Well, this post is a long time coming… I’ve been meaning to write it ever since I started seeing major improvements (in Nov/Dec. 2006), but as Spikeyli & Lexy know (and I think they felt the same way for themselves), I didn’t want to write it prematurely in case it was just a fluke or something. Hell, I’ve had acne since I was 16/17! (28 now) – So even though I’ve been almost entirely clear for a couple months now, I still wonder if it is a fluke. Granted, it has been “mild-to-moderate” over the years, but unbelievably persistent. I don’t know that this regimen would work for every type of acne, but I wholeheartedly feel that at the very least (and unlike certain regimens), I can’t see it making anybody’s skin *worse. Anyway, some of this will be repetition from other threads or from emails I’ve written to people... or what other people have noted too. So here goes…
For my purposes here, I’m going to call this new regimen the Goat’s Milk Regimen, since I think goat’s milk soap is the most common denominator between all of those (4 or 5 of us?) who have tried it so far. So, GMR for short. (Having said that, I think the moisturizing element / moisturizer quality is equally important in the GMR’s effectiveness.)
A little background about me:
My acne affects only in 1 general area: my chin and around my mouth. Generally the rest of my face has always been clear (so whenever I say “my skin,” I’m referring to the acne area). The acne area, on the other hand, is not normal skin by any means. In fact, I’ve said several times recently that I have the most ultra-sensitive skin of anyone I know. It has been damaged and discolored over the years by various things, including:
- Typical amounts of sun exposure, but without regular use of SPF (until probably this past year)
- Using harsh/drying cleansers (so many kinds, including Dial gold)
- Not using lotions, b/c I felt (as many of us do) that one shouldn’t moisturize acne skin.
- Picking at pimples/scabs (nasty habit!!)
- Using various topicals, such as such as with Proactiv (benzoyl peroxide) or more recently, the DKR (wayyy too much BP for my skin)
As an alternative, I began to try various experiments I found, detailed on both acne.org and makeupalley.com. I tried aspirin masks (MUA), “the dip regimen” (acne.org, in the “Mild Acne” forum), and others… all to no avail. I tried a couple Clinique “pore minimizing” products (by then the oil & large pores were driving me crazy), including the “Instant Perfector” and the “T-zone shine control.” The former seemed to do a beautiful job… but within a short time, broke me out. The latter didn’t do much of anything; almost seemed to make me oilier. Based on some MUA reviews, I decided to go all-natural and try Kiss my Face Olive Oil Soap with Aloe Vera – which initially I loved, but later I realized was contributing to breakouts as well.
A few months later (summer ’06) my mom and I decided to finally try Bare Escentuals / Bare Minerals makeup, so I went out and bought a starter kit. As I wrote in another post yesterday, at that point my skin freaked out. Probably the 2nd-worst breakout of my life. A short while after stopping the BE, I went to an airshow that was an all-day outdoor event. Feeling that I would need the protection, I slathered on Neutrogena’s Dry Touch SPF 55 lotion. Thus ensued THE worst breakout of my entire life. The zits popped up overnight and didn’t stop coming for days. My chin was covered in clusters of them. My face (the normal skin) developed some too. I was miserable. After talking a bit with Spikeyli about our similar experiences with sensitivity, sunscreens, and lotions, I decided to drop ALL of them – in fact, I was so fed up that, aside from my “simple,” and “gentle” Purpose cleanser I dropped all skincare products entirely.
I carried on that way for several weeks… but eventually things began to get physically painful. I would experience an actual burning sensation on my chin that no cleanser or seemed to be able to help. Someone even suggested that this could be rosacea. Due to the raves on these boards about jojoba oil, I figured THERE was a “natural” product, and that I might as well try it. Well, at the time, natural schmatural… not only did the stuff burn and make my face look shiny, but it sat on top of my skin instead of absorbing, thus burning all and looking shiny all day long. AND it broke me out! I gave up on jojoba too. On one of my worst/most painful days ever, I came home from work and washed my face with Cetaphil cleanser – it burned! Rinsed that off and applied Neutrogena Oil-Free lotion “for Sensitive Skin” – burned too. Tried Cetaphil cream (in the giant tub), my favorite stuff for dry/cracked hands – this burned like crazy! Out of desperation, I grabbed my tube of Aquaphor (which is comprised of almost 1/2 Vaseline) and slathered it all over my face. I knew there’d probably be repercussions, and there were: a fresh batch of healthy little baby zits the next morning. But I didn’t care. It was the only thing that didn’t leave me almost crying in pain. After applying the Aquaphor I literally closed my eyes and broke into a grin, saying “Ahhhh” out loud; it was so nice not to feel the pain. Zits and all, I applied it again the next night.
I didn’t want any more acne products. In fact, I was sick of products. I had the most finicky, intractable, crazy skin of anyone I'd every met! Despite extraordinary amounts of oil produced on my skin's surface, the underlying problem (as evidenced by pain, itchiness, redness, etc.) was dryness. I knew that above all, what I needed was a high quality lotion. Since Spikeyli was raving about Complex 15, so I figured “If it worked for her, with her similar sensitivity, I might as well try it” (THANKS SPIKEYLI!)… so I got some online. Her theory was that the Complex 15 worked so well b/c it didn't contain extra fillers, like regular lotions. Including SPF. And she was absolutely right. The lotion was light, "fluffy," lol.... almost like a thick mousse, I'd say. What I instantly loved about it was its spreadability on my skin. I didn't need to pull or tug, and it was so quick. Then after a few days I began to really see that it was hydrating my injured, burning skin She was also recommending a goat’s milk soap, which seemed like a bit of a hassle/an expense to order online, but one day when I was in Longs I saw some goat’s milk on the shelf in front of me: Canus. It was right there (not online), and cheap! $1.29. I threw some in my basket.
THE SUPER-BASIC GMR ROUTINE I STARTED WITH (and what I recommend for people starting out):
I don’t remember now exactly which product I used first, but at some point I got into the very basic regimen of Canus Fragrance-Free soap twice per day, followed by Complex 15 lotion twice per day. I began to see my skin – and subsequently my acne – improve within a week. I was oily during the day as usual (even oilier?), but as I wasn’t wearing makeup at the time, so the oil was a side-effect I could live with. At that point I think my skin needed that simplicity badly, in order to repair the acute damage caused by BP, other products, and later, lack of products. My skin was in such bad shape that it wasn’t even able to tolerate tiny amounts of jojoba oil. (Now I can safely use 12 drops!) I actually recommend that anyone using this regimen start out with just two products (goat's milk soap + Complex 15 lotion), with the possible exception of GENTLE manual exfolation (see my regimen below) if you feel you need it. After about 4-6 weeks (though Spikeyli will tell you 8, and that sounds good to me too), if your skin is noticeably calmer and/or clearer, you can move on to experimenting with Jojoba or Grapeseed oil for moisture, and Aloe Vera Gel during the daytime, etc. Simplicity is the cornerstone of this regimen, and even more important at the beginning!
Why the GMR Works
In college I created my own major, studying health. I wrote my senior thesis on pill-popping society, and could probably go on forever about my disgust for the pharmaceutical industry. Unfortunately, I see a lot of parallels between that world and the world of acne products. I have a lot of respect for Andrew Weil, M.D., who graduated from Harvard Medical School and has written numerous books on the body’s ability to heal itself given the proper nutrients. Simply put, I believe this regimen works not because it’s “fighting” acne (like some topicals), but because it gives the skin the tools to do what it seems to be struggling to do naturally. (Or in some people’s cases, what has been practically beaten out of it by harsh acne products.) I can’t say whose skin this will “work” for (in the sense that your acne is mostly gone, like mine), and whose it won’t. But evidently to me, my skin was starving for gentle cleansing and moisture. Once it got those, it was able to do its job.
In the simplest terms:
- The goat’s milk soap contributes b/c it cleans without stripping.
- Complex 15 / jojoba contribute because each effectively moisturizes without fillers.
MY CURRENT REGIMEN:
- Wash with Canus Unscented/Fragrance-Free Goat’s Milk Soap. Take care not to hold face in stream of hot shower water; just splash. Rub hands together to create a good lather, then massage GENTLY into face. Don’t work on face (or any one area) longer than 20 seconds. What I’ve been doing lately is actually washing the face twice in each sitting. I find that that allows me to be less harsh (and spend less time, which is key) each time around. So, super-gentle, BRIEF massage and rinse. Then a second super-gentle, BRIEF massage and rinse. By using this method, and without rubbing hard/scrubbing, I like to make sure that each part of my face feels "squeaky clean" -- that's when I know I'm done.
- Immediately after shower, while skin is still wet (not totally dripping, but close! There should be visible water all over face), apply about a dime-sized amount of Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera gel (a 2 oz. travel bottle is $1 at Target) as makeup primer. Concentrate gel slightly more in acne area. Apply in a gentle circular motion until most is absorbed.
- Apply Aubrey Nicole Mineral makeup. (Not to cover pimples, but for the abovementioned permanent discoloration caused by 12 years of acne, and probably from subsequent “picking.” Also, I have had adverse reactions to BP specifically, that have caused hyperpigmentation.)
- Wash makeup off with Canus soap, as above. (If I used any eye makeup that day, I remove that first. I use Clinique “Take the Day off” balm.)
- Immediately afterward, while skin is still wet (as above), apply about 5 drops of jojoba oil to entire face. GENTLY massage over skin.
About once per week:
Exfoliate GENTLY in the shower (steam/heat helps) with Buf Puf Extra Gentle Facial Sponge
A FEW IMPORTANT NOTES ABOUT THE GMR IN GENERAL:
- Two key issues seem to be
- Not overdrying the skin
- Not overheating the skin (which would, in turn, overdry)
- “Adding ointment to dry skin is like putting oil on top of dry sand, in the desert.” – my dermatologist. I’ve heard versions of this for years, but I really like that particular metaphor – it drives the point home. The most effective way to moisturize is to apply your moisturizer on damp skin, within SECONDS of emerging from the water. This way it can absorb well, and actually more quickly. It also prevents additional touching of the face with towels or paper products. And in a regimen where gentleness is key, every little bit helps.
- Generally I tend to agree with Spikeyli on the SPF issue and the "brainwashing" that we have to be slathered in sunscreen from head to toe anytime we walk out the door. (Can't find her blurb on this at the moment, but I'll keep looking, and post the link here.) We both feel that the SPF thing isn't necessarily an urgent need unless you spend a significant amount of time in the sun. (Neither of us does.) For me, what I've been doing is using Aubrey Nicole powder primer (supposedly SPF 15) on my face under makeup, and a light SPF lotion around the eye area where I think it'd be most important -- IF I'll be outside in the sun. I figure for the face, what with the powder primer, mineral foundation (also "SPF 15) AND finishing powder (also with the claim of SPF 15), I should be at least minimally protected.
Keep in mind that everyone needs about 15 minutes of sun daily for proper absorption of Vitamin D.
But sun protection is extremely important, and I take it seriously. I wear sunglasses religiously, and if I'll be outside for a longer period in direct sunlight (longer than 15 minutes), definitely some kind of hat (you can find cool ones out there; just go hat shopping ). Studies show that clothing/hats are much more effective than any lotions or cosmetic sunscreens anyway.
- What I’m trying to accomplish with my two current “moisturizers”: the FOTE Aloe Vera Gel is proving to be an ideal makeup primer for me. As stated above, before the GMR, I was incredibly oily during the day for makeup (hourly blotting), yet badly parched for moisture. The FOTE controls my oil beautifully and helps my makeup last. In fact, I love it so much, I’ve been using it as a daytime treatment even when I don’t wear makeup. (THANKS TASH! ) The jojoba works great for night moisture… lets me wake up to soothed, soft skin. (THANKS GIGGLEBOX, for inspiring me to try this again, with your post!) Whatever your moisturizer, make sure to apply to dampened skin, to seal in the moisture!
Also, what you're trying to achieve here between your morning and evening moisturizer treatments is a balance. There are so many ways to experiment with your products to do this, one of which is mixing. I've found that, depending on my skin's condition on a given day, sometimes it helps to mix my Aloe Vera Gel WITH Complex 15, to make things more hydrating. (Either on its own can be an extreme in either moisture or dryness.)
1 thing though -- I would not use FOTE AVG twice per day. I know Tash found it overdrying/irritating, and it makes sense that it would be. I don't even really see the AVG as a moisturizer; more as a makeup primer. My nighttime moisture just seems to be adequate, so I'm able to get away with the AVG.
It may seems obvious to say this, but just pay attention to your skin day by day, and give it the amounts/ratios of moisture that it needs. It'll tell you!
- I did not notice a "purging" period with this regimen; I’m not exactly sure what that would consist of. What I (and Lexy) did notice is that I began to see some “clogged” or “plugged” pores begin to surface. They appear as tiny bumps in the skin that gradually surface to the point where you can remove them. (This is going to be gross, but) They look like small oblong, hardened greenish/brownish/yellowish, sometimes whiteish or clear plugs. What I do is I try my very best NOT to pick at them… but I just leave them alone, and make sure they get thoroughly cleansed and moisturized when I’m working on my whole face. Most every one of these plugs of mine, when it is “ready,” has basically surfaced and when I’m in the shower, with the help of the heat/steam. I’ve been able to just kind of work it out of the skin with my finger(s) (Spikeyli described doing something similar). Honestly, I’d be worried about recommending this to anyone else though… because it is still sort of like picking. I’ve just been doing it for so long, I sort of have an effective method down. Lol. But another great method is to wait until RIGHT after you step out of the shower (before moisturizing), and use a mirror + high quality tweezers (Tweezerman is my very fave! ). Make sure you can get a good grasp of the plug, and gently pull it out. (very important: if you can’t grasp it easily, do not dig around w/the tweezers or your fingers! Wait another day or more, until – with the continued help of good cleansing/moisturizing – it surfaces naturally!)
Two very cool things about the GMR and these "plugs" –
- I always had them, but the GMR’s moisture seems to ease them out faster, and more effectively.
- The GMR makes my skin so healthy that I am more likely to respect it, and LESS tempted to pick at it! (And therefore less likely to create more scarring.) This is a really gross issue, but it’s a major problem of mine.
First of all, Canus Goat’s milk soap is totally different from any cleanser – soap or liquid – that I’ve ever used. The lather is deliciously creamy, smooth in your hands. It cleans like a dream (works great for my mineral makeup) and rinses completely (important to me, b/c I hate residue). This stuff is, to me, what Cetaphil “gentle” cleanser should’ve felt like, but didn’t. Also, in this post (scroll down slightly) I drew a few comparisons between Canus and ZUM. I feel that with sensitive skin like mine, the fewer ingredients I put on my face -- regardless of how "natural" or "good" for you they are (this includes essential oils, vitamins A, C, and E, etc.), the better. I love that I can buy Canus Unscented, and in that version, there are only 5 ingredients (click the picture in this link to see what they all do).
This page (weird, it doesn't take you straight to the page; you have to click on "Benefits" after clicking this link) on the Canus website explains a little about goat’s milk and why it’s so effective in skincare products. Canus in particular, uses fresh goat's milk, as opposed to a powdered form. This is probably another reason why I prefer it to the other goat's milk soaps I've tried, including ZUM. Since that link doesn't work so well, I've just pasted it below:
Why Goat's Milk?
Goat's milk has long been recognized as a natural skin moisturizer and rejuvenator. In North America, when someone suggests the word "milk" we instantly think of a dairy cow. In fact, more people consume goat's milk than any other milk in the world.
From a nutritional standpoint, goat's milk and cow's milk are remarkably similar. However, there are significant differences in the protein and fatty acids that are found in goat's milk. The molecular structure of the proteins and fatty acids which predominate cow's milk are much larger and longer than in goat's milk. Some individuals who are lactose intolerant and cannot handle the digestion of cow's milk are having difficulties in digesting, or breaking down, these long strands. Frequently, goat's milk is recommended for these digestive problems. It has also been suggested that goat's milk should be strongly considered as an alternative to powdered formula for nursing babies.
Goat's milk is also naturally homogenized. In the preparation of our soaps and skin care products, we only use fresh goat's milk. Many goat's milk skin care products utilize powdered milk which is stable and far easier to store. We feel that the high heat used in the dehydration process somehow changes the structure of the milk, and that using fresh milk produces a better feeling on the skin.
Canus is available on:
Amazon.com and Drugstore.com (the Drugstore.com link has a bunch of reviews), as well as some branches of Longs, CVS, and Walgreens. There are various sizes/packages available, just make sure if you buy it you buy the GREEN one, which is listed as "Sensitive" or "Unscented." (I accidentally gave Lexy a link to the regular/fragranced kind, and their fragrance is terrible! )
TO SUM UP:
What my acne area was like prior to the GMR:
- Combination – certain areas (and certain times) insatiably dry, but other areas/times isanely oily.
- Laden with pimples, of course, which would sprout unpredictably/individually during most of the month, and as a group right before my period.
- Red / Inflamed / frequent (sometimes constant) painful burning
- Occasionally itchy.
- Occasional random rashes or patches of facial eczema (not just limited to the acne area)
- Above all, ultra crazy hypersensitive/in a constant state of irritation.
- Mostly pimple-free. My acne is not cured by any means, but incredibly well-managed. When I get a pimple now, it is maybe once every 1-3 weeks (hard to estimate), as opposed to 1-3 (or more) pimples a day. Each pimple is tiny, and disappears within 1-2 days, as opposed to being huge, painful, inflamed, and sometimes cystic.
- Probably the least red it could be, given the fact that it is permanently discolored from years of mistreatment.
- NOT constantly itchy
- NOT constantly painful!!
- It’s simple
- It’s gentle
- It works on my acne
- It’s cheap
- My skin is overall healthier – I can feel it and see it.
- I’m not in regular physical pain (burning) anymore – something no other skincare routine has done in the last several years, esp. since badly damaging my skin with BP.
Today, as in right now
At this very moment my skin seems to be suffering a small breakout (meaning 4 or 5 pimples over the last 5 days or so). I believe it’s because I've been using another goat’s milk soap this past week, which I don't like, and which contains different ingredients from Canus (several oils) (The new soap was from www.greenbushsoapworks.com).
ZUM goat’s milk soap also contains oils, including essential oils. I believe the oils in the greenbush soap are what caused my small breakout this week, though ZUM has worked quite well for Spikeyli, whose acne has also cleared over the past several months too. A few others in that thread are enjoying it as well. ZUM offers many fragrances (due to the essential oils), a few of which do appeal to me, but all are quite strong, and most are too strong/overpowering for my tastes & sensitive nose. (Spikeyli does mention that you can leave them out for a while to put fragrance into towels or linen, before using them on your face.) As similar as her skin is to mine sensitivity-wise, I believe our skin reacts differently to these two soaps. Also I have had acne for about 12 years, whereas she has experienced hers for about 1 to 2 years, if I remember correctly. (Again, this is also why, unlike her, I still use makeup; I have many years of scarring/discoloration.)
Anyway, as most of us know, since everyone’s skin has individual needs, it's impossible for any one product out there to “cure” all skin. It’s all about preference/taste, and which products happens to work w/your body chemistry. I don't know if/how the GMR will work for everyone, but it seems to have worked on the handful of people who've tried it so far. The greatest thing about this regimen is that we're helping the skin do its best job, as opposed to torturing it by means of attacking the pimples on/inside it. If you think about it, it makes no sense to incapacitate the skin in order to "heal" it! It's all just about experimenting to finding the products that work for what are ALL skins' basic needs (cleanse, exfoliate, moisturize; any dermatology textbook will say as much), without those very products harming YOUR individual skin in the process. It doesn't need to cost a lot or be found in a department store, etc. etc. It just needs to work with your particular skin.
So there you have it! (Now you deserve a t-shirt that says "I survived clear.dream's GMR post!" ) Hope it helped.