The True Story of a Woman Who Breaks Out From Practically Everything

I was a sophomore in college when I first entered the world of beauty. The moment my 19-year-old self saw a fully stocked beauty closet for the first time as an intern for Essence is forever etched in my memory. Seeing products galore was comparable to a kid in a candy shop—I was hooked. I went on to complete beauty internships for consecutive summers at Woman's Day and InStyle. Then, I got my first big-girl job as a beauty assistant at Now, I work on the best beauty team ever at the Byrdie HQ. 

In short, your girl's been around the beauty block a few times. You'd think, though, that after nearly six years of working in beauty I'd have the most glowing, gorgeous complexion ever.

The truth is, I'm a beauty editor, and my breakouts have never been worse.

maya allen beauty
Maya Allen

You might be looking at this filter-less photo wondering What is she even talking about her skin looks spotless? This took a lot of spots correcting with my holy grail Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer ($30), imperfection-blurring with my fave Fenty Foundation ($35), knowing my angles, and good lighting.

Continuously testing new products is literally a part of my job description, and I love it. Every day the newest and coolest launches come across my desk, and I get an exciting urge to test them. Unfortunately, my endless experimentation with skincare and makeup products over the years (even more so, high-end lines that I could never afford to buy myself) has caused my sensitive skin cystic breakouts and prominent dark spots.

I have an extended glossary of ingredients to avoid when trying new products. I always stay away from things like alcohol, fragrance, sulfates, and even too many oils. Even though essential oils are natural, a hefty combination of them can essentially clog your pores and backfire on you by causing buildup.

maya allen red lips
Maya Allen

At this point, I wear makeup every day like it's my crutch to mask my flaws. But how ironic is it that I have a career in beauty but am overwhelmingly insecure about my skin? I repeatedly remind myself that it isn't my job to have perfect skin but to continuously aim to feel beautiful on the inside and out. It's a comparable feeling to imposter syndrome. I interview top dermatologists and aestheticians on a daily basis and authoritatively write about beauty like it's second nature. I inform readers about what to do for their skin, but I don't even know what to do for my own damn skin. 

Since this is one of the most honest things I've ever written, I'll even say this: After expressing my angst with breakouts to certain skin experts, I tried their recommended products, and it only worsened my acne. But I recently tried microneedling for the first time in hopes of aiding my acne scars. It's been about two weeks since my treatment, and I've noticed a vast improvement in the texture of my sin, which is noticeably softer. However, I've concluded that I need a few more sessions to see a major difference in my acne scars.

You're probably reading this and expecting a solution, or some sort of light at the end of a tunnel. And since you know one of my biggest secrets now, I'll share with you that I'm kind of lost and still searching for answers. I try new products whose creators swear will help and change my skin. It all goes well until about a week and a half later when I wake up with glaring pimples that turn into post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. If you're dealing with the same thing, all I can say is I feel you. I can always count on these gentle products to not irritate my skin: Glossier's Milky Jelly Cleanser ($18), Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair $95), and Laura Mercier's Infusion De Rose Nourishing Oil ($65). 

On a lighter note, I don't ever plan on leaving the beauty industry, so I'm still holding onto hope that one day I'll find a line of products made for my hypersensitive, emotional, acne-prone skin.

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