Zits happen

Monster zits still take us by surprise. God knows why, since studies have shown that more than 70 percent of women aged 25 to 49 had an acne attack in the past year - and that includes beauty editors like us who wake up to find an angry red bump between our eyes.

The first, and often biggest, challenge is to resist the urge to scrub and scrub the blemish without mercy. According to Yale University dermatologist Lisa Donofrio, women past the age of 20 require gentler products than teenagers and applying a treatment more than twice a day can break the skin, infect the surrounding area and eventually form a crust. This in turn slows healing and increases the chances of leaving a red mark that lasts for weeks. Charming.

Instead of caking on zit cream, start by washing your face twice daily with a cleanser containing up to 5 percent salicylic acid to unclog pores and reduce redness. Wait five minutes for skin to dry then dab the pimple just once in the morning and once at night with a speck of a 2 percent salicylic acid or 7 to 10 percent benzoyl peroxide ointment (you can also try a topical antibacterial lotion or mask containing sulfur). This should kill the bacteria that caused the mess in the first place. And forswear retinols on the area for a few days; while they do help prevent blemishes, they also exacerbate the redness in an existing zit.

If your breakouts are big, ugly and prolonged and don't respond to traditional lotions, ask a dermatologist to pull out the big guns. For some women, that's a prescription antibiotic or sulfur lotion; for others, it may be oral antibiotics, the Pill or in extreme cases, Accutane. Laser sessions, while expensive, have been proven quite effective in zapping away zits, scars and redness.

Whatever you do, remember not to poke, prod or pop. Ever. Adult pimples tend to start far underground and almost never come to a head so squeezing them will only make them bigger.

Here are our suggestions of gentle but effective deep cleansers:

  •  Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash, US$49. Recommended for acne- and breakout-prone skin. This non-irritating, naturally-foaming cleanser is the perfect start to around-the-clock control of breakouts, comedones and excess surface oils. Salicylic Acid sloughs off dead skin cells to clear clogged follicles, helping to prevent future breakout activity.

  • Neutrogena Deep Clean Foaming Cleanser, US$9, refreshes your skin and awakens your senses with a super tingly foaming lather that deep cleans down to your pores. This ultra-exhilarating formula provides an invigorating surge of clean for a long-lasting fresh feeling.

  • Kiehl's Blue Herbal Gel Cleanser, US$34. Inspired by Kiehl's venerable and most enduring preparation, Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion, this purifying gel cleanser thoroughly cleans pores and removes traces of dirt, residue and oil which can lead to acne break-outs. Mild cleansing agents are used to formulate a completely oil-free but non-drying preparation which helps keep skin clear of new acne blemishes.

  •  Biotherm Biopur Pore Reducer Gentle Purifying Gel, US$24. Saponine water, Copper and Zinc (for oil-regulating) are combined into a purifying cleansing gel to deeply unclog pores and reveal clearer-looking skin. It eliminates excess sebum and allows skin to appear fresh and healthier looking throughout the day.


Crash course: Fake lashes

Back in college, we swore to our friends that we'd never fake it. Now that we've been around the block a few times, we realise that we're willing to make an exception to this rule - if just for one night. Here's how to make fakes look as natural as possible:

1. Choose clusters of individual lashes, not a full band. Find ones that are the same length as your natural lashes or trim them with eyebrow scissors, snipping a tiny bit off each lash (at an angle) so they're slightly different lengths. Reserve the longest clusters for the outer corners of the eyes.

We recommend KOJI Dolly Wink Fake Eyelash in No. 5 Real Nude, US$18. It's designed for extend eyelash length. The intertwined spread of each lash makes your lash look thicker with volume. The end of the lash is longer and denser which makes it spread like a wing of an angel. Your look will become more defined.

2. Before attaching the fakes, curl your own lashes and line your eyes with a dark brown or black pencil. This will help conceal the lash roots.

We recommend KOJI Eyelash Curler, US$9. It fits all eye shapes to give straight lashes the perfect curl.

And Imju Dejavu Lasting-Fine Eyeliner in Real Black, US$16. It's the ultimate 24-hour eyeliner which provides super holding power. It is soft and gentle to skin with revolutionary silicon fixing ingredient makes it last long! It resists oil, sweat and tears for a long-wearing, rub-proof finish.

The soft lead of lasting-fine allows you to draw smooth eyelines, the deep black formula gives eyes a stunning impact with bold high definition, yet easily removed with regular cleanser. Twist-up ensures fine, precise lines at all times without sharpening.

3. Put a drop of lash glue on a hard surface, like the outside of the case the lashes came in and let it dry for a minute until it's tacky. Hold the lash tip with tweezers and dip the root in the glue.

4. Starting at the outer corners, wedge the glued end between your natural lashes and hold it in place for a few seconds. A couple of clusters at the outer corners of the upper lashes are usually enough but you can also use them to fill in sparse areas. For the most natural effect, don't glue on more than five clusters to each eye and steer clear of the inner corners.

5. Once lashes are set, apply shadow and a few coats of mascara to blend the fakes with your natural ones. To remove, wet lashes with water or an oil-based makeup remover - that should be enough to soften the glue.

We recommend Guerlain Le 2 de Guerlain Two Brush Mascara 360 Lash in 10 Noir, US$41. The first brush transforms the eyelashes with a single stroke, fills them out, lengthens, curves and separates them.

The second, miniature brush is designed for the inner and outer corners and tilted 7 degrees, to reach and grab the smaller eyelashes and make them up easily without smudges or mistakes.

And DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, US$30. Try this amazing cleanser and you'll see why it's so popular. Dirt, excess oil, makeup - even waterproof mascara - and other pore-cloggers dissolve easily, leaving your face a grime-free zone that is soft to the touch. Its unique water-soluble formula rinses completely, so you'll never see a greasy residue. Olive oil and vitamin E help ensure you won't see dryness either.

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