You Asked It

Damn Girl Ya Look Good

All sorts of epidermis-related issues this month.

My skin is a mess. It’s combination tending toward oily; I have blackheads, enormous pores, and regular blackouts. I am a low-maintenance person living in high-maintenance skin—I just want to be able to live my life without worrying about getting too little sleep or drinking soda or rubbing my face on a pillow. Do you have any products/tips/advice/sympathy? —Anonymous

I definitely have sympathy for ya, girl. I know firsthand how much of a bummer it is to have not-so-perfect skin. Yes, you should drink lots of water, get a good night’s rest, and wash your pillowcases regularly. But you shouldn’t have to go through life worrying about every single thing you are or aren’t doing.

So, a few things: First of all, no one has “perfect” skin—everyone has pores, and they’re visible, so don’t feel like your skin is “flawed” because you can see yours. The size of your pores depends on a zillion different factors, including genetics, environmental pollution, sun damage, and an excess of dead skin cells and/or makeup residue hanging out on your face (and in your pores). So, wear sunscreen, wash all your makeup off before you go to bed, and exfoliate. If you’re not already doing those things, that might just do the trick (and still qualifies as low maintenance in my book).

But it’s also possible that you’re over-cleansing. Washing your face more than twice a day can irritate your skin. Also, foaming soaps can contribute to dryness, which can lead to oiliness (because your skin starts to overproduce oils to compensate for the surface dryness), so you might want to try a cream cleanser, like this one from SkinCeuticals.

If you want to expend a little more effort, you might want to try the oil-cleansing method, which sounds like it’s gonna make your skin oilier, but actually often calms down over-active oil glands and excavates blackheads.

If none of these ideas has worked and you can spring for it, I’d recommend that you see an esthetician for a few regular facials. Someone who knows what they’re doing can get the gunk out of your pores with extractions (basically squeezing it out—don’t try to do this yourself if you don’t want acne scars!), chemical treatments, an at-home regimen tailored to your skin, or some combo of those. But a good esthetician can be expensive (probably around $100 just for a facial with extractions), which is why I recommend you try the other stuff first.

Clockwise from top left: Philosophy’s Hope in a Jar, $40, Sephora; Origins Charcoal Mask, $23, Sephora; Clinique Moisture Surge, $37, Sephora; Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Toner, $16, Kiehls

Finally, some product recommendations. Using a toner after cleansing might help with the oiliness, the acne, and the blackheads. I really like Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Toner. I also recommend getting a good mask to use once a week, like the Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask to Clean Pores. I mean, it’s all right there in the name, and it is AMAZING! Also, during the winter, your skin can get really dehydrated, sending your oil glands into overdrive, so it’s SUPER important to keep your skin moisturized with an oil-free product. I am a big fan of Philosophy’s Hope in a Jar and Clinique’s Moisture Surge. Good luck, my sista! —Marie

I’m really into experimenting and doing funky looks with my makeup, but I find my options severely limited by my sensitive skin, which has a bad reaction to most cosmetics (especially eyeliners and mascaras). Do you know of any good natural/hypoallergenic brands that are preferably cheap, too? —Madeline

I should say up front that I’m not a dermatologist, and you should, if possible, talk to one to find out exactly what might be bothering your skin, then consult this site to see if that irritant is in any product you’re considering. That’s really the only way to know for sure what to look for and what to avoid. Meanwhile, though, know that the word hypoallergenic is almost meaningless when it comes to makeup; there’s no guarantee that you won’t have a bad reaction to products that are labeled that way. And although there are no guarantees with this recommendation either, I’d say your best bet (until you get some concrete answers from a doctor) is probably mineral makeup, which usually doesn’t include ingredients like parabens and chemical dyes, both of which can irritate sensitive skin. Some that I like: bareMinerals mascara and eyeliner. In general, that line works well with sensitive skin, and I love this palette. If you’re on a budget, there are two indie cosmetic brands, both vegan, that could be a good alternative for you. Fyrinnae has a selection of unusual, complex colors, and you can order samples of most of their stuff, so try it out and see if you like it. Geek Chic Cosmetics is gluten free as well as vegan, and it aspires to nerdy excellence with its product names, which reference Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, video games, etc. I hope this helps! —Arabelle

I feel really self-conscious about my dark skin. I am half Greek and half Indian, but my South Asian characteristics are more dominant. Everyone else in my family has really beautiful olive skin, and I feel like I stick out in family photographs. I was hoping that you had some tips on how to make my complexion lighter, using a safe method? Any help would be much appreciated!

Hey, girl. I don’t think trying to lighten your skin is the way to go here, for so many reasons. One is, like you hinted at, that a lot of the more “effective” lightening products out there contain prescription-strength steroids or mercury, both of which are hazardous to your health. Seriously, they have led to horror stories. Even brand-name products that are FDA approved can have side effects like allergic reactions, sun sensitivity, and permanent spotting/discoloration.

More important, though, I’d rather see you love the way you look! The desire (and pressure) to be fair-skinned in our society is damaging not just to our skin but also to our hearts and souls. So what if you stick out in your family’s photographs? It’s good to stand out! I say wear a crazy hat and stick out more, you know what I mean?

How about this: if you want to experiment and have some fun with makeup, find products that really suit your natural skin tone and play around with those! I always believe that makeup is about enjoying yourself and feeling good, not hating some part of yourself or trying to “fix” something that you’ve been taught to see as a “flaw” (which makes me especially sad when it’s about something like race—don’t let our culture’s racist beauty standards poison your brain!). Bobbi Brown has a great system called Perfect Match that I find really helpful when choosing the right shade, and Iman’s website is really user friendly too—and both of those companies make makeup for every beautiful skin tone under the sun. Including yours! You are perfect just the way you are, boo. —Marie

Whenever a lipstick is described as “nude,” it seems to be for fairer skin than mine. I’m mixed race and my skin tone is similar to Thandie Newton’s. Do you know of any browner/pinker lipsticks I could wear that would have that “nude lip” effect?

I think lots of brands have “nude” lipsticks that would suit your complexion, so let me throw some suggestions out there. On the pricier end, you have M.A.C. lipsticks in Freckletone, Fresh Brew, Jubilee, and Half ’n Half. Also: Bobbi Brown’s Cocoa, Revlon’s ColorBurst in Hazelnut, NYX’s Extra Creamy Round Lipstick in Hades, and Nars’s Honolulu Honey. (Notice that none of these shades are called “nude,” which seems like ridiculous name anyway, since naked skin comes in so many colors!) The best way to find a shade that suits you is to visit a few counters and test for yourself, or ask someone to help you. Maybe arrange a date with your girlfriends and treat yourself! —Arabelle ♦

If you have a style/beauty question for Marie & her Rookie team, please send it to


  • Blythe January 16th, 2013 12:10 AM

    I also have sensitive skin and love makeup, but I gotta say–almost none of the products I use are cheap. I’ve found that e.l.f.’s shimmery eyeliner pencil doesn’t set me off as long as I wear it for a relatively short time only, and it’s only a dollar. Am about to experiment with some of their other products, and can update then.

  • Blythe January 16th, 2013 12:11 AM

    Oh and for the greasy-skinned person–avoid the hell out of anything with sulfates in it.

  • llamalina January 16th, 2013 12:44 AM

    i can totally relate to the second one. having dark skin in a light-skinned society is hard. i am only just now starting to embrace the color of my skin. hang in there!!

  • streaked lights January 16th, 2013 1:11 AM

    To the girl who needed advice for lighter skin, I feel ya. I don’t have light skin either, but I’ve finally accepted that and I hope you will too, because it’s so much easier and healthier than having this constant need to look ‘prettier’ when you already are!
    In Pakistani society, having light skin is kind of everyone’s #1 priority. There are so many cosmetics that have built-in whiteners, and of course, the infamous ‘Fair & Lovely’ whitener (or Fair & Handsome for the dudes.)
    In the ‘dating-section’ of the newspaper, you’ll have people adding ‘fair skin’ to their profiles because it’s that big of a factor.
    You have people terrified of getting a tan, and everytime I go back home to visit relatives, I tend to get complimented on my lighter skin (which is only because I stay indoors all day watching Doctor Who, haha)

    My point is, is that this is ridiculous. Do you know why being lighter is a big deal? It’s because having lighter skin means you can afford not to go outside for manual labor and such- which equals to power. WHICH IS WRONG.

    Ugh I wish I could change this outlook in life, but i think it can really only change once people accept themselves for who they are. IDK /end rant.

    (Also, if you really wanna freak your desi parents out, buy a bronzer, haha.)

    • Pearl January 16th, 2013 3:40 AM

      I’m totally with you! “Fair & Lovely” creams have become so common that it has become a part of normal skincare for girls in India as well. As a kid, I was taunted a lot for my dusky complexion but I never let that affect me. The ads for “Fair & Lovely” are so ridiculous it makes me sad. So many subtle hints of racism in the South – Asian sub continent, it’s crazy!

  • Lakshmi N. January 16th, 2013 1:55 AM

    hi girl thinking about skin color:

    i’m south indian and have darker skin than both my parents. whenever i’d visit india my relatives would always comment on my complexion, and my mom would sometimes make backhanded comments that even she didn’t realize were offensive. every single time i’d stop and correct her, but it’s frankly ridiculous how much this craze about light skin has permeated society. until that changes, i just say work with what nature gave you! i get lots of compliments about how well i take care of my skin and i like to think it makes me look unique. you’re beautiful!

    • Pearl January 16th, 2013 3:46 AM

      I totally understand! It’s sort of ingrained into Indian mindsets that fair skin = better looking which is so absurd! When I’d taken up swimming in 7th grade I’d tan a lot & I remember everyone around me telling me to quit swimming or else I’d turn completely dark! I’m still swimming BTW :D

  • Kevina January 16th, 2013 2:28 AM

    Giving up gluten completely saved my skin and I recommend it to anyone looking for long term acne fixes. I also hear that giving up dairy can help too. No dermatologist ever recommended diet changes to me-in fact, many said explicitly that giving up gluten would not help-but I can say from experience that it made all the difference in the world.

  • Katya2 January 16th, 2013 2:51 AM

    To the girl worried about her skin,

    You can also go to your GP and get prescription creams or pills for your skin.

    I did, and my clean is so much clearer :)

    • freya2770 January 17th, 2013 5:44 PM

      I completely second this– I spent years messing about with(and spending quite a lot of money on) over-the-counter skin products trying to fight acne.

      While I wouldn’t say they were completely useless, it was definitely the prescription medication I got from my GP that fixed the problem once and for all– in the space of a few months I went from having constant and pretty persistent spots to just the occasional few.

      I know this may not work for everyone, but I would highly recommend consulting a doctor/dermatologist if possible :)

  • julalondon January 16th, 2013 2:55 AM

    seriously, what is wrong with this society? i’m german and everyone over here would die for darker skin; we are all pale and girls stay out in the sun for hours without sun protection, so they get all tanned and stuff. worst thing is that they don’t care about skin cancer etc…… our world is just so f***ed up…

  • sophiethewitch January 16th, 2013 3:06 AM

    I’ve never been interested in makeup, until very recently. Since I think of it as something completely unnecessary and just for fun, I’ve been taking my time trying to find a brand that’s as close to perfect as possible, in terms of ethics and sustainability. I haven’t had any luck. The problem is that companies that are eco-friendly, don’t test on animals, don’t use sweatshop labor, have LGBTQQA friendly workplaces, etc., seem to be all about “enhancing your natural beauty.” I never saw the point in that. If I’m going to the trouble of wearing makeup, I want it to be dramatic!

    So I just looked at the fyrinnae website, and it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. Finally. Thank you so much.

  • shelley January 16th, 2013 7:01 AM

    Aw the girl who posted about wanting paler skin made me think of ganguro girls of Japan. In Japan paler skin is usually deemed as “prettier” but this sub-culture just basically said fuck it and started plastering themselves in fake tan. I’m not saying you need to try and look like a ganguro girl (although they are really cool but maybe you can learn from them that dark skin is beautiful and you can work it!

  • jenaimarley January 16th, 2013 7:54 AM

    Aww I know it’s hard to just love your skin the way it is (I’d do anything for DARKER skin actually because I am pale and freckly) but I find it strange that in places like India and China, fair skin = more beautiful than dark skin where as in European countries and America, tan/darker skin = more beautiful. I think it has to do a lot with the idea of class (having lighter skin in china for example means you aren’t a farmer and can afford to stay inside, for example, where as having tan skin in the U.S. means you can afford to vacation in the Bahamas or whatever) so along with all the racist undertones, the skin color / beauty paradigm is really something that we shouldn’t buy into, in my opinion.

    • jenaimarley January 16th, 2013 8:02 AM

      Also the “nude” lipstick question is a good one! It always bothered me that “skin-colored bandaids” are so light….there are so many racist assumptions in our society! Ugh!

    • ladylaurenia January 16th, 2013 3:44 PM

      It acutally has very little to do with class. Everyone in American can get a tan in the summer, specially if they live in a warm climate….It has to do with eurocentric beauty standards people have (and continue) to be brainwashed to believe. Plus, not EVERYONE in America wants a deeper skin tone. You’re basically discluding millions of black and brown people who still prefer lighter skin tones.

      • jenaimarley January 16th, 2013 11:47 PM

        I respectfully disagree that it doesn’t have to do with class at all. It may have less to do with it nowadays but for example in China, fair skin was a beauty standard far before eurocentricity even became a possibility.
        Also I disagree that EVERYONE in America can get a tan in the summer (I have to work very hard or I guess laze very hard or pay lots of money to do so and I live in a place where 70 degrees isn’t strange for the Winter). I definitely didn’t mean to insinuate, though, that everyone in Europe/America wants tanner skin, but it is definitely a trend and even my African-American cousins definitely aspire to get tanner rather than lighter…So we can’t really generalize that either. I don’t mean to dispute that Eurocentric beauty standards are a huge element in it all though! I just wanted to make the point that a lot of beauty standards have to do with wealth/luxury standards as well as the industrial monetary gains from our insecurities and need to fit into the standards.

        • tasmia January 24th, 2013 11:20 PM

          Yeah, I too believe class is a big factor. There was this article that was talking about how the fair skin + fuller shape was the standard, because it signified that you stayed indoors and didn’t have to work (and were thus upper-class.) Then the beauty ideal shifted as the rich were able to vacation to tropical places and get a tan, and also go to the gym and such. The article explains it pretty well! –>

  • emellie January 16th, 2013 8:01 AM

    If you haven’t tried them yet i’d really recommend using muslin cloths instead of regular face cloths to wash your face.
    If you wet them with hot water and wash off your cleanser with one it like exfoliates gently and helps with blackheads. You can get them pretty cheap on ebay for like £2 for 10.

  • katie_o January 16th, 2013 10:02 AM

    I’m gonna second the Origins charcoal mask – it is actually amazing and changed my skin (in a good way!!). It also works really well in conjunction with the Origins “Drink Up” intensive mask!

  • wallflower152 January 16th, 2013 11:05 AM

    I don’t think the skin color issue is necessarily a racism thing, although it definitely can be, but I think it’s kinda like how people with curly hair want straight hair and people with straight hair want curly hair. Many light skinned people want tans and many dark skinned people want light skin and they all do dangerous and unhealthy things to attain it. I too have struggled with disking my skin tone. I am half caucasian half hispanic so without a suntan in the winter I love my skin, it is the color most people envy, a creamy light tan color. But in the summer I go out of my way to avoid getting a tan to try to preserve my color. I even avoid fun outdoor things that involve being in the sun. (Many of the stars that I think are beautiful have pale skin and dark hair: Zooey Deschanel, Camilla Bell, Aubrey Plaza.) Also I fear getting wrinkles which is another thing society should learn to embrace but yeah. Oh and another big reason I avoid the sun if possible is skin cancer, my grandfather died of melanoma. So yeah, I think we all should try to love our natural skin colors and not do dangerous things to try to attain the opposite for whatever reason. : )

  • Mary the freak January 16th, 2013 12:23 PM

    That was so great and helpful! Especially the first one.


    Anyways, it’s incredibly perfect and I am living for Rookie, seriously. I love you guys so much!

  • Claire January 16th, 2013 12:38 PM

    That Origins charcoal mask from Sephora is the absolute jam. The first time I used it, it’s like there was an entirely new layer of fresh clean baby skin that had been hiding under my grotty blackheads all along.

  • EmmaC January 16th, 2013 12:57 PM

    Pond’s Cold Cream. That’s all I have to say.

    • Nimble April 6th, 2013 9:51 AM

      I use Pond’s. I absolutely agree it’s the best.

  • iliad January 16th, 2013 1:02 PM

    If you actually have acne (you’ve been diagnosed with it) and ESPECIALLY if you have ever had a cystic zit under NO circumstances should you EVER use the oil-cleansing method.
    Actual acne is a condition defined by your skin producing too much sebum (oil) and using oil cleansing will make it a million times worse.
    Also you should probably avoid that charcoal mask, or any product with sulfates/sulfites/sulfur in it.
    Good ideas are using cleansers with benzyl peroxide or even just using regular ol’ hydrogen peroxide as a toner.

  • silvermist January 16th, 2013 1:40 PM

    I used to have bad skin too and I was also too lazy to do anything about it; sometimes I tried products and they worked for a while but then I just got tired of using them every morning/night.
    Then I started taking birth control pills (for different reasons – I had really awful cramps during my period) and my skin got 289383x better. The best thing is that I can’t just forget to take the pill or else I will have my period out of time so there’s no way to ruin this.
    I’m not saying to just go buy a pill (there are side effects that you should know and blablabla) but sometimes the best thing is just go to your doctor and ask what they recommend to you – and I’m not only talking about pills, sometimes they also have great advice as they were teens once too.

    PS: I saw someone say about giving up dairy, and I also noticed my skin got better after I started drinking soya milk instead of ‘normal’ milk (also not for skin or health reasons but because of a really gross experiment in a biology class that I remember everytime I look at milk, haha).

  • Teez January 16th, 2013 2:24 PM

    i found arabelle’s answer on nude lipstick helpful, it can be hard to find the right colour when you’re not white!

    in response to the comments made about the girl wishes she had lighter skin:

    i don’t feel like it’s the same as wanting a tan. the trend is nowhere near as pervasive. you can open any high fashion or beauty magazine and see both pale and tan looks on caucasian women, the same cannot be said of dark south asian skin types. Off the top of my head I struggle to think of women other than Mindy Kaling and M.I.A. in the western public eye who represent a darker south indian skin tone, and i think it’s fair to say we learn so many of our ideas of beauty from the media and the images around us. I don’t blame anyone for wanting to look lighter when you cannot see many people in the media telling you that your skin tone is beautiful, especially when the people around you, your family, seem to adhere to what society seems to be asking of you… i’m not gonna pretend that that isn’t hard to deal with, but that’s the fucked up media’s problem not yours. it doesn’t do any of us any good to try to compare our beauty to others, be it to your family or your friends or any others. but at the same time, don’t admonish yourself for feeling that way in the first place, the desire to ‘fit in’ can be overwhelming!

    you define your own beauty. difference is to be celebrated!

    • Lakshmi N. January 16th, 2013 3:16 PM

      holla at MIA and mindy kaling for reppin beuatiful and fierce south indian women – they are an inspiration!

  • DreamBoat January 16th, 2013 2:28 PM

    The dark skin question really got me thinking! I am white and have uber pale skin, and I think the question really showed how our society IS SUPER FIXATED on being white. We “whitewash” dark skinned models (even Beyonce!) in make-up ads, we barely put models or people that aren’t white or “tanned in an “attractive” [AKA white] way” in mainstream society’s media. As my baby Marie said, it’s damaging to the soul! Marie’s suggestions were awesome, and I have one more: use today to start loving yourself the way you are! Limit damaging media intake that makes you feel bad about yourself; visit body positive websites; do what makes you feel positive about yourself instead of trying to change yourself!

  • RaineFall January 16th, 2013 3:39 PM

    I’m so glad that there’s been some coloured skin questions on here!
    Firstly, geek make up is so awesome. Just have to say I spent like 20 minutes looking at the website, and forgot to read the rest of the article.
    With regards to coloured skin:
    In India, it is unbelievable the desire to have lighter skin, which my Mum says is a class thing as she said people thing those with dark skin work outside = lower class (this was informative not my Mum being class-ist, she thinks its stupid too)
    However, I really want to address the issue of dark skin in Western society.
    I have next to never seen a mainstream magazine give good advice for dark skin, so went blind with buying foundation and other make up. There are hardly any Indian models, so it’s really hard to see on an actual person what looks are good and what colours match etc.
    Also ideas which would suit dark girls are never shown, for example I see many articles on the “nude look” for white girls and “gothic look” where pale foundation is a must, but nothing specific for our skin tone.
    The same goes with curly hair – it has taken me 6 years to work out how to handle properly curly hair and work out what hair styles/ cuts work.
    In conclusion, this was really a rant at society, but if Rookie could, it may be a good idea to have one style article for minorities (whether it be skin colour or curly/ afro hair types)? Dunno what anyone else thinks about that?

    • ladylaurenia January 16th, 2013 3:47 PM

      I like that idea!

    • Lakshmi N. January 16th, 2013 4:38 PM


    • Sharon January 16th, 2013 5:28 PM

      holla @ all SE Asia/ Indian girls omg. Esp. ones w/ curly hair! It’s hard to watch makeup/hair tutorials on youtube or wherever b/c sometimes you can’t figure out the colors to fit your skin tone. My advice is to listen to the intro of “Upgrade U” whenever you’re feeling down. I’ve had curly South Indian hair and its taken me 16 years to figure out how to tame it (coconut oil–not on roots–and lightly rise out helps w/ the whole “oily on top dry on bottom” situation btw). Also, serious recognition to Mindy Kaling for being such a queen.
      I’d love to see more recognition of minorities on rookie! Game recognize game, after all.

  • GlitterKitty January 16th, 2013 6:07 PM

    The nude lipstick question made me think of this ballet documentary I saw. One of the girls had dark skin and was talking about how she always has to cut the “skin colour” mesh bits in her costumes out, dye them darker, and sew them back in. There was literally no costume supplier that made these things with different colour options for the parts that were supposed to be “skin colour”. And she was living in America, which is generally considered multicultural. It’s crazy how our culture deals with skin colour.

    • Teez January 16th, 2013 7:08 PM

      what was this documentary by the way? i’d like to watch it

      • tasmia January 24th, 2013 11:05 PM

        I watched it on the airplane recently! I believe it was called first point.

    • Blythe January 16th, 2013 11:43 PM

      Oh yeah for theatre, we had to get leos and tights from a dance shop and not only did they have like one shade of dark for the skin tone stuff, everything was also in “skinny girl” sizes.

  • Jasminumrex January 16th, 2013 8:57 PM

    For anyone with acne problems: If nothing else is working, you might want to consider trying Accutane, Acnenormin or some other Isotretinoin based drug. The bad news is that its very strong and can cause a lot of side effects, you will have to go on birth control, can not get pregnant, might have to take the drugs up to a year or so and have to have monthly blood tests, BUT the good news: it really, really works!
    I never had severe acne, but since the age of twelve, now for over 10 years, suffered from regular break outs, pimples, name it. I tried different creams, cleansers, antibiotics, treatments, lazer, cutting dairy and gluten out of my diet, exercising more, getting enough sleep and fresh air… the whole nine yards, you know. But none of it really worked.

    Finally I can leave the house in the morning without spending 45 minutres trying to cover up 3 new spots on my forehead and wishing I could just crawl back under the sheets and hide from the world, and I can wake up next to my boyfriend and not want to run away because i think i must look monstrous. (not that you really do, its just in your little head)

    Not overcleaning your face is also good. You really don’t need to wash, scrub, tone and cream your face several time a day. A lot of products for acne skin are MUCH too strong and only cause your skin to dry out and get really irritated. Avoid anything with alcohol, love everything natural like jojoba oil and vegan moisturizer.

  • ladyjenna January 16th, 2013 9:56 PM

    Waitwaitwaitwait……you’re NOT supposed to pop pimples?!?!?! Even when they’re gross and poppable?

    I cannot NOT stop picking at my face whatever I do….I think Im ocd or something