A few years ago, I went through the most difficult, prolonged, painful breakup of my life…with foundation. I’d been wearing it basically every day of my senior year of college to cover up my inflamed, cystic breakouts and to distract from the constant, low-level (and sometimes high-level) existential panic of inevitably entering the Real World.
But a few years and full-time jobs later, I realized I needed to make a change. My skin had only gotten worse—even after switching foundations over and over again. So, I decided to try going without it.
Don’t get me wrong: I love both the utility and creativity of makeup and still wear some form of makeup basically every day! (Makeup tutorials are still one of my favorite forms of ASMR, after all.) I had simply realized that I wanted to prioritize treating the underlying problems—in my case, acne and what was eventually diagnosed as rosacea—rather than solely focusing on covering them up. I wanted to ensure that the products I was using, even in times I did want to cover it up, weren’t going to exacerbate my skin issues. And foundation, unfortunately, seemed to usually just make my skin worse.
At first, my move to ditch foundation left me feeling exposed and a little embarrassed. So I leaned more heavily on concealer to make my deep cystic acne along my jawline feel less prominent. But, over the next year, I gradually saw those cysts disappear.
Of course, it’s hard to say what really made a difference. During this time I also: experimented with using diluted tea tree oil on my skin to combat acne, switched to a new form of hormonal birth control, learned how to cook at home with nutritious ingredients like an adult, forced myself through two failed rounds of Couch to 5K, and finally got really and truly committed to therapy. So, it was a time of transition in many areas of my life and, undoubtedly, all of these things helped my skin in some way.
But I was still dealing with occasional breakouts, especially around my nose and cheeks. So, I finally went to an actual dermatologist for the first time, who very helpfully diagnosed these as rosacea bumps rather than acne. And, as it turned out, all of the harsh products I’d been using were actually drying my skin out and irritating it, which just made the rosacea worse.
Today my skin is generally what I would call clear. My rosacea has overtaken my acne as my main skin-care concern, but I still get the occasional jawline breakout. At this point, I haven’t worn foundation in nearly five years (outside of a few special events), which would have surprised the hell out of 2014 Sarah.
So, here’s the combination of skin-care and makeup products I currently rely on basically every day to keep my skin looking as healthy and clear as possible—without feeling like I need to hide it.
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