Growing up I had okay skin. I didn’t really have full blown teenage acne. I never suffered from plagues of whiteheads or redness on my face, or the cruelty that can go along with it when you’re in middle school/high school.
But I never felt like I had good skin. I always had a really uneven skin tone, probably due in part to the endless summers I spent of my youth in the sun without SPF. I had oily skin, some occasional pimples and lots of blackheads, add into it my uneven, yellowy skin tone and let’s just say I never felt 100% confident in my bare face.
I always believed that great skin was something you were born with. Some people just had the great skin genes and others didn’t. I never believed that great skin could be achieved through products or techniques. It was just the cards you were dealt in life.
As I grew older and moved on to college, I started to wear more makeup and became more confident as I learned how to even out my skin tone with makeup and cover up my dark eye circles.
But around 2012, a curious thing happened to my skin. Bumps. Lots of them. But they weren’t acne, not whiteheads or blackheads (although I saw an increase of those, too) — no, these were flesh colored bumps that were all over my skin.
I was rather fascinated by pushing on them and having the semi-solid white gunk pop out. (Is that TMI?) It definitely was easier than popping a pimple!
But it was a problem, and I had to take care of it.
I believe at the time I decided that it was “congested skin” from all the blogs and makeup boards that I frequented. I was learning that not removing your makeup properly at night would result in the remaining makeup residue getting trapped in the skin and cause this congestion.
I was just starting to get into K-beauty makeup products, so naturally I found my way to the Korean 10-step skincare routine which was just starting to get some attention in the west.
I learned about a curious technique called “Double Cleansing” and how it was the best way to ensure all your makeup was off and that your face was throughly clean.
That was my ticket out of congested skin. I added an oil cleanser to my routine and have never looked back! My skin began to improve and congestion was a thing of my skin’s past.
But then in 2014 it happened again, this time it seemed worse.
So as an informed millennial I hit the blogs once again, this time more skincare-focused ones, and learned about something called chemical exfoliation.
I had thought the only kind of exfoliation was St. Ives Apricot Scrub (yikes). So this was a brand new world to me, AHA’s and BHA’s oh my!
So I started to use chemical exfoliants in my routine and my skin improved! Hallelujah!
Oh yeah, and I learned that my congested skin was actually caused by something called clogged pores. Basically, it was a lot of dead skin cells and sebum (had lots of that on my face) that got trapped in my pores and created a plug (that semi-solid white gunk). If the plug gets inflamed it can turn into a full on pimple with puss to boot! Fun.
Hope you’re still with me — it’s about to get worse.
But then it happened again a year later in 2015. This was the worst outbreak of clogged pores ever. They filled my entire cheeks and my chin. I had so many and they were bumpy! I could sit in front of the mirror for hours trying to push them all out but I wouldn’t be able to get them all and they’d only come back a few days later. (BTW, I don’t advise you push on your clogs, but I have to keep it real and myself accountable. I push on my face, it’s not good but I am slowly getting better about it).
I felt miserable when I looked in the mirror at my bare face. But what really made it worse for me was I felt miserable when I looked at myself with my makeup on, too.
I was the kind of girl who wouldn’t go anywhere without makeup on. Even the gym. I just was not confident in my bare face. Makeup always made me feel ready, put together and confident and now that shield was gone. My bumpy skin could have been seen from outer space (or so I felt).
At the time I was working a really stressful job and felt very much like my back was up against a wall. I think I was just running on high anxiety all the time. I won’t go into too much detail about why that time of my life was difficult, but let’s just say it was a very challenging time for me and I have become a much stronger person for getting through it.
Part of that job was sales and working with clients. But now that my confidence had taken such a nose dive, I had a hard time even looking people in the eye because I just felt so terrible about my skin and myself.
Here’s the thing that hindsight has helped me see: Stress may not be directly linked to clogged pores but it is linked to a higher inflammatory response in the body. And as we know, the thing that creates acne and clogged pores is inflammation.
I now see that this outbreak of clogs was directly linked to the high amount of stress and pressure I lived with every day back then. The interesting thing is at the time I was having a lot of weird health issues too, like a red, raised and itchy psoriasis patch on the back of my neck and crazy digestive issues.
Stress is a real issue and it can truly wreak havoc on our bodies. Please take it seriously and do what you can to decrease your stress levels because it can do nasty, wicked things to our bodies.
I tried everything I knew to get the clogs under control. BHA’s, double cleansing, steam facials, green tea mists, clay masks, all natural products, aloe, fruit enzymes… nothing seemed to help improve my million bumps.
I felt like I had hit a wall and I needed a professional’s help. I had to see a dermatologist, I couldn’t live like this anymore.
Only thing was I couldn’t afford to see a dermatologist. Here in the States, healthcare isn’t very accessible or affordable, and even though I had insurance I had no coverage for a derm visit.
Was I desperate enough to go down that expensive route and possibly receive no solution to my problem? Almost.
Before I bit the bullet and booked an appointment, I decided to hit the blogs one more time and just see if there wasn’t something else, a product or technique, some new knowledge that would help my face.
That’s when I discovered Curology.
Curology is an online dermatology service that offers custom prescription strength creams that are tailored to your skin needs. You get access to your own derm and your RX for $20 a month.
$20 was something I could afford and I was able to get my first month free, so why not!
The process was really easy and I was prescribed azelaic acid. Now this stuff is really the secret sauce when it comes to clogged pores. You see, azelaic acid is like BHA but on steroids. It works deep inside the pores to clear out that gunk but much quicker and more effective than BHA does.
The icing on the azelaic acid cake is that it also has similar properties to AHA, so not only does it work deep in the pores, it also helps resurface the top layer of the skin aiding in cell turn over so those clogs never even form. It also helps to brighten the skin tone and fight hyper pigmentation!
While it’s becoming a bit more known and used in skincare products, at the time azelaic acid wasn’t easy to come by.
It took about 2 months for me to see any improvement and about 6 months for me to feel really good about my skin again.
This isn’t really a review of Curology, although I totally recommend giving it a try if you are on the fence. No, this is really a story about skincare and confidence.
See, when I finally found something that worked for my skin, I started to feel my confidence come back. I could look strangers in the eye again, I didn’t feel misery every time I looked in the mirror.
When I started to see the results in my skin, I started to feel more comfortable and confident and even started to wear less makeup!
And as I realized that I could take control of my skin and see great results, I got deeper into skincare. I started to learn more and build a routine that fit my skin needs. I not only saw an improvement in my clogged pores, but my uneven skin tone is now very even and bright and dare I say, on a good day, glowing.
It’s crazy to hear compliments on my skin these days because of my history, not only of terrible clogged pores but also my belief that good skin couldn’t be achieved, you had to be born with it.
My whole philosophy on skin and skincare has changed. Now I really believe that if you take the time to learn about technique, products and your skin, you will reap the benefits. I know we all have our own unique challenges when it come to skin, and I don’t mean to simply say if you try you will get great skin. But what I do mean is that your skin will reward you when you put the effort and intention into it.
And the other funny thing is, once I started to take control of my skin and my skincare routine I started to take the steps to gain control over my life. No more being backed up against a wall and plagued with so much stress and anxiety. It has been a long road and will continue to be one, but just like skincare, it’s a journey.
Oh yeah, I don’t wear makeup to the gym anymore, just FYI!
Get your free trial of Curology here*
*Indicates use of affiliate links that provide a small commission to help run this blog