The Story of My Skincare Struggle, and the Products That Saved Me

The skincare struggle is real, people. That’s why it’s like, a billion dollar industry. And I am all for it.

I didn’t used to be. In fact, I hated skincare. Absolutely hated it. You know why? Because anything that adds ten minutes to my morning routine is not welcome. No thank you, sir. But then I became a college student, and my skin rebelled. Apparently as an adult, I still have teenage skin, because it is angry and oily and loves to erupt in acne right before important social functions, such as fraternity date parties, and my college graduation. Sigh.

So I got desperate and started trying everything. I tried my roommate’s put-toothpaste-on-it trick, I tried using spot treatments but all over my face, I tried moisturizers, Proactiv, Exposed Skin Care, everything. I kept playing Whack-A-Mole with my face: Every time a pimple popped up, I squashed it, and then another pimple would pop up next to it. Finally I knew it was time to get my butt into the dermatologist.

Taking the bitter pill

At some point, you have to suck it up and do an acne treatment that sucks for a few months before it gets better. I had cystic acne, which meant I had those awful monster bumps deep under the skin that won’t go away. My derm patted me on the arm and said, “We will beat this,” like I had some kind of horrible disease. And then we did. We beat the crap out of it. I knocked the thing out with Doxycyclin, a powerful antibiotic that I was very happy to stop after three months. The bad news: I had to start a skincare regimen. With prescription products. And because one of those products is an antibiotic, if I didn’t do it right, if I wasn’t consistent, the products would stop working. Eek.

The new skin workout

I told myself that I would rather have to take ten minutes out of my day to fix my problem, than face another cystic mountain zit. People face worse things. People have worse health problems with worse treatments. So why was I so frustrated? Maybe because it still felt unfair that I had to deal with this while other girls have beautifully clear skin. Bu that was stupid thinking, because everyone has their thing they need to deal with, and I’m lucky that my thing is skin. Because, hallelujah, I could fix it!

My prescription products include a daily face wash, an antibiotic lotion, and prescription Retin A. Beyond that, I mix it with other products to keep my skin feeling fresh, clean, and happy. No more angry zits.

My current skincare routine, with life-saving products

Some of the products I use are prescription, but for the ones that aren’t, I provided links!

Every day

Morning: I start by washing my face with PanOxyl, a benzoyl peroxide face wash. Then I apply prescription face lotion (this prevents the cystic acne). The benzoyl peroxide kills all the bacteria, which not only helps acne, but also makes sure my skin doesn’t get used to the antibiotic lotion that I put on after.

Sometimes I do see a little pimple starting to pop up, especially if I’ve slacked on washing my face, so I’ll apply a spot treatment.

Next is SPF, the most important step. I’ll put on a BB cream with SPF in it, or a primer with SPF, or I’ll wear a tinted sunscreen moisturizer. SPF is so, so important. Not just for preventing wrinkles, but also for preventing cancer. 

Finally, I’ll usually wear a foundation specifically for acne-prone skin. Lately I’ve really liked Clinique! It gives me moderate coverage with acne-fighting, medicated ingredients.

Night: Remove makeup, cleanse face, then apply Retin-A (well, the generic version of Retin-A). Retin-A is a retinoid, which is basically a vitamin A derivative that helps unclog pores and speed up cell turnover. Mine is prescription strength, but you can find retinoid creams over the counter, too. Whether you have acne-prone skin or not, they’re super beneficial for improving lines and discoloration.

Important Note:If you use a retinoid, only use it at night (sunlight makes the ingredient stop working) and be sure to use SPF in the morning!

Once every few days

At night, sometimes I’ll use a sonic facial cleansing brush (like a Clarisonic, but a different brand) and a sonic face wash to give my face a deeper cleanse. I would never have tried a sonic brush if I hadn’t worked in beauty PR, but now I’m a believer. It’s like an electric toothbrush, but for your face.

I’ll also put on moisturizer every couple days, because even oily skin types need hydration! It’s easy to forget that when your skin gets too dry, it can overreact and start producing even more oil, causing more breakouts. I also have a lot of redness, so moisturizers help calm it the eff down.

Once a week:

I love face masks, and I try to treat myself to one every week. Depending on how dry the weather is and how oily my skin is feeling, I’ll switch up my routine with a mask and put on an episode of This Is Us. And try not to cry the mask off.

I also use sleep masks, which are ideal for dry times. You just put it on, go to bed, and let the mask do the work.

Once a month/Whenever I can afford it and I’m feeling rich:

Occasionally, I’ll get a professional facial! It honestly feels better than a massage. The Dermologica Skin Bar at Ulta Beauty is pretty awesome and inexpensive– you can even get the 10-minute facial for $10, if you’re like me and you’re short on both time and money! But really, it’s worth a splurge, because it’s your skin. And your skin deserves all the pampering you can give it!


There you have it…my skincare story! Have you overcome any skincare struggles? Let me know in your comments, and be sure to share your secrets to success!

XO,

CC

Caffeinated Travels: Planning a Last-Minute Road Trip to the Rockies

So you want to go on a road trip? Well, let me tell you, it isn’t as simple as it sounds…or so I thought. It’s super out-of-character for me to just up and leave for a weekend to a place I’ve never been, with no plan or budget to speak of. I’m normally a planner, an overthinker, a Type A to a T. I’m at my most comfortable when I’m armed with a strategy, weeks in advance, with everything going according to a plan.

My boyfriend has his own philosophy: Play everything by ear. No plan necessary.

This drives me absolutely nuts and probably causes 90% of our arguments, but at the same time, it’s the best thing for me, because he pulls me out of my fixed mindset and gives me the courage to do something spontaneous. And then it turns out to be easier than I thought.

Today, I’m sharing my own experience of going on a last-minute road trip, with some quick pointers at the end if you want to try it yourself!


Getting out of my comfort zone and into a 12-hour drive:

If I’m being honest, it was shockingly easy to just up and leave. Granted, I’m a college student right now, and it’s a lot more complicated to get away when you’re working a full-time job. Still, it was surprisingly doable. I told my professors and my supervisor at work that I needed to take a personal day off (we wanted to leave before the weekend started), and they completely understood.

Probably because I’m a stress case who is never, ever absent. Even when I’m sick. So. I’m guessing they were like, “Yes, please, for the love of God, give yourself that day off!”

Boyfriend and I got out some maps, figured out what was in driving distance, packed the car, and just…left. Just like that.

We had a few criteria when picking our destination:

  • It had to be an outdoor destination, so we looked for national parks
  • We wanted to go somewhere we’d never been
  • It couldn’t be expensive

We ultimately decided on Rocky Mountain National Park, a whopping 12 hours away.

I was freaked out.

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Figuring out what to do when we got there…

We knew nothing. Absolutely nothing. We went into the entire situation blind, except for the fact that Rocky Mountain National Park existed and it was open.

But that turned out to not be a problem. Once we got there, we stopped by the visitor station, and the ranger gave us recommendations for hikes to take.

And off we went.

Of course, hiking wasn’t my only goal. I couldn’t help stopping by the local coffee shops in Estes Park, the town at the park entrance.

But enough about me. It’s time to share what I learned, so you can take a last-minute road trip of your own!


So you want to go on a road trip…

When you decide on a last-minute getaway, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Use Priceline and/or similar websites to find the cheapest hotels.

We didn’t book hotels until we needed them. One day, when we were done hiking, we realized it was too cold to sleep in the car, so we Pricelined a Rodeway Inn that was five minutes from the park entrance. The deals you can find at the last minute are amazing. However, this also might depend on where you go and what season it is- we went during a less crowded time, so there was more hotel availability.

Find good podcasts to listen to.

A podcast will get you far. “Dirty John” got us all the way through Kansas. I’m normally skeptical about podcasts and audiobooks, since I have a horrible attention span when it comes to audio. I can’t sit still and just listen to something for an extended amount of time. But in a car, you’re sitting still anyways, so you might as well give it a try. And I was hooked.

Bring physical maps and trail guides.

Whether you travel to a city or a national park, you’ll need more than Google Maps. Partly because you don’t want your phone to die, and partly because Google Maps will not help you when you’re on a snowy mountain and you’re trying to stay on the path. Also, maps are fun. You feel like you’re exploring and getting somewhere instead of just checking an app to see how many more hours your drive will take.

Pack for every situation, but don’t overpack.

Bring layers, and make sure everything fits in a backpack and a duffel. Things like flannels, leggings, shorts, and more socks than you think you need because you’ll inevitably get lazy and not want to keep digging around to find a pair of socks. Colorado was weird because the Rockies were snowy and freezing, but then the city of Denver was a nice 65 degrees. I made the mistake of wearing my North Face jacket out to the clubs in downtown Denver on Halloween night…not my best fashion moment. Still had the best night, though.

Stop by a Wal-Mart for car snacks.

Car snacks are the best. THE BEST. And getting hangry on a road trip is no fun. Chowing down on trail mix and Cheez-its while binging episodes of Serial? Way fun. And speaking of fun…

Remember that the journey is the destination.

Half the fun should be the road trip, and this is a time to relax, reflect, and enjoy the moment you’re in.


Happy travels!

XO,

CC

Why the self-care trend shouldn’t be just a trend

We Millennials get a lot of smack for talking about “self-care” and its importance, while spending money on face masks, Netflix, yoga, crystals and candles that will promise to heal our souls. This NPR post recently described the Internet obsession with self-care, with increased Google searches in the past year.

I say, bravo. Because not only has the self-care trend increased the understanding of mental health, but it also gives us permission to take time for self awareness and happiness (not that we should even need it in the first place). In a world where we’re constantly under pressure to work our butts off while looking perfect on social media, we feel guilty for putting our lives on pause to watch TV at home and eat Chinese takeout, when it’s a super normal thing to do. We feel ashamed for doing something selfish, doing something that makes us happy. Why are we so upset over doing what makes us happy?! Since when is it a bad thing to do what we want?

Unfortunately, the flip side of a trend is that there are a lot of BS self-care tips and products out there, so it’s important to understand how to apply it to your life without getting duped into thinking a magical(ly expensive) body oil will do the trick. After lots of research, experimentation, and digging through my Instagram feed to figure out the difference between brands that actually care and products that have nothing to do with my well-being, I came up with my own version of no-BS self-care tips:

Self-care can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.

Practicing self-care doesn’t necessarily mean doing yoga every ten minutes and eating spinach for every meal. You don’t have to adopt a whole new lifestyle– but you can, if that’s what you need.

Try new things to see what works.

It might take some trial and error to understand what you benefit from. Going to a concert or getting drinks with a big group would definitely count as self-care if you’re extroverted and you need more of those times in your life. If you’re more on the introverted side, maybe you need to try spending an extra hour on yourself. If you’re active, a new fun workout class could be it. If you’re a workaholic like me and want a way to relax “productively,” watch Ted Talks or listen to podcasts.

Or maybe none of these help and what you really need are cupcakes. Point is, you won’t know until you try it. Good excuse to eat cupcakes.

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There’s a difference between indulging and over-indulging.

“Self-care” doesn’t equal “not doing my dishes.” Even if you think math problems are detrimental to your mental health, your algebra professor will probably not enjoy “I was practicing self-care!” as an explanation for “I didn’t do the homework assignment.” Self-care habits should be productive to your mindset, instead of an excuse for procrastinating on things you just don’t want to do. **ALSO: Self-care is not a replacement for seeking professional help if you need it!**

Don’t get marketed to.

Speaking as a PR professional, I totally get why brands are jumping on the health/wellness/self-care trend…if they’re relevant and could actually help someone. But I don’t believe in trying to make a buck off someone’s well-being if you’re just trying to get Instagram likes and not being truly beneficial. Think before buying the overpriced oil. Is it your thing? Does it fulfill a need? Does the brand seem like it actually cares? Don’t let self-care lose its meaning by buying into an ideal, as this article reminds us.

When it comes to spending money, though, don’t be afraid to spend a little on yourself.

Buy yourself flowers for once. Or Lollapalooza tickets, in my case.

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Make it personalized.

Don’t just take self-care tips at face value from BuzzFeed, or even this post. What might make some people happy might not work for others, and you need to try different things before you see what’s best for you. I personally have no use for “be one with nature” during allergy season, but “try yoga once a week” has actually worked wonders in clearing my mind and giving me positive energy. As dumb as that sounds.

Long story short: If you think crystals are New-Age nutso, ditch them for a face mask and call it a night. You do you.

That said…

What does your version of self-care look like?

Spill.

My version of self-care looks a little like this:

  • Go to as many concerts as financially possible
  • Find an excuse to get dressed up for something
  • Play video games and drink beer with my guy friends
  • Watch rom-coms and drink wine with my girl friends
  • Sit in a hot tub
  • Buy a coffee instead of making it at home (shocker)
  • Embrace my inner nerd and do homework on a Saturday without feeling like a loser, because getting homework done relieves my stress during the busy week
  • Grab Panda Express for dinner, because even though it isn’t the healthiest thing, it makes me a lot happier than it should. And that’s okay.
  • Put in 20 minutes on the yoga mat by watching a Yoga With Adrienne video
  • Catch up with someone I haven’t talked to in a while
  • Stop by an Ulta Beauty and buy a fun new lip gloss or highlighter
  • Use a minute to think about all the positives happening in my life, because it’s easy for me to get dragged down by small things
  • Take the world’s longest, hottest shower, and then wear a face mask while watching really terrible videos on YouTube

Honestly, sounds amazing right now. I think I’ll go get Panda Express, buy new mascara, and watch Sex and the City while wearing a face mask.

XO,

CC