Way before my obsession with makeup started, I was already incredibly attentive to my skin. At the age of 9 I had to apply creams and lotions here, there, and pretty much all over my body because I had skin asthma. Dermatologists always told my mom that I would outgrow my rashes and hypersensitivity before I hit 12 but by the time I was in my early teens the end was nowhere in sight. I learned to handle my skin asthma and very dry skin by slathering my face and body with extra virgin olive oil and sometimes I had to rely on steroidal creams for when the rashes were really bad. I was a diligent little patient, determined to rid myself of all those terrible discomforts and inconveniences.
By the time I was 18, my skin asthma was pretty much under control and would only recur when the weather changed suddenly… but the years of using steroidal creams left me with white patches all over my body and on my face. As a consequence of being so unevenly coloured, I learned to use two things: sunscreen and (shocker!) makeup. Makeup–as you might be able to glean from my blog– has been a big part of my life starting from around when I was 19. Now while the skin asthma problem had significantly subsided by that time, I still had very dry skin. So dry that if I skipped on moisturizer (both face and body) for just one day, I would turn into a scaly, flaky, tight-skinned mess. It was easy for me to deal with that since I had already developed a solid habit of moisturizing like a mad woman. My simple facial care routine that consisted of a gentle cleanser (usually the regular Cetaphil), no toner, and Physiogel AI cream as moisturizer. That worked well for me for a happy three years. I guess all good things really do come to an end because exactly one year ago all that started to change (dun dun duuuun–lol, dramatic eh, no?).
In May of last year I visited my cousin in San Francisco for his college graduation. Even in the bay area the air is significantly drier over there than it is here, so I thought it quite strange that my skin was feeling a tiny bit oily on my forehead and around my chin. I continued to moisturize as usual and I got a few spots here and there but I didn’t think anything of it since we were travelling. When I got back to the Philippines in June I started at law school and I did have the occasional pimple which I then attributed to stress…but I was still also feeling progressively more and more oily. I started to use the Clean and Clear oil blotting sheets more often. When I was younger I could run one sheet over my entire face and it would turn out totally dry. By December 2012, I could saturate half a sheet. Fast forward six more months to today and I can fill one of those with oil easily and I need to blot at least once every three hours to prevent excess shine. That scares me.
Recapping the change in one paragraph makes it seem very apparent that I should have changed my skin care regimen maybe two or three months into the change (at latest!). I was, however, so used to moisturizing that it never really entered my mind to stop using moisturizer or lessen how much I applied… to someone like me, that just seemed completely absurd. Moisturizers had been my skin’s saviour for years and years… getting rid of them just never entered my mind. So I went on being oilier and tried to handle it in other ways like using setting powders with more oil controlling properties and–as I mentioned–by using blotting papers all the time.
I did finally reach my breaking point though. About a week ago I was in the middle of the worst breakout of my life. I had huge pimples all over my forehead and a few on my cheeks and around my chin. Most of them seemed to come from very deep in my skin (the kind dermatologists have to inject something into to kill– because yes, pimples should be killed… nay, murdered!) and when one was finally drying out, another one would just be popping up. I felt ugly, insecure, and they just plain hurt all the time. I decided to talk to my older sister who also had acne problems when she was around my age. She’s a vegetarian and a yoga instructor so she began by advising me on my diet. Since pimples are sometimes fungus on our bodies, she told me to avoid wheat and gluten. For example–no bread except rye bread and no rice except red or brown rice. No cakes, no chocolate, no sugar. Yikes. I am working on that and it seems to make sense. That was the long-term solution she suggested being the health buff that she is, but of course she also advised me to see a dermatologist for a “quick fix.” She recommended that I try visiting the VMV Hypoallergenics clinic in Makati, which I thought was a great idea since the brand is one that I already like and admire.
I could not book an appointment quick enough (was totally frustrated at that point) and I happily made my way to their main office one Wednesday for a consultation. What the dermatologist told me was something I kind of knew already deep inside…
I no longer have dry skin. I have combination skin. It wasn’t a shock, really. What I really needed to hear was how in the world I should go about caring for this new skin type… these oily sections that felt like total invaders on my face. The dermatologist prescribed me a cleanser and a toner from VMV’s line for combination skin as well as a topical medicine to dry up my pimples. And get this– no moisturizer. Strange, to say the least. For now, she said, the goal is to get my skin back in balance. I had been over moisturizing (who knew such a thing could exist!) and that was pretty much the main cause of my crazy breakout.
In two weeks I’ll be back at the VMV clinic for a check up and maybe then they will suggest a light moisturizer– maybe not. For now I’m only allowed to moisturize areas that feel and look dry, and I must admit, after five days of not moisturizing my face there hasn’t been need for a moisturizer except for under my eyes on occasion. I do apply sunscreen every morning as directed by the same dermatologist and I get a lot of moisture from there already. In just five days my skin looks and feels much better, though it still remains to be seen if my face will get less and less oily or just remain at a certain level of oiliness.
If there’s one lesson to be learned from all this it’s a very simple one– pay attention to what your body is telling you. The signs of my skin undergoing changes were very clear and I could have taken better care of it by seeing a dermatologist sooner. So don’t be bull-headed like me by trying to self-medicate. That would be lesson number two.
This mammoth of a post partially explains my extended absence from my blog. I haven’t posted anything for over a month and while I know that no excuse will make a good excuse, I do seem to have a lot of them to offer up for this recent absence, haha. I was abroad for most of May and even if I hadn’t been, I still probably would not have written here. I’ve been going through a few personal issues which I hesitate to share because I’ve never really gone into that type of thing on my blog… but you might say that skin is a personal issue of sorts, so we have a start!
Anyway, will keep updating the skin situation in the weeks to come! I have been doing a lot of research about oil-controlling primers. If my skin stays this oily, my relationship with makeup will definitely be changing too. D let me know if you would be curious to hear about that transition. :)