Behind every impossibly glowy #nomakeupselfie or bare-faced "get ready with me" video, there's, more likely than not, a personal skin struggle we can't see. Years of trial and error. Tearful derm appointments. Staring at the mirror wondering when things would finally (ever?) clear up.
As consumers of media, we usually only see the soigné, pore-less end result and not the road there — a sense of secrecy still surrounds how we're actively working to achieve the complexions of our dreams. Here, in the interest of opening an honest dialogue — so that no one feels alone on their journey — three of Refinery29's own beauty editors get candid about how they're overcoming their personal skin struggles. And because both complexion concerns and the routines that address them are individual, we've partnered with Clarisonic, the number-one dermatologist-recommended device brand in the U.S. and maker of the Mia Smart, to show how the ultra-versatile tool can enhance a variety of skin-care regimens. Loving yourself and wanting to improve are not mutually exclusive, so ahead, dive into three skin stories, the next chapters of which, we remind you, are still unwritten.
Aimee Simeon, Beauty Writer
"My biggest skin insecurity has always been my dark spots that came as a result of adolescent and hormonal acne. For the longest while, I’d only wear super-heavy, stage-makeup foundation because I was so ashamed. As I got older and started going to dermatologists, I learned that the only way to get rid of dark spots is to take care of your skin. That’s when I started taking skin care really seriously, and I got to the root of my dark spots, which is my acne. And my skin has drastically improved. I don’t wear stage makeup every single day, but I had to get to a point where I could accept this is the nature of my skin. I don’t care about not wearing makeup, I don’t care about being around people with super clear skin and feeling insecure, because this is my face, and this is just how it is.
"My skin-care routine changes pretty frequently. I use a gentle brightening cleanser from Joanna Vargas. On days when my skin [has been through a lot], instead of going in with a harsher formula, I use my cleanser and the Clarisonic Mia Smart to really get in and clean my pores in a more thorough way than with just my hands. I use Differin to keep my acne under control, because when my acne is under control, hyperpigmentation is under control. I use SPF every single day, and I finish with Elemis serum mist over my face. There are also some days when I feel like my eyes are super puffy, when I’ve been up late, which is when the Sonic Awakening Eye Massager Head comes in handy. I just dot some Tarte Maracuja eye cream along my under-eyes and roll back and forth with the cooling tip to de-puff and make my eyes look more well-rested.
"Ultimately, my physical goal would be to fade all my dark spots. I try not to look at people with perfect skin on the internet because nine times out of 10, it’s not real. And even if it is real, it’s like, That’s great, that’s your skin. My skin is doing its own thing, and I’m cool with that. A skin-care journey is a literal journey. I’ve seen a lot of different derms, I’ve gotten a ton of different prescriptions. You have to be open to learning before you figure out what works for you. Keep an open mind, always get a second opinion, and test out different options."
Mi-Anne Chan, Associate Producer
"I have oily/combination skin. I used to have pretty bad acne, but now it's pretty much in check. When I do get acne, I tend to get hormonal acne on my chin and my cheeks. I have uneven texture and a bit of uneven color, some redness around the nose. Pores-wise, my glands are processing more oil, so my pores are on the larger side. I do get some milia and whiteheads, especially on my eyes.
"A cleansing regimen is [crucial]. I wear a lot of makeup, because I'm filming twice a week. So it’s nice to use something like the Clarisonic Mia Smart, because it’s really going to get all that gunk out of my pores, and it’s good for getting my skin smooth, which gives me a great canvas for makeup. When you’re cleaning your skin and purging it of what could clog your pores, it’s also going to make your pores appear smaller. My job requires me to test things a lot, but I always go back to Pixi Glow Tonic. I [also] love the Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator, an amazing toning facial spray. I’ll cleanse with anything, really, but I do love Farmacy Clean Bee. I also love Evan Healy’s tea tree cleanser, which is really good for acne. I always travel with a spot treatment, and my favorite ever is Renée Rouleau Anti Bump Solution. It’s really good for cystic or hormonal acne. Moisturizer-wise, I love the Supergoop! Everyday Sunscreen SPF 50. At night, I’ll use the Herbivore Emerald Glow Oil or Herbivore Pink Cloud moisturizer.
"[When] I had a lot of acne, congested skin, I really hated it. It drove me to this path of obsessively looking up skin care, like miracle treatments. And in a weird way, it kind of drove me into beauty. It got me excited about ingredients, because I wanted to have an encyclopedic knowledge of why I was breaking out. All this research made me an empowered consumer and editor.
"At the end of the day, there’s no denying that the way your skin looks affects how you feel. It’s doing a disservice to everyone to deny that’s important. It’s not materialistic. As consumers get more savvy about what’s in their skin care, it’s an exciting time. [Skin care] should speak to people wanting to feel good about their skin and the way they look. Because if you’re breaking out or your skin’s dry, you don’t feel good. Acne hurts, and dry skin is irritating. It’s not healthy skin. Purely from a selfish, I-love-makeup standpoint, clear skin makes it easier to do makeup, too. I’m at a point on my skin journey where I don't worry about my skin constantly. That’s not the case for everyone, and I’m lucky to have gotten to a place where I’m happy with my skin."
Thatiana Diaz, Beauty Writer
"It’s funny because people are always like, 'You have access to all these products.' But at the same time, I can’t try all of them, because I have sensitive skin. I have acne, too, and I can use all the products in the world, but [blemishes] are going to come, and that’s part of my insecurities. People think that because we have the access that our skin and makeup are always good. But we’re learning along the way. I don’t have it all figured out just because I work in beauty.
"I’m working to accept the fact that I can go into my 30s and get these huge cystic pimples or a breakout on my cheek from stress. Because life throws hardballs at you — there are so many other factors that aren’t just product use, like your diet, your environment, any aggressors, stress. You don’t have 100% control, and not everyone has the perfect lives that allow them to have perfect skin. I know that I’m still a little hard on myself. I want to get to that [mindset of], It’s okay, I have a pimple, I’m not freaking out. And if the [rosacea] happens, it happens. When I posted that I suffer from rosacea on Instagram, people were like, 'I have rosacea, too!' It ignited this conversation that made me proud I shared that, because it shows people that they’re not alone. But taking care of my skin is important, too, so that I don’t have to have that. It’s a two-way thing: accepting that the red and acne are happening but trying my hardest to make sure they don’t happen.
"[On a daily basis,] I use the Sephora Collection Cleanse + Tone gel. I love that I don’t have to use a toner after, which I always find to be the most aggravating when it comes to my skin-care routine. Then I use the Sephora Collection moisturizer that’s hypoallergenic — that’s a big thing, 'hypoallergenic' and 'noncomedogenic' are two words I look for. In the winter, I use La Roche-Posay Toleriane. That one is heavy-duty, but it really protects my skin, and it’s noncomedogenic as well. I do love OleHenriksen’s vitamin C eye cream — it makes a huge difference in brightening my under-eye area. Acne-wise, I use Renée Rouleau’s spot treatment.
"I love double-cleansing so much, because I wear so much makeup [applied here with the Sonic Foundation Brush Head], and sometimes it’s not enough to use a makeup wipe and go in with a towel after you cleanse. I love the Clarisonic Mia Smart because I’m always trying to get that leftover product; when you have sensitive skin, you can’t have it sitting there. You’re just making your skin worse, and you’re wondering why you’re getting redness or clogged pores, and it’s like, that’s exactly why.
"My goal for this year is to stop using [photo-editing apps]. Everyone has this perception from Instagram that this person has perfect skin, the perfect body, the perfect everything. But it’s like, 'No, we have editing apps.' I want to love my skin under my makeup, not trust that my makeup will cover my skin. Once I get to that point, there would be this sense of ease, but I know that requires drinking water, stressing less, committing to a healthy lifestyle, and taking care of my skin. I’m committing more to my skin care instead of just dabbing on popular, has-great-reviews products. Research is so important; people [try] things because a YouTuber recommended it, it’s on Instagram, it’s trendy. It might work for someone else, and it might not work for you. So I want people to remember that instead of jumping in like, 'Oh, this is a number-one best seller.' Don’t do that."