So a bit of backstory. I've had issues with acne since I was 14-and-a-half, and by the time I was maybe 17 my skin was pretty much in great condition acne-wise. I still had oily skin (and dehydrated, which I was not aware of at the time) and it could get quite bad but I didn't break out much and when I did it was just for a little while. In 2010 my acne abruptly got worse after a few months of playing around with different (mostly "natural") skincare. It was focused on my chin and between my brows, and it was quite a lot of pustular acne. In hindsight I realize that I overreacted and made things worse in my decision to try and scrub away the problem and try skincare after skincare.. That's when I joined Acne.org. Not too long after that I came across threads about "Caveman" routines and water-only routines and for about ~6 months I played around with both while throwing in DIY skincare regularly. Overall my skin was unhappy, I had a lot of issues with dead skin, flaking, oiliness, clogged pores, and at its worst my acne got up to about 40 (maybe more) zits at a time WITH red marks (and quite possibly some scars already). So basically I was looking and feeling horrible about myself, became depressed, things were just not looking up. But I guess around January or February of 2011 I decided to completely stop with using DIY and other skincare and just stick to water-only. I would usually scrub once or twice a day with a washcloth, or I'd only use my hands, or I'd only rinse in the shower... Eventually, although on the flaky and red side, my skin calmed down and my active acne got much better, usually getting 1-2 zits evey week or two. Well, I thought it had gotten much better - over a year after that change in my skincare routine my skin is infinitely better! I break out, yes, but generally I'll get maybe a small zit or two every month or two. I only get small clusters if I pick, and unfortunately I do still have a picking problem with my skin. But I very rarely have any inflammation with my skin now, my marks are probably close to 80% faded.
So, yeah, all of this is great right? My skin doesn't have any dead skin build-up anymore despite not really exfoliating, I don't get all that oily, my skin is overall much smoother, and the scarring I had on top of the marks has definitely filled out. But a few issues have remained: minor flaking, redness and blotchiness, dehydration, and clogged pores. These clogs aren't even that bad, but they are on the numerous side on my forehead, and then somewhat on my chin. I do sometimes get some on my cheeks as well but not enough to bother me in most cases (when it does bother me it seems to only do so because that's where my scarring is primarily located).
To clarify, the type of clogs I am getting are similar to keratosis pilaris, otherwise known as chicken skin. They are flesh toned and quite small, only visible when the light hits my skin at certain angles or if I'm quite oily/sweaty. These can become whiteheads and blackheads, primarily seen on my chin while my forehead only gets these when I pick at the flesh bumps. The picking contributes to flaking as well, and to the redness.... overall it's just a bad cycle.
I've kept telling myself that these types of issues won't bother me anymore when my red marks fade, but I feel like they are bothering me more the more my marks fade. I've gotten aggressive with my skin at times again, scrubbing with a wet or dry washcloth (especially on forehead) to try and get the skin unclogged and then picking to try and unclog. This just makes all of my other issues worse, which seems to in turn make the clogging worse, and of course that "vicious cycle" thing comes into play again.
Right now I feel like I've just needed to vent a bit. I've had a pretty... difficult year since the spring with some family trauma. I do wonder if that stress has contributed, I'm sure the poor sleep and poor overall habits hasn't helped. I want to get back on track with things, and I also want to try and get back to my original mission statement with my water-only routine: To STOP having a skincare routine. I started Googling today about skin, clogged pores, and water-only. This is a terrible sign. I came across entries on The Love Vitamin (a member of acne.org, possibly former but I'm not sure) who had written and vlogged about her experience on the Caveman regimen, the one that involves absolutely no face-washing, even with water. And her care-free attitude about it at her 3 month update made me wish I could let go as she does and truly not care. I want to be able to not even think about my face when I go about my normal shower, which is something I never thought about until I decided to start washing my face when I was a teen.
So to cut a long story short, I think I'm going to go a head and give the Caveman another shot. I feel like I've already gone through most, if not all, of the gross "healing" transitional phases when I cut out skincare products - dead skin mask, flaking, oiliness, redness and blotchiness, dryness, itching, etc. This isn't something I want to be strict about, I just want to not think about the act of washing my face in any way. I really do wonder if not really washing my face other than through steam, general dripping, and minor spraying of water while showering will help resolve my issues. If not, then at most I might just be a bit oily and maybe flaky for a little while. I already know that not washing doesn't make me break out, so really... I'll just have to wait and see
Do I have any regrets with my water-only routine? No, none at all. I wish I had a smoother texture but my skin has been so much better and I'm not too self-conscious (I even have a part-time retail job on top of being back in school full-time!) about the marks or even the clogs and such, but I definitely feel uncomfortable about my skin more than I'd like based on all I've been through. I feel like using only water is great for me, but I also feel like I've probably over-done it. I don't really recall "washing" my face growing up unless I actually had something on it like sunscreen or dirt. Otherwise I most likely just forgot my face even existed while bathing. Even if I did rinse it I want to see what happens if I just start letting go and not really putting in the effort to specifically wash my face. I'll be working out 5x a week as well, still won't forcefully wash. I know I could be setting myself up for more unhappiness but I am pretty familiar with my skin now and definitely know to not jump around on things. I will hopefully post some updates in a little while, if not later this month then in October. I really don't want to get obsessive, and I really don't know how many people will read this, but I'm sure someone will find this and find it helpful!