I Was A Chronic Over-Exfoliator. Here’s How I Got My Skin Back On Track.
My period always begins with painful cystic acne bumps on my chin that often leave scars once they finally decide to disappear. For years, I tried every spot treatment, cleanser, and clarifying mask to get rid of them. And after all of that testing, I've finally discovered the hormonal cystic acne remedies that work for me, and surprisingly, they include plenty of oil — which seemed counterintuitive at first, since my skin veers naturally oily.
For a while, I thought the answer was to strip my skin. I was convinced that if there were minimal oils, no breakouts could form. As a result, I began over-exfoliating, using microbead scrubs four times a week to prevent the breakouts from appearing again. Yes, I know, microbead exfoliation is a rookie mistake, due to the small tears they cause — and microbeads are now banned from personal care products — but desperate times called for desperate measures. I certainly learned the hard way, and suddenly, the occasional breakouts were a constant I couldn't seem to get rid of.
"Too much stripping of oils can actually cause longterm damage to the skin," Sonya Dakar, founder of her eponymous skincare line and clinic in Los Angeles, tells me. "We understand the concept with hair, but it's still catching on for skin. It can cause permanent damage if not corrected." And that explains why the constant exfoliation began breaking my skin out even worse — although yes, my skin was incredibly glowy. "Over-processed skin is thinned out, easily inflamed, irritated, and hypersensitive," Dakar says. "It can also cause premature aging, sagging, loss of elasticity, as well as hyperpigmentation, eczema, dermatitis, and even rosacea."
Before I could develop any of those skin conditions, I made a change. Triggered by a comment my mom made after seeing me for the first time in months, I knew I had to. "Your face is lighter than your body," she insisted. The statement, cosigned by other family members, incited a complete overhaul of my skincare routine, as I realized that my over-exfoliation had completely rid my face of dead cells. For about a week, I practiced "skip-care" and only opted for a gentle cleanser and moisturizer in the morning and at night. And over a four-month period, I slowly incorporated more products like toners, masks, and more sophisticated moisturizers back into my routine, making sure I paid attention to ingredients, avoided microbeads, and embraced oils. As a result, my skin began to look much healthier. It's not completely free of breakouts, as cystic acne is hormonal — but the flares are much more infrequent, disappear quicker, and I don't freak out whenever I feel a bump forming.
That said, ahead, check out my winning lineup that's helped turn my overexerted skin into a complexion that's perfectly manageable.