I want to start this post off by saying that I am in no way, shape or form a skin or beauty expert, and that the purpose of this post is solely to explain what I have been through and how I got to where I am now with my skin. What worked for me may not necessarily work for you, so it’s important to know your own skin, or work with a professional who can help. 🙂 As you will soon find out, I have worked extensively with both a dermatologist and an esthetician to get to where I am today.
Last September, I posted an article about my personal struggles with my skin throughout my life, and more specifically, how things got significantly worse last summer. I had some serious issues related to an allergy that have since resolved, but I want to encourage you to read my original article “If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep On Going” to learn more about what I experienced in case you can relate in any way. It was by far the most viewed article I have ever published over the past two years, and I heard feedback from so many friends and followers who had suffered from similar issues, and lots of people who simply wanted to reach out and support me for sharing my story. I hope that bringing it back to the surface will help even more people who are battling self-esteem issues due to their skin, and encourage them to find some answers of their own.
Some of the pictures in my original post are a little disturbing, and difficult for me to share, but I think it’s so important to be vulnerable about things like this to show others who are going through it that they are definitely not alone. It feels that much better to share pictures of my skin now since I clearly went through hell before getting to this point. Just to give you an idea of what I mean, here’s a little sneak peek of what my face looked like less than a year ago.
At the risk of repeating myself, I’m going to talk a little bit about my experience again. I’ll try to keep it short for those of you who have read my original post. Basically, I have struggled with acne since elementary school. I started going to the dermatologist way before any of my friends did, and I have tried pretty much every topical cream, special face wash, and pill under the sun in an attempt to treat it. In college, I started developing dry, red and itchy spots in random places such as my legs and hands, which my dermatologist ultimately diagnosed as eczema, and I began using steroid creams to help with that as well.
Things got really out of hand last summer when I started having severe breakouts on my face, but these weren’t acne; they looked more like rashes and burns. They were very unsightly, and often pretty painful, and I shed a lot of tears as a result. My self-esteem was shot and I never wanted to leave the house on the days or weeks that I had flare-ups. I had no idea what was causing it to happen; I just knew that I couldn’t deal with it anymore. Finally, after months of suffering, I decided to do an allergy test, and we were able to identify the allergen that was causing all of these problems. It was a preservative called methylchloroisothiazolanone, and my dermatologist wasn’t lying when he told me that it’s in just about everything. I went home to find that it was in about six or seven of the products that I used on a daily basis, including shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, face wash, body wash, detergent and dish soap. I immediately threw these in the trash (including the Bath and Body Works foamy hand soap that I love so much) and got all new products that were safe for me. Ever since then I have had to religiously inspect every ingredient label before purchasing any type of soap, hair or makeup product. Unfortunately, I still can’t find a dish soap that is free of the chemical. If you know of one, please let me know!
Once I eliminated this preservative from my life for good, the burns eventually stopped coming back. It took some time for it to finally get out of my system, but ever since it did, it has been a night and day difference. Once those issues resolved, I could finally focus on getting my skin to where I wanted it to be; not just for my wedding, but to feel confident in my everyday life. First of all, I wanted to be as free of acne breakouts as possible, but also to reduce the redness and scarring leftover from all my skin issues of the past.
When I first started replenishing my skin care supply, I started out very simple — no pun intended. There is a line of products called “Simple” that are free of all perfumes, dyes and harsh chemicals, and that seemed like a safe place to start. I just wanted to try something that I knew would be gentle on my skin. I actually have used them for a long time and have been surprised at how much I like them, considering they cost about $5 each from Walmart. I was a little scared to invest in much more than that at the time since I’ve tried so many other products that have failed to work for me. In case you’re wondering, I used the Simple foaming cleanser and hydrating cleansing oil and really liked them both. (Pictured below) I also started using Aveeno skin relief 24-hour moisturizing lotion and it is life changing. It’s extremely hydrating and makes your skin feel great. I have been using that on my face both morning and night for the past year. It also has safe ingredients and no fragrance, which is key for me.
More recently, I started experimenting with some Beauty Counter products, because my cousin sells it and offered to send me some free samples. I fell in love with the charcoal bar soap and charcoal mask specifically, and have continued to use my Aveeno moisturizer for now, but may start to slowly incorporate more Beauty Counter products, because they are also safe for me.
Since Ethan and I have been engaged for pretty much ever (okay, 14 months.. but who’s counting?), I knew I wanted to do even more to repair my skin so I could feel as beautiful and confident as possible on our wedding day in September. As you know, I have spent many hours in the dermatologist’s office, but until a few months ago, I had never treated myself to any facial treatments or anything like that. My friend and Matron of Honor, Shelby, tried to convince me for a long time, so I finally listened to her advice. ; ) I decided it was time to really invest in my skin health, so for the past few months, I have been visiting with the most amazing esthetician, Rachel Naster — who also happens to be doing my makeup for my wedding — to do a variety of skin treatments. Rachel knew all about my history and how sensitive my skin is, so she slowly eased me into everything. We have now gotten into a routine that I not only tolerate well, but that makes my skin look and feel absolutely amazing.
Right off the bat, Rachel did a really great job of explaining exactly what she was doing with each treatment and the why behind it, which was very helpful. I was (and still am) a total facial-newbie, so it was nice to get a little education on the process! I had heard of hydrafacials and microdermabrasion, etc., before, but I didn’t know what to expect at all. I think most people fear that facials are going to hurt, but the good news is, none of these treatments hurt at all. They actually feel great; it’s kinda like a massage… on your face. I almost fall asleep every time! Haha.
I will walk you through the regimen that Rachel and I have been doing for about 5-6 months now. Shout out to Rachel for providing me with some easy-to-understand descriptions of all of these treatments for me to share with you all! 🙂
The first couple appointments were abbreviated but effective. Because my skin was still healing and was slightly inflamed from the allergy issues, Rachel thought it would be best to limit physical manipulation on my skin and use the most active, yet soothing treatment possible. She chose to do low-level light therapy LED treatments using her Celluma panel.
What’s low-level light therapy, you ask? It is: “the application of specific wavelengths of light energy to tissue to obtain therapeutic benefits. The energy is then used to improve cellular performance. It can be delivered through LED devices or cold lasers, and has a variety of applications across many medical fields.”
Fun fact: it was originally developed by NASA for astronauts who could become injured or ill on a long-term space flight, but today the technology is used as a safe & natural method of treating a variety of conditions, including acne, anti-aging and pain.
The best thing about light therapy is that it is non-invasive, painless, requires no recovery time and can be used on all skin types, even sensitive skin like mine.
For me specifically, Rachel focused on using a blend of blue light therapy to target any bacteria and reduce inflammation, and then moved to a more red light dominant treatment that continued to reduce inflammation, while also brightening the skin and evening out the skin tone — both things I desperately needed at the time.
After a couple of sessions, we decided it was safe to slowly add in some Hydro-Dermabrasion followed by the LED treatment. You might also hear this called a “hydrafacial”. These treatments are amazing, you guys. Hydro-Dermabrasion is a gentle exfoliation and infusion treatment that uses the power of pure water to cleanse, exfoliate and extract impurities. (In other words, it’s literally pulling all the nasty crap out of your skin. Disgusting, yet wonderful.) It also infuses moisture and nutrients through highly active serums. We worked on using a light Lactic cleanse to deeply hydrate and brighten my skin and followed it with antioxidant and lightening infusions.
Rachel and I discussed my home skin care regimen to make sure I wasn’t using anything that would cause any more problems. More recently, she also recommended I start using Image Skin Care’s Iluma Brightening Serum (pictured below), which is made up of a blend of botanical lighteners, vitamin C and grapeseed extract that gently reduces inflammation, promoting a clear, fresh-looking complexion. I put this brightening serum on after I wash my face and before I put on moisturizer both morning and night, and I love it. It literally smells like you’re on the beach. So I just close my eyes and pretend. ; )
Rachel also has her own line of skin care products (seriously, is there anything she can’t do?!) and I think I am going to start experimenting with more of those, including her foaming face wash to replace my Simple face wash, because I love sudsy face wash and it is also moisturizing. I’ll let you know how I like that if you’re curious. : )
Below is what my skin looks like now, immediately after a session with Rachel. Absolutely no filters used, which is rare for me. My skin is not 100% perfect, but as you can see, I have come such a long way and I couldn’t be happier.
In general, I am a pretty confident person, but I have always been self-conscious about my skin. I am that girl who wears makeup to workout at 6 o’clock in the morning or even to run to the grocery store. I will do an occasional run to Walmart makeup-free, but that’s about it. Trust me; it’s not because I’m trying to impress anyone. It’s because I have this idea in my head that people will only be staring at the imperfections all over my makeup-less face. These days it isn’t acne so much (although I do still have breakouts, even though I’m 25 years old), but rather the redness and scarring that still occupies my cheeks. I am still not totally confident going out without some sort of coverage, but I am well on my way, thanks to Rachel for helping to heal my skin, and to my dermatologist for helping me identify the chemical that was causing me so many problems.
I hope this post was helpful for anyone out there who is self-conscious about their own skin imperfections and wants some ideas on how to improve it. I’m telling you right now, you don’t have to live with it forever; I promise. It can definitely be a financial investment, but you can do as little or as many treatments as you want. Obviously, the more frequently you get them done, the better the results will be. But in the end, it’s your face. It’s what makes you who you are. It’s what people (hopefully) look at whenever they talk to you. It’s also what you see looking back at you in the mirror every day. If you aren’t confident about the way your skin looks, that will reflect into other areas of your life and negatively impact your overall self-image.
So, with that being said, I am highly recommending that you start to invest in yourself.
- Spend a little extra money to buy healthy food and a gym membership so you can eat well and workout, and in turn, look and feel good. People who eat healthy and exercise are usually happier, more confident, less stressed — I could go on forever about the benefits. Just do it.
- Spend a little extra money to take care of your skin. If it is negatively impacting your life the way it was mine, then I would say it is 1000% worth it to do something about it. Don’t put it off.
- I also highly recommend Rachel Naster in Kansas City for any and all of these skin treatments, as well as makeup for events (like a wedding!!), and more. Not only is she incredible at her job, but she is extremely knowledgeable, and such a kind-hearted person who genuinely wants to help people like you and I look and feel our very best.
It’s time to start loving the skin you’re in. What are you waiting for?
Shanna Stewart, RD LD
#wellnessforthewin #skinhealth #bodyimage