I still have a few posts to catch up on from the end of last year – drafted but not quite finished – but this one on blemish busters is, I feel, very relevant. Mask-induced spots, or “maskne” as the marketing world coined it, seems to be an ongoing issue for some people, especially those who have to wear proper protective face gear for long periods of time.
I can’t imagine it’s the sort of widespread problem that some brands would like us to think it is – “OH MY GOD MASKNE IS TAKING OVER THE WORLD, BEWARE MASKNE!” – but I suppose that facial skin that is kept covered, possibly slightly hot and sweaty, for any lengthy part of the day is likely to rise up and revolt in the end. Even for those who just occasionally need to don a cloth mask, there’s a feeling of clammy clogginess to the mouth, nose and chin area once the fabric comes off. This might not result in breakouts – there might equally be some dryness or flakiness or, indeed, no apparent change at all – but if you do feel clammy and cloggy then the below may help.
So, three best beauty buys for helping with breakouts, all at different price-points. I actually have a few more bits and pieces to add to this post since I first drafted it (and filmed the accompanying video) last Autumn; you can see those at the bottom of the post. In general, salicylic acid is a good ingredient to look out for if you feel as though you need a good cleaning-out of the pores, just go steady if you find that your skin is on the dry side and follow up with a decent moisturiser. If you’re scared of adding oil to the problem then I really rate the oil-free Toleriane Fluid (here*), it has been a staple in my beauty line-up for many years.
Right, here are the first three of my best buys:
Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, from £10 online here*: I’ve done a more in-depth review of this here but in a nutshell, this is a wipe-on-and-leave exfoliant that is brilliant at keeping pores clear without feeling harsh or aggressive. I use it once a day (in the morning, usually) during my PMT week to help curb any breakouts and I never feel that it dries my skin, but there are different versions and formats here* if you’re worried and want to check out alternatives from the same range.
The Ordinary Salicylic 2% Masque, £9 here* (stock coming shortly, it’s always selling out!): this is a brilliant deep-treatment mask that works quickly and effectively to cleanse and purify but isn’t eye-wateringly tingly. You know the masks that make you feel as though your face is on fire? It’s not one of those. You may feel a bit of a warm tickle but it’s nothing like some of those power-player “active” clay masks I’ve tested over the last few years. You need a fan pointed at your face to get through the whole ten minutes!
Not with this one, no fan/cold compress required. I use it as an occasional PMT-week treat when things seem to be getting a bit angsty (salicylic can be quite soothing, despite its spot-busting status) but you could use it once or twice a week if you are oily or spot-prone.
Here’s one for more a more targeted, on-the-spot solution: Kate Somerville EradiKate, £52 online here*. I’ve tried a lot of spot treatments but this works for me quickly and without any major side effects – no flaking or peeling where I’ve been applying and reapplying. Probably because this has actually been formulated as an all-over lotion and not a targeted treatment, so it’s far more forgiving, but it’s so pokey that I can’t bring myself to use it all over!
At any rate, I tend to get very localised breakouts and not very often so it would be utter madness to cover my whole face in this. Anyway, it’s salicylic plus retinol in a lightweight cream – if you’ve previously tried the proper Kate Somerville EradiKate, with the pink lotion you dip into, this is nothing like that.
If you do want something for all over the face but not so spendy then I still think that the Effaclar Duo+ from La Roche-Posay is excellent (it’s here* online, £17) and they’ve recently introduced a new serum (here*) that promises a more concentrated formula combining salicylic with LHA and glycolic acid. I haven’t had the opportunity to test this out properly yet so please let me know in the comments if you have tried it and what you thought!
I’m going to also add the Active Clay Cleanser from Dermalogica (£35 here*) onto my blemish-busting list because it’s a low-key version of the Salicylic Masque mentioned above. I used this every day for about a month and my skin didn’t ever feel tight or dried out, just really very clean. I’d leave it on for a minute or two, because it just felt as though I should, and it’s now most definitely a cleanser I like to have lined up along the side of my bath for my nightly ablutions.
There’s a video to go alongside this post, it’s in the IGTV section of my Instagram page and you can reach it via this link. Enjoy!
As I write this, I am officially in PMT Skin Week, which is the one week in each and every month that my skin is in danger of going completely haywire. If anything is going to go wrong with my skin then it goes wrong now. Angry, bumpy jawline, weird forehead dryness, little sore patches around my eyes, an oil slick down the centre of my face – you name it, it’s on the list of potential problems.
There are a few different things that I tweak in my skincare routine during PMT week, including upping my cleansing game (a thorough balm cleanse night and morning, if I can bear it) and choosing slightly lighter day creams, but the key change (and arguably the most important one) is the addition of a BHA exfoliant.
A beta hydroxy acid exfoliant (salicylic acid) has the power to unclog, clarify and pore-refine but at the same time it’s calming and soothing and helps to reduce that horrible angry redness that often appears along with your hormonal spots.
So if your skin is angsty, bumpy and sore but also feels highly sensitive (quite literally a representation of your entire physical state when you have PMT, come to think of it!) then a BHA liquid is what you need. Swipe it on and leave, it’s a quick and simple step that’ll make a huge difference, especially if you usually just try and “ride it out” when it comes to your PMT skin.
My most frequent BHA-of-choice is Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid. I’ve written a full review post on this brilliant skin-clearing liquid here, but to recap, it’s a wipe-on-and-leave BHA exfoliant that will soothe as it effectively cleans out your pores. Blackheads, pustules, acne bumps, all will benefit from a swipe-over with this salicylic acid toner.
You apply the Skin Perfecting Liquid after cleansing and before serum/moisturiser – just pat on with fingertips or wipe with cotton wool and then leave. Here are four great little product combos that I use when I have PMT and my skin is on the spot-prone-but-sensitive side. The product list isn’t exhaustive – I could go on all day with good suggestions! – but they give you a good idea of what I’m looking for in a PMT skincare routine. A thorough cleanse that doesn’t leave skin stripped or tight, a BHA exfoliant and then a light-but-powerful moisturiser.
Sensitive Oily Skin Routine
Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, £25 here* – to remove all makeup, including eye, and thoroughly cleanse skin without stripping it.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid – to exfoliate and clear out pores without irritation.
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Fluide, £14 here* – to moisturise and soothe without leaving a greasy residue.
Dry, Angsty PMT Skin Routine
Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, £25 here* – as before, to remove all makeup, including eye, and thoroughly cleanse skin without stripping it.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, from £10 here* – as before, to exfoliate and clear out pores without irritation.
Murad City Skin Overnight Detox Moisturiser, £70 here* – to effectively brighten and intensely moisturise overnight.
Oily Dehydrated Skin Routine
Dr Sam’s Flawless Cleanser, £16 here* – a lightweight gel but a thorough cleansing option.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, from £10 here* – to exfoliate and clear out pores without irritation.
Indeed Labs Hydraluron Intense Moisture Lotion (full review here) – to hydrate without any heaviness or grease.
Spot-Prone SPF Routine
Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, £25 here* – as before, you know the drill!
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, from £10 here*.
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydrating Serum, £28 here* – ultra-lightweight hydration to slip on before…
Sun Project Light Sun Essence SPF50, £21 here* – barely detectable and feels beautiful on the skin.
As I said before, I could swap in hundreds of different products here – maybe every time I do a skincare product review I should show how it fits into a routine, like the above? Let me know if that would be helpful!
You can find Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid online at Amazon* (£12 for 30ml here), Lookfantastic (from £10 for 30ml here*) and Cult Beauty here*. It’s unbelievably great on teen skin as well as PMT skin and an easy daily add-on to your routine if you suffer with adult acne.
Whilst we’re on the subject of PMT: since having babies I now get pre-menstrual symptoms of absolutely epic proportions. I mean I’m almost dangerous in terms of mood and I feel drastically, genuinely quite ill. No cramps at all, ever, which used to be crippling pre-kids, so it’s a swings and roundabouts kind of situation but boy the moods. Do we need a separate post on this?