I used to think that when I turned 25, my skin would magically clear up. It hasn't exactly worked out that way. I also own significantly fewer diamonds than I hoped.
The good news is that I've accumulated a lot of knowledge about products, vitamins and techniques that keep my skin almost completely blemish-free. Hooray!
Beauty is all about building blocks. The condition of your skin dictates how good your make-up looks. The way you treat and prep your skin makes all the difference. It's just like putting on an outfit: If your bra doesn't fit and your knickers pinch you, you'll be uncomfortable in even the cutest dress.
So, "good skin" to me: I want my skin to be clear and blemish-free. I don't want to have to use concealer on anything except under-eye circles, which I have now come to accept as a very sad part of life. I want to prevent lines and wrinkles. And I want my skin to "glow."
This is a bit of an amorphous concept, but essentially I want my skin to look healthy and plump, and I don't want to have to get pregnant to achieve it. Please.
I don't swear by super-expensive products. This idea that a bunch of scientists are whipping up "skin miracles" in a lab in Switzerland sounds like a load of bunk to me, and I'm not really fond of slathering on a load of chemicals. There are some fantastic high-end products, but I think there are also a lot of easy, inexpensive ways to get great skin.
By the way, these recommendations are mostly for people with fairly normal skin, who get the occasional pimple from time to time. If your skin is raging and nothing you do is helping, visit a dermatologist.
Wash your face with purpose!
Like a lot of other spoiled beauty editors (read: women who are given free products all the time), I have a Clarisonic and I love it. I use it every morning.
For those of you who don't know about this miraculous marvel, the Clarisonic is a hand-held machine with a spinning round brush. You wet your face, apply your cleanser, and then buzz the Clarisonic all over. It exfoliates your skin and gives you a deep, deep clean all at once. The reason it works is because it clears all the bacteria and any loitering muck out of your pores. The goop in your pores is what builds up to create my arch-nemesis: pimples.
I thought this sounded completely unnecessary and indulgent until I tried the damn thing, and now I am completely obsessed. You need a machine to wash your face?! Our cave-dwelling ancestors managed just fine! But they didn't have a million photos tagged on Facebook.
Hearing about the Clarisonic also used to piss me off, because I thought people were being paid to endorse it. I also thought it was $300, which was extremely off-putting because I was not willing to pay $300 to have my face cleaned. But it really is as good as everyone says, and either the price has come down, or I was misinformed in the first place.
The Clarisonic Pro is the most expensive model, at $195 (or $166 on Amazon), but you don't need the Pro, girl! The Mia, their basic model, will do just fine, and it's $119 retail or $98 on Amazon. They last for years. Think of this as an investment in your face, and then go get it!
As much as it pains me to do so, I always leave it at home when I go on holiday because I think it's going to start vibrating in my suitcase and I might get arrested. And by the last few days of my trip, almost without fail, I have a hideous pimple forming.
I received my Clarisonic in a goodie bag, and even though it is a little pricey, if there was some kind of TERRIBLE TRAGEDY and mine stopped working, I would not hesitate in trotting out and buying another one. It has really become an essential part of my skincare routine.
If the Clarisonic is completely unreasonable for you, just use a clean face cloth and give yourself a really thorough scrub every morning. You can give yourself an extra-deep clean by using a cleanser with a gentle exfoliating agent.
Please don't be tempted to buy one of those drugstore brand faux-Clarisonics, though! They are TOTAL bullshit. I bought one on holiday and threw it in the trash. You're better off with a face cloth, honestly.
By the way, you should wash your face with warm water to open up the pores, but always rinse with cold water, because this will close them again. (The same thing applies to hair: If you rinse it in cold water, it will close up the cuticle, resulting in shiny hair reminiscent of Lady Lovely-Locks.)
I am quite enthusiastic about exfoliation and it's something my skin is able to deal with very well: It seems to enjoy the abuse. Maybe my epidermis is masochistic?
In addition to my daily Clarisonic usage, I do a special exfoliation treatment twice a week (Wednesdays and Sundays, if you'd like to know!).
I skip around from product to product, and I'm not really faithful to anything. Right now I'm using Olay Regenerist Microdermabrasion and Peel Kit, which is about $25 from a drugstore. (The whole Olay Regenerist line is quite amazing, actually. Their night cream is magical if you're on the hunt for one.) I love their microdermabrasion kit, but it's not the only option.
If you prefer to save your pennies, you can make your own scrub at home by combining brown sugar and olive oil. This is a messy option but it works brilliantly: Just muddle the products together on a little saucer and take it into the shower with you. Apply the mix to your wet face, scrub it around and rinse off. Your skin will be so smooth afterward that you'll just want to SPANK IT!
Rub a lemon on your face!
As weird as this sounds, it actually works. Lemon brightens the complexion, can prevent pimples and helps to clear blackheads. A lot of people spend a bundle on Vitamin C serums, but fresh lemon juice is just as effective.
It's super-easy to do. Slice a lemon in half, squeeze it and dilute with water. You can use this mixture on your face, knees, elbows or any other part of your body where you want to soften and brighten the skin. It's great for fading scars or any other discoloration, too.
There are seriously so many amazing things you can do with lemons -- just look at Makeup Alley for proof! Be sure to avoid your hangnails or paper-cuts unless you're particularly cruel, and if you do start using lemon juice as a beauty treatment, please note that it makes your skin much more sensitive to sun exposure. Be sure to use sunscreen afterward. But you already do that, don't you?
Dab your eye cream and massage your moisturizer.
I am totally guilty of pulling on the skin around my eyes when I put on an eye cream, or throwing on my jojoba oil in a decidedly slap-dash manner. Rest assured that treating your skin in this manner is wrong and naughty, and you will be punished... By wrinkles!
If you've been lucky enough to get a facial, you'll know that there is a very specific way that aestheticians apply eye cream and moisturizer to the skin. When you clean your face in the morning and at night, you want to mimic their technique as much as possible.
Use your ring finger to pat your eye cream into the skin. If you use your index finger, which is what most of us do, we end up rubbing in a much too vigorous manner. Ring fingers are so awkward to use that you are forced to do it gently.
You don't need to apply it directly underneath your eyelashes, either: Eye cream is supposed to be applied along the orbital bone, that round hollow where your eyeball sits. Dab dab dab! Don't rub or tug. Insert lewd comment here.
Massage your moisturizer into your skin. Do it lightly and apply it in circular movements. Be sure to moisturize your neck, too, as it's one of the first places to show age. Let's keep that sucker supple!
If you live in a big, dirty city, wear make-up every day or just feel like your skin needs a little extra love, you should definitely make face masks part of your routine.
One of my favorites is the Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque. This mask is so inexpensive ($5.88 on Amazon) and it works to dry up pimples and clean pores. The best way to use this is after a good steam: Either stick your head over a sink full of hot water or use the mask after a shower. The tube lasts forever, too.
The best thing about a face mask is that you get to look like a monster from the swamp for a while. Just smear it all over your face -- avoid your eyeballs, of course -- and sit down for your nightly séance, or whatever the kids are doing these days. The mask should dry up in about half an hour, and then you can wash it off, cleanse your face with something non-abrasive, moisturize and go to sleep.
You can make an incredible pimple-killing mask from aspirin, too. Aspirin contains salicylic acid so it basically works like a chemical peel. Just crush a few tablets, mix with water, put it on your face, and let it dry (this should take about 5 to 10 minutes). Wash it off with cold water, and moisturize.
Apple cider vinegar
I just wrote a piece for my site about the incredible power of apple cider vinegar. I drink a tablespoon every morning, and it doesn't taste wonderful (understatement), but it is one of the best beauty tricks I know. It's very hard on the throat -- it is vinegar, after all -- so you can dilute it in a glass of water (and add a squirt of honey or agave) to make it easier to swallow. Apple cider vinegar ingested regularly will clear your skin like nobody's business.
It also works well as a toner: Just splash some on a cotton pad and sweep it across your face after cleansing. Yes, you will smell a little bit like a salad, but it's worth it.
* Be sure to change your pillowcase regularly! If you find yourself breaking out on the side of your face that you sleep on, your pillow could totally be the culprit.
* Girls who use a lot of hair products should be sure to do some assertive (not aggressive, no, never!) scrubbing around their hairline. It's not uncommon for mousse, hairspray, texturizing powder and the like to melt, migrate down your scalp and cause a proliferation of spotty little something-or-rathers.
* It almost goes without saying by now, but drinking lots of water, eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoiding refined sugars is probably the best thing you can do for your skin.
* Wear sunscreen every day, or at least a couple of products with SPF in them. I love Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer, which has SPF 15, and Neutrogena Spectrum+ Face is a fantastic, non-greasy sunscreen that won't turn your make-up into a gross oil slick.
I'm super-excited to write about some other skin miracles, like LED light treatments, serums, skin-enhancing vitamins and supplements… Can't wait to share my discoveries!