How I Fixed My Dehydrated Skin

Left: March 2016 Right: March 2017 (both photos taken with makeup, in same sunlight)-
see the difference in texture and aggravation in both acne and dryness

I have hormonal acne from high testosterone. It's quite annoying and I definitely have overdone it in the past trying to treat the acne. While hormonal acne has no topical treatment that 100% works, that hasn't stopped me from trying every acid out there along with prescription tretinoin.

During Summer 2016, I re-introduced tretinoin after a yearlong break, and in my infinite hubris, figured I could immediately jump into the same old concentration with no special buffering or precautions. I was very wrong. Turns out, no matter what your skin withstood in the past (and I know the rest of you also slathered your teen faces with Noxzema and pink grapefruit scrub it wasn't just me) the only thing that matters is what your skin is like in the here and now.

Factors like age, hormones, weather and general skin chemistry (which is baffling and not static) can alter the way that your skin handles harsh treatments. While chemical actives are an amazing tool for achieving certain skincare goals, they need to be undertaken carefully and slowly. And if you are like me, and you overdid it, you might experience the nastiness that is dehydrated skin. This post will explain the techniques and practices that helped me repair and recover from my severe dehydration.

Please remember that everyone's skin and environment will impact their journey differently. I don't give plain advice and expect you will have the exact results as me. I can only say what worked best for my skin at this point in time. I am going to describe principles and best practices, not recommending specific products that will "fix" you.


Quick Fix for Messy DIY Honey Masks

One of the most popular DIY solutions found on the Internet is the simple honey mask. The instructions are simple- apply raw honey to your face, wait as long as you can stand in (10 min to an hour) and then rinse off. Honey's antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties make it a gentle mask for skin types suffering irritation, acne, and redness.

However, like a lot of DIY techniques, I find the simple honey mask to be a bit lacking. The fact that it only contains one ingredient means that there's nothing in it to regulate the skinfeel or comfort. I find that invariably it begins to run and drip off my face within 3 minutes of application. It doesn't lend itself to being comfortably worn for extended periods of time, and since this is a mask that is best worn for as long as possible, I have often not been able to reap the true benefits of a honey mask because of my discomfort.

I recently discovered that there's a very simple solution for making my honey masks stick. All you need is your regular raw honey, and any hydrating facial toner.


  • Raw honey: It's important to not get sugar water or corn syrup in a honey container, but you do not need medical grade or organic Manuka honey. Raw, pure honey works no matter how expensive it is, so just acquire from a reputable seller which labels its products accurately and whose price suits your budget.
  • Hydrating toner: In Japanese and Korean skincare, the hydrating toner is an essential 1st step to prep the skin and increase its moisture retention. If you are unfamiliar with what this product does or what classifies as a hydrating toner, see some of the examples later in this post.
  • Mixing vessel: I use disposable Dixie cups, but you can use your palm, a saucer, or small tupperware
  • Mixing utensil: I prefer to use a coffee stirrer, chopstick, or disposable spatula for this step. I find that mixing with your hands or fingers alone doesn't tend to combine the mask as thoroughly.


Bite Beauty Lip Lab Custom Lipsticks

I'm very picky when it comes to lipstick shades. "Off the rack" lipsticks are rarely perfect in my eyes- too bright, too gray, too white, too red. The more I learn about my own coloring and what it means for the colors I choose to wear, the more shades I automatically despise in-store.

What I Wanted from the Experience

With my olive undertones, it can be hard to find lipsticks that look the same on me as they do on beautiful traditional warm or cool girls. Often a color that's perfectly brownish-red on someone else will appear muddy or purple on me. I can rarely trust the color in the tube to translate to a predictable shade once applied. I have still found a large number of lip shades I enjoy, but it means there are a few elusive imagined shades that I can only approximate by mixing 5 or 6 lipsticks at home, and I can never get the same result twice. 

For my first visit to the Bite Lip Lab, I decided to make 2 custom shades that I have been seeking without luck for the better part of a year. The first one is a muted coral, which is sort of an imaginary color in the makeup world. Most lipsticks that are described as coral are decidedly white-based, which makes them wholly unflattering on my grayish undertones. But what I wanted was a shade perfectly split between pink and orange, vibrant, but still with some depth. The second one I was after was a gingersnap orange, something more burnt than the traffic-cone offerings found on Sephora's shelves but with a more "obvious" orange tone than the 90s-style browns that are all the rage at the drugstore.


Beauty Trade-offs

When discussing value, in any category of your life, you always have to consider the trade-offs inherent in any decision. In a basic sense, a trade-off refers to the idea that, for every decision you make, in order to gain something, you have to lose something else. Often it's not all-or-nothing. Usually it means you give up a portion of one priority in order to increase the portion of the other priority.

In beauty, I always think of this concept when I see beginners requesting the impossible e.g. "I really want to find a foundation that's hydrating for my dehydrated skin, but doesn't look greasy, and sets to a matte finish, but also looks good topped with powder." The big lesson that most people learn over time is that you can't have everything all at once- as the saying goes, you can't have your cake and eat it too.

When it comes to beauty purchases and implementation of your beauty products, it's important to balance the priorities you have (like oil-control vs. non-drying) which are potentially antithetical. Let's take an example of foundation, one of the most commonly worn makeup items. You cannot have a foundation that is 100% oil-controlling and 100% non-drying at the same time, but what you can do is decide for yourself how to balance those preferences to find your optimal combination.

Let's simplify it and pretend that foundations have a linear relationship between oil-control vs. ability to moisturize the skin. For every percentage drop in oil control, you gain a percentage of moisturizing ability.