How to Make my Face Look Great?
March 12, 2012 3:52 PM   Subscribe

What are your best tips for improving your complexion?

Since I can remember, I've been unhappy with how my face looks. Right now, I have light acne and some oily parts, some dry parts. I see some people whose faces just look great - no zits, clear, great color. So my question: how do you DO that?

I've been to dermatologists and it hasn't helped much. Is there a specific routine to follow? Great products? I am a mid 20s woman and still figuring it out. I am willing to go back to a doctor but how can I be sure that this will be effective?

posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (38 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
My skin never looked back then when I was using a prescription clindamycin 1%/benzoyl peroxide 5% (Benzaclin) at night and a prescription retinoid (Tazorac) every other morning or so. My dermatologist was also doing light acid peels in his office to help clear up the acne scarring. YMMV.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:00 PM on March 12, 2012

I had very similar skin to you for a long time and had to learn a simple thing: soap is not for your face. Wash your face every night before you to go bed with a facial cleanser. Same thing in the shower in the morning. Then, use a toning product to even out your face's oils before moisturizing. I started doing this a little over a year ago and it's the single best thing I've done for my skin. People consistently comment on how much younger I look and any outbreaks I've had have been very minor.

I'm a snob, so I use Origins products, but I've found they work much better for my skin. I use A Perfect World facewash and moisturizer (two products) in the mornings, and Checks and Balances, which is much more robust, in the evenings along with the same moisturizer.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 4:01 PM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

(If you need pointers, etc, you can meFi message me or email me - profile has the deets.)
posted by beaucoupkevin at 4:01 PM on March 12, 2012

Limit sugar. A lot. It works.
posted by DeltaForce at 4:09 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Eating high quality flax seed oil and exercising.
posted by Specklet at 4:12 PM on March 12, 2012

Other great suggestions, but change your pillowcase more often. Or put a towel over it. I know when I have been lazy about my bedding changes by the state of my face.
posted by kellyblah at 4:13 PM on March 12, 2012

Wash face. Exercise with sweating. Wash face again. For some reason, this really helped me.
posted by amtho at 4:18 PM on March 12, 2012

Speaking as one who has good skin, I do nothing, really. It's mostly genetics. That said, I do drink a lot of water. I wear sunscreen. Sometimes I wash it with an olive oil/castor oil combo (there's a specific ratio you should use depending on your type of skin, I just use 50/50), sometimes I moisturize with the Clinique moisturizer that is yellow or, if it is night, coconut oil. I usually wear sunscreen in the summer. All of these things are done quite haphazardly and without any real regularity.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 4:19 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Drink lotsa water and reduce soda, coffee, alcohol intake.
Allow your face to sweat through exercise or humidity.
Clean (soap free) at least twice a day.
Always remove your makeup at night (or after work if possible).
Don't touch your face with your hands. This is a biggy.
As Kellyblah suggests, clean pillowcase.
Use an oil such as Rosehip or Hemp for night moisturizing. I am currently loving the Hema range of products.

Most skin problems are about hygiene and not medical problems. That said, I had a bitch of a time finding the right routine when I was on BC.
posted by Kerasia at 4:26 PM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Take cod liver oil.
posted by emeiji at 4:30 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been using Cetaphil face wash for oily skin for years but I finally stopped having breakouts when I started using a Clarisonic Mia, an automatic brush for your face. I use it once a day with the Cetaphil and I've stopped worrying about getting pimples. I've compared the less expensive spinning brushes and found that they were too harsh and difficult to handle. The Clarisonic brush also manages to exfoliate better than any fancy alpha or beta hydroxy-stuff toners that I had tried. A friend also confirms that her recurring trouble spots were fixed using the Clarisonic where she had previously tried the oil method and switching out all her products.

I'll also second cutting out sugar and regular exercise.
posted by Miss Matheson at 4:31 PM on March 12, 2012

Use less. Stop trying "new!' "revolutionary!" "scientifically proven!" and "dermatologist recommended!" products.

They just make my skin all confused. I now really only wash my face with water, and it's helped stop my skin from freaking out. Occasionally I'll exfoliate with an oil-free Burt's Bees scrub. Once in a while, baking soda is nice. That's it. But mostly it's just water and a clean washcloth.

Keep things very simple.

And drink lots of water.
posted by raztaj at 4:39 PM on March 12, 2012

I've been told to not eat after 8 PM. And also the wash-face-before-going-to-bed thing.
posted by Seboshin at 4:39 PM on March 12, 2012

Diet is the most important consideration.
posted by yoyoceramic at 4:39 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Drink lots of water, severely limit sugar and caffeine consumption, find time to sweat daily, get on a good BC, and use Arcona products. Truly remarkable changes occurred when I stuck to this. My skin is dewy, rosy cheeked, moisturized and largely acne free, and I am super acne prone.

The Arcona products are a godsend. Check them out. Totally worth the $$.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 4:51 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Philosophy products aren't cheap, but they last and work wonders. The helpful ladies at your local Sephora will give samples and help you pick the right formula.
posted by cyndigo at 4:52 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I started using a sodium sulfate wash (prescribed) and that plus Ziana greatly improved the brightness of my skin.

Also, since cerave products (particularly the hydrating cleanser and the cream) haven't been mentioned, they made a big difference and are relatively inexpensive.

Drinking a lot of green tea, eating salmon and cantaloupe, and going to the steam room or sauna all help too, especially in the short term.

That said, people who tell you diet or hygiene are the most important are generally wrong. While it is true that bad hygiene or even marginally bad diets will make any skin worse, perfect hygiene and perfect diets are unlikely to make so-so skin perfect. Unfortunately, the general range of quality of your skin is mostly genetic.

Also, with respect to excessive hygiene, research the acid mantle--the last thing you want to do is to accidentally eliminate that in hopes of clearing up your skin.
posted by luckdragon at 4:55 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is not going to be a popular, holistic answer, but the only two things that worked for me, and the latter permanently, were hormonal birth control and accutane.
posted by namesarehard at 5:03 PM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

My skin has never looked better since I eliminated sugar and starches from my diet. I was constantly getting rashes and pimples earlier, and now I hardly ever do. The minute I start eating sugar and starches again though they come back -- like when I go on vacation.
posted by peacheater at 5:03 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

My skin is my only reliably good feature... I'm vegan and never drink, smoke, do drugs, drink caffeine or non-juice beverages, very rarely eat processed sugar or flour. I drink tons of water and I get lots of sleep. So that's me. Steaming your face can help, too, and hydrotherapy in general is fabulous.

Also, I recommend Bikram yoga, which I hate as exercise but love as a means to sweat out all the toxins. My skin was never better than when I was doing Bikram-- it was soft and so beautiful.
posted by devymetal at 5:38 PM on March 12, 2012

Aside from all these other mostly excellent suggestions, you should definitely do your best to get enough sleep. Literally nothing I have ever tried makes my skin look as good as a restful 8 hours. Nothing.
posted by elizardbits at 5:56 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

You just don't know what's going to work for your skin until you give it a good, long, disciplined trial. For me it was a salicylic acid wash with exfoliating gloves AND a benzoyl peroxide wash AND an alpha-hydroxy acid cleanser AND a course of oral antibiotics AND switching BC. It's kind of amazing I still have skin on my face. But this is what it took to get it looking good.
posted by lakeroon at 6:49 PM on March 12, 2012

nthing the advice to change your pillowcase often. Also: clean your phone and keyboard often and wash your hands. We touch our faces more than we ever realize. If you wear makeup, replace your sponge applicator more often and see if that helps with the breakouts.

Other things that help: I use Neutrogena unscented liquid on my face twice a day and exfoliate with a soft facial brush in the shower.

To combat shine (oil happens, no matter how clean you are) I use a foundation primer (Rimmel is good) and a longwearing powder.

My skin got better after stopping hormonal birth control, for whatever that's worth. Also, age.
posted by elizeh at 7:29 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to have a terrible complexion and now I get compliments on it. I am 28 and had bad skin up until a few years ago.

I have cleaned up my diet completely - 99% of the time I avoid refined flour/sugary items and I do about 99% of my own cooking at home. Eat a lot of vegetables and fiber, drink water, get enough fat in your diet. Eat quality proteins.

I also use jojoba oil on my face as a makeup remover and as a moisturizer. I exfoliate a few times a week with a facial loofah pad thing and some olive oil soap.

I take hormonal birth control(desogen) and I think it helped to an extent with the acne itself, but the stuff I've mentioned above is why I get compliments and my skin overall looks nice.
posted by fromageball at 7:31 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Genetics does a lot.

Also, I bet that around half the women you see that appear to have great skin are actually wearing foundation - here's a really good before & after pic of natural looking foundation.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:47 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Focusing on staying well-hydrated and minimizing foods with a high glycemic load had a fairly dramatic and immediate effect on my skin. Treating the external symptoms (which is what the dermatologists that I saw focused on) was much less effective than addressing internal causes.

Abstracts of some peer-reviewed articles on the connection between blood glucose levels and acne: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:19 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wash your face twice a day. Retinols and glycolic acids. Water. Take off your makeup before sleep. Sunscreen. Moisturizer.

Cetaphil. Olay. Really. Just as good as the $$ stuff. A good 30+ sunscreen. Cera Ve at night. Seriously. My derm is the anchorwoman/hockey wife/football wife derm in Buffalo and my best friend is an aesthetician who worked the chichi plastic surgeon's office in Nashville.
posted by oflinkey at 8:33 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

works for me: clarisonic. simple cleanser (cetaphil). moisturizer 2x per day.
If your acne isn't hormonal, this should do the trick. I have the cheap clarisonic and it's fine.
posted by smalls at 9:00 PM on March 12, 2012

When I stopped smoking, at about 3 months I thought that my skin was better. Not convinced, though, that it didn't have anything else to do with a much reduced amount of stress, better sleep, and less alcohol.

Getting consistent restful sleep is the best way for me to clear up my complexion.

Otherwise, I've been really happy with the big tubs of benzoyle peroxide and 10% alpha hydroxy acid from Dan Kern/ Good scentless (minimized) products to kill acne causing commensal bacteria and promote surface skin regrowth. Compared to stuff on department store shelves, the price is really good despite shipping.

The AHA is really great; after a couple of weeks, has completely gotten rid of some redness across my cheeks/nose-bridge. Helps speed up depigmentation. Buffed up some starting under-eye wrinkles.
posted by porpoise at 9:27 PM on March 12, 2012

Not as a solution, per se, but something that might apply to you. For my wife the best thing for her skin was being pregnant. Her skin was so clear healthy-looking that even I noticed. It stayed that way throughout the pregnancy and up until the point when she stopped breastfeeding. Then her skin went back to the way it was before.
posted by zardoz at 9:41 PM on March 12, 2012

Consider using green tea as a toner -- that's what worked best for me. I combined green tea and honey for mine, but you don't need to do that.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 1:04 AM on March 13, 2012

What did the dermatologists say? What did you try?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:42 AM on March 13, 2012

When I stopped using any soaps or washes or anything other than water daily my complexion got a lot better.

Any time I have a zit I use Acnomel or a similar sulfur treatment directly on it and it goes away quickly. Be careful, as some people are allergic to it. If it gets worse, stop!
posted by MonsieurBon at 11:03 AM on March 13, 2012

I can only speak for my own experience, but: completely cutting sugar (including honey, maple syrup, agave, and "fake sugars" of any description.

WARNING: not for the faint of heart. you will feel like pure freeze-dried poo for 5-7 days, however you'll wonder afterwards why in god's name you didn't do it sooner. My skin has not looked this good since I was eleven. YMMV.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:18 PM on March 13, 2012

I think it's hugely influenced by genetics and hormones, so it's not just a question of finding the right "product". However, I also think that a healthy lifestyle is reflected in your skin (good varied diet, exercise, hygiene, sleep, etc), so make sure you're taking care of yourself to maximise your outcomes. When I was a teen and in my early 20's I had the skin you describe (despite being a cross country runner with a diet low in processed foods), and it was helped enormously by a regimen of Retin-A and tetracycline. If your current dermatologist isn't responsive to helping you, find another one. Also, hormonal birth control, once I found the right one, also helped to reduce the flareups.

I'm in my mid-40's now, and I have the good skin you aspire to. (People frequently tell me I look a decade younger than I am.) I don't do anything special, apart from a weekly exfoliation with baking soda, and I use unscented moisturisers and sunscreen regularly.
posted by amusebuche at 5:42 PM on March 13, 2012

The practical stuff: Drink lots of water and get a good night's sleep. Avoid stress. Eat a diet high in raw veggies and low in sugar, processed foods and caffeine.

Real talk: Never pick, poke or over exfoliate a zit. It will go away quicker on its own. Make sure your intestinal health is good. Whenever anything is off in my digestion I definitely notice it in my skin a few days later.

Makeup related advice: Choose a good quality sunscreen that doesn't give your skin tone a whitish cast and wear it every day. Don't pile on creams and such at night. It's your skin's chance to recover from the day. As soon as you come in the door, don't make a sandwich first, don't pause to look at the mail, rather wash any makeup off before anything else. Find a good primer to mix with your sunscreen and apply more heavily in the oily spots. Get a foundation that matches/enhances your skintone. This is incredibly difficult, so you may have to try several.

Little hacks: Eating foods rich in beta carotine is said to give the skin a subtle golden glow. People who consumed higher levels of beta carotine rich foods were consistently rated as more attractive in a recent study. If you drink coffee, switch to green tea. It's said to be incredibly good for your skin and you will need to take in quite a bit more liquid to get the same amount of caffeine which is good too.

This thread had lots of advice as well as specific recommendations for makeup.
posted by tinamonster at 10:51 PM on March 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Keep your make-up brushes, or the flannel you wash your face with, clean. I wash my brushes with some Dr Bronner's soap and it's amazing what comes out of there after a week.
posted by mippy at 9:51 AM on March 14, 2012

Frankly, my skin got much better after using Paula's Choice products. Some other mild cleansers worked, but not nearly as much as her facial cleansers.

In addition, I stopped using shampoos with lauryl sulfates and now I no longer break out along my hairline.

Finally, if it is a problem for you, I agree with not picking. And this is coming from a former picker. Learn to let it go. And I scar easily so it should have been a no brainer, but my depression/anxiety probably didn't help.
posted by evening at 10:32 AM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

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