This is partially born out of being in Lush the other day and hearing the staff give terrible advice to this poor kid with acne, and not being able to say anything. Sorry Lush, you smell delicious but only people with robust and perfect skin should ever put your stuff on their face.
Acne is a skin disease, not an Unclean Thing you can scrub away. Exfoliating the fuck out of your skin will make it worse, not better. You need to treat it gently like a little hurting baby.
Anything that "feels" clean is probably too harsh for your skin, especially if you have acne. That means: peppermint, cinnamon, anything tingly. They are volatile oils, irritants. Lavender is also an irritant: it's smell is calming but it shouldn't be put directly on your skin.
All citrus oils - lemon, grapefruit, tangerine, bergamot, yuzu - are irritants, and worse, they are UV-sensitising so if you use them during the day, you will increase the amount of damage sun does to you.
A huge number of products use them because they smell amazing and they're natural and they seem like they should be good for you, but they're not, please keep them away from your skin. Honestly be wary of anything that smells really good (sorry. volatile oils.).
Related: scrubs with apricot shells etc cause microtears in your skin and shouldn't be used on your face.
Soaps that leave your face "squeaky clean" are too harsh. You should feel soft and not oily but not stripped. One of the best things you can do for your skin is use a low pH cleanser. Your skin is slightly acidic (5.5.) and water is 7, so water will be stripping and drying to your skin. Soap usually has a higher pH than even water, so it is pretty harsh from your skin's perspective (again: Lush).
Look for things labelled "pH-balanced" or google - there are skincare nerds on the internet who test the pH of everything (I use the spectacularly named Missha Super Aqua Oxygen Micro Visible Deep Cleanser, which I can recommend, but it's really just the pH that counts).
90% of the time (made-up %) when people's skin is too oily, it's actually overproducing oil because it's being dried out. People with oily or acneic skin tend to go harsher and harsher with their products, and it just gets worse.
Be sweet to your poor face!!
Also re: Lush, other than all the herbal stuff, which is often actively bad for your skin, their formulations are really basic which is okay I guess but kind of waste of an opportunity to put some evidence-backed ingredients on your face. And then they lie to you about it and say "this is calming", "this is balancing", or whatever and it's literally all just made up out of nothing because there are no ingredients that back it up, and it is very hard to shop when you know people are lying to your face but you would be the rude one if you corrected them?
I mean, come on. [Link to summary of research on niacinamide in skincare, it is extensive y'all, there is no excuse for an entire brand and multinational chain not to be using it anywhere in their products, okay I'm done.]
This piece was originally published in The Whippet #29 – subscribe to get the next one in your inbox!
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