My Acne Story

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Acne is a sensitive subject for me. It has been a significant source of my insecurity for a very long time. Even now that I am older and my acne is [usually] under control, I still become very self-conscious about my “bad skin days.” For the past couple of years or so, I have been able to find great comfort in hearing about other people’s experiences and struggles with dealing with acne. I thought I’d share my acne story too. 🙂

Yay, Puberty…
I started getting my first pimples in the fifth grade. It didn’t even start to bother me until some of my classmates asked me about it — “What’s that on your forehead?” Ah, the catalyst for years of self-consciousness. My skin started becoming oily, and I developed blackheads on my nose. I started washing my face every day, but when that didn’t seem to be enough, I turned to makeup. I used my mother’s foundation almost every morning to conceal every blemish as best I could.

Middle School & High School
The severity of my acne peaked through middle school and high school. I would describe it as moderate acne. It seemed like when one pimple healed, a few more popped up the next day. And I was a such a “picker.” I remember crying about it sometimes. Before bed, I’d go into the bathroom to brush my teeth, but I wouldn’t turn on the lights because I couldn’t stand seeing my own reflection in the mirror. My doctor prescribed a topical antibiotic. I didn’t notice much of a difference in my skin (except increased irritation) so I was finally referred to my first dermatologist. I was on an oral antibiotic for a little while, but a prescription topical retinoid seemed to provide the most improvement, at least for a few years.

College
Once my skin seemed to be under control for the most part, I eventually stopped the prescription retinoid and just used over-the-counter products for a while. At this point, I was better about cleansing and treating my skin consistently. I was on the ProActiv system for a year or two, but found drugstore brands to be just as good and cost-effective. When I was diagnosed with depression a couple of years into college, all of the emotional stress began manifesting itself physically, and my acne seemed to come back in full force again (which didn’t make dealing with depression any easier of course…). Eventually, I was back at the dermatologist’s office, this time for a combination of topical antibiotics and benzoyl peroxide. My skin got a little bit worse before I started noticing an improvement again.

Post-College & Present
I sort of came across the most effective remedy [for me] by accident when I was prescribed birth control pills for the first time. The unexpected side effect of clear skin seemed to indicate that most of my acne was actually hormonal. For the first time since I hit puberty, my skin was actually pimple-free.

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Of course, this is not to say that what has worked for me will work for everybody. There is no one-size-fits-all remedy for acne-sufferers. Many people have even been able to find great improvements with a more natural, drug-free approach. It took me many years to figure out how to control my acne. I’ve stuck with a consistent skin care regimen, making sure to cleanse and moisturize daily, as well as apply adequate sun protection. Over time, you start to learn what your skin needs to look and feel its best. I only wish that during that period of trial-and-error, I was better equipped to deal with the emotional issues that came with having acne.

My skin is far from perfect, and I still get breakouts (especially during that time of the month), but instead of longing for “perfection,” I’ve learned to make more of an effort to just take better care of my body and become more comfortable in my own bare skin. My skin is much healthier now than it was years ago, but I’m still working on building my self-esteem back up.

I’ve had people make rude and judgmental comments about my pimples before, and that always fueled the fire of insecurity in me. I’ve never had anyone sit down and tell me that my acne didn’t make me hideous or unattractive. I think having acne held me back from being more comfortable in social situations. If I was having a conversation with someone, I’d always assume that they were looking at my zits, and not at me.

So I’m here to tell you now that acne doesn’t make you ugly, or unclean, or stupid, or unworthy. It may take some time to find what works best for you, but in the mean time, understand that your acne doesn’t define you or lower your value as a person. I know that sometimes it can feel like people are looking at you with a magnifying glass when you’ve got angry blemishes on your face, but nobody’s going to bed at night wondering why you had those big zits on your chin.

How have you dealt with the physical and emotional issues of acne? I’d love to know your story too. 🙂

Mindful Monday | Forgiveness

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For some reason, I often thought that “forgiveness” was very black-and-white… that to truly forgive someone entailed wanting to be around that person and feeling good about spending time with them… but if you didn’t want to be around that person, then your forgiveness wasn’t genuine. I’ve applied this idea to both friendships and romantic relationships.

I wish I knew years ago that forgiving someone didn’t necessarily mean wanting to keep that person in your life. We’re often told that “moving on” means forgiving and forgetting past pains, but one can do without the other. You can make peace with things that have happened, but by no means does that mean you’re obligated to forget. You can make peace with people who’ve hurt you in one way or another, but forcing yourself to keep those people in your life to sort of “prove” the authenticity of your forgiveness isn’t something you have to endure. You can give yourself permission to move on, not just from memories, but from people too. There are people I no longer wish to associate with, or devote my time to, but I carry no anger with that, at least not anymore. I used to think, “But I’ve forgiven them… I’m not allowed to walk away from them.”

But you really do have permission! It’s one thing to forgive those who’ve wronged you, but it’s another to white-knuckle your way through a weak, toxic or hollow friendship or relationship just to save face. If that bond isn’t mutual, or feels forced, or doesn’t make you feel absolutely elated and hungry for more communication and intimacy, then you’re just hurting yourself and each other, and wasting each other’s time.

What does forgiveness mean to you? Do you have a hard time forgiving others? Do you think it’s possible to “forgive someone and still not want to spend time with them?”

Picture Post | Niagara Falls + Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

pp_nf_4pp_nf_3pp_nf_1pp_nf_2pp_ra_3pp_ra_1pp_ra_2pp_ra_5pp_ra_41. Our first view of the American Falls from the American side.
2. The American Falls, with the Bridal Veil Falls to the right, viewed from Skylon Tower.
3. Cooling off under the Bridal Veil Falls.
4. The Horseshoe Falls, viewed from Skylon Tower.
5. Sawshark. Didn’t know there was such a thing!
6. Delightfully colorful coral reefs.
7. Eels.
8. A pair of sea urchins.
9. Cute jellyfish.

Mindful Monday | On Saying No

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I try hard to be a people-pleaser most of the time, and in doing so, I automatically think that I should always say ‘yes.’ I don’t want to seem rude, disrespectful, lazy, disagreeable, etc., etc., etc.; it goes back to caring so much about what others think, and not wanting to be on bad terms with anyone. When saying ‘no’ I usually feel guilty, and an urgent need to apologize. But I’m learning to understand that being able to say ‘no’ without thinking I’m doing something wrong is an essential self-care skill.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to help someone by completing a task or doing them a favor every now and then, but when you’re constantly putting the needs and wants of others before your own, it can feel incredibly draining. You can start to feel bitter and resentful, and being in that mindset can limit your helpfulness anyway. I want to become more honest and up-front with myself about these things. Someone asking something of you doesn’t magically turn into an obligation to say ‘yes.’

Sometimes I will feel the need to have a thorough explanation at hand, but I find that it’s not usually the case. If you’re set on ‘no,’ most people will just take it at that, so don’t be afraid to be concise and deliberate. “No, I can’t today.” It may take some getting used to. Practicing saying it out loud can help lessen your perceived abrasiveness of the phrase.

If leaving them with a hard ‘no’ just stings too much, then offering an alternative solution to their dilemma can be a gentler approach — you’re still being helpful. Decline, but steer them in another possible direction. “I can’t make it to the concert. But maybe So-And-So would like to go? She really likes punk rock.”

Your time is as valuable as theirs. It can help to simply state that you have other priorities. “I can’t do that right now. I have other things I still need to take care of.”

•••

Do you ever have a hard time saying ‘no?’ What’s most difficult about it for you? How are you learning to say ‘no’ without creating internal negativity?

Overview + Review | E.L.F. Studio Brushes

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Eyes Lips Face (ELF) was the first makeup brand that I really got into because they’re so affordable compared to other brands out on the market (even in the drugstore). They pretty much always have sales and coupon codes floating around. Over the past few years, I’ve amassed a collection of their Studio brushes. These brushes are great for the price (starting at $3 a pop). ELF has an Essential line of brushes as well, which are cheaper (starting at $1), but I find the quality of the Studio line brushes to be much better, in my experience.

All of these brushes have synthetic Taklon hairs. They’re very soft, and I have not had any issue with shedding or bleeding during washes. I find that I do have to be careful in maintaining the bristle shapes. They don’t quite “bounce back” after cleaning and drying. The handles are made of wood with a matte plastic coating. They were $3.00 each, with the exception of the Kabuki Face Brush (unfortunately discontinued), which was $8.00.

elf_sb_smallbrusheself_sb_smallbrushes_closeTOP TO BOTTOM: Small Smudge Brush, Small Angled Brush, Contour Brush, Angled Contour Brush, Flawless Concealer Brush.

Small Smudge Brush
I like to use this brush to smudge out gel and pencil liners. The bristles are soft, but dense, so it’s a very nice brush for detailed work.

Small Angled Brush
This is very nice for applying brow powder, as well as easily creating winged eyeliner looks. I like to use this brush to “drag out” gel and pencil eyeliners to create that softly-defined wing.

Contour Brush
It’s nice for creating sharper creases and blended/smoky cat eyes in the outer corners, but I prefer a bit of a bigger brush for blending larger areas.

Angled Contour Brush
I like this brush for packing on color as well as blending. It’s a round brush with flat angled bristles, so it’s nice for applying color as well as blending it out, especially in the crease area.

Flawless Concealer Brush
I don’t typically use brushes for blending concealer, so I’ve been using this brush to blend eyeshadows. I love it for easily creating “washes” of color. It’s my must-have for smoky eyes and “single-shadow” looks.

elf_sb_largebrusheself_sb_largebrushes_close1elf_sb_largebrushes_close2TOP TO BOTTOM: Mineral Powder Brush, Blush Brush, Powder Brush, Complexion Brush, Kabuki Body Brush.

Mineral Powder Brush
This is a good multi-tasking face brush for pressed and loose powders. It does a good job of applying mineral makeup, as well as blush, highlighters, and setting powders.

Blush Brush
Not my favorite brush for applying blush since it is quite small, but it gets the job done. The tapered end is nice for contouring the cheekbones.

Powder Brush
This is my favorite brush for applying setting powders. It’s very nice for patting on powder. The soft, flat bristles make it good for buffing in mineral makeup and liquid base makeup as well.

Complexion Brush
Another great multi-tasking brush. I can use this for blush, setting powder, bronzer, and highlighter. The rounded/flat edge is also great for contouring too.

Kabuki Body Brush
ELF no longer carries this brush, but this is basically the jumbo version of their Kabuki Face Brush. It’s nice for applying bronzers, highlighters, and setting powders to large body areas. The bristles are extremely soft. I’d recommend finding some sort of storage case to maintain its shape.

•••

ELF has by far my favorite affordable makeup brushes. The Studio line is a great option for those just starting with makeup. There’s a nice variety of brushes to choose from, and a lot of them work well as multi-tasking brushes.

Have you tried any of ELF’s Studio Brushes? What did you think? What are some of your favorites?

Review | DHC Deep Cleansing Oil

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For those of us with oily, acne-prone skin, we’re often told to avoid putting oil on our faces matter what. We opt for oil-free skin care and makeup, and we gravitate towards products that promise “oil-control.”

I’ve heard about DHC Deep Cleansing Oil as being a very gentle and effective makeup remover, but I’ve recently learned about how lots of people (even those who are acne-prone) have used it (and other oil-based cleansers like it) to combat zits and clean out pores. Such cleansers work on the principle of “dissolution theory.” It’s the idea that “like dissolves like”; in this case, oil dissolving oil. (Keep in mind that the way I use this cleanser is not the same as the steps used for the Oil Cleansing Method which involves steaming the skin. They’re two different things.) I used to use generic face wipes to remove my makeup before regular cleansing, and I thought this would be a gentler and more natural alternative.

The thought of putting oil on my already-oily face sounded nothing short of disgusting. My skin is very clogged and congested in my T-zone area. My nose seems to always be peppered with blackheads. For me, they’re harder to get rid of than active acne.

I purchased this from Amazon but it is also available on the DHC website for $28.00 (full size). They do offer a smaller size and sample size as well. The full size is 6.7 fl. oz. It comes in a clear plastic pump bottle. The product itself is quite viscous, and has a slight natural olive oil scent.

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INGREDIENTS: olive fruit oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride, sorbeth-30 tetraoleate, pentylene glycol, phenoxyethanol, tocopherol, stearyl glycyrrhetinate, rosemary leaf oil

The pump works very well, and it’s easy to control how much you dispense. You must apply the oil to dry skin (yes, makeup and all) with clean, dry hands. If your skin is wet, the oil will emulsify immediately and won’t get a chance to bond to the dirty oil and impurities on your skin. I admit, the sensation of massaging olive oil into my skin was very unsettling at first, especially with makeup on. But I was pleasantly surprised at how clean it rinses off. Some users recommend following up with your regular cleanser. Depending on your skin type, you may skip that step, but since I’m very oily I opt to double-cleanse.

For makeup removal, this is excellent. My base makeup just melts right off without so much as a light massage. It doesn’t seem to irritate my eyes at all either. I’ve also noticed less clogs and blackheads with regular use. When I’m massaging it into my skin, I can sometimes feel little grainy bits under my fingertips — these are actually sebum plugs loosening up and coming out (yuck!).

•••

After using this for a few weeks, I’ve already noticed an improvement in my skin’s overall texture and clarity — fewer little bumps and blackheads. I think incorporating this into my regimen has made my other skin care steps work much more effectively, as it cleanses my skin more deeply. I’ve even grown to enjoy the process of applying the oil to my face — at the end of the day it feels quite relaxing and therapeutic — no longer gross!

Please note that not all oils work the same way for everyone, so I can’t insist that all people will love this. Olive oil can be extremely comedogenic to some people, so always test a small area first. There are a number of oil cleansers that also contain mineral oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, etc., so it’s a matter of finding what your skin works well with. My skin seems to like the olive oil, and I plan on sticking with it. If you have a similar skin type to me, this may be worth a try.

What do you think of oil-based cleansers? Have you tried DHC’s? What did you think?

Polyvore | Chalkboard Décor

Let's Talk Chalk | Chalkboard Décor

Chalkboard Décor

I like the sound of chalk tapping on an old-school chalkboard. It makes me think of pre-school/kindergarten/elementary school. I think an entire chalkboard wall could be a fun thing to have in an office to make it seem a little more playful, or maybe as a stove backsplash where you can jot down recipes and grocery lists.

These are a couple of sets I designed for Polyvore’s Chalkboard Décor Contest.

I think my favorite item would have to be that chalkboard pig statue in the first set. It’s just so darn cute.

What do you think of chalkboard-inspired home décor?

Review | Peter Thomas Roth Therapeutic Sulfur Masque

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My oily, acne-prone skin loves sulfur. I used to use the ProActiv Refining Mask, which has 6% sulfur, and I really enjoyed it as a spot-treatment and a bi-weekly mask treatment. This particular mask from Peter Thomas Roth contains 10% sulfur. The ProActiv mask is a little harder to find and I found this one to be more readily available. It is a pricey mask, but I managed to find the full 5 oz. tub on Amazon with a discount (free Prime shipping as well), so it may help to shop around.

ptr_tsm_boxINGREDIENTS: Precipitated Sulfur U.S.P. 10%, water, bentonite, kaolin, propylene glycol, talc, glycerin, aloe barbadensis leaf, zinc oxide, polysorbate-20, titanium dioxide, carbomer, fragrance, sodium hydroxide, diazolidinyl urea, methylparaben, propylparaben
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The consistency is a little bit thinner and more moist than ProActiv’s mask (perhaps due to the aloe), so it’s easier for me to spread. It has a little bit of a grayish color, and it smells mostly of clay and sulfur. I started using this mask after getting a sudden bout of stress/hormone -related acne along my jawline, nose, mouth and chin. Using this at least two or three times a week over the course of a few weeks has helped my skin calm down. I find that it’s even a bit less drying than the Proactiv mask.

The sulfur smell does linger, even after rinsing. I have only been using this at night. If you decide to use this in the morning, you may want to shower afterwards to get rid of any traces of odor. It can be a little bit difficult to rinse off completely, especially if applied in a thick layer, so keep a wet washcloth handy.

Those with normal to dry complexions may find this a little bit too drying if used more than once per week. Even though I’m oily, I still have to apply moisturizer after using this.

This works pretty well as a spot treatment too. Big, angry pimples won’t completely vanish overnight with this, but over the course of a few days, the redness and swelling have noticeably reduced. My skin looks very clean, soft and matte afterwards. I haven’t noticed any irritation from repeated use.

•••

I recommend this mask more for those with oily, acne-prone skin like me. It is expensive, but if I can manage to keep finding it at a cheaper price, I would repurchase this. A little bit of product goes a long way and the generous 5 oz. tub should last me at least a couple of months. I found it to be effective in calming my sudden breakouts and absorbing excess oil.

Have you tried either of PTR’s sulfur masks? What did you think?