Thursday, 5 July 2007

#38 Spot the Difference

Your best friend will say things like, 'It's just a spot. I can't even see it. I promise you, if you hadn't pointed it out, I would never have noticed it.' So, how can it be the only thing that you are thinking about? You're supposed to be working and you're really torturing yourself with dark thoughts, such as, oh my god, I think it's growing. I can feel it. It's probably pulsating like a police siren. Why, why, why did I have to get a spot now - of all times - when I'm supposed to be photographed/go on a date/get married?!

I hear you. I've read your emails and sat, nodding, through most of them - those of you who have acne, those who simply suffer from the single beacon that pops up before the period and others who manage clear complexions for months at a time, only to be thwarted at the single most inopportune moment and retreat to their bedrooms for the rest of the week.

It's getting us down. It's enough to wreck our week. Serious enough to turn us from head-held-high-flyers into pavement-scanning lost souls. But, if there's one thing I've learnt about spots, it's that the less you worry about them, the better the situation gets. I get the odd rager on my forehead - almost always before my period - and have been reduced to tears in the past. The thing is, worrying, tapping, prodding, testing and attempting to squeeze these rude awakenings into oblivion is always the worst possible course of action. I've turned a tiny pinprick into a colossus in the past - simply because I could not bloody leave it alone.

I've learnt from my mistakes. I also decided, several months ago, to roadtest a few new skincare regimes in order to find one that nourished and calmed my changeable complexion. I was using spot-specific lines, having incorrectly surmised that, well, I get spots, so that's the main concern. An excellent Guinot facialist set me straight. My skin was not excessively oily - to the contrary - I had in fact been using products all over my face that my dry (and occassionally combination) skin was reacting badly to. I had tried Dr. Sebagh Breakout Foaming Cleanser - way too strong for me. Within three days, my skin was puckering from dryness as I just wasn't 'oily' enough to warrant the switch. I also used Bliss Steep Clean Cleansing Milk and Fabulous Foaming Face Wash. I liked them both - up to a point. After a couple of weeks, during which time I continued to get the odd spot - my skin became increasingly sensitive, as both formulas contain exfoliants (the former chemical, the latter mechanical) and I think a twice-a-day slough was, once again, too harsh a regime for my skin to take. The other odd thing was that, despite using an exfoliating cleanser twice a day, my skin didn't feel particularly smooth. In fact, I still felt that urge to exfoliate - with another product - at least twice a week in order to get a clear, smooth surface. I knew then, that nothing was working. I was dry, sometimes oily, occassionally spotty and my skin hadn't looked 'luminous' in weeks. So I went cold turkey. I cleared out the cabinet and started from scratch.

I felt, instinctively, as though my skin needed a break. As though it needed consistency. I knew it was time to stop chopping and changing the various components in my routine. So, I made the move to Liz Earle. I started using her famous Cleanse + Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser, followed with a dose of her Skin Repair Moisturiser for normal skin. Nothing else. I didn't even use the Instant Boost Skin Tonic at first, so determined was I to get back to basics. That first week my forehead and chin broke out with a vengeance. Angry, red, raised spots. I almost chucked the stuff into the bin. But I persevered - namely because the nourishing ingredients and essential oil-rich formulas began to make my skin feel far more comfortable. I'd been dodging oil for so long - convinced that it was the source of all my pimple problems - using oil-free moisturiser, cleanser and foundation, that nothing prepared me for my skin's eventual reaction. The first couple of days, yes, I looked a bit shiny. But then, things started to settle down. My dry hide drank up the cream and settled to calmness beneath the nourishing veil of cleanser I applied each morning and night. It felt good. I could cleanse and leave my skin for minutes before applying moisturiser - it wouldn't feel dry or irritated. As I'd assumed, the switch back to oil-containing, skin-hydrating formulas has made my skin settle. At present, I have one tiny spot - a pre-period one - on my forehead that didn't give me any bother at all. I have an action plan in place, of course, to deal with future twinges - here it is:

1. If I feel a painful throb beneath the skin's surface I roll on Liz Earle Spot On

2. If, by the next day, the throb has turned into a 'bump', I squeeze a thin layer of Dermalogica Medicated Clearing Gel onto it and leave overnight. This vacuums out any pore-clogs and reduces the life of the spot by a couple of days. It's also exfoliating - so if you're a resolute squeezer - it will help you pop the pimple with minimal effort.

3. I also keep Remede's Double Oxygenating Booster on standby. I've had some good results. Sometimes a dab of this has managed to stop a bump developing into a spot - but sometimes it hasn't. It's not the miracle cure it is marketed as, but as far as reducing the life of a spot goes, it's one of the best.

So there it is. Simple. Basic skincare routine. A spot-zapping strategy... oh, and lest I forget, a new gym regime that has taken my stress levels from sky-high to pelvic-floor low. Yes, my name is Miss Malcontent and I'm a gymgoer. I know, yaawwwwn. But, it's helping. Eyes brighter, skin clearer - all that feel-good malarkey. Simple, yes, but in this case, spot on.

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