Praise Propolis: A Kbeauty Guide to Fighting Hormonal Acne

Lately I have been engaging in a lot of conversation over on my Instagram about my experience with hormonal acne. For 13 years, I suffered from hormonal breakouts all along my jawline, with especially high concentration around my chin. I was so blissfully endowed with these face gems, that I was accustomed to a new batch of bright red bumps popping up a few days before the old round would finally clear up. That’s right… I was in a constant state of break out.

It was around the age of 21 when my hormonal acne really came into it’s own. I was a broke college tomboy, and as a result, lacked the resources and frankly, the desire to do anything about it. Still, I was so embarrassed with the state of my face, that I avoided cameras at all costs. Among other events, I don’t have any pictures of my husband and I the summer we met, since I was constantly putting off taking pictures, hoping for just a few days of clear skin.

I was, however, able to dig up something horribly embarrassing from 2009 when my husband, sister and I traveled to Europe. This was such an amazing experience, I should obviously have thousands of pictures from an unbelievable 11 day adventure. And I do… of landscape and art and architecture. Of me? Oh, I have two.

Now, it may be a bit hard to see in these photos, but if you look closely at my chin, you will see just a massive amount of breakouts. It’s like my chin and jawline were in a constant state of hot, congested inflammation. Also, look at those non-existent eyebrows. Those were some pretty grim times for my face.

At 23 I got my first big girl job, and with it came both the funds and the desire to start messing around with makeup. A lot of makeup. A super heavy application of Revlon Colorstay foundation and crazy intense Urban Decay eye shadow was my signature. This practice most definitely made my breakouts worse, since my pores were constantly jammed up with too much makeup. Did I mention, I was also in the practice of going to bed with my full face of makeup still on?  I know, current me shudders in disgust, too.

During my pregnancy in 2010, I experienced nine months of perfect skin. We are talking some serious  no-makeup, perfect radiance. However, after my son was born I was gifted with a severely oily complexion. Even though I had always been acne prone, I had never been overly oily. Now, lucky me… I had both. Fortunately, somewhere around this time, I learned to at least use makeup wipes before bed, so you can all quit being totally grossed out now.

A year or so later, I eventually assembled a rough idea of a skincare routine. I never had any specific goals in mind, and mostly did out of a sense of duty. At 28, you’re supposed to start worrying about anti-aging right? So I bought creams and goos aimlessly. I had by this time fully identified my acne as hormonal, but figured as such there was really nothing I could do about it. So month in, and month out, I continued to just deal with painful, unattractive lower third of my face, with no real solution but more makeup. A lot more makeup.

Now that you have a brief history of me and hormonal acne, let’s get on to what you’re all really here for… how in the hell did I get rid of it and how do I keep it under control?

When I got into Asian Beauty, it was kind of by accident. I was in a place where I felt like I had tried all the makeup. You heard me, I could no longer find new makeup that excited me, so I decided to dig into skin care. Somehow I got into sheetmasking, which lead me to reading about the 10 Step Korean Skin Care Routine, which honestly, became intriguing just because, as a product junkie, I wanted an excuse to buy stuff. Basically, I was bored with what Western beauty had to offer, and Tony Moly has insanely cute packaging.The transition was easy.

So, since Kbeauty was an accident, all of what I am about to suggest came about by happenstance. I never set out to cure my hormonal acne; I never even knew that was possible. But rather, after noticing two, three and four Lady Times come and go with fewer and fewer breakouts, I started to research why what I was using was working… here’s what I found:

Low pH Cleaner:

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My first happy accident in Kbeauty was the discovery of low pH cleansers. For the few years I actually had the semblance of a skin care routine, I was for sure, using super alkaline cleansers. For those in need of a little pH crash course… here we go: your skin has something called an acid mantle (also referred to as the hydro-lipid film),  which is a protective film on your skin’s surface that serves as a barrier between you and the world. In the case of acne prone skin, this film is essential in preventing bacteria from penetrating the skin. While I was constantly stripping this film away with overly alkaline cleansers (think: squeaky clean), I was creating the conditions necessary for nasty bacteria to hang out and throw a party all over my face. A low pH cleanser is defined as 5-5.5 (on a 0-14 scale, where 7 is neutral), however, I have found that my skin does well with cleansers that rate 6-7, especially now that I’m in maintenance mode.

Gentle Exfoliation:

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Before Kbeauty, I was definitely an exfoliator, I was just the wrong kind of exfoliator. I would use really harsh, physical exfoliants like Bliss Micro Magic or Kate Somerville’s Exfolikate. I’m sure these products are a dream for some, but now I know they are just far too harsh for the delicate, broken skin around breakouts. However, back then I was extremely motivated to remove this dead skin, since it looked completely awful under makeup. Fast forward to my early days in Kbeauty discovery and it wasn’t long before I was introduced to peeling gels and chemical exfoliants. Since these methods of exfoliation are much more gentle, it allowed me to participate in more routine exfoliation; more routine exfoliation helped me to eliminate dead skin cells from continuing to mix with sebum and congest my pores further. Properly exfoliated skin and clearer pores not only stopped the cycle of dirt and debris, it also set the stage for better product absorption.

Hyaluronic Acid:

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A concept that I had never heard of before Kbeauty, was that the same skin could be both oily and dehydrated. I was quick to learn, though, that not only did it exist, but it was exactly what I had going on. My skin was so imbalanced that it kept on pumping out oil to try and moisturize itself. I never really sought out Hyaluronic Acid when creating my new Kbeauty routine, but it seemed to be a staple ingredient in the sheetmasks I was using. Now I know, that this amazing ingredient has been integral in turning my skin around. Since Hyaluonic acid is a water attractor it’s able to hold 1000x its weight in water, which means it’s excellent for helping all the layers of the skin retain water at optimal levels. Skin with optimum water retention tends to freak out a lot less; skin that freaks out a lot less, tends to break out less too!

Honey/ Propolis:

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I first added honey into my routine, when I added the Scinic Honey All in One Ampoule to my collection. I was mostly attracted to this product as a solution for nights when I was too tired from long days at work to stick to my entire routine. The idea of an all-in-one product was so very appealing, since at the time, I was working in highly competitive sales, and I was working a lot of long, hard days. Needless to say, this product got a lot of use. I absolutely used this honey ampoule every night, some nights it was all I would use after cleansing and toning. Turns out, that this was another very happy accident since honey is naturally antibacterial and extremely moisturizing.

Snail:

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Even before Kbeauty, I had been aware of cosmetic companies using snail secretion in certain skin care products, mostly high-end products, specifically marketed to the anti-aging demo. Even at my most bored, at the end of my time in Western beauty, nothing could get me acclimated to the idea of smearing snail goo all over my face. However, the second I came across snail products in Asian Beauty, my immediate reaction was “Hell yeah!”, gimmie that snail goo! Just goes to show the power of context and cute packaging. I’m coming up on one year in the snail game, and looking back, this just may be the number one component in the battle against blemishes.

Snails produce their secretion as a protective layer between their fragile underbellies and the rough, rocky texture underneath. The secretion also has immense healing properties to help the snail repair itself as quickly as possible. When applied to acne prone skin, the snail secretion helps healing breakouts by moisturizing and repairing the skin very quickly. In fact, the first thing I really noticed changing in my skin, after adopting my Kbeauty routine, was that my breakouts were not only healing in about half the time, but while healing, the skin never took on that rough and flaky appearance. Instead, blemishes would appear and heal, remaining smooth in texture throughout their entire life cycle.

The final component to my Kbeauty success has definitely been consistency. I was very lucky to discover Kbeauty during one of the most stressful and challenging times in my life. I used the luxurious routine to take time for myself, to indulge in self-care. What started out as a fun reason to shop and evolved into a twice daily meditation practice, has resulted in the clearest skin I have even known.

Over the last year, I saw 5 months of gradually decreasing breakouts each time that lovely monthly visitor would pop ’round. Now, I am at a place where for 7 months now, I may experience a very small white head, or a few closed comendones. Other than that I am so grateful to say that you can no longer tell when I’m on my period, just by looking at my face… Praise Propolis!!

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