Age: 30 – 40 years old
Skin Type: Oily, Acne-prone, Super Sensitive
Yes, that’s my profile up there. My clean beauty journey is challenging, full of frustration with endless trial and error, just to find out what suits my skin.
The Pre-clean Beauty Days
Ever since hitting puberty and with all the hormonal changes, I began developing oily and acne-prone skin. My friends around me didn’t have it bad like I did when they hit puberty though. In fact, most of their faces remained smooth and clear! It didn’t help that I was active in outdoor activities too. I was pretty envious of their beautiful skin and my dream back then was to have porcelain, smooth skin (and it is still my dream right now).
It didn’t help that information was very restricted back then, unlike now, information is flowing with just a click on the web. I have no basic skincare products and with that, no basic skincare routine. My acne was so bad that I resorted to washing my face with only water. Of course, it didn’t help my skin any better, with all the sweat, dirt, and germs. My dad knew of my struggle and sometimes would ask me to try some beauty products that he came across.
It kind of bothered me when people talked and looked at me. And all I can think of was, omg omg, they are checking out that red big acne on my chin. I avoided eye contact most of the time. That was how I went through my adolescence years with my skin, right through university years. Talk about self-esteem and confidence, it was at an all-time low.
Soon after graduating, entering the working force, and having the ability to earn my own income, I spent a significant amount on skincare products, all in the pursuit of finding that one miracle product that can help me achieve smooth, glowing, porcelain skin. I was drawn into big beauty skincare brands that promised those but was left disappointed. Some might work for a while in controlling my oily skin and didn’t break me out, but it never lasted. The cycle would repeat itself.
In between those big beauty brands, I purchased over-the-counter, cheaper range beauty products available at local pharmacies, such as Guardian and Watson. Because, when nothing worked, I kept switching from brand to brand and was desperate to find a solution, to find that miracle beauty product. I believe some of you might experience the same thing as me. #struggleisreal
We always have that mixed group of friends with smooth, nice skin and one friend with a face full of acne. I’m that one black sheep. When some friends of mine came complaining to me about one small, tiny weeny, almost invisible acne that they had on their cheek, I rolled my eyes at them. Hello, can you see my face? *hands waving*
Clean Beauty Journey Started
I was slowly attracted to beauty products that are labeled as natural or organic. I always assumed natural or organic would definitely be better because they don’t use chemical ingredients in their products. I did try to read the labels, stared blankly and confused. Not understanding all the long chemical ingredient names, I chose to trust the natural or organic labels plastered in front. I mean, when they use words like those, they meant what they are, right?
Years later on, I learned that it wasn’t true. Beauty products labeled as natural or organic, aren’t necessarily using 100% natural or organic ingredients in their products. Usually, they mixed a small percentage of natural ingredients to a long list of toxic and harmful ingredients. Some might not even use any single ingredient that is natural or organic. Horror!
Many beauty brands are just greenwashing their products with words like natural, organic or green, as a marketing gimmick. I don’t understand why this could be allowed. As I dug deeper, I realised that the cosmetic regulation in our country didn’t really enforce beauty products to use only natural ingredients, even when they labeled themselves as natural. Greenwashing is not only happening here but in other developed countries too.
Naturally, slowly and eventually, I was drawn to using clean beauty products, emphasising on 100% natural ingredients, by late 2013. I have always lead an active lifestyle, try to eat clean, and work out. To use beauty products that contain no toxic and harmful ingredients only increased my interest more!
And so began my challenging clean beauty journey. Oh boy, what a ride. Yes, natural and organic ingredients are definitely better than synthetic chemical ingredients, but not all-natural ingredients suited me.
I was naïve enough to think that as long as it is 100% natural, my skin would love it and turn into smooth, porcelain skin that I always dream of. NO! I have oily, shiny skin. My first natural beauty oil as face moisturiser was sweet almond oil. It’s 100% natural but I break out. I was like, why? It’s natural, how come my skin is not accepting it? There were so many good reviews from people using sweet almond oil, with its amazing benefits, vitamins and minerals and I was breaking out. I was the black sheep again.
I took a few tries on other beauty oils and it gave me all the same results; I was breaking out. I finally settled on to golden jojoba oil and my skin loved it! And I began to see why; some beauty oils like sweet almond, argan oil, and rosehip oil are medium-based oil, which are slightly greasy, more moisturising and rich, for my skin. At one point, I even tried sunflower oil because it has many amazing benefits. I break out, of course, because sunflower oil is a heavy oil, too rich for my skin and it started clogging my pores. Golden jojoba oil is a light oil, absorbs fast and suits my oily skin better.
Another notion when people use these oils, they tend to use it a lot. I don’t know about you, but I was like that before, splattering more body lotion and moisturiser on my skin because I want to nourish it better. Less is more for beauty oils. When I use golden jojoba oil, I need only a drop for my face, another drop for my neck.
First Dabble with Essential Oils
At about the same period, I began dabbling with essential oils. There are a lot of essential oils to experiment with and again I was intrigued when reading that we can mix essential oil into our skincare and beauty products. And so, I still remember vividly, the first essential oil I used for my skincare was Geranium essential oil. What is there not to love with Geranium essential oil? It smells heavenly and has tonnes of benefits for the skin!
“Geranium essential oil
Helps in creating a balance between oily and dry skin, treats acne, revitalizes skin cells with its anti-aging properties, reduces wrinkles, heals wounds, and balances hormones.”
I was so stoked and tried it immediately! Mixing it with golden jojoba oil, I created my first DIY moisturiser. And again, I break out. I stopped for a while, let the acne healed for a bit, and tried again. And break out I did. After a third retry, I concluded Geranium essential oil was not for me.
My skin is super picky! This trial and error thingy is important because although you might read how others raved about the goodness of Geranium essential oil in helping them with their skin condition, it wouldn’t work for everyone. My skin’s profile fits exactly what Geranium essential oil would help me with, but it just didn’t. From then on, after years of trying various essential oils, I found out that I’m a woody kind of person and my skin works best with Frankincense and Sandalwood essential oils, which I have been happily combining them in my skincare routine.
The Worst Skin Allergy
Over the years, I realised that my skin sensitivity level is increasing. My skin wasn’t as sensitive before, but probably due to hormones and age, it has turned out to be super sensitive!
Just this year alone, I had three skin allergy cases! My worst ever was when I tried a Vitamin C serum, which is a clean beauty product formulated with 100% natural ingredients. I did my homework and searched every single ingredient listed. My skin then was dull and sagging and I wanted something to perk my skin up. I came across this Vitamin C serum that many others swore by it, and the plus points were, it is a clean beauty product. I’m 80% sold.
I was a bit wary, and playing the detective me, I started digging for real testimonials on the web. My ah-ha moment was when some reviewers who had oily, sensitive skin tried it and they had marvelous results. After days of searching and reading about it, I finally took the plunge to purchase the serum.
I was slowly breaking out and began having dry flaky patches on my cheeks. It slowly turned reddish and itchy. I didn’t realise it was the Vitamin C serum because the process took a few months. All the while, I was wondering and lamenting what happened to myself that my skin turned out so bad.
I finally went to see a skin specialist and she asked me a simple question, what was the new product that I was using? Bam and then it hit me. That Vitamin C serum was the only one. And I don’t know how it slipped out from my mind to even think of it as the main suspect!
The skin specialist took a look at my skin and diagnosed it as contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis is a red, itchy rash caused by direct contact with a substance or an allergic reaction to it. It isn’t contagious or life-threatening but can be very uncomfortable (Ref: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/contact-dermatitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20352742). It sure did! #theagony
Since it had gotten pretty bad, the skin specialist had to prescribe me steroid-based oral medication and cream. So much so I wanted to avoid any steroid-based products, this time round I had no choice.
The lesson I gathered from this is, always do a patch test! Don’t skip it because we just never know! Patch test a small area on your neck or on your arm and test it for a period of time, say a week or so. I now know I need to patch test a new product for a week to see any reaction. I was paying the price for being impatient to have glowing, smooth skin. #painfulpricetopay
This clean beauty journey is as challenging as it is and I discovered along the way clean beauty products that make or break me. I have my fair share of ups and downs when trying natural ingredients beauty products.
I definitely read the ingredients better and avoid those that don’t work for me. I still need help though with the long list of synthetic chemical ingredients names and would try to avoid them as much as possible, simply because I wanted to and I know my skin can’t tolerate them anymore. Some people switch to clean beauty because they have problematic skin or are allergic to harmful chemical ingredients. Others just want to switch because they want a healthier option.
My clean beauty journey will still go on and I hope you can gain something from my experience. Don’t give up and continue searching for what works best for you. Because no two oily and sensitive skins are the same.
I hope you can join me on this journey by following our #cleanbeautymovement to understand what’s best for ourselves!