Reader Question: How I transformed my ugly skin

Hi Ms. Liz! I am a constant reader of your blog but I have never left a comment on your posts because I am too shy. Hence this message. Hehe. I love your blog so much, I consider it as my beauty bible. Whenever I take a rest from studying for almost the whole day (I'm a senior in law school), I happily read your blog. Sometimes I find myself spending more time reading your blog than I should.

Anyway, I have this burning question that I really wanted to ask you. You see, I have been a fan of yours since way back. Before I used to relate more to your posts because you were then battling with stubborn skin (like still having pimples, etc.). I would want to ask, what did you do to achieve your awesome skin as it is now?

Judging from your FOTDs, you have such a great-looking skin compared to the past years when your were still trying out the obagi peels, etc. in the hope of finally achieving flawless skin. AND YOU DID! So there. I just want to ask what you did. I do not have severe acne but I noticed my skin has not grown tired yet of producing endless blackheads and pimple after pimple. :(

I am so tired of trying out product after product (my pocket is also tired haha) and at the same time, it's affecting my self-esteem and confidence, which is a must in law school. I know it will sound weird, but it's also affecting my performance in law school. Please help me? :)



Hi Dimples, thank you for such a heart felt letter! I've been thinking about it all weekend. Yes, I've finally been able to achieve the skin I've always wanted. It's not perfect still since I break out from all the new stuff I have to use for this blog, but it's considerably better than what I had two to three years ago. Back then the pimples and blackheads never seemed to stop, to the point that I always wear foundation in public. That's why I understand, Dimples, what you mean about bad skin affecting self-esteem. It's painful and exhausting to always have to hide your face to the world everyday!

Me, three years ago. Sorry for the yuckz. My skin went on to be like this until 2012.

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So what did I do? The obvious answer is that I discovered amazing skincare products, but that aside, it's actually my routine and sensitivity to my skin that changed the most. By the latter I mean that I'm hyper-aware and vigilant about my skin. Am I about to break out? Did I use anything new? Is a change in my lifestyle causing problems? Is there product build-up on my face? These are things I learned to observe over time as I established cause-and-effect relationships. My best advice on how to do it is to keep a skin "diary" where you list down when you break out/ when you're skin is feeling off and the possible reasons for it.

Since I have a regularly-updated beauty blog, I know the condition of my skin at all times. Those who don't have a blog should definitely keep that diary. This way, you know what's going on with your face, what's working and what isn't.

That's my first bit of advice. And so we come to the change in my routine. These are the three things that I feel contributed the most change to my skin!

My face right now (literally). No makeup save from tinted lip balm and no photo editing, except brightening up the pic and cropping. My eyes are puffy because I had an allergy attack yesterday.

My face right now (literally). No makeup save from tinted lip balm and no photo editing, except brightening up the pic and cropping. My eyes are puffy because I had an allergy attack yesterday.

1. Double cleansing with micellar water. I'm active in a Facebook group about beauty topics, and in one post by a member I was surprised to find out that she doesn't double cleanse (makeup remover + facial wash) when wearing makeup. She just uses a cleanser to remove everything! I used to do that in my college days too, then I discovered creamy makeup removers (Pond's Cold Cream, holler) and then the Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil later on.

But I still broke out. Do you know what's the most effective product I've found for thoroughly removing makeup?

Micellar water! I discovered Bioderma, then Bifesta. Micellar water is tough on makeup, leaving skin completely clean after a couple of passes. The thing is creamy/oily makeup removers leave residue even after you've washed up with soapy cleansers and used toners. But micellar water leaves no residue, therefore no junk on your pores! If you haven't tried it yet you should, because you'll really feel the difference on your skin immediately. 

You can also opt for wipes (like the Celeteque, Burt's Bees, Pond's wipes) which technically contain micellar water too. Just try to avoid anything creamy or oily for makeup removal.

2. Exfoliating like it's a religion. I rarely used to exfoliate before, but now I do it religiously - at least twice, at most thrice a week. I've observed that even when I'm careful about cleansing, beauty products still "build up" on my skin. I don't know how but I feel that there's a fine thing layer of something on my face that makes it feel different and dull. If I leave it there, I head out to break-out land after a few days!

I've been able to refine my skin tone and texture to this level because of exfoliation. Seriously. I don't even need facials anymore! I love using Cure Aqual Gel most of the time since it's gentle while being effective - I LOVE THIS SO MUCH! I keep saying it like a broken record. I switch out my products every so often but this, this stays. Like with micellar water, you won't know how this improves your skin until you use it.

I also love the Mary Kay Cleansing Brush to bits. This is something I use ONLY when Cure seems to stop working on me already, but I feel that there's still build up left. I focus this mostly on my chin which sometimes grows out rough bumps, as well on my nose and cheeks where blackheads develop. 

Forget about those bead thingies and facials. Gommage exfoliators + cleansing brushes are the real deal!

3. Serums are sensational. Serums give your skin that extra boost, nudging it closer to the ideal with higher concentrations of active ingredients. Different serums focus on doing different things, but my priority is removing blemishes and brightening my skin tone. I'm currently using the Estee Lauder Clear Difference Blemish Serum - this helps reduce my spots in half the time, plus it also makes my skin glow! I also highly recommend the Kiehl's Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution and Shu Uemura TSUYA Skin Serum. These are the ones that have proven the most effective on me for the concerns I mentioned above.

Serums, however, can be hit-and-miss affairs. It's a challenge to find the perfect one for your particular issues, but at least you can narrow down the search to certain brands: Estee Lauder, Shiseido, Shu Uemura, and Kiehl's are serious about their serums (and skincare in general). They don't kid around or try to rip you off with crazy promises.

So there you have it. As always, I can't guarantee that what worked for me will work for you. All I can give you is a record of my experiences. It's exhausting to have crappy skin and to feel like there are no options, but it's never hopeless! If you have serious acne though it's still best to see a dermatologist. I think my recommendations are best for those who suffer from constant yet mild acne (pimples, blemishes, white heads). If you get bunches of cystic pimples then you better visit a professional.

Good luck!