I'd walk on fire, rockclimb a jagged cliff, sneak past a Sentinelese tribe & cartwheel through a laser beam security system to seize the prized concentrate that'd end my severe acne (& hideous scars + identations it caused)
That is, if it exist.
Because after employing a million organic to high-end skincare brands, changing my diet, meditating daily, imbibing the recommended daily dose of H2O and following through with an exercise regime - my acne predicament is still going at full speed.
If you caught yourself mentally nodding, like me - you probably feel like you’re doomed with acne for life or will have to live with the haunting scars left behind from acne forever.
Because you’ve tried everything.
In desperation, you put hope on the advice out there. After all, they’ve been repeated by all these experts and beauty gurus, so they gotta be true right?
They mostly tell you to cleanse your skin with a gentle cleanser twice a day or exfoliate biweekly or drink the recommended daily dose of water or change your diet or reduce stress levels and all . that . jazz
So you purchase that new product or go visit a dermatologist hoping it’ll finally stop acne in it’s tracks. But today, you’re still stuck in square one, ever more exhausted and distrustful.
Me thinking Kiehl's salicylic acid blemish-free treatment will be the miracle cure so I spent 15mins on alternate nights dotting each spot precisely
But even with your crippling self-esteem, you still know deep down you’ll not be defeated by acne and will somehow regain the clear, unblemished skin you once had.
What if I told you: there’s a specific function of your skin that’s damaged and if healed, will zap acne and it’s evil away while healthy glowing skin starts unfolding
Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it. Maybe even more gimmicky than anything you’ve ever read.
What’s more - it’s effortless and doesn’t require your credit card!
Don’t worry, it’s not another shallow advice. I’ll explain everything and walk you through it.
The Acne Banishing Discovery
Do you realise how your skin just looks better when you wake up?
Any redness is less obvious, your skin looks healthier and plumper. Heck, even your acne isn’t as inflamed. Almost like you regained a little bit of baby?
And then shortly after your morning bath, all that redness, lacklustre and inflammation rudely reappears?
That’s because during sleep your skin produces essential free fatty acids, cholesterol and ceramides.
Together the 3 lipids (fatty acids, cholesterol and ceramides) makes up your lipid barrier.
What’s lipid barrier?
Think a protective barrier that sits on the outer most layer of your skin guarding against bacteria and daily pollutants from entering your skin - while preventing trans-epidermal water loss (a.k.a losing hydration right out of your skin)
Now think about it…
Since acne is essentially an infection caused by clogged sebum + bacteria, and sebum is inevitably present no matter your skin type (dry or oily sebum is a naturally produced by skin), how did bacteria got a chance to enter that deep into your skin and cause an infection if your lipid barrier is functioning, strong and present?
Your lipid barrier protects against bacteria invasion, remember?
Moment of truth: If you have Acne your Lipid Barrier is undeniably damaged!
And here’s the heart wrenching truth
With each restorative night’s sleep, the time when your body regenerates and churn out as much healthy lipids to try and repair and piece together your compromised lipid barrier, you wake up and WASH IT ALL AWAY!
Imagine an artist spent the entire night painting to perfect his incomplete masterpiece, and when the morning comes, he tries to correct the mistakes he made by pouring an entire bucket of water over his work.
Every single morning, he does the same thing over and over again. His artwork never completes.
Your lipid barrier is like that incomplete piece of painting, fragile and easily destroyed.
And it’s probably because when you first encountered acne, you panicked and picked up harsh acne skincare products that ate at your lipid barrier
Recall scrubbing your skin with sugar granules as if rough was your last name? Bet that’s not the only lipid damaging crime you committed.
Let’s move on to the steps you should take to restore your lipid barrier to beat acne and reclaim the clear skin you’ve deprived yourself of.
The step-by-step guide
To regain your lipid barrier, let it remain on your skin.
How? Do not wash your face in the morning.
No, not even the gentlest cleanser makes the cut. Heck, even massaging your skin with tap water rinse your precious lipids away!
I'm using a towel just for demonstration purpose only
Instead of cleansing your skin in the morning with a cleanser:
Step 1: Get a gentle face cloth
Step 2: Wet face cloth with hot running water to sterilise cloth
*This step kills bacteria residing on cloth
Step 3: Twist dry cloth and when it’s comfortably warm, cover your face with the cloth and leave on for a quick 10-15s steam
*The steam opens and detoxes your pores so that you feel flipping clean even though you didn’t use a cleanser. As if you went jogging and had a good sweat
*The warmth breaks down excess sebum or oils from your night skincare routine without compromising your lipid barrier all while kicking in blood circulation so you end up with brighter skin prompted to heal
Extra fun tip: With my fingertips I lightly press the warm cloth around my upper and lower eyelids to awaken tired morning eyes
Step 4: Wrap face cloth on index finger like a mini windscreen wiper and with as little force as possible, glide your face clean from the center out to clear night’s worth of skincare and surface particles
*You truly need to control strength used for this step
*We’re all naturally inclined to use force when ‘cleaning’ our skin. But because your lipid barrier is as easily wiped away as frosting on a cake, you’ll need to be ridiculously gentle!
So remember - feather light contact will suffice. Seriously, no pressing, tugging or pulling!
Step 5: Repeat above steps once more if skin doesn’t feel clean enough (I usually follow through twice)
Do I cleanse my skin with a cleanser at night?
Yes. Using a non-stripping cleanser @ night is quintessential! Stay away from another that dries your skin tight.
Night wash tip: No matter how gentle your cleanser is, you want to massage it on softly so that you don't risk dissolving your lipid barrier.
If your cleanser is efficient, it'll clear pores and surface upon contact.
I use the holygrail no-compromise Begin Cleanser
How long do I have to do the steam-wash method for?
Minimum 3-4 weeks. By then, your lipid barrier will be resilient and pores uncongested.
Do I start washing my skin with a cleanser again after 3-4 weeks?
I’d recommend against it, there’s no reason to. Your skin remains relatively clean while sleeping and all you need to do is swipe clear surface dirt. Personally I stopped doing the steam-wash method after 4 weeks and glide skin clean with a watery toner instead.
Somedays I’ll reach for Pyunkang Yul Mist Toner when my skin needs some soothing medicinal properties and when my skin needs to perk up in brightness i’ll reach for Wonder Essence to deliver a quick rush of natural anti-oxidants.
Where does skincare fit in?
Now you’re on your way to acne obliteration.
You’ll stop breaking out, marks will start healing and ultimately, you’ll start living your most confident life in years (again)
So how do you fit your skincare routine in during this 3-4 week period? You don’t.
While skincare helps put acne out like splashing water on fire - you’d have to fully regain a strong lipid barrier first - the important piece that halts the fire (acne) from being re-ignited. A heavy skincare routine that sits on top of skin can weaken your barrier reviving efforts and irritate your skin because it isn’t armed with a lipid barrier yet.
But here’s the catch: while you drop your skincare routine, you’ll want to employ a moderately hydrating/balancing toner.
A balancing toner normalises your skin type so that it doesn’t fall in the oily zone or in the dry zone. Such irregularities instigates acne. The last thing you want is to have acne triggered by an overly dry or overly oily skin type during this time.
If your current toner doesn’t contain alcohol, fragrances, parabens and synthetic derivatives and contains properties that balances your oil-hydration levels then stick to it.
#Tip: Try to apply toner quickly while skin is still damp from shower/steam-wash method. Feel free to go with more layers of toner at night if dryness is an issue.
When can I start incorporating a full routine with a treatment / moisturiser etc?
Again, only after you're done with the steam-wash method. I’ve lovingly put together a routine called Lipid Glow Rx with products specifically targeted to strengthen your lipid barrier and fade acne marks in full speed. The resulting glow is just extra points ;)
Again, you can stick to your routine if it already made up of efficacious, harsh-free products that you’re happy with and doesn't trigger acne.
What did it all bring about
Image taken in flight to Seoul Feb 2018
Butterflies and rainbows, literally.
If you consider not breaking out, smoother complexion and faded acne marks butterflies and rainbows that is.
Ok, don’t get me wrong. I still do breakout during the first 2 weeks.
But instead of breaking out what used to be EVERYDAY, I only had 2 pimples during the first 2 weeks!
And when I do get a pimple, not only is it not angrily inflamed like before, it clears up within the next few days all by itself with no freaking mark or indentation left behind!
And you know what’s the best part? It’s just the beginning!
Your dampen faith for acne-free skin will start to come alive, your confidence level will rise like Arnold Schwarzenegger played the strongman game (ding ding), and you’ll catch yourself feeling alive and looking into people’s eyes again.
That’s all of me, and I sincerely want that for you.
You up for tomorrow morning?
The battle to acne-free skin is not easy.
Even scarier is a battle you face alone where deceptive and ignorant information is everywhere.
It’s perfectly normal if you feel doubtful even at this point. But don’t let it stop you from moving forward.
This isn’t rocket science nor does it require a dollar from your pocket (Ok, except for that gentle face cloth I reckon exists somewhere in your closet)
Just a logical approach backed by years of misguidance and trail & errors so you skip pointless measures and jump straight into reviving the damaged structure of your skin that’ll zap acne into oblivion.
Let this guide hold your hand and change things around starting tomorrow morning.
So whether it has been an exhaustively long or short ride thus far, you’re in control of getting back the initial state of your skin. Sprinkle some glow and envy on top.
You’re just a right turn out of the tunnel. I’ll be there to welcome you.
Refer to the steps, copy and paste it in your notes, print it out, memorise it - Whatever it is,
Just be on your way.
1: Do the steam-wash method for the next 3-4 weeks until lipid barrier is strong.
A good gauge that your Lipid Barrier is recovering is when you notice past acne marks fading + dramatically less acne
2: During the first 3-4 weeks, halt your skincare routine and only use a balancing toner to get your skin back on track without potential irritation / hindrance
3: After 3-4weeks whe skin feels comfortably strong again with way less eruptive acne, incorporate a full skincare routine focusing on reinforcing skin surface health and fading past acne marks
4: Pat yourself on the shoulder, you're a fighter
Overall emphasis: treat skin like tofu from cleansing to applying skincare