September 16, 2018

First Impressions: Quickie Product Reviews - Love it or Loathe it

My Everyday Skincare Routine and How I Battled My Skin Issues

My skin has always been a struggle for me, if I wasn’t dealing with acne it was eczema, blackheads, acne scars or my oily t-zone. Over the years I’ve tried so many different products to try and achieve perfect skin, but I never gave much thought to using active ingredients and clinical skincare lines. I always felt like every Dermatology clinic I went to was all about selling me “fluff” products at the end of a facial, so I never really paid attention to any of those lines.

Sometime last Spring I was getting a Hydrafacial done at a skincare clinic and chatting to the Medical Aesthetician about some of my skincare concerns; she recommended trying out the Dr. Zein Obagi line called ZO Skin Health. Normally I would have ignored her recommendation based on previous experiences, but her skin was actually amazing. In fact, it was exactly what I wanted mine to look like. She was very diligent with her skincare routine and she used the ZO skincare line as well.

My top concerns at that point were enlarged pores, uneven skin tone, hyper-pigmentation and dull skin. Based on that I was prescribed the following routine and products by ZO Skin Health:

The Brightalive and Daily Power Defense helped to brighten my skin and address the hyper-pigmentation. The Retinol and Complexion Renewal Pads combined with Exfoliating would target my discolouration, even out my skin tone and shrink my enlarged pores.

One of the most important things that I was told to follow was the sunscreen. I had to wear it every single day, regardless of time of year and weather. I couldn’t skip a day, even if I had no plans of leaving the house.

Because of my South Asian heritage, my skin is prone to discolouration due to the increased levels of melanin. Improper sun protection can causes an increase in melanin cells which ends up producing dark pigment. This is why it’s so important to wear a high SPF.

I followed this ZO Skin Health routine for close to a year, initially the retinol made me really red and spotty and my skin looked quite irritated. That eventually led to a lot of peeling. But these were all signs that the Retinol was working and my skin just needed to adjust. It took about 2 months for my skin to fully calm down. After that point I noticed an improvement in my skin tone and texture. My enlarged pores were slightly better but still visible. After almost a year of using the ZO Skin Health system with the Retinol I felt like perhaps my skin had plateaued because I wasn’t seeing anymore improvement beyond the improved tone, discolouration and texture. I still had the enlarged pores and and some unevenness on my cheeks that I wasn’t entirely happy with. This could have also been due to the fact that I’d moved across the country and I hadn’t fully acclimated to new climate, water and air qualities of London.

On a trip back to Vancouver last May I visited the clinic for another Hydrafacial and discussed my new skin concerns with them. They had me change things up a bit and introduced higher levels of antioxidants and Vitamin C into my skincare routine. I was prescribed a Vitamin C&E Complex by SkinMedica and changed to a different skin brightener called Lyterra 2.0, also by SkinMedica. I was after rapid results and I didn’t mind a little purging, so they also had me on a SkinMedica AHA/BHA cream.

My new skincare routine looked like this:

The SkinMedica Vitamin C&E Complex is designed to help prevent free radical damage, improve my skin tone and texture and enhance skin brightness. Being exposed to more air pollution in London, it was really important that I use strong antioxidants so my skin could stay protected here. I switched from using the ZO Skin Health Brightalive to the SkinMedica Lyterra 2.0 which is just a more potent pigment correcting serum to address stubborn skin discolouration.

The AHA/BHA Cream was prescribed to exfoliate my skin further. It’s not something that you would necessarily need to do if you’re already using a polish like the ZO one. But I really wanted to speed things up so I started on that too.

Let me just start by saying that, unless you’re okay with your skin looking pretty awful for a while, you might not want to go as aggressive as I did. I purged like I have NEVER done before.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with purging, it’s when your skin gets worse than it was because the active ingredients in your skincare are doing their job. Think of it as an accelerated rate of exfoliation. So your clogged pores might turn into pimples and you may see some acne for a while.

That’s exactly what happened to me. I had acne like I’d never seen before. It was SO bad that I actually didn’t go out unless I absolutely had to for work. One thing that really did help me though was the tinted sunscreen. It had a little bit of coverage in it so that I could wear it with some concealer and that was all I needed to lightly cover up my acne. It wasn’t the best coverage, but I didn’t want to wear a full cover foundation on top of all this active skincare I was using, and risk it all being undone. So I just sucked it up and dealt with the bad skin.

The purging took 2 to 3 months to clear, my skin slowly started to calm down, and although it didn’t disappear entirely overnight, it just lessened with time. I still do breakout now, but it’s only the occasional white headed pimple and it goes away in a day or two. The tinted sunscreen is just enough coverage that you can’t really see it that much when it does happen, and I’m happy with that.

My skin is now a lot closer to how I’ve always wanted it to look. I still have some enlarged pores, which I will continue to address with a stronger Retinol solution (1.0%), and I get so many compliments on my skin now than I ever had before – which subsequently is what led me to writing this blog post!

I’d really love to hear if any of you reading this have ever tried using active skincare or retinoids, and what your experiences  with them were. Thanks for reading!