My 5 Biggest Skincare Regrets (Some lists just grow longer with age…)

Last month, I turned 28. Like most women, that’s not 28 years of nothing but wise choices in life and, well, in skincare.

I messed up a lot, too. I spent buckets on countless beauty products that ended up rotting away on my shelf because they never worked, picked on my pimples one too many times and used tons of toxic products that left my skin damaged and sensitive. But life carries on, just like that time when Channing Tatum got married.

Before more adds to the list as I approach my 30s, here are my Top 5 Skincare Regrets:

1. Hydroquinone Addiction

I wasn’t always an eco beauty, you know? When I was 15, I started using products with hydroquinone, a chemical ingredient that bleaches the skin, to manage all the sun damage I accumulated as a swimmer when I was a kid. Not only was I too young to use hydroquinone, I also didn’t know that it causes a huge rebound for some people and that I should NEVER go out without sunscreen while on it. I used it on and off for many, many years. Now, I’m paying for it with stubborn dark maps on my face.

2. I didn’t ‘need’ Sunscreen… or so I thought.

I’ve seen this over and over again in many “Biggest Beauty Regrets” lists. Need I say more?

3. Going for ‘Instant’ Pimple injections many times

I used to have yearly or bi-yearly (sometimes more) bouts with huge cystic pimples on my nose (which I later found out to be mostly due to dairy and beef). Each time, I wondered why of all places they had to pop out on the tip of my nose. I swear I could have put up a big “Grow here!” signboard on my butt cheek if that made any difference. Anyway, being Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer even in the height of summer and monsoon rains pushed me to go for Instant Pimple injections or Cortisone injections. These are steroid shots. I became reliant on steroid shots because I felt that nothing else worked. In the latter part of my steroid addiction, I found that a lot of my pimples became very tolerant to normal treatments and creams.

4. I picked, pricked and squeezed my big pimples

I’ve got small hypertrophic scars or keloid-looking scars on my nose due to my deep pimples when I was younger. I have a short strip of raised scar exactly where my nose wing meets my cheeks which some people mistake for post-nose-job scars! Although most big pimples really do leave scars, I feel that mine wouldn’t have been as bad if I stayed away from candle-heated needles and just let my pimple erupt and heal on its own. Two years ago, I discovered that applying manuka honey on a healing pimple reduces the scarring significantly.

5. Using ‘Unlabeled’ Products

While battling uneven skin tone and acne scars in the past, I was tempted to use “Unlabeled” products that promised good results. I highly suspect now that many of these products contained mercury because they lightened my skin and pigmentations too quickly. Now, part of my pigmentation — the part that never seems to go away — is faint bluish-black in color which, coincidentally, is similar to a side-effect of mercury exposure.

The bad news is, these are mistakes I’ve done in the past. They can never be un-done. But I am at least a self-certified expert pimple surgeon now thanks to #4! That must count for something, right? No?

What is your biggest skincare regret? Let it out!

Image source: Edited from the movie poster of “Young Adult”.

You might also like:

  • Aleviuss

    My 2 Biggest mistakes ever was to believe in the OCM (oil cleansing method) method without researching it enough. I used to swab my face with un-organic olive oil and just wash it with water! OMG! RIght!? That was the most stupid thing ever. Now my skin will never ever be the same even after 6 months on an accuotane cure:(

    Because yeah I got cystic painful crazy acne on my before so beautiful soft and even face.

    The second mistake was using MAC foundation at the same time I OCM,ing.
    If ocm did break and kill my skin barriers MAC did kill it some more…and gave me some kind of an eczema/candida thing :(

    I think those 2 things was the worst..but no wait! one more thing! I read some thing about garlic being very strong at killing virus and bacteria and that you could crush it and put it on your skin. Now, I have to tell you that back then I was very desperate and very stupid I didn’t understand how important it is to do a proper research, and I didn’t know my skin so well back then. Because my skin was non-reactive before the ocm and MAC which brought chaos so I couldn’t think strait!

    So what happens if you put crushed garlic on your face? well it will burn your skin so severely that it will rip the upper dermis away! It’s like being burned with hot water and have your skin pealed..yeah you get the picture.. (Hey I did mention I was very stupid! dont judge me!!)

    MY pore face was a disaster and I put loots of make up to cover it but it looked awful..I had to go to school and there was a boy I liked.. :( how ever it was very traumatic I tell ya! ..

    Now my skin has been calm since the accutane cure 2 years ago but. I still have hard nodules under my skin moving around laying latent and over and over come up to the surface getting red and inflames..heal and leave ugly scars even when I don’t pick on them at all! .. I’m still in a bad circle and dont knoe how to get rid of the latent nodules :( haven’t find a good dermatologist yet…they just give you tetralycals ( antibiotics )

    • Vivi

      Alevius, I can totally relate to the MAC foundation! I used Body Shop concealer on my eyelids for so many years then one day, I woke up with an itchy eyelid. I didn’t know what it was until I noticed it reacted with some products I used and my stress levels. Then I found out it was eczema / contact dermatitis! 😮 I read that a lot of women experience the same thing especially after prolonged exposure to certain chemicals in skincare/makeup.

      Haha, when I was working on a TV show, we actually featured the garlic pimple remedy. Oh dear, I bet a lot of women had burnt face after watching our show! Now I know that it’s best to mix the crushed garlic with honey to ‘soften the blow’. :) I will try that next time.

      Unfortunately, most dermatologists either prescribe antibiotics (which will give you candida if you use it for a long time because it kills the good bacteria, too) or steroids (which will make the acne ‘tougher’ and harder to cure in the future).

  • Aleviuss

    and oh yeah manuka is awesome dear!

    Hmm cortisone shots? They would never give you that here in Sweden unless its severe.. are they more tolerant over there about those things?
    Yeah cortisone and antibiotic treatments does do no good in the long term :/

    • Vivi

      I will try mixing manuka with garlic… 😀

      Yes, they give cortisone shots at clinics here. It’s so freaking painful especially when done on nose pimples.

  • Ru

    I’m SO guilty of #2 and #4! I used to pick at my spots so much in my teens and tried so many different products that didn’t work. I never realized the importance of sunscreen until recent years (sigh) and now I’m trying hard to reverse the damage. I’m also guilty of using Differin and BCP for my breakouts. I’m glad I’ve stopped ingesting toxins now!

    • Vivi

      Are you able to manage your breakouts better now? For me, I realized it’s mostly due to my diet. When I started eating right, my pimples became a lot milder and healed very quickly.

      Oh, I still pick at and prick my pimples until now… I just can’t resist. But each time, I regret it. :/

  • Victoria

    Mine has to be using (for many years) a ‘luxury’ cleansing balm which, unbeknown to my un-label-educated self containing mineral oil. My skin became clogged after sustained use and has never been the same since, grrrr :(
    Victoria x

    • Vivi

      I feel you! I used petroleum jelly for about a decade before I realized it wasn’t really doing anything for my skin. Petroleum jelly just covered the ugly bits but never truly solved my problems.

  • Emy Shin

    #2 is my biggest regret. For 20+ years, I would go into the sun without sunscreen or hats (even when my mom told me I shouldn’t) — now, I’m deeply regretting that.

    I also regret not getting into skincare earlier (I started a skincare regime around the same time I started wearing sunscreen), and especially regretting not doing something about my cystic acne for years and years — just thinking it was a fact of life and would go away. It didn’t until I started using Retin-A last year (not a clean product, but nothing else helped). Now I have too many pocket marks and acne hyperpigmentation to ever have even skin tone again.

    • Vivi

      My Mom never told me to wear sunscreen and #2 is one of her greatest regrets, too, as far as I know. lol…

      I sometimes use Retin-A when my breakouts happen on a string. Although it doesn’t really stop the root cause (for me, it’s mostly food and stress), it helps reduce the scarring and the healing time. Have you found your acne trigger?

  • Mei

    #2 and still not using. I need to but my skin reacted badly to all sunscreen I’ve used :(

    • Vivi

      how does your skin react badly? do you get rashes/pimples?

  • kimberlyloc

    I’m a picker. Always have been … hopefully I can break this bad habit. It never ends well but I just can’t NOT mess with a breakout. I’m learning to just treat, treat, treat it. Manuka honey + bandage = out of sight, out of mind :) (Except the whole bandage thing)

    • Vivi

      The pimple-picking genes run in our family. Grandma + Mom + Me + my hypothetical future daughters.

  • Kira Ramirez

    Whenever I go for a facial and I have a cystic pimple, my facialist always suggests a pimple injection. I usually say no because I believe that a pimple should heal by itself, but it seemed tempting at times. I’m glad I didn’t push through with yet, I should do more research on that!

    I’m guilty of pricking pimples or squeezing whiteheads/blackheads out. Eep!

    • Vivi

      Hi Kira, I think it’s fine very once in a while. I mean, if it’s my wedding day in 3 days and I’ve got a huge pimple on my nose waiting to surface, I might drink gas if I have to. That or simply go for pimple injections.

      You have to trust the dermatologist and her injection skills though because too much of the drug might cause the tissue to temporarily cave in.

  • Scatterbraintures

    Sunscreen! Yes! That’s probably one of my biggest regrets. I was involved in a lot of outdoor physical activities when I was in HS and I didn’t use sunscreen. Partly because of ignorance but mostly because I want to be darker. My skin texture suffered from it. I would know because my brothers’ skin look a lot different. Face features-wise we look alike. I’m thinking we should have the same genes right?

    Hoping I can reverse it with tretinoin, vitamin c serum, and sunscreen :)

    • Vivi

      I’m experimenting with Retin-A lately but I realized even more that lack of sleep tends to make my skin immune/non-reactive to even the best skincare product. My regular 3-4AMs are taking their toll on my skin.

  • Vivi

    Ah, like what they say, ignorance is bliss — while it lasts. If I could turn back time, I’ll change so much of my habits that the future will get messed up.

  • 2ndNatureBeauty

    Haha I like this post, No 4 has to be a big one for me xx

  • Isabel

    One of my beauty regrets is: 1) not eating right and 2) listening wholehearted on grown ups like doctors and even my mom – Yes! Sometimes mothers don’t know it all, sometimes they are so obsessed with wanting you the best that they can’t see that they are hurting you. With that said, 3) I regret ever going on Roaccutan and antibiotics without doing some research. And then also, 4) treating my skin like it were the toilette, with harsh washes, creams and scrubs. 5) Reading beauty magazines – I know that they are now more than ever writing and recommending natural skincare, but at the time when I needed help the most no one even addressed the issues of dairy and diet!

    • Vivi

      Hi Isabel, thanks for your comment. I actually agree that we need the Vitamin K so it’s good to skip sunscreen once in a while. However, the earth is not the same as it used to be. There are parts of the world where the sun is very, very harsh like where I live now. I spent a few years overseas then when I moved here in Singapore, I was shocked at how strong the sun rays were. I have naturally tanned skin so I’m a bit protected but my skin still aged drastically while I was here. My melasma also started surfacing. So I think in cases like mine, daily SPF is necessary but it shouldn’t be excessive. Since the sun is very strong where I live, I get a good amount of morning (healthy) sun in the morning while I’m having breakfast at the balcony. But when I need to step out of the house for long hours, sunscreen is a must.

      Your #5 is exactly like mine! I read lots of beauty magazines when I was young and they all talked about skin products to ‘dry’ pimples. None of the magazines addressed the treatment of the root cause of pimples which is usually diet. I hate getting cystic acne but in a way, I’m glad I get it once in a while because it’s my body’s loud and clear way of telling me “Hey! You gotta take care of me!”. LOL. As I type this message, I actually have two big cystic acne near my nose and my eyebrows (my danger zone) and I don’t wonder anymore why I have them. I was indulging on lots of dairy and beefy outside food recently, two things that really whack the balance of my body. So now, I’m motivated again to waking up extra early to prepare healthier meals and green smoothies at home.