Post-Baby Skin Care: What I’ll Be Using to Get Rid of My Melasma (Round 2)

Well here we are, today is the day I’m giving birth to my daughter (Note: of course I’m not writing this in the delivery room, it’s actually the night before) and I’m once again planning my new skincare routine to banish the melasma that reared its ugly head from pretty much day 1 of this pregnancy. I actually think it never went away from the first pregnancy and just kept on building throughout this one. Either way, I’m ready to attack. I’ve done a ton of research and have come up with what I think is the best of the best as far as attacking pigment and restoring my skin without using hydroquinone or Botox.

Cleanser:

I was thinking about getting this Pigment Bar from PCA Skin, a medical line that I really like but I nixed the idea and will stick with my cleanser that I love. I’m just not sure how much help a cleanser is in fading dark spotting since it’s only on the skin for a few seconds and the ingredients are washed away. If you’re curious though, check it out- it’s a cool concept and people seem to really like it.

pca skin

Toner:

Hands down, one of the most effective things I’ve ever used on my skin has been Mandelic acid from Vivant, a line sold through skin pros and doctors that is really picking up steam in the industry for its skin-changing ways. Mandelic acid is an Alpha Hydroxy Acid extracted from bitter almonds, so it’s a safe alternative to hydroquinone (a skin lightener that really works well, but has safety concerns.) This 9% solution will help to lighten while also making my skin soft enough to allow the serums and creams to penetrate and work that much better.

vivant toner

Serum:

I was a little on the fence about this one so I ordered two and then canceled one. I wanted to get Skinceuticals Phyto + which I ordered from Amazon (before canceling) because of its botanical formula and kojic acid, a known skin lightener. In the end the shaky reviews mixed with the fact that I know Mandelic will definitely work were what swayed my decision to stick with a more potent formula. So I ordered Vivant’s Mandelic 3-in-1 Serum 15% which combines Mandelic with Lactic Acid, a combination that will lighten and brighten my skin without question.

vivant mandelic serum

Retinol:

Can I use a retinol while nursing? My derm thought so and she recommended Afirm, a Retin-A alternitive (sidebar: Terntinoin and Retin-A both break me out because they put the vitamin a into a cheap cream that’s all greasy terrible so I can’t use it anyway) that’s easily absorbed into the skin and gives the same results as a prescription retinoid at a fraction of the cost. A good retinol will diminish wrinkles, fade discoloration, and give better clarity and tone to the skin. Another interesting fact: Retinoids are the only FDA approved treatments for wrinkles. I bought the 3X, formula which amounts to a 0.6% retinol which is their strongest treatment. Again, I’m getting the higher percentage treatments for all of the formulations just because my skin is used to really active stuff.. Start with the 1% just a few times a week if you’re just venturing into the world of retinol, but really if you have wrinkles or discoloration to get rid of this is a really good place to start.

afirm

Antioxidant:

I always use an antioxidant serum during the day to combat further damage (and you should too), so I’ll use Vivant’s Spin Trap serum with vitamins C&E. I’ve used this one in the past and for some reason it seems to keep longer than others, it doesn’t turn that dull color vitamin serums turn after just a few months which means its potency is also in tact.

vivant spin trap

Moisturizer:

I went out on a limb for this one. I’ve never used Nia 24 but I see it everywhere and am fascinated by it since it’s the only niacin-based product I know of. There’s a bunch of research they have on their site (independent from them) showing how niacin heals sun damaged skin and can even play a role in skin cancer prevention. Their signature treatment cream is this Intensive Recovery Complex, pricey at $118 but something I’ve literally looked at buying for years. Because it’s meant specifically for hyperpigment issues, I thought it would fit in perfectly with my whole skin-lightening regimen.

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SPF:

Good SPF is key when you’re using an active bunch of products like this. Even in the winter when you don’t think you’re getting sun exposure, you are. I’ve been using Coola SPF 30 Unscented Matte Tint as a daily primer and skin perfector. The look and feel is just like a slightly tinted primer that helps to even out skintone pre-foundation. I love Coola’s sunscreens, it’s an organic line that only does suncare so they do it really well. It’s basically a really good SPF disguised as a great makeup primer that will help even out my skin on days when I won’t be wearing foundation (which will be quite often in the coming weeks.)

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Oh- and I’ll be using my Dermaroller to get super maximum penetration and faster results. Read HERE and HERE to catch up on the magical wonders of Dermarolling (aka microneedling) if you missed my past posts on the subject, and keep an eye on Hautelook (get the app) because they often feature them for just $20 or $30.

How to Get Rid of Blackheads with Murad Pore Reform

I’ve been hearing such good reviews on Murad’s Pore Reform line including two friends who swear by it. One started off with buying just the moisturizer and saw such big results that she went back to Sephora for the whole line. They say that their pores have never been clearer and their stubborn blackheads which were once resistent to any sort of treatment were totally gone. After receiving the products from Murad to try, I decided the best thing to do (since my skin is clear right now and being pregnant I can’t do retinol which is in the T-zone Serum) was to hand it over to another friend whose skin is a total roller coaster ride in terms of breakouts and blackheads.

Now all three of them are in love.

They all agree that the cleanser is a good formula, but the foamer reduces its richness and they’d like to see sturdier suds in their cleansing routines. They also loved the T-Zone pore Refining Serum that you use after cleansing day and night to dig out the trapped dirt and keep pores clear. They said that it leaves skin really soft and zaps shine for those who were a bit on the oily side, yet isn’t too drying. But the real heros are the Blackhead & Pore Clearing Duo, a twice weekly treatment starting with the cream that you leave on for 10 minutes before washing it off and applying a lotion to seal the skin to prevent any additional blackheads from forming. I’m sad I gave this one away because they all swear by it and say that it gives their skin an instant fresh looking glow like no other. It’s like an extraction for the skin minus the painful poking and prodding.

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What’s a Konjac Sponge?

I’d never heard of a konjac sponge until I saw this one from Boscia with tons of great reviews on how it drastically changed people’s skin. One reviewer wrote something along the lines of how it’s more expensive than another konjac she had. A quick Amazon.com search yielded several brands and types of sponges and I ended up buying this well reviewed one for just $10.

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Boscia Konjac Cleansing Sponge

I don’t know what the actual difference is, but Boscia’s is labled 100% konjac root (made using the Japanese vegetable) while the one I bought reads 100% konjac fibers so it may not be the same thing but I really like it. It’s so soft, softer than a washcloth and it makes a tiny dab of cleanser go a long way. It doesn’t feel like anything that would be exfoliating since it doesn’t have a grainy feel to it, but the root is said to be infused with vitamins and is naturally alkaline so it balances the skin’s pH levels which also helps with breakouts and skin clarity.

I’ve only had it for a week so I’m holding off on calling it a miracle but I do really like it so far- it’s a nice departure from my Clarisonic and harsh scrubs that I use way too often. Next time I’ll probably check out Boscia’s sponge at Sephora just to  see if the quality is any different and worth paying almost double. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a cheap, easy, and natural exfoliant, check out konjac sponges and see if one might work for you.

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All Natural Fiber Konjac Bamboo Charcoal Facial Sponge

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A closer look at the one I bought.

Stuff I Buy: Botanique by Himalaya Cleanser

These Botanique by Himalaya cleansers are what I buy when I’m out of a cleanser or not loving anything else I have on hand. Last time I bought the Neem and Turmeric one for comboo skin, this time I’m glad I got the Invigorating wash for all skin types. It has honey, lemon, and cinnamon in it along with a bunch of other natural ingredients that look to be mostly edible. I love it because of the refreshing feeling it gives my face, almost minty (must be the cinnamon) like after brushing your teeth- only for your face. It’s a thick gel that foams up and cuts through makeup just as well as any other cleanser I’ve used and the formulas are all gluten free if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s awesome and only $8.

I found it at Vitamin Cottage, but I’ve also noticed it at Sprouts and some Whole Foods. Grab one if you’re needing a straightforward, natural cleanser at a really great price.

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Murad’s Renewing Cleansing Oil

If you would’ve told me years ago that I’d be pre-cleansing my face nightly with an oil I would have thought you were crazy. Although my skin isn’t oily anymore, I think I’ll always have that mind set that it is- sort of like when you loose weight but still see yourself as heavy. I can’t tell you how many 40-something year old clients I meet with clear (and usually dry) skin who still use Proactiv as a sort of crutch, never evolving their routine with age and skin changes. I’m glad I got brave enough a few years ago to try cleansing oils, they’re the easiest way to reamove makeup while adding some light hydration. Murad’s Renewing Cleansing Oil $32 does this particularly well leaving just a soft slick of moisture behind so your skin doesn’t feel tight or dry after washing. It’s non-comedogenic so it won’t clog pores (most oils don’t, it’s creams that you need to watch out for actually) so all skin types can benefit.

Protecting your skin from harsh stripping is important. Dry skin equals old looking skin, just look at the way women age when they live near water versus a drier climate. Trading out a drying cleanser for a cleansing oil could make a big difference in the overall look and health of your skin.

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Enessa Natural and Organic Skincare

I love learning about lines that aren’t mainstream that I haven’t tried before. After hearing glowing reviews from my very particular and beyond informed facialist friend Tjaden about Enessa, I knew I had to give the line a look. After my EvanHealy disaster during my last pregnancy, I’ve been scared to try lines that use essential oils and clean ingredients for fear it isn’t enough to keep breakouts, wrinkles, and discolorations away. Tjaden assured me that Enessa’s ingredients were not only clean, but also mindful of the skin and what ingredients work synergistically to create results in a natural way. She was impressed, and after giving them a try so am I.

Their basic packaging and dated website don’t speak for the quality of the line and the brilliance of the products whatsoever. I saw results in my skin upon the first use, especially with my new obsession, the Seaweed Bio-Exfoliant. It’s a sage colored paste that smells like earthy lavender that exfoliates and purifies the skin. I leave it on for a few minutes to get a mask effect and I also use it as a spot treatment for any breakouts. It’s so ridiculously softening for the skin that I resist the urge to use it every day and night. It’s just amazing.

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Their aloe-based Monoi Soothing Cleanser has really solidified what I always preach about cleansers. I tend to gravitate toward cleansers that have some sort of glycolic or lactic or something in them because I want that added benefit, but after using this cleanser I can see that I was needlessly drying my skin out and that tight feeling after cleansing that I’m so addicted to isn’t a good thing. It makes my skin really comfortable and soft and clean without stripping or drying.

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I’m also in love with their PlantCel Lifting Serum which is rich in plant-based actives that are meant to repair the skin at a cellular level. It’s basically an antioxidant, exfoliant, radiance-enhancing super serum that uses plant technology instead of chemicals to get the skin glowing. I’ve found that when I wear it I don’t need to wear as much foundation because my skin looks great. I’m hoping it helps to keep my melasma in check during this pregnancy as well as give some great long-term benefits as well.

Enessa PlantCell Lifting Serum

Worth mentioning that I didn’t get to try: Clove Acne Control, a clove and jojoba oil spot treatment to zap zits without any drying or irritation, and also their Diminish-Scar Treatment to minimize the look of scars.