored in because we have to remember that if we all stop buying the crap products out there, then there will be no skin care industry to speak of.

I look at most dermatologists as sales people peddling their product.

Is Your Makeup Causing Your Acne?

I'm not saying that all products are crap, but most of them really and truly are.

Most makeup out there causes acne in acne-prone skinned people like me. That means my skin can be clear, but if I use a certain product, like Nars Orgasm Blush for instance, I'll break out simply because of the ingredients. This is cosmetic acne in a nutshell.

I say that cosmetic acne occurs with acne-prone skin, but the truth is people with absolutely normal skin (no acne in sight) can also react to crap ingredients.

My acne didn't start because of products though. My acne was hormonal in my teens, and was exacerbated ​by my awful diet. The wrong products made things worse, and the right products made things better - on the surface.

After speaking to cosmetic expert, Perry Romanowski, I learned that there's a lot I don't know about the skin care industry. I thought I could depend on ingredient labels, but it turns out that even that part of it is misleading.

Cosmetic Industry Standards Suck​

Companies aren't held responsible, they don't have to disclose the exact amount of every ingredient in the product. They can call something a hyaluronic acid serum, but only put a drop of hyaluronic acid in the product.

These kinds of disclosure practices make me want to throw out all my products.

How can we know if a product will actually help our skin, or if it's just meant to sell by appealing to out worst fears and biggest desires?

Recently, a friend of mine complained about some surface level acne, and I asked her about her makeup. She told me confidently that it couldn't be her makeup because it's "all natural".

It turns out she was using Tarte's Amazonian Clay Foundation and powder that claims to be a lot of things that it's not. I did a little googling, and there's nothing natural about it at all.

It seems near impossible to find products nowadays that don't contain a bunch of BS ingredients.

Perry said that big brands like Nivea are safe to use because they have ginormous budgets for product development and safety testing, yet I know from personal experience that I had a horrible reaction to so-called safe Nivea products (face covered in non-stop bumps).

What is safe? The cream might not kill me if I use it or if I drink it (don't drink Nivea), but my face looks like a wreck because of it​. What does that say about the quality of the product?

It goes like this: use a product, the product causes acne, use a different product to cure the acne...

When one product continually causes the acne, you're stuck using another product to mask the symptoms of the first product. It's messed up!

You can be paying good money to clog your own pores, and then pay more money to unclog the clogged pores in a never-ending cycle.

You can be paying good money to clog your own pores, and then pay more money to unclog them in a never-ending cycle. #adultacne @olenaloves

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I used to think that I can become an acne-causing ingredient detective and weed out products that could potentially cause my acne.

Today, I've grown so disillusioned and frustrated by skin care and makeup companies that I can't be bothered to research the long lists of chemicals.

I once sat for three hours a day reading up on skin care ingredients - which ones are comedogenic, which ones are irritating, which ones do what they're supposed to? What a waste of time!!!

My Updated Product Philosophy

​Less Is More

I look for products with the fewest possible ingredients. I also apply the tiniest amount that I can get away with. Gone are the days of slathering my face with a thick layer of Benzoyl Peroxide or thick moisturizer.

Our skin is an incredible organ - it's supposed to self-regulate. The more crap we put on it, the more difficult it gets for the skin to self-regulate. The more crap we put in our bodies, the harder it gets for our skin to self-regulate.

I take great care not to surround myself with crap, nor ingest it!​ How forward-thinking of me...

Examples from my skin care arsenal that contain few ingredients (relative to what's out there) is Bioderma Sensibio H20 Micelle Solution or Jane Iredale's Pure Pressed Powder Foundation.

My favourite makeup remover: Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micelle Solution - 10 Ingredients

My favorite mineral powder: Jane Iredale Pure Pressed Base - 12ish ingredients

​Can I Pronounce The Ingredient?

Is the ingredient name easy to say? This is where things get tricky since I couldn't even pronounce Jojoba at first. If I can't pronounce an ingredient, and I can't even begin to guess what it can be doing for my skin, I tend to google.

Beware that there are 'natural' cosmetic companies out there using fear (of toxins and cancer) to get you to stop using chemical products, so that you use their 'natural' products that often have similar ingredient lists.

I've perused the ingredients in the aisles of the Whole Foods 'natural' skin care section looking for natural alternatives. 

One example, is a Waleda moisturizer that contained alcohol as the second ingredient. Face palm. It also caused my friend (who never ever breaks out) get huge pimples whenever he used the moisturizer.​

I love Whole Foods - the food options are unparalleled for a picky eater such as myself.​ BUT the natural skin care lines (mostly) suck! 

I'd love to see 'natural skin care' as a concept I can trust, however, I'm still forced to investigate their labels to make sure everything checks out. ​

Ingredient toxicity and carcinogens in skin care is a separate topic altogether. I'll touch on it some time in the future, since things are confusing enough as is.

Things get confusing when there's too much competing information and disinformation. Instead of choosing a side like I normally would (chemical vs. natural), I decided to try a hybrid skin care routine.

I still use a few chemical products that I trust, but I've added Jojoba Oil and Manuka Honey to the mix.

This way I don't have to worry that some crazy combination of ingredients will cause me to breakout. It's harder to pinpoint the culprit ingredient in a list that's 10-50 ingredients long.

I eliminated as much chemical skin care in my routine as I could - no more Benzoyl Peroxide (you can read more about my natural skin care routine here).

I'm making this change slowly, so that I don't shock my skin with natural products that it's not used to. Imagine that! My skin is so used to chemicals that I don't want to shock it with lack of chemicals.

This is the ultimate experiment. Have I really cured my acne by taking great care of myself? Or was it the Benzoyl Peroxide all along? Stay tuned for updates on my natural skin care experiment!

Watch me walk and rant about cosmetic acne in this video:

With Love,


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