Tips and Tricks for Clear Skin

Take a walk through the skincare aisle at your local pharmacy, and you’ll see it….the war on acne is big business.  You can try cleansers, scrubs, masks, toners, 3 part skincare systems, and expensive tools.  Unfortunately, none of these is a sure bet when it comes to getting clear skin.

Some people may think that getting upset over acne is silly.  I mean, it’s just pimples and you’ll outgrow it, right?  Clearly these folks have never suffered chronic acne or they’d know that it is a big deal.  I am not talking about a pimple here and there.  I’m talking about struggling with acne EVERY day.  When you have this problem, it can feel like the world sees your acne instead of YOU.  And usually, no over the counter remedy helps.  Acne is a devious little bitch.


I was blessed.  I sailed through my teen years without more than an occasional zit.  I never understood why people got so upset or worried about their skin.  And then I hit my twenties, and my skin went haywire.  Overnight my skin became a red, rashy mess.  It had the texture of sandpaper, and you could see your reflection in my forehead.  I felt powerless when NOTHING I did helped.  I was mortified when one of my professors offered the unsolicited advice that I try tea tree soap for my skin in front of my classmates.

I know some had it much worse than I did.  My acne was probably moderate rather than severe, but it was consistent, and it is not an exaggeration to say that I tried EVERYTHING.  The only thing that got it remotely under control was a prescription from a dermatologist. Even that was not a 100% solution.

Today, my skin has done a full 180.  I no longer take prescription meds, and I don’t incorporate any anti-acne products into my regimen.  I still get some breakouts, but nothing like before.  I also still worry about the constant breakouts returning because I haven’t forgotten how powerless acne can make you feel.  I’m not sure whether I’ve just outgrown my adult acne or if it has improved because I’m super vigilent about skincare.

Before (and this was the “improved” version when I was on prescription meds):

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Now:

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The point of telling you all of this is that there are some things that I believe make a huge difference.  I’m not going to talk about any products to fight acne because, honestly, I’m not convinced any really work.  I’m also not claiming that following these tips will clear up your chronic acne, but I think these habits help maintain clear skin.  If you’re suffering from serious acne and it’s causing you a significant amount of stress or social anxiety, I’d encourage you to see a professional.  If you’re just looking for some easy (and free!) ways to improve and/or maintain your skin, try these.

1. Consistency is Key – Once you find a skincare regimen that works for you, STICK WITH IT! Don’t try a new product every other day or you’ll never be able to tell what’s working and what’s causing a reaction. Wash your face every night (no excuses).  Oh…and forget about all of the “acne” products for adult acne. A lot of that stuff targeted to teens is just going to irritate your skin and make things worse.  Keep it simple (and consistent!).

2. Watch Out for Stealth Acne Promoters – There are so many things that can cause a flare up that you might not even notice.  Watch how often you touch your face, and don’t even think about popping that zit!  Wash your sheets and pillowcases regularly. Try to limit the amount of hair products that you use.  All of these things deposit bacteria, dirt, and pore-clogging crap on your face. Try to minimize it whenever possible.

3. Evaluate Your Diet – Whenever I’m eating crap, I definitely notice its effects on my skin.  Try to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables while limiting processed and sugary foods.  Another dietary change that I think has made a real difference is cutting back on dairy.  This helps a lot of people because they aren’t exposed to all of the hormones found in most dairy products.

4. Stop Putting So Much Stuff on Your Face – I know, I know. When you’ve got breakouts, you really want to cover them.  But burying yourself in layers of foundation and concealer isn’t doing you any favors. It might work in the short term, but all of that make up is probably making your skin worse in the long run.  Try to limit the makeup you wear on your face to the bare minimum, and remember that you’re beautiful with or without breakouts.

5. Stress Less – I know that right now you’re probably thinking (cue sarcastic tone) “Gee, Lauren. That’s a great idea! And so easy! I’ll do that right now!”  I know that it’s really easy to say “stress less,” but it’s super hard to do.  Find a way to do it anyway.  Whether it’s exercising, meditating, or having sex, do something that takes your mind off everything that’s bothering you.  I bet you’ll see improvement in your skin.  And even if you don’t, at least your doing something good for your body or getting laid.  Either way, you win.

Lime-Thyme Butter

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At my house, nothing signals the beginning of summer more than a feast of blue crab and boiled corn on the cobb.  It always reminds me of lazy days at the beach, and today I was lucky enough to capture a bit of that magic in my own backyard.

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Now, you might think that fresh summer corn with melted butter couldn’t be improved upon, but you would be wrong.  This easy receipe for Lime-Thyme Butter requires only three ingredients, but really gives your cookout a little something extra.

Ingredients:

  • Desired Amount of Butter, Softened (I used half a stick for this post)
  • Small Bunch of Fresh Thyme to Taste
  • Lime Juice to Taste

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For this recipe, you just mix the lime juice and thyme into the butter and enjoy.  It’s best if you make it ahead of time and let the flavors blend together for an hour or so before serving, but it’s still delicious right away.  You could also go crazy with this concept and try other combos (honey-lavender butter, perhaps?).

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Seriously…..how great is summer?

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Simple Pleasures

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Sometimes it can be easy to forget how good we have it.  We encounter so many messages each day that tell us to pursue more, to acquire more, to BE more.  It’s healthy to want to succeed, but sometimes it can feel like the world is telling us to pursue empty promises in the name of …..what exactly?  It’s so easy to feel like we’re not good enough when we’re constantly comparing ourselves to each other on Facebook, looking at picture-perfect vegan pies on blogs, or even just feeling slightly less accomplished because we only speak one language.

The problem is that even if you tell yourself that you’re not going to buy into this stupid game, there are so many ways to feel like a failure.  We receive so many messages about other people’s “perfect” lives through social networking sites, magazines, and other forms of media these days.  And the truth is that our own lives are usually far from perfect.

Whenever I find myself falling down that rabbit hole, I try to remember all of the beautiful things that I get to experience in the world.  Sure…my house is a total mess right now, my dog is completely neurotic, and I may have gained a couple of pounds, but I’m fortunate enough to have everything that I need.  I have family and friends that love me, the ability to walk, and the good fortune to live in a place and time that allows me to enjoy simple pleasures in comfort.

Think about it.  Who needs Louboutins when you have these?

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What reminds you of all the good things in your life?

Things My Mother Taught Me

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Happy Mother’s Day to all of you with sons, daughters, and fur babies!  I hope that you’ve had an awesome day.  You totally deserve it, you rockstars.  In honor of today, I wanted to do something a bit different and give a shout out to my own mom.  Somehow she managed to impart some pearls of wisdom throughout the years filled with laughs, tears, arguments, and my bad teen fashion choices.  Let’s take this day to celebrate all of the things our moms taught us.

1) Wear Sunscreen – Seriously.  Unless you’re a purse, the crocodile look is never in style.  I tell myself that this piece of advice is why I still get carded frequently.

2) Trust No One – Ok. I might actually take this one a bit far sometimes since I’m paranoid, but I’ve managed to avoid a lot of bad stuff by being aloof and neurotic.

3) But Be Kind To Everyone – I can honestly say that I don’t ever remember my mom making a single sexist, racist, or ageist comment.  She never put down others for being overweight.  She always treats the elderly with respect.  She regularly engages in random acts of kindness for strangers. Basically, my mom taught me that it isn’t cool to be a dick.

4) Treat Yourself the Way You Want to be Treated – In all honesty, I was a pretty spoiled kid.  I probably got way more than I needed, but the good thing about this is that I don’t feel guilty for treating myself.  So many women don’t take care of themselves because they think it’s selfish or they’re waiting for someone else to do it.  Just buy yourself the damn flowers already, ok? You’re worth it.

5) Protect Yourself – This is an important one. Whether it’s learning how to use a gun, practicing safe sex, or telling an overly touchy date “that makes me very uncomfortable,” don’t be afraid to speak up or do the things that you need to do in order to feel safe.

6) The Joy of Cooking is a Wealth of Knowledge – My mom is an awesome cook.  This is NOT a trait that she passed along to me.  Luckily, she did teach me that the next time I forget how to boil water, I can consult The Joy of Cooking.

7) A Good Book is a Girl’s Best Friend – Of all of my childhood hobbies, my love of reading was the one my mom indugled most often.  She took great pride in the fact that both of her children were bookworms, and she always encouraged our love of good books.  I learned early on that I would rather curl up with a great story than go to the hottest party, and I’ve never regretted time spent reading.  I have since regretted many times spent partying.

8) Save for a Rainy Day – I’m lucky to have parents who modeled good money habits.  Although I probably splurge more than necessary, I also recognize the fact that shit happens.  Seriously, people.  Start contributing to your company’s 401(K).  Save a small amount from each paycheck.  Start today.

9) How to Spot Belleek Pottery and Appreciate Antiques – My parents used to sell antiques and dragged me to countless auctions, shops, and dumpster diving trips (don’t judge…you can find awesome stuff on the side of the road).  My point is, I credit my mom with teaching me to love vintage clothes, to know that I’m not a fan of Belleek, and to recognize that some really ugly things can be made beautiful with a little creativity and elbow grease.

10) “Always Be a First-Rate Version of Yourself Instead of a Second-Rate Version of Someone Else” – I think Judy Garland said it best.  My mom always taught me to be myself, even if no one else really “got it.”  I’m sure that she was embarrassed of her kids’ wacky ways more often than not, but she never let on that she was.  Instead, she told me I looked pretty in my wannabe Courtney Love kinderwhore dresses and danced with my brother to songs from Fiddler on the Roof.  My brother and I were always encouraged to be open-minded and curious.  We were taught to stand up for what we believed in, even if it meant standing alone.  And in high school, it usually did.  But the great thing is that the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve been able to find people whose crazy matches my own.  So let your freak flag fly proud!

Ok…now it’s your turn. What lessons from your mom will you always remember?

Stress-Relieving Bath Salts

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“There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.”
-Sylvia Plath

I could not agree more.  I fully believe in the healing powers of a hot bath.  I love them so much, that I have elevated baths to a full-blown hobby.  If I’m sad, I take a bath.  If I’m happy, I take a bath.  If I’m tired, I take a bath.  You get the picture. I like a hot bath.

At no time is a bath better than when you really need to melt away stress.  These bath salts are perfect after a long day.  They smell amazing, sooth sore muscles, and don’t have the nasty chemicals that many commercial bath products contain.

You’ll need:

1 cup epsom salts

1/2 cup sea salt

10-15 drops of your favorite essential oil (I like lavender)

3-4 drops of food coloring (optional)

Mix all of the ingredients together and store them in a covered container. Trust me, the next time your dog decides to develop enough anxiety to require a Prozac prescription, you’ll be glad you did.  Or maybe that’s just me.