What To Do With Post-Acne, Pre-Aging Skin

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Ever notice that almost all beauty marketing is aimed at telling you what's wrong with your skin? Maybe it's dry, maybe it's dull, maybe it's acneic... It's enough to make you feel like not dealing with it at all. But of course, you can't solve any problem by ignoring it. So today, Glossier's Digital Art Director, Carrie, details how she learned to solve her skin problems (and to stop thinking about them as problems):

I dealt with acne for longer than I would have liked. Not just acne—the cystic acne that makes you feel like you’re helpless, waiting for the next bomb to go off under your skin. About a year ago, I turned 27 and I decided no more. Enough was enough, yada yada, I was going to kick this thing.

With the help of a new dermatologist (shout out to Dr. Mikhail at Spring Street Dermatology) and a new routine (the rather unglam prescription sulfur face wash followed by CeraVe Moisturizer and Pratima Soothing Lotion for spots) I cleared up my adult acne. It was wonderful—me and my Glossier Skin-Tinted face were doing very well.

[Sidenote: I know that sounds simple, and I don’t want to belittle anyone’s experience with overcoming acne by making it sound quick. It takes time and patience and sainthood and a lot of trial and error. I did all that—but that isn’t what this story is about.]

After a few months of being acne-free, I felt a little bored. I was no longer at war with my skin, and I didn't know what to do next. That’s the thing about skincare: There’s always a new challenge to overcome. So I’d bypassed acne, but what was next? Looking around at the readily available product option, a nasty thought crept into my mind: Was I…aging all of a sudden? Had I just left one unsavory thing for another I had to fix?

I went to my facialist, Melanie Herring—she does holistic treatments out of the Karcher in Brooklyn, or your own home if you’re lucky—a bit frantic. I’m all for being mature, but I draw the line at old. Not surprisingly, I’m not the only one who’s left acne behind but carried a few emotional battle wounds.

“I have quite a few clients who are on the other side of healing their acne,” she tells me. “Between shifting their diets, implementing deeper self-care routines and finding the products that helped them actively battle breakouts, they have done the healing work, but now find themselves in new territory, shifting from battle to nurture and sustain. It can take a moment to really shift the emotions that go along with that. It’s truly an integrative experience to hold the past and the present simultaneously, honoring the past and what you have given and then turning to your present, and even future, and honoring what has shifted and what is new.”

This is the most spiritual thing about my skin I have ever heard. It makes me think less about “fine lines” and more about “journey,” which is a nice change of pace.

Instead of ramping up things like retinol (what?) or acids (come again?), Melanie recommended renewed focus on hydration, with a side hustle of clearing up any hyperpigmentation or scarring that’s lingering. A sample routine might look something like this (mine):

  • Wash your face with warm water and a creamy cleanser like Glossier Milky Jelly (and that sulfur wash when I know I’m going to need it)

  • Follow up with a hydrating toner—something as simple as the Avène Thermal Water that doesn't dry me out and balances the pH of my skin after tap water (thank you 'How to Wash Your Face')

  • I skip oil because no matter what anyone says, it doesn’t work for me

  • Moisturize—again, simple: Priming Moisturizer or CeraVe

  • Add an SPF like Elta MD

At night, I swap out SPF for Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair (+ moisturizer on top). Annie recommended it, and I thought I could stomach just one “aging” product. Honestly, I think it just helps with hydration and tone, which suits people of all ages. Exfolikate comes into the mix every other day to help with cell turnover; on alternating days, I mask with Glamglow Thirstymud to keep all that moisture in. I can also endorse the Epicuren Hydrating Mineral Mask. Very soothing.

I call it my “post-acne, pre-aging” routine. Now, do I have perfect flawless skin? No. But I have skin I feel pretty great about, and more importantly, that I enjoy taking care of. And honestly, that's a lot easier to handle every day than trying to solve another problem.

—Carrie Barber

Photographed by the author.

Should you be concerned about anti-aging? Answer: Maybe. Further reading, here..

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