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Battle scars and War Plans

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I am a basically dissatisfied person, who cannot, ever, never ever, leave well enough alone. Which is why, after days and days and days and days and days of staring at the same gee-dee uninflamed whiteheads (ant eggs, in other words), I just had to try (again) to use some tough love on them.

I had told myself that I would wait it out - even if it took years. I would wait until finally they went away, on their own, with no help from me. Maybe this would involve moving away from humid pollution land, or simply ageing to the point of my skin turning to paper (a time when I would actually think whistfully of my acneic years). But no. It didn't work like that. I couldn't do it. I had to try try try to affect immediate change.

Thing number 1 not to try: mixing your own glycerine and aloe moisturizer. Oh dear. Well, it really should work. And I'm sure this has worked for others. But for me, it resulted in tremendously shiny, and even slightly more pimply skin. I'm not sure why -- there is absolutely nothing comedogenic about that mix. But I didn't test the PH of this little concoction, so perhaps that's what went wrong there. Anyway - the stickiness was moderately unbearable even if the pimples hadn't erupted, which they did.

Thing number 2 not to try: putting glycolic acid all over your face, and then putting bandaids on your spots. Why why why would I do this? Well, you see, I have a, ahem, friend, who had a very small problem with warts. Not big disgusting warts that need to get burned off by a dermitologist. No no - the small ones that kind of look like, well, actually, uninflamed acne. They're usually treated using the same stuff as actual acne is treated - salicylic acid, etc. But my *ahem* friend, didn't want to bother doing lots of work intensive things to try to heal these things - they go away eventually on their own, so she stuck a bandaid on them. Lo and behold, three days later: gone. This is not actually news - medical science has known for a while that if you put duct tape over (any) warts that they'll go away as fast as if you were using official wart medication. They don't know *why* this happens, but they know it does. So no papers in Science for me on this one :wall:. I mean for her. No papers for her. Moving on...

Anyway, when she and I (two totally different people) were talking about her warty success, I thought "Huh - if warts are often treated just like acne, then maybe I could use this wart approach with my uninflamed acne -- maybe starving it of air would be the answer!!"

So with optimistic fantasies of waking up with perfectly clear skin, I slathered my face in my bi-weekly treatment of glycolic acid (which seems to do nothing, but what the hey), and then stuck bandaids on my face in strategic locations. I decided for scientific reasons to only stick them on certain places, not my entire face. I reasoned that I would like to see the before/after effect. Having perfectly clear skin in one day? Where would be the fun in that?!

Fast forward to the morning: Bandaid-Shaped Chemical Burns, with pimples inside them. I guess my skin did NOT like having glycolic acid pressed right up against it, with no breathing room, all night long. Perhaps I had increased the strength of the glycolic acid to the point where I was doing a home administered chemical peel? Who knows. Anyway - three days later, red marks were still there. Now, five days later, it looks like I just itched my face really badly in a perfect square. I'm feeling quite sexy.

Thing number 3 not to try: Vitamin C serum as a whole-face moisturizer. I have no idea what did it, because there was nothing (again) comedogenically unhappy about this stuff, but, alas, it made my underskin pimples more prominent. Not in a healing way - more in kind of a "we're getting much much worse" kind of way. This saddens me, because I think it was helping with my scarring. But I'm not sure it's worth it if it's just going to make my face look like a bag of cottage cheese.

Thing number 4 not to try: putting bandaids on *again* to really convince yourself it wasn't just the glycolic acid that rendered the previous experiment a horrible failure. After putting on the vitamin C I had a couple of obviously-soon-to-be-puss-filled pimples. Not pimples excitingly evolved from my uninflamed ones - no - new pimples, in a spot on my chin which has been pimple free for some time. What to do? None of my remedies are available to me any more. Lavender oil seems to have no effect; my oregano oil is mixed with olive oil, which I know gives me pimples; my nixoderm has skin-irritating menthol in it; and my aloe-glycerine mix has an adverse effect as well.

But wait -- I thought -- what if I try that bandaid thing again. I never really gave that a fair shake! So I put the bandaid over the not yet "heady" pimples, and went to bed.

In the morning, I had no red marks (so that WAS the fault of the glycolic acid), but I did have a pimple, with a whitehead, pressed up against the bandaid (I used clear bandaids so I could play out my sick voyeuristic pimple-observing fantasies). I started to get freaked out. I thought "oh no -- maybe that's not supposed to be pressed quite so close in there! Maybe it's supposed to dry out so that it can kind of "deal with itself". What if I'm making a bad situation much much much MUCH worse???!!!

So I carefully pulled off the bandaid, and with it, came a whole pearl of puss. This was *immensely* satisfying. I had effectively popped a pimple without squeezing it. Cool!! Also, it seems like I got "all" the puss. Success!! But then I noticed the enormous gaping wound in my face. I had basically lifted the top off the volcano, and could see its firey funnel, waiting to be filled with bacteria (again, the volcano metaphor only goes so far). So I doused it with ACV and water (my only friend at this point) to clean it out. I opted *not* to put on a new dressing, but instead just to deal with whatever the face-picking gods dealt me.

Now it looks like a healing but slightly unhappy pimple, with a bit of a cratery, scabby look. I'm sure that had I left it totally alone it would be gone right now. But such is life.

So - those are four things not to try, not that you were going to.

Until next time,


So - something kind of interesting happened recently. I noticed that I had two "real" pimples (not the evil ant-egg non-inflamed ones I usually get). This was after a couple of weeks of just the non-inflamed ones, so I was pretty used to seeing a face that looked clear unless viewed from the right angle (or wrong angle, as the case may be).

But the other morning I woke up, and lo and behold, two red spots.

Now - the interesting thing about these red spots is that they were not "new" spots! These were two of my most familiar and ancient uninflamed pimples. They were so familiar, and I was so used to seeing them, that I had finally just given up and given them names: Frankie and Judy. Frankie was on side of my forehead, and Judy was on my jaw. But then, suddenly, Frankie and Judy were no longer uninflamed pimples, living a happy and immutable ant-eggy existence: they were inflamed pimples!! They had somehow metamorphosed into "real" pimples!

And they went through all the normal pimple phases. They started out just red, and then got white heads, which I managed NOT to pop, and are now kind of drying out and looking uninspiring, and are not yet gone, but also are not really noticeable. Judy is, even at this moment, feeling very cystic and tremendously poppable, but I will not do it.

To resist popping, I just keep picturing an enormous gaping, bloody hole, with tiny bits of dirt flying into it and making it bigger. Kind of like an enormous volcano, but with bits flying into it instead of out. There's obviously no way to "close" a volcano. You can't just put a bunch of moisturizer on it, and hope for the best! It simply has to seal itself up from inside, and that takes ages. Better for the volcano not to blow in the first place, right? Oh I'd say so. So I will not pop the volcano that is Judy. Hmm ... this metaphor is getting a little strained ...

Anyway! Back on track! I wonder: could this be the end of Frankie and Judy???

The problem is that I have no idea how I brought this on.

Could it be that this is just, after years and years, what finally happens to these uninflamed pimples? Could it be that somehow, after years of sloughing off the outer layers of my skin, they finally shimmied up from the deep underlayers to the near overlayers, and finally got enough oxygen to begin the healing process?? Is that what will happen to all the "olde ones"?

Or it seemed like it could have been coincident with the onset of PMS (always a pimply time). Perhaps the hormones "invigorated" a couple of the pimples and caused them to kind of get a move on? But I have literally TENS of uninflamed pimples -- will they emerge, two at a time each month, for the rest of my life? I'd really like to hope there's a quicker solution!!

Another possibility (the optimistic one) is that now that I haven't been clogging my pores from above, they can start the slow process of healing from underneath? Remember, I've been going "comedogenic free". Only ACV+water. No moisturizer. No soap. Nothing.

(My only issue with ACV+water is that it smells like feet. Really really badly. I like it, because it doesn't go bad quickly when sitting in my bathroom (or at least, it doesn't seem to have), and because it seems to have completely solved my rosacea problem as well as my pimples problem. I don't count Frankie and Judy as "problems" because I actually see those as "progress". But I might have to go with lemonjuice+water instead, because the feet smell is really getting me down.)

If the transformations of Frankie and Judy can be attributed to reduced clogging, then hopefully there will be more such transformations as time goes on. Hopefully I'll soon be saying goodbye to Phil, Ramona, all the rest!

As always, I'll keep you posted.


Little hint: when an anime character looks at you with enormous doe eyes and says "YES! Only two ingredients!", Do Not Believe Them!!!

After about 4 days of using FANCL washing powder, I began to get suspicious, because it seemed like I was beginning to break out! Not in a huge huge way. One small pimple under my nose, and one of those oh-so-attractive jawline pimples. "But," I reasoned with infallible logic, "It couldn't be the FANCL -- It's so pure! Only amino acids! It must be that ... hm .... MY SKIN IS DRY!". So I ran (not walked) back to FANCL and asked them about my pimples. They tested my skin using some kind of futuristic zapper machine, and said "It's dry!!! It's OFFICIALLY DRY!!!!!", and then proceeded to insist that I needed a moisture lotion, and a moisture cream (each of those were $15USD -- that seems to be the magic price at FANCL), and that these would (TOGETHER, no - you can't buy Just One) solve all my problems in the entire world. I demanded to know the ingredients in the toner/lotion, and was impressed, AGAIN, that there were only TWO INGREDIENTS in each of them! Wow -- what a pure product!! (cue doe-eyed anime slow-blink).

So home I got, and I lathered and lathered, and lo and behold, an hour later, MORE PIMPLES! WHAT? "My skin must be detoxing" I reasoned, letting my inner genius out to play again. I optimistically let my skin "detox" over night, and in the morning found enormous pussy pimples proliferating all over my face. And as if that weren't enough, huge spots of contact dermatitis were breaking out all over my cheeks and eye area (ouch!)

AGH! WHAT THE H-E-Double Hockey Sticks was going ON!?

So I decided to appeal to my best ever friend: GOOGLE! I googled FANCL, washing powder, INGREDIENTS, and was distressed to find the following:



Mannitol, Sodium Palmoyl Glutamate, Glucose, Potassium, Myristoyl Glutamate, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Pullulan, Sodium Lauroyl Aspartaye, Potassium Myristate, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Serine, Allantoin, Dextran Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride

Ah -- KEY ingredients. KEY ingredients. PUBLIC ingredients. I see. Fantastic. So there are two kinds! And apparently the anime characters at FANCL are only allowed to reveal the KEY ones, while your skin gets to experience the full effect of ALL the (SECRET) ingredients, including the horrifyingly clogging burning ones.

I'd been FOOLED by FANCL!!!

Now, interestingly, none of "secret ingredients" are on the list of "commonly found comedogenic ingredients". But they kind of sound similar to some of the worst offenders. Of most concern are the Myri___ ingredients: Myristoyl Glutamate and Potassium Myristate. They sound like they are at least in some way related to Myristic Acid which is a 3, or Isopropyl Myristate, which is a 5!! And as we all know, just because something isn't on the list, doesn't mean it's not comedogenic, it just means it hasn't been specifically tested. Harumph.

Time to let my skin recover.

I rinsed my face with distilled water, and applied my 3:4 mix of Apple Cider Vinegar to distilled water (to get the PH of the ACV up to 5.5). The redness of the contact dermatitis receded before my very eyes!

But the dryness remained.

So I did some searching around this wonderful website to try to find some ideas, specifically for moisturizing my "officially dry" skin, and came up with glycerine and aloe mixed together. 4 parts aloe gel, 1 part glycerine. Cheap, and completely non-comedogenic. I invested $2.10USD on some glycerine, and used the aloe gel I had in the fridge already (Aubrey organic, pure aloe gel), and mixed. Delightful! Slather slather slather and POOF! Dryness gone. In fact, dryness was gone for so long, that I didn't need to moisturize the next morning -- I just applied my ACV mix, and my skin still felt supple and happy.

And now, just one day later, I'm inflammation free. PHEW.

Now, if only I could get these under-skin horrors to disappear. Back to the drawing board on that :D

à bientot!!


So, in the last 9 days I've been going completely comedogenic-free.

I'm sick to death of having pimples, and I refuse to put anything on my face that has even a "1" on the comedogenic scale. I'm a pure "0". Wait ... that came out wrong. Anyway ...

My regimen has been really simple: water, apple cider vinegar, hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid. Oh, and of course, NO PICKING AT ALL.

Things are going really well. All my inflammations are ALL (and I mean all) gone, and red marks are beginning to fade. I'm even convinced that my smaller non-inflamed whiteheads are getting sucked back in somehow. The big ones are hanging on to their ant-eggy real estate, it seems, but maybe they're just a tougher sell. But I refuse to pop. I REFUSE.

The only thing that's not going as well is the blackhead situation. Blackheads seem to be replacing themselves. Like, as promised with my earlier post, the previously "extracted" blackheads are all back where they once were, looking dark and ugly. The urge to "extract" them is strong. I mean, it really feels like they'll never leave. And my blackhead extractor is sitting on my counter, trying to goad me into action.

To resist, I have to continuously repeat the mantra: "they'll come back, and you'll get wrinkles; they'll come back and you'll get wrinkles ... "

It's sometimes hard, but whenever I catch myself staring too intently at my face in the mirror, or groping it blindly while sitting at my computer, I just ball up my fists, and say "WRINKLES! RESURGENCE!" until the person next door thinks I'm a complete freak and I'm distracted by my sheer embarrassment.

Anyway -- despite the purity of my thoughts, deeds, and cleansing regimen, I think I'm coming to the conclusion that that my water-only approach is just not cleansing enough to prevent reoccurrence of blackheads. Bummer.

But what to use? Everything has crud in it that my skin can't process? Whine Whine Whine.

I was complaining about this to a friend (okay, to ALL my friends -- I'm very boring) and one of them told me about FANCL house products.

Now: I've seen their ads before movies here in Asia (where I live, in humid pollution land). They look like a truly terrifying company. They look like they're just going to bleach your skin, and turn you into a plastic automaton, insulting you the entire time, and convincing you you're fat and ugly. I've been avoiding FANCL like the plague.

But then my friend told me that actually their "less is more" slogan doesn't refer to having less color in your face, or less fat on your hips, but refers to having fewer harmful ingredients in your products.

So, I wandered into FANCL House (for those of you not familiar, it's a Japanese brand, available around Asia) and decided to try to find out whether they *actually* had non-comedogenic, non cancer-causing products. As it turns out, they do! FANCL house's face wash powder is apparently "only amino acids". I have no idea what that means, and I worry that if I investigate too much, I'll be sorely disappointed. But anyway - I bought a month's supply for about $15USD and I'm going with it for now. So far, I'm two days in, and my face seems fine. No breakouts from the cleanser yet. It's very very gentle, and my face doesn't feel tight after using it. It seems to make my skin look relaxed and healthy.

One thing I really like about their products is that you buy them in these tiny tiny amounts. Like, one month at a time. This is because the products have absolutely no preservatives, so once they're opened, they start to go off. The cleanser I'm using has to be used within 2 months. While this might get kind of pricey if I commit ($15*6/year) it's great that I can "invest" a little bit, and test the product out for a while. Unlike a lot of other products, where you spend literally 5 times the amount, for 3 times the product, which you learn you hate in 1/3 the time. But this is only two days in. I'll keep you all posted about how things progress.

I am still reeling at how misleading so many products can be. Even Guru Dan's OWN FACE moisturizer has some comedogenic ingredients in it! Now - that said, he offers a money back guarantee, which more or less mitigates the problems associated with buying "the wrong product". But most products are certainly not money back guaranteed. And what amazes me more is how many people (even on this website) are wondering why it is that even though the use cetaphil, their pimples continue to appear.

Okay - rant over, update over. A la prochaine

Well things are definitely improving.

I owe this to three factors: reduced consumption of cheese (not sure about this one, but it's having a nice effect on my waistline, so I'm going with it), no longer using comedogenic S**T on my face, and, (and this is a biggie), NOT PICKING MY FACE.

My picking had reached truly obsessive and self-harming proportions. I would basically see a pimple (either inflamed already, or an un-inflamed whitehead, or, worst yet, a blackhead), and would imagine that it was some kind of foreign invader, and that I had to get it out. I almost felt like ants had come along in the night, and laid an egg in my face, and I had to extract it, or else I'd be just like one of those poor women in those horror movies where spiders or some other kind of bug just erupted out of their face, leading, inevitably, to death. So I would work VERY HARD to squeeze every one that looked like it had any promise at all of popping.

The problem was that sometimes it worked. Sometimes I'd squeeze a blackhead or whitehead, and it would kind of "extract" quite cleanly. Okay - there would be a welt for a couple of hours, but after that, it would seem to go completely away.

But that only happened (and I can't stress this enough) SOMETIMES. Most of the time (especially in the case of whiteheads, but even often in the case of blackheads), the welt turned into a combo of scab, welt, and horrifyingly inflamed pimple.

Of course the inflammation would also need to be squeezed (the ants! THE ANTS! They're GROWING!) and often that would NOT work. Squeezing inflamed pimples never seemed to work. But somehow, I couldn't leave them alone, even though I knew the story would end with an even *more* inflamed, larger pimple.

The worst part of all this, is that squeezing anything resulted in hyperpigmentation. But, I reasoned, I'd rather have brown marks than pimples. The brown marks fade eventually (within 18 months?!), but the pimples Might Never Go Away!!!!!

Okay - so that was my terrible story about how I loved loved loved to squeeze my pimples.

But then, one day (recently), I basically couldn't leave my office because I'd been doing some blind squeezing, and when I used the photobooth app to check out the damage, I realized my face was covered in scabs and welts. It was horrible.

So I did some googling, and found a website that really helped me realize the damage I was doing. it was www.stoppickingonme.com. VERY informative. I mean, we all know that picking "might lead to scarring", but often it doesn't, and it doesn't seem to in my case. But here's what really clinched it for me:


when you pop a pimple (of any kind), it leaves a HOLE. That hole wasn't able to heal properly (because the pimple was a symptom of healing, not actually the problem itself), so it STAYS OPEN. And that hole Fills Up Again!!! That's why that pesky blackhead keeps coming back in the same exact spot, and why my whiteheads come right back in a few weeks or months after I've successfully extracted them.


This is the one that really got me. When you pinch a pimple, regardless of how you do it (even if you use a blackhead extractor, or are super gentle), you are causing pressure lines in your skin, that harm the structure of the skin. This is kind of like the stretch marks you get from growth spurts, or from pregnancy, except there the pressure is internal, and here it's external. By squeezing one bit of your skin, you're stretching out the adjacent bits of your skin, and breaking its structure down. This weakens the skin, and leads to WRINKLES!!!!! That's just unacceptable.

So I'm now desperately trying NOT TO PICK.

It's a week in now, and things are going okay. It's very VERY hard to resist popping blackheads, but I'm just going to leave them, even though I know they'll sit there for years. It's very VERY VERRRRY hard to resist squeezing whiteheads, because they kind of poke out and look terrible (and look like ant eggs, as I've discussed above).

But now that I'm doing my new cleansing regimen, things seem to be improving.

The current regimen is:

- wipe down with cotton wool soaked in water

- apple cider vinegar to rebalance the PH of my skin

- moisturize with a serum from "Custom Made by Health Quest", that has hyaluronic acid (HA), rose water, and pheuodyethanol gel fluid (I have no idea what that is, but I can't find anything too terrible about it, and it's not on the comedogenic lists).

- aloe vera every once in a while.

Then, every 4 days or so, I do a before bed coating of glycolic acid cream.

The wonderful thing about this, is that because I'm not rubbing and squeezing my face any more, the skin color on my face is more ... well ... skin colored, and less rashy and angry looking. Like, I can actually leave the house now, and not have to worry about arranging my hair to cover evidence of self mutilation!

Yay me!

So, when I last blogged, I was just embarking on a path to total acne annihilation. Or so I thought.

I had put some ingredients together for stuff I thought would be a good idea:

- lavender oil (for drawing out impurities

- oregano oil (for fighting bacteria)

- tea tree oil (ditto)

- rose hip seed oil (for combating hyper-pigmentation due to squeezing pimples)

- vitamin e (ditto)

- Aubrey's soothing facial mask #4 (for ... well ... because it smelled nice)

- Phytomer's Peeling Vegetal exfoliating mask (for exfoliation)

- Glycolic acid cream (for exfoliation and pore declogging).

- Nixoderm (this benzoic acid/salacyilic acid etc mix) (for zapping zits)

- Aubrey's facial cleanser for sensitive skin.

- Aloe gel for redness reduction (it doesn't seem to work for anything else, and is quite drying if left on for a long time it seems -- maybe I'm using the wrong gel here ... hmm...)

Wow. What a lot of great stuff!!

So then I started using it, and a couple of weeks went by, and things were kind of oookkkkaaayyy, but not great. I was still getting lots of under-skin whiteheads, and when I picked those, they would sometimes turn into pretty nasty inflammations. The inflammations would go away if I lathered them with nixoderm over night, but then would turn brown, and linger forever. So, basically, things weren't totally wonderful.

Then, a couple of days ago, I was doing a vanity re-read of my earlier blog entry on how my conditioner was giving me bacne, and decided to look at the list of ingredients in my conditioner to see which ones might be the culprits. I googled "comedogenic ingredients" (Wow - there are a lot of sites about this out there) and found out that my conditioner had LOADS of comedogenic stuff in it. Sodium Laureth Sulfate was the worst among them, scoring a whopping "5" on the scale of 0-5. But there was other stuff on there too.

I was kind of surprised by some of the ingredients that scored on the scale. Almond oil, for instance. I never saw Almond Oil coming. I just assumed that since it was "natural" that it would be okay. Well, it scores a "2"! Okay okay, this means it's only mildly comedogenic -- but apparently "2" is clogging enough for me, because during my "oil cleansing" phase, I was using almond oil, and breaking out in full blown zits all over the place. Olive oil (another pal of mine during the oil cleans phase) was also a 2. Well, that explained why that little experiment failed. I was basically combining a whole bunch of comedogenic ingredients and mashing them all over my face. Even the holy grail of cleansing oils, castor oil, comes in as a 1, which is barely comedogenic, but still is somewhat!! I mean, it's not a "0", which is what you'd kind of want acne treatments to be, right??

Then I thought "huh - I wonder if there's anything pore clogging in my current acne products". I'm not sure why I'd never thought of looking at this before -- I guess I trusted that when they said "For Acne", they meant "Also Won't Give You Acne". So, just to be absolutely positively SURE, I idly picked up my Aubrey mask, and felt a sick fluttering in my stomach. There it was: Almond Oil. ALMOND OIL! In my acne mask!!

I ran to the bathroom, and began gathering all my products to bring back to my computer. It was like one of those scenes from a horror movie, where the poor protagonist keeps digging and digging, and finding body after body after body. Casualties were everywhere.

I had several cleansers on hand, two of which are from Aubrey. Both of these contain cetyl alcohol, which is a 2.

I had been using oils as moisturizers (olive, jojoba, almond!), all of which are 2's.

My beloved, BELOVED, rose hip seed oil actually (I figured out after some wikipedia research, and consultation with my friend who's a PhD in chemistry) contains vitamin A palmitate which is a 2.

My Phytomer peeling vegetal has cetyl alcohol (2), palmitic acid (2) stearic acid (2) and dimethicone (1)

My other phytomer products all had ingredients ranging from 2's to 5's!!

This left me with only lavender oil, oregano oil, tea tree oil, vitamin e, aloe, glycolic acid and nixoderm.

These are all what Guri Dan would likely call "treatments", and are not cleansers, and are not moisturizing.

So I went on a hunt in my local high-end store for anything to replace my cleanser and moisturizers. Amazingly, I've found nothing readily available.

The poor acne-ridden salesgirl wandered around the store with me, getting increasingly depressed, as she systematically suggested products (including "natural" ones, "organic" ones, and ones she had been told to use), and I systematically shot them down, pointing to the comedogenic ingredients in every single one of them (including Cetaphil -- which has cetyl alcohol). I checked out all the Kiehl's cleansers, and none of them scored well. None of the Aveda products made it, except for a hydrating mask. La Mer products are FULL of highly comedogenic stuff, as are all Aesop products. The big point of depression was the Aubrey products -- previously thought above reproach because of how organic they are. All of them have some kind of comedogenic ingredient like almond oil, or cetyl alcohol.

But what about the touted non-comedogenic cleaners? Well, I absolutely refuse to (knowingly) use anything with parabens or propylene glycol (ironic, since all phytomer products have these ingredients, and I hadn't bothered to check because I loved their marketing Sooooo Muuuch!) so Clean and Clear Foaming Facial Cleanser and its ilk are out. (plus, even the Guru Dan recommended Clean and Clear Foaming Facial Cleanser has Lauric Acid in it, which is a 4!!!). Actually, there is a product (Clean and Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser) which doesn't have any pore-clogging ingredients or parabens, BUT it does have a whopping 10% BP, which is a trip I'm just not ready to take, and apparently wouldn't work for non-inflamed acne anyway. Humph.

So, at this point, I'm going commando. I can't find a single gentle cleanser that won't actively clog my pores, so I'm just going with water. This morning, for instance, I splashed some cold water on my face, put some aloe gel on, showered, and then used a very wet cloth soaked in luke warm water to kind of wipe it off again (using only gentle, downward strokes). Then I did a spot treatment of lavender/oregano/tea tree oils (mixed together, obviously).

I'll let you know how it goes. I'm kind of interested to see how my face does now that, for the first time in 25 years, I'm not using products that are actively clogging it. Should be informative! Maybe I don't even HAVE acne! Maybe I've been giving myself a problem where there really shouldn't be one!? I mean: With products like these, who needs acne?!

This is a rather minor issue, compared to my facial non-inflamed acne condition. The reason it's minor isn't because it's not covering most of my body, but because, well, I can also cover those parts with clothes. The face, not so much (unless I intend to reclaim the moslem half of my heritage and really go for it chador style). So I've been more "disgusted" than "panicked" about my back acne (or bacne, as I lovingly refer to it).

An additional point I need to make is that I'm the most vain person ever. So, basically, I want my hair as glossy as is humanly possible. This means LONG conditioning sessions in the shower, while I wash everything else. Even daily conditioner gets left in for at LEAST 5 minutes while I "do all the other bits". Oh also, I have really long hair.

So then, the other day I was reading something in this dermblog entry (http://thedermblog.com/2009/07/09/what-you-need-to-know-about-adult-acne/) about conditioner causing pimples. Conditioner?? WHAT? NO! NEVER!!!!!

But as soon as I read it, it made sense. This highly oily, gelatinous material was being put on my skin, and never *really* washed off. Because I would condition while "doing the other bits", it meant that my hair was basically slathering conditioner all over the parts of me that had acne. Shoulders, back, and, because I have long hair, lower back. Even my chest got in the action. And most definitely my forehead and rest of face, though those are so afflicted with the non-inflamed stuff and the results of my "helping out" that it's hard to tell what's causing what there. And then, when I was all "done the other bits", I'd stand under my blissful rain shower, and just let the conditioner flow all over my body. My feeling was that maybe it was making my skin soft?? Who knows. But anyway - that was the last phase of the shower. I'd make sure to get the conditioner out of my hair, but I never really thought about getting it off my, ahem, bum!!! (you can substitute "buns" in for that if "bum" is to canadian for you)

Anyway -- a couple of weeks ago I decided to try letting my hair look a little worse, in an attempt to get the rest of me looking a little better. I made sure to condition my tresses away from my body, and to rinse immediately. This was an emotional challenge. As my profile indicates, I live in humid pollution land, so conditioning for my frizz-inclined hair is a MUST. But actually, my hair didn't look significantly worse that day. And also, just to be on the safe side, I used a very gentle soap all over my back to make sure to get any stray remnants of evil evil conditioner off my skin.

Fast forward just a few days: I have no body pimples. None. None At All. None on my shoulders, none on my back, none on my, ahem, bum. This is after a LIFETIME of having them. They were simply GONE. There are of course still the discolorations from where I popped the ones I got during the conditioner-empire (rose hip seed oil should take care of those if I ever get around to using it). But no inflammations At All. SUCCESS!!!

I should really have put this together earlier. I mean, the longer my hair got, the further down my back the pimples started to extend. And after reading the dermblog, I think I've figured out that all my problems zit-wise can be traced back to my many years of using the highly comedogenic Pantene Pro-V shampoo/conditioner. Terrible! Just the thing to do to teenagers: tell them a product is for them, and then induce acne. For Shame! FOR SHAME!!!

Anyway - this is my happy story about how I beat bacne.

So, I've been experimenting with this SNIAR (sensitive non-inflamed acne regimen) for about three 4 days now. Yesterday was the first day I started to get really serious (hence the blog creation). And this morning started to show some improvements.

I'm a little in shock. This is the first time in, oh, I don't know, 13 years, that I haven't had complete beach face, so I almost felt like I was looking at someone else's skin when I looked in the mirror! Well, I would feel like that, if it weren't for the formerly non-inflamed, now totally inflamed pimpies I tried to "help along" (genius!!!) Now its mid-day, and as usual, my skin has "unpuffed", and the sandies are a little easier to see. They're definitely still there, but seem less pronounced.

But anyway - I'll document my last 4 days, to try to help myself look for patterns in future:

Day -3-0: Put garlic and milk all over my face. It tingled and felt fun, so I thought "go with it!". Also I'm a sucker for natural, and involved a blender, so all my snobberies were well catered to and I was tremendously hopeful. But alas, no - it did nothing. It didn't help, it didn't hurt, it made me smell bad. No more garlic :) The one thing I did do though is start taking a Chromium supplement (400 of whatever unit they come in) every night.

Day 1 -- MONDAY:

  • Mixed 4 drops of oregano oil in 100mls of bottled water, and splashed on my face after getting out of the shower. I don't think I used any cleanser in the shower. Probably just super duper hot water. I then dabbed undiluted oregano oil on all the inflamed spots. No searing pain occurred so I felt pretty happy.
  • Later that day I took a couple of neem oil capsules with about 9 glasses of water. That evening I switched to lavender oil, for the "splash" (the oil diluted in water). Again, no searing pain or immediate redness, so this was already a certain degree of success.
  • Supplements before bed: neem, chromium, omega369.

    Day 2 -- TUESDAY:
    • Morning: washed my face with Aubrey #4 face mask, and then "toned" with a mix of 10 drops lavendar oil, 4 drops oregano oil in 100mls water.
    • Mid-day, I was feeling the need for action, so "toned" again. I felt I was getting a little dry, so I got all excited about the keihls moisturizer I got as a sample, so tried that. Seemed nice, soaked in well, left my skin feeling delightful. All was good! Until I read the ingredients. Cancer cancer cancer! So that's the last time I'll use that unfort.
    • That evening I did the Phytomer Peeling Vegetal super gental "scrub" (which I apply more with a patting motion, than a scrubbing one). Then followed up with the oregano-lavender splash, and finally went with Avene Skin Recovery Cream as a moisturizer. After an hour, the moisturizer was still sitting like cake on my skin, so I washed it off, re-did the toning, and left it at that.
    • Later that night, I gave my face a bit of a water wash, and then slathered on a combo if rose hip seed oil, vitamin E, oregano and lavender, and went to bed after taking some neem, vitamin E, omega369, and chromium.

    Day 3 -- WEDNESDAY:

    [*]Before my shower, I washed my face with cold water, and then did a splash of rose hip seed, jojoba, oregano and lavender in water. Tried not to do anything much to my face while in the shower.

    [*]Mid-day, another splash, this time with vitamin-e added. I now call this the REJLO mix (rosehip vitamin-E jojoba oregano and lavendar). It comes in two strengths: splash (some drops of each oil mixed with bottled water), and spot treatment (the straight stuff).

    [*]Evening, Aubrey #4 cleanser, Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) (diluted quite a bit) as toner, and for moisture: REJLO splash.

    [*]Supplements: chromium, omega369, neem, 1tbsp ACV in water.

    And then this morning, Much Better!!! Who knows what helped? And it was very faint help, so it's possible that this is just a false positive change. We'll see. But I will say that today I left the house without feeling like I had to apologize for how crap my face looked, and that was awfully nice.

So, I'm now on my search for the ultimate SSNIAR.

"But weren't you always on such a search?" you ask? Oh most definitely not! It is only recently that I even figured out that what I had was "acne" at all! Up to now, I kind of thought I had some kind of rare skin condition, probably so exotic that no one had ever heard of it, and certainly untreatable (though that last bit might actually be true).

For a while I tried treating my bumps like actual acne, with facials, and 3-phrase cleansing processes (clinique, kiehls, etc). But none of these worked. They didn't necessarily make matters worse (except for giving me that fresh from a chemical peel look due to the friction involved in applying them). But they didn't help, and were expensive, and so I kind of just stopped using them.

Then, recently, I started doing research into what actually was going on with my face. At first I thought "milia!", but those are pellets, and mine are soft. Then I thought "fungus!", but mine aren't itchy, and sometimes pop happily enough.

So finally, after reading everything on every type of pimple, I figured out that I've just got plain old non-inflammatory acne, plus, of course, super sensitive skin. Fun fun fun. And don't forget SEXY!

But what to do about it? Guru Dan says that his regimen doesn't help non-inflamatory acne. Since the pimps are WAY beneath the surface, it's really hard to actually treat them. Once they're there, they seem to stay forever unless popped. But popping them doesn't make them go away, that's for SURE. It just makes them move over a millimeter, and start all over again. Popping is a temporary solution at best, and a bloody nightmare (see the PiSS cycle described in my previous post) at worst.

So I've read about non-inflamatory acne on this website (including ).

The basics there seem to be that you should use glycolic acid or manelaic acid for closed comedones, and you should exfoliate a lot. But my problem with this is (a) glycolic acid I've found comes in products that have parabens, or sodium laurel sulfate, or propylene glycol, all of which are cancer causing (apparently), (you see, in addition to being an acneic adult with sensitive skin, I'm also an all-natural/organics snob), and (b) exfoliation gives me the red look, especially when done vigorously.

What to do???

First things first, I'm making a list of things to try, based on all my reading, and taking my snobberies into account.

For the closed comedones and inflammations:

  • Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. According to it's supposed to be good topically and internally. Pretty exciting. I've always known it's a really good cleansing agent, so maybe that's what's going on there. Also, it has the word "organic" in it, so that's a plus. I love that. It makes me feel all at one with the earth. Also, it's supposed to be okay for really sensitive skin, if you start with a diluted portion and then work up to full strength.
  • Oregano oil (really antibacterial -- apparently has "Cured Just About Everybody" who's tried it!! It can be used as a topical spot treatment, or diluted in water or carrier oil for overall face treatment) (interesting note - while I was dabbing happily on my face, some of this got on my arm and basically burned a hole through it. Hmm ... mental note: face only!)
  • Lavender oil (has also "Cured Just About Everybody!", and is good apparently for penetrating deep into layers of skin) (uses are the same as for oregano oil). (it's less injurious though, I think)
  • Aubrey #4 soothing facial mask. This is on the list simply because in the past I've had this vague sense that using this did actually help in some way. I'm going to have to test that again now.
  • Phytomer peeling vegetal hydrating peeling mask. This one is on here because I need some kind of scrub (apparently). But this one doesn't really even feel like a scrub, and I've applied it many times without injury.

    For the brown marks left over from years of picking:
    • rose hip seed oil
    • vitamin e oil

      For moisture (not much of which is needed, since I live in 95% humidity land):
      • jojoba oil, diluted in water

      And some supplements for good luck:

      [*]neem leaves (in capsule form). These are apparently great for cleansing, and good for skin. They're used a lot in India apparently, and since "India" invokes feelings of "the buddha" and hence by association "organic" it must be good.

      [*]organic apple cider vinegar again LOVE organics.

      [*]chromium, which apparently helps regulate sugars, which lead to acneic skin

      [*]vitamin e (for fun)

      And some points of protocol:

      [*]wash hands before washing face (just in case!!)

      [*]don't squeeze, EVER, even the ones that look "really ready, don't you think?"

      [*]no scrubbing. As Guru Dan says, only gliding. Gliding. Gliding. But even that can edge into the world of too harsh. Perhaps it should be more like "pat pat pat; press press press".

      [*]no hot hot water on face. This is an odd one. Sometimes people say "steam your face, use hot hot hot water to open pores!", but I've recently read a lot about people trying to keep their face washing on the cool side. I've done the boiling hot with nothing but persistent redness as a reward, so now I'll try the cool approach. A friend of mine swore that she never EVER got her face wet in the shower. Ever. She claimed that since she'd stopped wetting her face, she had acne free skin (she did - I knew her before and after - the change was dramatic!) She believed this was because water dried her out, but now I wonder whether it was actually the heat from the shower that was irritating her skin? I mean, not washing your face at all seems to be just too gross to contemplate.

      Great. Sorted. SSNAIR soon to come!

      Now let's get started!!

It all started thirteen years ago, when I went to a bathroom in a bar (one of those ones with the terrible harsh lighting, that makes you feel really good about yourself, and your ability to apply makeup), and I noticed all these colorless bumps under my skin. I had no idea what they were, but my immediate reaction was "Get Them The Hell Out Of My Skin!!!" So I tried squeezing one. Satisfaction! It popped really cleanly, and went completely away afterwards. So I tried another, and another, and another, until finally I realized that 15 minutes had passed, and I was covered in tiny (albeit pimple free) welts. I slunk back out to my poor friend, who I had abandoned at a table. She looked at me and told me, with concern, but also a bit of disgust, that she was really beginning to worry about me.Fair enough!The next morning I woke up and a cycle that now know with painful intimacy had begun: the "pimple->scab->scar" cycle. I call it the PiSS cycle. The last "S" of the cycle lasts a really long time. Up to a month, sometimes! So why pick? Because, the problem is, a lot of times it works. Most of the welts I had inflicted in the bar were gone by the time I got home. But some remained, and were full on pimples by morning. And invariably, the more I try to "help along" a pimple, the worse things get. But did that stop me? Oh no. I popped those pimples as soon as I could get a solid hold on them. And did that make them go away? It did not! Of course not! That made them "bed down" and stick around, first as browny red bumps, and then as scabs, and finally as brown hyper-pigmentation scars that last for, well, some are still around.My skin is generally unhappy skin. I have an olive complexion - I don't know whether that's important or not, but it does seem to mean that pimples (popped or otherwise) turn brown before vanishing. The more I've fiddled with them, the longer the brown phase. It's very sensitive. I'm allergic to green tea, and this shows up as dry red flakiness if the tea is ingested or applied topically (hidden by another name in products! evil!) Also, it's sensitive to other ingredients as well, and I can't pin down what those are. And finally, it's sensitive to any kind of friction. If I rub it even slightly, the best case is that my skin looks like I've had a chemical peel in the last 10 minutes, the worst case is that I get the peel look plus loads of pimples. Fantastic. So many many products don't work for me. And "peels" in general don't work for me. I can't do anything abrasive, or even frictiony. I even have to be careful if I rub my face with my hands in the shower. But the brown marks, and the chemical peel look, I can deal with. To avoid the latter I simply Never Rub My Skin. Ever. If I have to apply something I dab it on, and then kind of press. For the brown marks I use rose hip seed oil (rosa mosqueta oil). It helps them disappear in days instead of months.It's the non-inflammatory acne that is killing me. These soft closed comedones, all over my face, with the merciful exception of my upper cheeks, and, amazingly, nose. But otherwise: jawline, lower cheeks, temples and forehead are all speckled with these perfectly poppable (though with possible consequences) little dots. And of course because I often can simply not resist popping them (especially when they get to be slightly prominent, and get to maybe the size of two sand-grains instead of one), my face also almost always has a nice assortment of full on pimples, scabs, and brown marks waiting to fade.Attractive!!!Oddly, the sandy look is much less pronounced in the morning. My skin is I guess a little puffed up from sleep, and the grains are kind of covered up by water logged skin. This usually gives me a false sense of confidence when I leave the house in the morning. I often look in the mirror and think "Huh! Not so bad!!", and then prance out the door. Of course the carnage from the popping is visible (in all stages of the PiSS cycle), but the rest of my face (95% of it) is so smooth that I think "I've really beaten it this time!" and head out to work with a sense of smug satisfaction, and perhaps a certain element of superiority (specifically over the really acneic undergrads who wander around with hair covering their comodone infested faces). It's only later (usually when toileting after lunch) that I take a good look at myself in the brightly lit bathroom mirror (conveniently placed next to a south-facing window), that I see the true extent of the beach that is my face. Sometimes, to really torture myself, I actually make kind of a "scream" face, to really stretch the skin out, and fully expose the pin heads. Oh the horror. They're everywhere!! Sense of superiority: Gone. Now the pimply undergrad students who wander the halls are my comrades, no longer deserving of my pity, but instead my brothers in arms. And that is something that I NEVER want.It's during this scream session that I usually can't resist popping one or two of the sandies. Or, let's face it, seven or eight.So now here I am, 36, with teenage (read: bad) looking skin (plus wrinkles - love that), looking for answers. And this blog is going to be my tracking for my pursuit of these answers. God help us all.