There’s a secret I keep well hidden from most people, under a well applied layer of Clarins Everlasting Foundation. This secret is my complexion or, more accurately, the ‘battle scars’, remnants of acne.
Most teenagers get their faces hit by acne at some point in their lives. It’s usually a phase which, although very annoying and sometimes damaging to the person’s self-esteem, passes fairly quickly. I wasn’t that lucky. My acne lasted for years, affecting my face, back, upper arms and chest. After trying probably every single acne concoction on the market, both over the counter and prescription, my dermatologist decided to put me on retinoids. And it worked. My acne cleared and all I was left with were red scars, easy to hide under make up. All was good, I was free…
…until it came back.
It was a heavy blow, I have to admit. Because, you know, I was free and happy, and then I had acne again. It wasn’t nearly as bad as before, but it was there, every time I went to look in the mirror. I could have gone back to my dermatologist, but I decided not to. I didn’t want any more nasty pills in my body, any more random ointments or creams. I decided to take my face into my own hands. That’s how stage 1 of my 3-stage (so far) journey has started.
I decided to go all natural. It may have been me trying to turn my back on everything modern medicine came up with in a true teenage fashion, I don’t know. It still seems like a fairly reasonable reaction to 6+ months of pill popping. So I washed my face with aleppo soap , used enzymatic peel masks that I had to mix with water, made my own face masks from green and white clay and, probably the messiest of them all, used a mask of turmeric mixed with yoghurt. If you ever spilled turmeric, you can imagine the mess it made, and I’m truly surprised my parents put up with it in such a stoic manner. It’s also when I discovered tea tree oil (still a trusted friend, it’s a great antiseptic). And you know what? It worked. My skin cleared up and once again I was left with acne scars but no acne. Score!
However, once you get the desired result, the motivation to make your own face mask (or engage in the mess of turmeric and yoghurt) simply subsides. At this point, I simply couldn’t be bothered and wanted an easy, ready-made solution. That’s when I entered stage 2.
At this stage I had a bit more cash and discovered Caroline Hirons . To this day, Caroline is the only person in the beauty world who I trust blindly. She’s a beauty veteran, with years of experience in the industry, and very straight talking. She will call bullshit when she sees it. And her advice made a real difference in the way my skin looks. If you have any skin problems, Caroline is your person. I have definitely moved much more towards the higher end of the spectrum, discovering Clarins, Clinique, REN and others.
I fell in love with cleansing (double cleanse ftw) and flannels (I have a massive pile of them now, which drives my mum nuts whenever I come home). I appreciated the comfort of having everything ready mixed for me and stopped being such an ‘all natural’ freak. I embraced acid exfoliation. A lot of the scars have disappeared/faded, and I think it was at this point that I started to go outside without make up. I mean, I still won’t go to work without it, but I’ve no problem going to Waitrose or library au natural. However, as much as I loved following Caroline’s words to the tee, it became a bit heavy on my wallet, especially as I worked a very minimum wage job in London. I simply couldn’t afford it any more. Which brings us to stage 3.
It’s where I am now. Although not all of my skincare right now is drugstore, a good portion of it is. I won’t lie, I still like nice, high end product, with well-designed packaging, beautiful smell and all that jazz. The issue is, my wallet doesn’t alway like it, which is fair enough. I am a student in London, certain compromises need to be made. My current philosophy is quite simple: if it has good ingredients, it will be fine. So I avoid: mineral oil (paraffinum liquidium), silicones, SLS (foaming sulphates in general) and stuff with ingredients list longer than Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix and harder to pronounce than those long German words. If it’s more on the natural side of things, then even better. I like The Body Shop (and they have loads of discounts), REN Skincare (less budget-friendly, but great for sensitive skin) and Lush. Both Lush and TBS have fantastic customer service in most cases (Lush in particular), so it’s also a pleasure to shop there. I also reacquainted myself with French pharmacy products, which have a lot to offer as well, and won’t drain your budget. Then there’s also my all time favourite cleanser for taking off make up, which is… Superdrug Vitamin E one. At £4.99, and often on 3-for-2 or buy one get one half price offer, you really can’t beat it, and I buy it time and time again. It doesn’t just take make up off. It melts it. Like, mascara on your chin melts it.
Although I think that, over time, I will go back more to Stage 2 and high end skincare, as it just feels nice, luxurious and all that, Stage 3 is a great choice if you’re on a tight budget. You really don’t have to splurge on a cleanser or moisturiser, there are fantastic, wallet-friendly products, which will make your skin more than happy. Get yourself acquainted with a bit of latin to be able to read the labels, and you’re good to go!