I've been dealing with acne my entire life, and while my inflamed skin has mostly calmed, what's left is an unusual amount of clogged pores. While cosmetologists and dermatologists agreed that my pores were particularly gunked up, they have offered no real plan of action, thus far.
In an attempt to self-medicate, I've tried it all. From monthly facials to a rigorous routine that features chemical exfoliation, hydrafacials, microdermabrasion, clay masks, oil cleansing, and endless serums, I couldn't crack the code. While the breakouts come and go, the clogged pores stay.
Why do so many of us experience this same problem? First off, there's definitely a genetic predisposition that makes certain people more prone to clogged pores. This is often the unexciting answer I've gotten from many skin care professionals, but I was determined to find a solution. Then my facialist mentioned something so radically simple I couldn't help but try it. She suggested that I seriously minimize my routine to three simple steps:
1. Cleanse with water twice daily.
2. Moisturize with aloe vera gel after cleansing.
3. Exfoliate with baking soda every two days.
It turns out that all the anti-aging creams and serums I'd been using were actually suffocating my already naturally oily skin, resulting in those clogged pores. I'm 29 and had shifted my focus to wrinkle prevention and anti-aging products a couple of years ago, as recommended by not only my mother but also various sources. But in this case, my facialist was adamant that I forgo all my fancy creams and serums in an attempt to let my skin breathe.
And so for the last month, this three-step regimen has proved to be both the most affordable and the most natural I've ever used.
Aloe vera gel as the moisturizer.
Not only is aloe vera naturally wound-healing and anti-inflammatory, but it's also a fantastic oil-free moisturizer. Plus, it's a natural astringent that absorbs oil and contains antioxidants that nourish the skin. Can you get any better than that? It really is an all-in-one skin care powerhouse, especially for us oily skin folk.
As difficult as it was, I've stopped using all my luxury moisturizers and serums—the ones that are always touted as noncomedogenic, aka non-pore-clogging. It was hard to believe that aloe vera gel was the only hydration my skin needed, but, as it turns out, it is. I haven't noticed any dry skin patches or even lasting tightness. After I wash my face and slather on some aloe vera gel, my skin feels clean and, most importantly, light. Not dry or tight at all!
Baking soda as the exfoliator.
I opt for creating a straight baking soda paste by just adding some water in the palm of my hand, but for those of you who want a little something extra, here's a DIY recipe that adds vitamin E oil as well.
I was skeptical of applying baking soda to my face at first, as I've traditionally been a Sephora girl. But this ingredient isn't just for the occasional tray of cookies. Baking soda is a natural exfoliant that can treat acne, dark spots, and dullness, all while brightening your skin. It softens sebum and debris, which gives way to a squeaky-clean feeling. It's also antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, which is the perfect exfoliator for someone with clogged pores.
But honestly, my skin has never felt as clean as it does after exfoliating with baking soda. It feels polished, cleansed, and, most importantly, free of gunk!
After 30 days of this simple three-step routine, I can confidently say that my pores have never felt clearer. But it's not just that. My face feels lighter, cleaner, and my bank account is thrilled. While my skin is still oily (and, by the end of a long day, it can be especially greasy), it's a lot less overwhelming than it used to be. Plus, the comedones and blackheads have been severely reduced.
There's still a long way to go to get to a place I'm happy with, but I can finally say I'm on the right path. For now, I'll be refraining from over-moisturizing and overloading with anti-aging serums and instead happily sticking to this affordable and natural regimen. The best part? I can now save my extra money for facials.
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