My Skincare Journey Part 1: Teenage Acne

This is something I’ve been meaning to write since my skin finally started clearing up from the horrors its been through this year. I’ll try to include as many photos as possible, but I did my best to hide and mask my acne when it got really bad, whether through lots of foundation, filters on the camera, or even Photoshopping the worst of the blemishes away (and I hold pretty strong views about Photoshopping for blog pieces). It didn’t help that I switched from my iPhone to an actual camera this year, and like all good cameras do, it picked up all my flaws and magnified them. I would feel okay looking in the mirror, only to be disgusted every time I took a selfie for my blog. I wasn’t just getting tiny ever-present clusters of acne all over the face, but my skin looked inflamed, and there was the cystic acne that kept popping up on my chin – and those bumps take forever to heal. Nothing I was doing seemed to be working.

Like the good student/debater I am, this series is going to be divided into three parts. (Can’t get away from them paper outlines.) Part 1 is going to be about my skincare routine before the massive breakout; basically how I dealt with my teenager-type oily skin. Part 2 will be out my breakout earlier in the year and all the things I tried to do to rectify it, and my eventual trip to the dermatologist. I will also be talking about adult-type acne, and how it is different from teenage acne. Part 3 will be about my current skincare routine, inspired by the Korean skincare craze (spoiler: it’s working). Still with me? Let’s go. 

So I’ve been blessed (and cursed) with a very fair complexion. I don’t have very many freckles, but they are there, when you squint at my skin. My skin also used to be really sensitive to sunburns when I was younger (much much younger, like prepubescent me) before I started applying body lotions every night, which I think strengthened my skin. I started doing this when I was about eight or so. In Singapore, you’re in air-conditioning a lot, which really dries out the skin, so I made sure to moisturize my body before I slept each night. They were all cheap body lotions too, from Johnsons or Nivea, whatever my mom got whenever I asked her to buy some for me when she went by the supermarket. I’ve fallen out of the habit of it since I’ve stopped sleeping in air-conditioning every night, but I’m trying to get back into it.

 When I hit puberty, my skin was… okay. It was never perfect, you’d always spot the odd pimple (or three) on my skin at any point of time and I always had blackheads on my nose. My skin started to get really oily around this time. My skincare routine was pretty basic at this point: cleanse, moisturize, spot treat. (Yes you need to moisturize even if you have oily skin.) I combated everything with stuff you could get from Guardian and Wattsons. I recall buying Shokobutsu facial foams (those never did anything), NuTeen products (and my first introduction to chemical peels), Sebamed and Oxy5 spot treatments. I remember Oxy5 once came up with some kind of spot treatment that was supposed to work as concealer. It didn’t; the thing turned a gross orange on my face and I got teased a lot for the couple of times I forgot to wash it off before heading to public.

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Prom at 16. Such shine. Much oil. Gross.

When I turned seventeen though, I (or my mother) discovered Kiehl’s skincareline (www.kiehls.com). The stuff was expensive, but my mom would buy it and my sister and I would use it. I think my skin cleared up quite a lot at this period (but like I said, it wasn’t really bad to begin with).

Products used:

  • Kiehl’s Blue Herbal Gel Cleanser (This was the only cleanser from the line that was strong enough to combat my oily skin, their oil-free stuff never did it for me)
  • Kiehl’s Acne Blemish Control Daily Skin-Clearing Treatment was a god-send to me. It cleared up my skin like nothing else, and I could even see my old acne scars disappearing. When I thought it was too drying though, I used
  • Kiehl’s Blue Herbal Moisturizer, which also treated my acne and my skin always felt nice and supple after using this. I liked using it when I needed something more moisturizing.
  • Kiehl’s Oil-Free Gel Cream (discontinued) was another life changing product. Before, I’d always contended that I’d have to live with oily skin, and carried blotting papers with me at all times. This product kept the oil away for at least twelve hours, even in the T-zone area, but always felt amazing. They’ve reformulated it into the Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel-Cream I haven’t tried it but I’m sure it works great.
  • About once a week, I’d use the Rare Earth Pore Cleansing Masque, and my skin really did feel clearer after I used it. Unfortunately, it’d only last about a couple of days before it felt clogged again. =(

Occasionally, I’d use a toner, usually around during the 3pm period when my skin started getting oily again but I didn’t want to break out a cleanser.

  • I used the Kiehl’s Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion. I especially liked bringing them around in my makeup kit when I had no time to wash an actor’s face before doing their makeup, and used it to strip off their oils. Today, I shudder at the way I used it so careless (and callously). This stuff is packed with so much alcohol, which gave it the astringent feeling, the one where you can feel all your pores tightening. Yes it refreshed your skin but it stripped it of all moisture. At least I didn’t use it after every wash.
  • I switched over to the Calendula Herbal Extract Alochol-Free Toner not too long after. This definitely abused my skin a lot less, and despite being gentle, was really effective at soothing and cleaning up the skin. I don’t think it really treated my acne though.

To exfoliate, I used to use a chemical peel from NuTeen. Around the time I got introduced to Kiehl’s though, I also discovered St Ives’ scrubs, which I continue to use today, both all-over the body, as well as on the face.

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17, and the oil is still present. 

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18. Skin looks fine, but you can still see the odd pimple on the chin and cheeks if you squint. 

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Just before going into uni. Skin relatively clear, again, just trying to deal with the odd pimple. 

So yep, all that was to treat my teenager acne. And the Kiehl’s stuff was expensive, but really worked. I know this because after I went into uni (I was nineteen at this time), I went back to using Sebamed and other drugstore products. I broke it for six weeks, with tiny pimple clusters all over the face again. I wasn’t even wearing makeup regularly at this point of time, so it really freaked me out. (I will post about my makeup journey some other time too, going through all these photos has inspired much ponderance about the way my makeup routine has changed.)

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One thing I will be grateful for though – the fact that my selfie taking skills have gotten better. 

The only selfies I could find was from a time when I wore makeup for five days in a row (I called it my own personal fashion week and was going for a completely different look each day. Lol. Good times, that’s every day for me now.) You can see the acne despite the bad lighting. It’s not horrific, but… It’s not that great either.

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Even breaking out my MAC Primers and the heavy-duty liquid foundation I used for theatre didn’t help.

About two months into this, I flipped out, walked into Kiehl’s and spent about SGD200 on skincare. It all cleared up within a week, so no regrets about that. I kept up with this routine for the next year and a half without much incident.

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Glorious clear skin. I only have eyeliner and some of my old Guerlain tinted powder in this, and that doesn’t provide much coverage. Still dealing with acne on the chin, but nothing to fret about.

I also struggled with getting acne on my chest and back. It was bad enough when I was a teenager, but it started getting worse when I went into uni. Nothing I did seemed to do anything, not even the Kiehl’s stuff that worked on my face so I just accepted it as a cross to bear for relatively clear skin and moved on.

In conclusion: Treating teenager acne is hard, and you’re probably going to have to try many different brands before you can find the right one that works for you. Luckily, higher-end brands like Kiehl’s tends to give out loads of samples, so you can try those instead. Avoid anything that has alcohol in it, never ever forget to moisturize no matter how oily your skin is. But seriously, there are more brands available on the market than ever before, and there’s so much competition brands are innovating more than ever. Also, with the booming blogging industry, it’s pretty easy to check up what works and what doesn’t today. (Always take skincare reviews with a pinch of salt though, it’s not like makeup, skincare experiences are so subjective.)

But if you treat your skin right, and you’ll probably be spending less money on heavy foundation and concealers. I didn’t end up using makeup until I was eighteen, and even then it was only for special occasions. (I still remember my MAC Mineralize Loose Powder in the old black packaging. I just needed to stipple a bit of that on and people would be commenting on how amazing my skin would look.)

Nothing I went through with teenage acne was to prepare me for full-blown adult acne though.

Part 2 | Part 3

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12 Responses to My Skincare Journey Part 1: Teenage Acne

  1. Thanks for sharing! I can’t wait to read the next parts as I’m always getting pimples, no matter how consistently I do my skincare routines *sigh*

  2. (Haha look at my horrible selfie skills then!!!)
    Looks like shelling out the $$ for the expensive brands seems to work better huh. I’m still dealing with acne like I’m 16 -.- though I blame being lazy and using cheap products >.>

    • natziwang says:

      Your skin seems fine though! I bet being away from our humid climate helps a lot. And I’m sure there’s plenty of decent skincare products in Japan that aren’t too expensive.

      Gosh, how our selfie skills have improved. XD

      • Yeah, being in Japan has definitely helped loads. I still get outbreaks and my skin is very red (I think I have rosacea but I can’t be sure).

        And yes, I’m using one of their drug store acne foam wash and it’s been working pretty well! I think for me diet also have a big effect. I cut down on my chili consumption which has helping :”D

        Still a long way to go so posts like yours are a great help ^_^

      • natziwang says:

        Aw, that’s great to hear! Good luck with your skin, hope you can find what suits it best.

  3. With adults its a whole different ball game, the triggers are very different from the teenage acne under 21’s experience, since adult acne is mainly stress related and the deep cystic acne around the chin could indicate a hormonal imbalance. Luckily there are some very good products on the market, my clients get very good results using Dermalogica’s medibac line, I dunno if you have tried them before… I am interested to see what products you have been using to control it in your next posts. xx

    • natziwang says:

      Yeah, I thought I would have faced adult acne when I was 19 or 19 though, which is probably why it was such a surprise to get it earlier this year. My next post on how I got over the worst of it is up now! ^^ Differin is a miracle worker, I swear.

  4. Thank you for sharing, I had a big acne problem a while ago and even now my face is not completely clear but much better.
    I wanted to tell you about Avenes` Clean-AC Hydrating Cream and cleansing cream for skin that is irritated or dehydrated by acne treatments, it really helped me back then because my skin was so dry after all that treatmens.
    Good luck! Kisses, Carina
    http://ataleofbeauty.wordpress.com/

    • natziwang says:

      Avene’s great cos they’re very gentle, but I felt that their lotions weren’t potent enough to deal with the drying that I faced with Differin. It all changed when I swapped over to Laneige’s Water Sleeping Pack!

  5. Brendan says:

    Hii would you think that kiehl’s acne cream helps get rid of whiteheads? I always have whiteheads growing every few days and somedays Im fighting with the occasional pimple.

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