How I Fixed My Horrible Skin After 20 Years Of Tanning + Acne

Tanning, harsh chemicals, toxic beauty products, and Accutane all led me to a horrendous cycle of inflammation, hyperpigmentation and never ending acne. For about 20 years, I was apparently conducting a little experiment of what happens if you act like a complete idiot and do every. solitary. thing. wrong to your skin. I don’t recall signing up for this, and I CERTAINLY don’t recall getting cash compensation for being a part of this study.

{The left photo was taken IN BETWEEN breakouts last year — just because I wanted you to see the hyperpigmentation issue I was dealing with. In the past year, my acne issues have also finally resolved.

SO THERE IS HOPE FOR YOU, EVEN IF YOU WERE AN IDIOT TOO!

BASICALLY, I WAS SET UP FOR FAILURE

my shining example of skincare

my shining example of skincare

It alllll started with my mom. Never once do I remember even HEARING about SPF — considering she used to slather herself in Crisco and bake herself on sheets of aluminum foil, she wasn’t exactly a poster child for sunscreen.

On top of that, my mom still uses BAR SOAP to clean her face. She sleeps in her makeup half the time, and has never once applied a “product" of any sort. So this is the kind of beauty barnyard in which I was raised, k?

ACNE, TANNING, AND OTHER UNFORTUNATE EVENTS

Flash forward to my teens and I started getting REAL bad skin. I started tanning to fix it… which unfortunately worked so I kept it up for oh, about FIFTEEN YEARS.

First, WHY?? second, who are these girls?

First, WHY?? second, who are these girls?

In my early 20s, my skin got to a horrendous breaking point. I would show you a picture but I have destroyed all evidence of this time period. I had tried retin-A, oral meds, all the benzole peroxides and salicylics. Finally went on Accutane. BIGGEST REGRET OF MY LIFE. My mom really had a bad feeling about it, but signed off because I was so desperate and they didn’t warn us of any side effects except suicidal thoughts.

While I was on Accutane, we went on a family cruise and I got burnt to a crisp (you are strictly prohibited from being in the sun on Accutane since your skin completely peels off daily). LORD HELP MY STUPIDITY.

A year after Accutane, my skin got continually worse and that was the case right up until the summer of 2018. Even after changing my diet (eliminating dairy, gluten, soy, etc) and making tons of lifestyle changes, my skin didn’t budge.

A SKIN CARE REVELATION

It all started to change when I was invited to have a holistic facial at Reishi in Chicago. The information I was given was unlike anything I had heard and a complete 180 from what I was doing.


My esthetician was from Europe (where they are just so much more smart about skin) had studied with Marie Veronique, sort of a pioneer of holistic skincare who I had never heard of.

From her site: “Marie-Veronique Nadeau is a chemist who founded Marie Veronique in 2002. An inventor at heart who suffered from teenage acne, she was moved to create her own products when she could find nothing on the market that was clean and effective to address her rosacea.”

Listen to this podcast and I promise you’ll fall in love with her.

She explained that I had a compromised skin barrier, likely due to all the harsh acne products I’d used over the years and sun abuse. I was using too many ACTIVES (acids, vitamin c, retinol, salicylic, etc) and nothing to repair the torn down skin. This led to my skin being angry— inflammation and acne. And when the barrier is compromised, so is the skin microbiome.

Huh? Never had anyone talked to me about a skin barrier or microbiome in all my dermatologist and facial appointments.

She also said that I had elevated Testosterone (which proved to be true via my hormone testing) which was likely due to elevated ESTROGEN, and the body trying to compensate. This causes jawline/neck acne. I needed to address that as well.

She gave me an entire email of recommendations, along with products and a regiment. She mainly wanted me to:

  • remove actives and AHA acids (like glycolic/lactic) and replace with more gentle options and do them only 1x/week until skin barrier is fixed

  • stop using scrubs

  • add a probiotic lotion/mist to rebalance microbiome

  • use a facial oil to rebalance skin barrier

  • use a gentle vitamin A product (she says you have to WORK UP to retin-A over the course of years)

I took this when I wasn’t breaking out, so you could clearly see how bad the hyper pigmentation was

I took this when I wasn’t breaking out, so you could clearly see how bad the hyper pigmentation was

HOW I FIXED 20 YEARS OF TANNING DAMAGE, HYPERPIGMENTATION, AND ACNE SCARRING

Of course, I started doing alot of my own research and developed a whole new skincare routine. I also booked a dermatologist consultation to see what options I had to help with my scarring and hyper pigmentation. My sunspots were SO BAD, I practically had an entire black outline around my cheek and when I got tan it was unreal.

I located a great dermatologist and had a consultation on my options for tackling my sun spots/acne scarring. The options were IPL (laser), micro needling, or dermal infusion. Laser is the least abrasive, but the most expensive. I wanted micro needling, but she suggested with start with something less abrasive, given my sensitive skin. This is also the cheapest option at $150/tx (they often have bundles too).

DERMAL INFUSION OR HYDRO FACIALS

I did 5 dermal infusion (silk peel) treatments, each spaced a month a part (check my “skin” highlight on Instagram for more deets).

WHAT IT DOES: It’s 3-fold. Using a diamond grit, it exfoliates your skin, while a vaccuum simultaneously sucks out years of grime from your pores and at the same time infuses serums deep into the skin. DOES NOT HURT. Looking back, I think this was the best option because it really cleaned out my congested pores.

DOWN TIME: Zero. You are red immediately after, then it dissipates. There’s a possibility it could cause a breakout if you’re prone to cystic acne. I experienced one, huge zit the first treatment, and no reaction thereafter. So we started on a low setting, and gradually increased each time.

RESULTS: It helped me greatly in brightening hyperpigmentation, and clearing out blackheads and pores. DURING these treatments, I made sure to stay out of the sun, and protect my skin barrier by using the Barrier Lipid Complex I talk about below.

HYDRO FACIALS FOR VERY SENSITIVE SKIN: if you have lots of inflammation, rosacea, or other condition, try a HYDRO-FACIAL. It basically does the same thing in regards to vacuuming out the debris, oil, and blackheads without the dermabrasion! So it is much more gentle and they also infuse serums deep into the skin after doing a mild exfoliation so you are super hydrated. *These are often on groupon - and there’s no issue doing that because it’s the same machine no matter where you go!

UPDATE: 6 months after the dermal infusion treatments, I finally did micro needling — it was AMAZING and my favorite treatment thus far. (see my “microneedling” highlight on Instagram) You can repeat these treatments monthly to smooth out deeper acne scarring!

One of my first tx. you can see my skin was still breaking out near my jaw.

One of my first tx. you can see my skin was still breaking out near my jaw.


MY NATURAL SKINCARE ROUTINE

I took all the info from my holistic facial and did some of my own research too. I bought some of her recommendations, and found cheaper options for the rest. What I did was incorporate ONE new thing at a time, and slowly transition my whole routine. DON’T CHANGE EVERYTHING OVER NIGHT.

Immediately upon implementing the changes she recommended, I started noticing a difference.

Note: I have a “skincare” highlight on Instagram where I go through my morning and nighttime routine.


DOUBLE CLEANSING.

{Before starting any cleansing routing, I remove eye makeup (if wearing). I don’t like using oil for this because it gives me cloudy vision. I absolutely LOVE this Earth Science eye makeup remover gel}.

I picked up the double cleansing tip from the Korean beauty world. I’ve ALWAYS been against oil cleansing as someone with oily skin/acne. BUT HERE’S THE DEAL: it’s chemistry.

Oil and water repel each other. Like dissolves like. So if you have oils in your skin and in your makeup, and you put a water based cleanser on there, it’s not absorbing it. But OIL DOES.

But you’re still cleansing afterward, so you won’t have gross oil all over your skin, k?

I use Jojoba oil, it’s as cheap as can be and great for acne. I rub it all over my face (in the AM and PM at night with makeup), then take a hot rag and lift off all the makeup. Your skin will feel amazing.

The second reason for using jojoba oil is that you can provide slip as you do facial massage or use a gua sha stone. (see my IG highlight “Gua Sha” on how to use) DO NOT SKIP FACIAL MASSAGE. Stagnant circulation leads to acne— massage gets the lymph draining, speeds healing, stimulates collagen, and reduces inflammation.

THEN you follow it up with actual cleansing. My favorite cleaners (if you have limited funds, do NOT spend your money on cleanser, spend it on serums/oils):


TONERS.

A HUGE part of preventing acne and wrinkles is making sure ALL YOUR MAKEUP IS OFF. Even after double cleansing, you will find some still lingering.

I chose this toner because BHA exfoliant is preferred for normal to oily skin prone to bumps, clogs, blemishes, and enlarged pores. It is less abrasive than AHA (glycolic/lactic) and BHA also has natural skin-calming properties, so it’s gentle enough for sensitive skin.

SERUMS.

DAYTIME. Choose either the B3 or Clarifying serum, and get the Vitamin C. Use in AM unless wearing makeup, then apply at night.

  • B3. For ALL skin issues involving inflammation or redness is the Marie Veronique Soothing B3, check out my full review here. It soothes the skin and contains 10% niacinamide which combats breakouts (I used to be given niacinamide oral pills for acne). WORTH EVERY PENNY.

  • I love Erin’s Faces Clarifying Serum even more than the MV B3 serum and it’s cheaper — many of the same ingredients (including B3) and aimed toward acne/oil skin. It soothes while it treats and totally disappears into the skin.

  • VITAMIN C. This is another daytime serum. The Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum it is SO LIGHTWEIGHT. Absorbs right in and works under makeup. I like this one because it has Ferulic acid, which enhances and extends the effectiveness of C. Also contains Hyaluronic acid, which is great for hydration and plumping. Also, proper Vitamin C is necessary for Vitamin A to work!

NIGHTTIME. Choose either Vitamin A or Retinol.

  • VITAMIN A. For further reduction of wrinkles and discoloration, I use the Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum (start with just a few nights/wk) and night. Retinol requires 2 metabolic steps, whereas HPR, a new form of vitamin A in this serum, is bioavailable in its current state.

    It also contains phytoceramide to help retain moisture and plump skin, sodium hyaluronate (the salt of hyaluronic acid) which has better capability to penetrate the skin that just hyaluronic alone. Also contains oat beta gluten and aloe vera — this DID NOT EVER cause any redness, peeling, or irritation like retinol products I’ve used before.

  • RETINOL. A great alternative to the Mad Hippie Vitamin A would be the Marie Veronique Gentle Retinol Serum (no irritation at all with this) and it leaves your skin feeling incredible. You wouldn’t use BOTH products.

  • Marie Veronique also makes a serum specifically designed to lighten hyperpigmentation and acne scarring called Lightening Serum.

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OILS.

If you’re going to spend your money somewhere, make it here. This is the most important part of this conversation. Do not be scared if you have oily skin or whatever— the RIGHT oils are needed to rebalance you. You might get a few bumps when starting out as the oils penetrate so deeply, but it’ll resolve.

NOTE: I do NOT use a half dropper as the bottles suggest, I use maybe 4-5 drops for my whole face. A bottle lasts me 6 months. {SIGN UP for the Marie Veronique newsletter and get 12% off!} She also has starter kits for all of her lines now with travel sizes!

OILS ARE YOUR LAST STEP in any skincare regime as nothing can penetrate below an oil! Choose the best fit for you below — I recommend using the MV skin barrier complex for 6 months to correct any damage.

  • Marie Veronique Skin Barrier Lipid Complex is ESSENTIAL to fixing your skin. Why? Because using actives (vitamin C + A, BHA/AHA acids, etc) exfoliate, tear down, and expose your skin. But what are you doing to rebuild it and protect your skin barrier? A broken barrier will lead to worse damage and angry, inflamed skin and leave you exposed to MORE damage.

  • For SUPER dry or inflamed skin —take it a step further for healing and check out the Marie Veronique Intensive Repair Serum as well.

  • If your skin is really CONGESTED or you suffer from hormonal acne, I recommend starting with the Marie Veronique Treatment Serum and Oil. It is designed to break down excess sebum and rebalance the skin while calming inflammation. I use the tx serum just on trouble areas to keep them clear! She even has a starter kit for her entire treatment line, which also includes the oil cleanser!

  • The Acure Cold Pressed Marula Oil is full of omega fatty acids and proteins that plump up the skin barrier. It’s SUPER lightweight and is perfect for over night. So affordable at $13.

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MASKS + ACIDS.

I rotate various clay masks 1-2x per week. PLEASE REMEMBER: acids increase your sensitivity to the sun!! Only use gentle ones like lactic during the summer months and use SUNSCREEN! Glycolics are stronger and better for the winter!

Once a week I do either the First Aid Beauty Radiance Boost pads or the Mad Hippie Exfoliating Serum. Yes, only once a week, especially when you are trying to calm and repair skin.

The Reviva Labs 10% Glycolic Acid night cream is great (just be careful in the summer) as it is a major exfoliant, but will leave your skin looking baby smooth!

Yonka Gommage 303 is a great gel gentle exfoliant as recommended in my facial!

I use the Lerosett by Gunila of Sweden mask (only minerals and water) which can also be used as a spot treatment to shrink zits over night. AH-MAZING. It’s too drying for an all over mask, however.

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SUNBLOCK: PREVENTING FUTURE DAMAGE WITHOUT CAUSING MORE DAMAGE.

You do not want physical sunscreen. Even the FDA is now admitting these are full of nasty chemicals and the only two safe ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

Marie Veronique Protective Day Oil is a lightweight oil I wore all summer during the day. It prevents wrinkles by blocking UV- induced enzymes that destroy collagen. Spectra tests on PROTECTIVE DAY OIL show high levels of UV protection in the long wavelength, UVA range. Also, it smells amazing without having any fragrance! Vitamin C serum also extends and increases the effects of your sunscreen.

Erin’s Faces Peptide UVA/UVB SPF 30 with a Think Dirty rating of 1, this multi purpose sunscreen will also help prevent aging with Matrixyl 3000.

Erin’s Faces Mineral SPF 32 for Body can even be used on kids — fragrance, gluten, dye, paraben, and crap free!


OTHER TIPS FOR PREVENTING ACNE:

Some people will tell you acne is ALL diet or ALL skincare. In my 20 years of dealing with it and trying literally everything, I will tell you it’s MULTI-FACETED.

Here are some additional things that make a huge difference:

  • Obviously removing allergens like gluten, soy, and dairy. Dairy is the most important as it adds extra estrogens which cause things to grow. Refined sugar is also the enemy— it burdens the liver and leads to toxic buildup.

  • AVOID flax/ sesame seeds. They also have an estrogenic effect on the body and can cause hormonal acne to be ten times worse. I did my own experiment and I broke out on every square inch of my neck/jaw when I ate some flax for a month. I have heard similar results from others.

  • Eat 1 raw carrot/day per the research of Ray Peat — it contains a certain type of fiber that binds to excess estrogens and removes them from the body.

  • Change your pillowcase every other night. Sleep on it once, then rotate it the next night, then get a new one. I just buy a bunch so I don’t have to wash them constantly — I’m not about that life!

  • Only use FREE + CLEAR detergent and dryer balls. You don’t need to be breathing in those endocrine disruptors OR sleeping on a bunch of chemicals/fragrance!

  • Start using non-toxic makeup if you haven’t yet. I wrote about that here. Start with foundation! I have other beauty products listed on my shop page.

  • Beware of dimethicone — it’s purpose is to make your skin feel and look smooth by filling in your pores (and essentially clogging them).

  • Check your skincare and makeup for these acne causing ingredients.

  • Be sure you are taking a high potency b-complex (especially pantothenic acid). Also, zinc is extremely important.

  • Try taking DIM: it aids in the reduction of “bad" estrogens that can contribute to estrogen dominance and acne. This is the one I like. Be sure to take with a meal and lots of water to prevent detox symptoms (you might experience alot the first 1-2 weeks).

    Leave any tips you might have for others below!! Trust me, you CAN FIX your skin. If anyone understands what you’re going through, it’s me.

    XOXO, Brit

Wondering who's the mysterious wordy genius behind these posts? Follow this little rabbit trail to read more About Me! The use of the term genius is open to interpretation.