Horrible skin requires saving!
October 27, 2010 2:20 PM   Subscribe

Wtf, skin! Blackheads AND dry skin? Fix me please!

I've always had problem skin - acne in high school, then seriously sensitive skin and now I've got dry/normal skin, but zillions of the biggest blackheads I've ever seen, all over my T-zone. And, my T-zone is more dry than oily.

I've been using Aveeno's calming face wash and an alpha hydroxy moisturizer to no avail. Research has only led to more confusion...

So, help me get my face back! What's the best thing/product I can use to get everything balanced back out??

(FYI - I drink plenty of water and eat a healthy diet, plus vitamins and yadda yadda.)
posted by unlucky.lisp to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Have you been tested for food intolerance? I quit dairy and whole wheat for a month and watched my bad-face symptoms go from 100% to 50% strength, so my doctor recently recommended testing.

So, just a random data point but it might be worth a try -- test kits seem to start at around $200.
posted by circular at 2:30 PM on October 27, 2010

Well that formatting sucked. Here's a better version:

You should seriously think about the oil cleansing method. It's based on the idea that oil is the best medium for breaking up oil lodged in your pores - and it leaves skin feeling moisturized and clean (not oily at all!), nicely balanced out.

It's cheap and all-in-one, and it works - I have combination blackhead-prone skin, and when I take the time to do it, it cleans and calms my skin down and strips out blackheads like nothing else.

It's labor intensive and messy, though, so I usually just settle for warm water on a washcloth + moisturizer. I tweeze out stubborn blackheads.

My biggest thing with skincare is not applying harsh soap and then intense moisture - I'd rather keep things balanced to begin with. It takes a few days for your skin to adjust to a water-only regimen, but it's awfully nice once you get there.
posted by peachfuzz at 3:32 PM on October 27 [+] [!]
posted by peachfuzz at 2:33 PM on October 27, 2010 [9 favorites]

The oil cleansing method seriously changed my existence on the earth. It's amazing and I can't believe I was almost 40 before I knew about it. A strong NTHING from me on that one!!
posted by pearlybob at 3:24 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think drier skin tends toward blackheads because the sebum in your pores is just drying out and staying there. My skin tends to overproduce oil when dry- if I forget to moisturize at night, I have oily skin when I wake up. If your face is alternately drying out and getting oily, you get blackheads.To me, blackheads are a sign I'm not moisturizing enough.

I also use the oil cleansing method, with jojoba oil. It really helped my problem skin. I don't find it time consuming- just rub a dime size puddle of jojoba on my face, and wash off with a warm washcloth.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:28 PM on October 27, 2010

You know - everyone's an expert at this but I will throw in my two cents. I have sensitive skin with some of the same challenges, and I found that my problems come and go with hormone flux.

Exfoliation became my best friend. What 's worked for me is the following:

Cetafil daily cleanser - not the gentle stuff, but the liquid soap. Warm Wash cloth. Don't scrub, but do use it to loosen the dirt and dry skin. Rub gently with warm water. Rinse. Pat dry.

Immediately, I put on Neoteric's Alpha Hydrox lotion (10%). It might tingle or sting a tiny bit, but I don't mind because it totally excavates my pores and make them appear miniscule. And it's cheap - less than $10US.

After that dries, I put on moisturizer. I actually use a very heavy, thick moisturizer because I have dry, sensitive skin - Either Cetaphil Cream (cheap) or L'Occitane Ultra Rich Shea Facial Creme (spendy, but OMG-SO-WORTH-IT).

I repeat this process morning and night and saw results in just a couple of days. And my face feels smooth like a baby's buttox.

Other things that help:

- If you sweat, wash your face.

- Keep your hands away from your face.

- Keep your hair away from your face.

- Be aware of the hair products you use - Hairspray is the WORST culprit in the world for skin.

- If you use makeup, make sure it is non-comedogenic. Clinique has some good products for sensitive skin.

Good luck!
posted by inquisitrix at 3:53 PM on October 27, 2010

Twice a day, EVERY SINGLE DAY no matter HOW tired or lazy I'm feeling I:
  1. Wash my face with Neutrogena liquid soap
  2. Apply Clinique Clarifying Lotion (which is a mild toner. Astringent lotion burns and pillages my skin like cosmetic Vikings)
  3. Apply a daily blemish serum whether I have blemishes or not. I use Juice Beauty in the morning. It's a little pricy, but it goes a long way. I use Persa-Gel at night (and you can get Persa-Gel from the grocery store). Don't use Persa-Gel twice a day or it will exacerbate your dryness
  4. Moisturize with cream intended for faces
A couple of times a week, I exfoliate. I like to use a spare electric tooth brush dipped in a small amount of baking soda and water. I go over my skin very lightly with this, and it really helps with, well, everything. But don't overdo it.

My past skin problems sound kinda like yours, and I've found it's important to use only mild products and to use them sparingly. The temptation with blackheads and pimples and whatnot is sometimes to use as much of whatever Get-Rid-Of-It-Quick product you have in excess in the hopes of getting rid of it even quicker, but that never works.

I had HEINOUS skin for a very long time, even into my early twenties. When I got religious about my skin care regimen, everything changed. People tell me all the time that I have beautiful skin, and they ask me how I do it. And, man, that makes you feel like it's all worth it every time. So, the above may sound like a lot of work, but you get used to it, and it pays off. May take a while, but it works for the long haul.

Oh, another tip: make sure you're changing your pillow cases frequently.
posted by katillathehun at 4:11 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Acne.org is what saved my formerly oil-slick/now desert-dry aging and acne-prone skin. Gentle, gentle, gentle is the key!

Even though its main component is benzoyl peroxide, a good moisturizer (and jojoba oil) have kept my skin balanced.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 4:48 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have had amazing results with Proactiv renewing cleanser. It does not matter if you have dry skin. I find that Proactiv is gentle and not especially drying. I have combination skin and have no problems with it. It is just about the only thing that works for me. I'm not a teenager, I'm 38 and have tried everything under the sun from the most expensive to drug store brands.

I think you need to exfoliate with something more aggressive than the alpha hydroxy moisturizer. If you don't use the Proactiv cleanser try St. Ives Green Tea exfoliating scrub. It's not as good as the Proactiv cleanser but it works. The St. Ives Green Tea is gentle and not drying.

I would recommend that you use the Proactiv clearing lotion on your nose too but the cleanser might do the trick.
posted by Fairchild at 5:39 PM on October 27, 2010

At one point I got really fed up with myriad of products out there.

Some companies really market their stuff incredibly well but the science is not always there.

So I wondered what doctors are using:


All I use now is:
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
Topix Replenix Retinol Smoothing Serum at night

For moisturizer, I put a tiny amount of vasoline on my hands and then rub it with water and then my face. Apparently a big beauty tip from Tyra Banks.
posted by simpleton at 5:45 PM on October 27, 2010

And if its blackheads specifically, you definitely have to get:
Biore Deep Cleansing Pore Strips

Can't live without it.

posted by simpleton at 5:49 PM on October 27, 2010

I second notjustfoxybrown's comment. really check out acne.org's website. tons of good information and just so many testimonials about people's success using their "method" for treating acne. also, they just go ahead and tell you the method it's not like one of those things where you have to join or pay or anything.
posted by lvanshima at 5:52 PM on October 27, 2010

Everyone's got their own trick... Mine: skinlaboratory.com hi-test salicylic and glycolic acids. Blackheads push themselves out in disgust 24h after the salicylic 'peel,' and the glycolic keeps things from drying out; they work very well together. Really, anything they sell would be helpful. After you try 20% salicylic acid you will never ever futz with drugstore stuff again. And you can take the various skin-blistering fluids they sell, and tip them into your regular moisturizer to punch it up a bit!

Do read the reviews on the site, which provide a decent overview of what sort of results one might expect and what different frequencies of use, combinations, etcetera people prefer.
posted by kmennie at 6:08 PM on October 27, 2010

Oil cleansing method and the occasional aspirin mask. Super cheap and very effective.
posted by emeiji at 7:46 PM on October 27, 2010

N-thing Acne.org.

I tried the oil cleansing method. My skin freaked the hell out after three weeks (large, cystic acne) so I cut it out and went back to my Acne.org regimen. I may give it another go and only do it once a week to ease into it, but my first time around with it seriously sucked.
posted by Loto at 5:13 AM on October 28, 2010

Weakest level of Retin A in cream, not gel form, applied very very sparingly and not daily (now that I'm older I only use it once, twice a week max). A no-frills moisturizer that works for you (I swear by L'Oreal Hydra-Renewal which is almost impossible to find anymore, and hear good thinks about CeraVe) applied immediately after you get out of the shower/wash your face and have gently toweled off, while your skin's still slightly damp (to seal in moisture), sunblock that doesn't clog you up (Coppertone Oil-Free Faces is ok, Aveeno, Clinique, and Neutrogena are supposed to be alright too), and something uber gentle like Cetaphil at night before bed. And yes, if you can stand it, occasional gentle exfoliation.

Make sure your skin isn't exposed to steam from showers that are too hot, by the way. Steam is bad for your skin (also keep that in mind if you go the OCM route mentioned upthread).
posted by ifjuly at 10:57 AM on October 28, 2010

For the blackheads, Epsom salts and iodine are your friend. Per the link, mix 1/4 cup water with 1 teaspoon Epsom salts, then add 3 drops of iodine and bring to a boil and remove from heat.

Once the solution cools to a comfortable temperature, I soak a gauze pad in the stuff and leave it on my nose (Blackhead Central on my face) for 10 minutes. My blackheads come right out when I remove the gauze. YMMV, and the "recipe" does say, "You may need to do this two or three days in a row depending on how deep or stubborn the blackheads." (If you want to try extractions after using the "recipe," Paula Begoun has some good tips here.)

I just bought a gallon of organic apple cider vinegar from friends who have a farm, and they suggested that the stuff makes a good astringent post-cleansing. I may give that a try. Since you have dry skin, I would suggest diluting it at least 50-50.

And I would stay away from Biore strips. As much of a sick rush as they can be to use, I find that they work once and then never again! Paula Begoun (yes, her again, but she has a lot of well-founded advice and doesn't hesitate to recommend cheap products if they're good), says, "Just the top layer of the blackhead is removed, and then the blackhead returns because the source of the problem was never corrected."
posted by virago at 11:17 AM on October 28, 2010

Nthing acne.org to learn about your particular skin issues. Non-inflammatory acne (blackheads, whiteheads, & milia) isn't caused by the P. acnes bacteria, so benzoyl peroxide isn't effective and may be (in my experience, is) counterproductive. Because non-inflammatory acne is caused by a combination of excessive cell production/shedding and excessively "sticky" shed cells, salicylic acid and other beta-hydroxy acids help by reducing the rate of cell production and making the cells less likely to "glue" themselves together into a little plug inside the pore.

And something worth trying, although it may seem inconvenient: consider eliminating dairy from your diet for a period of time to see what happens. I've been working with my skincare practitioner for a couple of years now, and although my skin had gotten mostly clear, it stubbornly refused to clear up all the way. A couple of months ago, I drastically reduced the amount of dairy in my diet, and I think I'm seeing an improvement in my skin.
posted by Lexica at 11:27 AM on October 28, 2010

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