A Guest Post from Juhea: Acne Scars and Skin Discoloration

October 19, 2018

Juhea Peaceful Dumpling

I first started Peaceful Dumpling five years ago as a passion project to balance the frustrations of a highly stressful job in book publishing. I had already been vegan for many years, but as I began PD I discovered a whole new world of natural beauty. When I was going through one of the toughest times in my life, it was the little acts of all-natural self-care that restored a sense of peace and resilience. Perhaps my toxic workplace subconsciously inspired me to seek out nontoxic beauty, or maybe it was that the stress was causing cystic acne on my chin, which no amount of conventional “luxury” products seemed to prevent. So many days, I couldn’t go to work without painting over my chin breakouts with foundation, which is impossible to truly blend and just ends up making the acne look more purple than red. Fortunately, as I detoxed my beauty essentials, quit my job, and got on a much more rewarding career path, my skin cleared up dramatically. Now I don’t wear any foundation or concealer most days, because that keeps my skin happiest! To me, natural beauty goes hand-in-hand with compassionate living. Nurturing my skin with botanical, lovingly crafted serums and potions is an act of love toward animals, the planet, and myself, and a philosophy that I also live out through my vegan diet and sustainable lifestyle.

But while I don’t “need” foundation like I used to, my top concern now is discoloration from both sun damage and those no good, very bad years of acne. Some people don't get discoloration no matter how much sun they get. My mom, who just turned 61, is one of these people: she doesn't have a single blotch of color anywhere on her face, and her skin retains an even, all-over tan or pink hue, depending on sun exposure. She only wears sunblock when she goes to the beach or to the slopes, which is why I, too, assumed sunblock was optional. As terrible as this sounds, I didn't start wearing sunblock daily until age 27! I'm genetically predisposed to get hyperpigmentation, so this was like opening the door to my skin and saying, "Hey, sunspots! Wanna come take over my skin? Lots of room here for everyone!" On top of that, some of my worst breakouts have left discolored acne scars behind on my chin and the outermost part of my cheeks. Even though they’re not really visible from afar (or to anyone who isn’t obsessively examining my skin), they are still something I would like to address for my own skincare goals.

Thankfully, genetics and early negligence don't mean you can't reverse some of the damage. I've found that skin is a lot more resilient than you may think, especially if you nurture it with strengthening and healing skincare. As Peaceful Dumpling grew, I connected with dozens of indie, cruelty-free, toxin-free brands, and found that when it comes to beauty, it’s not marketing that counts, but ingredients. Some lines that market themselves as “natural” may still use tons of chemicals in their products, and even within the few truly all-natural lines, it’s important to check the ingredients for anything your skin may be sensitive to. After trying 100+ skincare products, what I’ve learned is that it's so worth investing in high-end natural beauty brands like Earthwise instead of wasting your budget on chemically laden, dubious lines. Most conventional brightening products don't work well because they're loaded with fillers—or worse, they make your skin sensitive and reactive. The last thing you want when fighting discoloration is to get pimples that then lead to acne scars. Ugh.


Juhea Kim

My time-tested strategies for repairing sun-damaged skin: 

  1. Exfoliate. I do a gentle exfoliation at least once a day—and the key here is gentle! One of my favorites is 1/4 cup coconut yogurt + 1 teaspoon chickpea flour + 4 drops tea tree oil + a dash of turmeric. The lactic acid from the yogurt dissolves old skin cells, and the chickpea flour provides some manual exfoliation as well. Turmeric is a brightening agent. Keep it in a mini mason jar (not plastic) and use a dab or two each night. This preps the skin to receive nutrients. 

  2. Nap in the Meadow Face Serum. This is one of my all-time favorite serums, and my brightening secret. It contains helichrysum, which is such a powerful healing agent that it can even be used to treat burns. You might have noticed helichrysum on the ingredients list of products from other luxury natural beauty lines, but I've noticed that Earthwise uses a higher concentration than most other brands (look at the order of the ingredients to see how much is used). Elderberry extract adds more antioxidant and damage-reversal powers. Nap in the Meadow is also full of anti-inflammatory and cooling ingredients such as aloe vera, yarrow oil, turmeric, and blue chamomile oil. If you're prone to hyperpigmentation and damage, you might have pitta skin according to Ayurveda (as I do). Your skin will love this cooling and healing serum as an antidote to its tendency to overheat.

  3. Yasuni Face Balm. This ultralight face balm has a base of açai oil to gently resurface the skin and raspberry oil to correct hyperpigmentation. It has a high vitamin C content, which makes it great for sun damage, wrinkles, and loss of firmness. I've noticed that just a tiny dab over Nap in the Meadow is enough to seal in the moisture and provide a protective barrier during spring and summer. In fall and winter or in drier climates, a bit more balm will keep your skin nourished and feeling velvety.  

  4. Farizad's Veil Sun Reflector + Ruby Face Oil. I never go outside without my daily sunscreen now, not even to go running in the park or to barre class! This is the only sunscreen that doesn't cause me breakouts, and in fact reduces my blemishes. (When I get a pimple, I just spot-treat with Farizad's Veil; zinc oxide is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory ingredients, and Farizad's Veil also has aloe leaf powder and frankincense). This sun reflector is powerful enough to protect your skin from all-day sun exposure and sweating, but it still breathes and feels like your natural skin. I've worn Farizad + Ruby to the Amalfi Coast and to Africa, and it's protected my skin under all weather conditions. 

  5. Wear hats, sunglasses, and protective clothing. Don't let all your hard skincare work go to waste by skimping on gear. I always walk in the shade, pop on my sunglasses, and plan my sunscreen and clothes according to how much sun exposure I’ll be getting.

Having said all this, the last step is to have fun and embrace your skin. What I've learned is that if you take good care of your skin, you'll look radiant, whether or not your skin is "flawless." Work with what you have and pamper yourself—and see how that shows up on the outside!

Juhea is the founder of Peaceful Dumpling, a vegan and sustainable lifestyle site, as well as a fiction writer and an environmental advocate. Follow her on Instagram @peacefuldumpling, Facebook @peacefuldumpling, and Pinterest @peacedumpling.

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