Tuesday, 22 July 2014

My anti-acne skincare & makeup routine pictorial

For the past couple of months, I've been blessed with good skin. You know how some people are blessed with it, period? Well, I am happy to be temporarily blessed - such is the frequency of my breakouts. So when my recent period of good skin ended with a volcanic bang, I decided to show you exactly what I do in terms of skincare and makeup. Hopefully this will be helpful, if not interesting. 

Below is the offending acne spot. It's huge. The full diameter of the spot actually extends past the red circle, so it's about the width of my pupil o.O. And it's one of those firm, hard cystic ones, I think. My front-facing phone camera is not that great, so the skin looks a bit more evened out than usual. But trust me, it's baaad. 

No makeup, taken with slightly blurry front-facing camera

Step 1: Damage control & treatment

What you can't see in this photo is that there were actually two spots. Before I went to bed, I applied tea tree oil to both monstrocities, and one of them thankfully had died down by morning. Woohoo! 

Applying other topical solutions including BP, AHAs and BHAs would undoubtedly help, especially overnight. I had none of these to hand, so instead I applied copious amounts of tea tree oil to my spot. As with all products, do be careful and try a patch test in case of sensitivities. 

Step 2: Textural improvement (prepping for makeup)  

Textural improvement can encompass many things. I have normal-oily skin and the skin around my pimples can tend to be a little dry, which is why I like to exfoliate. If your skin is dry but not flaky, the only textural improvement/prepping you'll need is a good moisturiser. 

I exfoliate for two reasons - for one it improves my skin texture, thereby making me look more even-toned and glowy. It also helps to create a smooth canvas (especially on and around the pimple) so that concealer will go on smoothly.

The product I am using here is Kose's Seikisho Perfect Clear Gel, though you can use anything. In the past I've also enjoyed using Asian drugstore Watsons' Collagen exfoliating gel, which is cheap and effective without being abrasive. 

A closer look reveals tiny non-abrasive particles which you can't feel at all on the skin. 
After 30 seconds or so, the scrub forms a dry film on the face. Upon gentle rubbing, the film comes off, taking dead skin cells with it.


All smooth and primed for concealer! 

Step 3: Conceal

This is actually a bunch of mini steps. Concealing can be the most time consuming part of makeup, especially if you want it to look flawless. I don't bother trying to look flawless anymore because it's tiresome, and because I've learnt to make peace with my acne. 

Here are some application tricks which have always worked for me: 
  • Pat concealer on with fingers 
  • Use a cross-hatch application to minimise fingerprint concealer marks (a damp Beauty Blender / dense sponge often works better than fingers in this case)
  • Apply concealer both around and on top of the pimple
  • Blend liberally around the pimple to blend the concealed area into the rest of the skin

KEY: Do not disturb the makeup on the pimple itself. Just make sure it's covered, and don't be tempted to go in to blend out (you'll most likely blend away the coverage). It'll look more harmonious once you blend the concealer around the pimple anyway. 

Here I am dabbing copious amounts of Shu Uemura Nobara Stick Foundation over *and* around my pimple

Step 4: Give up

No, seriously. You've tried your best, but a pimple is still a pimple in all its red, three-dimensional glory. Settle for a decent coverage, because there's a wafer-thin line between concealed and cake-y.

Step 5: Set the concealer with powder

This step is just to fix and prolong the wear of the concealer. 

By this, I mean lightly pat powder on top of the concealer, making sure not to disturb or move the product around. I like to use a powder puff for this, because the flat surface area means that any pressure is evenly distributed and won't move the concealer. 

T-zone and spot both powdered with Guerlain pressed powder 

Step 6: Finish the rest of your makeup! 

Onto the fun part. :D

My makeup aesthetic during breakouts is as follows:
  • Minimising flaws is good enough
  • Accentuate good points, and THERE ARE GOOD POINTS. Watching Lisa Eldridge's acne tutorial fundamentally changed the way I viewed makeup and acne; she taught me to appreciate aspects of myself which I overlooked, and also taught me that acne never looks as bad to others as it seems to ourselves. 
  • Draw the eye away from the flaws. I avoided strong blusher in this instance because my pimple is right on my cheeks. ^^
  • Don't confound makeup with concealing. Have fun with makeup! Having acne doesn't stop you from having fun and playing around with colour.  It also helps you not to feel defeated if the concealer doesn't really work out, or if it just doesn't look as good as you hoped. Makeup should still be fun, and just because you have acne doesn't mean you can't enjoy it for its creative aspects. :)
  • Choose the right colours and textures. If the spot is very red-toned, I'd refrain from blushes that have an obvious red undertone. 
  • Don't disturb the skin on/around the pimple. I'd keep colour and product away from the concealed pimple as much as possible. 
Below is how I chose to do my face today - simple, natural but not entirely flawless. It still lets my natural and perfected skin texture and luminosity show through. Since the makeup is not particularly different, I haven't listed all the products but do let me know if you're curious about anything in particular! 
Both pictures taken in daylight, this one is a better depiction of my skintone

Makeup worth mentioning: 
  • MAC F&B samples (probably N2 and C2) to even skintone 
  • Shu Nobara Foundation Stick 564 as pimple concealer 
  • Guerlain Meteorites and Guerlain pressed powder
  • SUQQU Sumiredama on the eyes 
  • Kanebo CHICCA Lipstick in 65 on the lips

Below is a side-by-side comparison of the pimply side, albeit in slightly different lighting. Make no mistake, the pimple is still there, and anyone who looks closely can see that the area stands out. You can click on the images to enlarge them at your own risk. :P

It does however minimise the appearance of the angry red pimple, and that's all I can hope for when I am faced with acne this prominent. 


Alright, I think that's it. The other thing that I try to do when I can is to use a Nexcare acne patch. You can probably find reviews and tutorials on the blogosphere for these, they're awesome. I currently don't have any, but next time I do I'll share it here. They basically drain away all the white pus from the pimples. Best to apply on clean, dry whiteheads and let it work overnight. Note - this will not work for cystic pimples. 

I hope you found this helpful. It's nothing ground-breaking, and I stand to improve a lot of my existing techniques. What are your favourite acne-fighting products? 


  1. As some who suffered with acne for around 15 years - this post is Fantastic, proper public service blogging. It has allll the tips. When it got to the photo of the spot covered I wanted to whoop and applaud a job well done. But your point that a spot is three-dimensional and cannot be made invisible is so key, I wanted to nod approvingly with a sad face but happy tears (acne is emotive y'all). And to then go on and say that a girl can have acne and still play with colour.....mind blown :)

    The only advice I can add for other readers would be to go to a counter to get colour matched for your concealer, and only accept something that works well with your base/skin tone. This advice may come from the teenage experience of applying orange concealer to a pasty face and then being dismayed with the results.


    1. I am so glad you think it's useful! I too have suffered from acne for far too long, possibly the same amount of time as yourself! *high fives*

      It's taken me a long time to get to this point, and a few years ago I had proper adult acne as well. This pimple is actually nothing, and I've come a long way to be able to not care at all able bout them and enjoy makeup for makeup's sake. :)

      Really hope this can help others. You're definitely right about concealer matching - that's half the battle! Also good texture concealers are vital; a long wearing concealer can often be too dry and look ashy once set. Best to find an emollient creamy concealer that matches perfectly, just set with powder. :)

  2. Your philosophy is as right on as your concealing techniques, hehe.

    I only shook off the spots through taking the pill, so I guess it was the hormones whodunnit. I have to agree, that pimple in your post is nothing :) The rest of your cheek is looking just peachy in that photo. For so long, my face had at least two humdingers, plus at least five whiteheads and a host of about full coverage.

    Nowadays, when I get a big spot, I laugh in its (uh my) face like it's nothing, which is true - a spot is only 0.01% of one's surface area, surely?! Pah.

    I think you've made a really useful post here. I only wish my teenage self could have read it!

    1. Sorry for the slow reply, couldn't comment for a while!

      Yeah, one pimple is nothing. Even though it's huge, you're right that it's not even 1% of the entire face. Helps to put things into perspective. :)

      I wish my teenage self realised it too! Oh well. At least it can help others, hopefully!

  3. I don't think i've come across your blog before, but I got a great kick out of the title: the Consolations of Vanity-- a touch of wit there, but nothing snarky!
    Anyway do you think Kose mask --> substitute --> could be any kind of mask that involves rubbing it to get it off? Because I have been told to use this technique in removing turmeric/yogurt mask... IDK I just feel it'd contribute to further irritation.

    Anyway this is a great breakdown. I'm sending it to my little sis!

    1. Haha, thank you! I love the title too, though sometimes I worry if it sounds a little snarky/pretentious. It's certainly not meant to be! ^^

      Really glad you found this post useful. :)

      Hmmm, regarding exfoliation, I think it depends on your skin type and how it gets irritated. If chemical exfoliants are a no-no, then gentle rubbing seems like a good option. It also depends on whether the rubbing motion is the main way of exfoliating.

      For my Kose mask, the rubbing is part of the exfoliation - I think the action of removing the surface layer of product takes away some of the dead skin cells.

      Other exfoliants requiring rubbing are much more gentle, like the Japanese Cure gel and Watson's Collagen gel exfoliator. They seem to do all the hard work upon application, and all I need to do is to gently rub the product off my face. The product balls up very easily and it requires very minimal rubbing.

      I hope that made sense! Would you recommend the turmeric/yoghurt mask? I'd be interested to try that sometime too. :)