Jessica Vander Leahy talks breakouts and skincare for ZitSticka
The Spot

FaceTime: Model & Advocate for Women, Jess Vander Leahy

By Samantha Hillman

Welcome to FaceTime, a segment in which we interrogate the beauty whims, zit-melting strategies and self-care views of cool girls around the world. Here, multi-hyphenate (model! writer! presenter!) Jessica Vander Leahy talks acids, medicating her skin, and spills the tea from her fancy dermatologist. 

Jess! Talk to me about your skin. What’s it like? How well-behaved are we talking? 
Have you seen Girl, Interrupted? My skin is like Angelina Jolie’s character in the sense that when it’s behaving it’s wonderful and people seem to admire. But, when it’s triggered it’s so unpredictable. It’s real bad. It’s angry and the issues seem so deep—deep in the dermis, that is—and I just want to disappear until it calms the fuq down.Okay so what’s the best thing about your combination skin when it’s behaving? 

I love when my PH is on point because my pores are small and firm. My make-up reduced to just a touch of tinted moisturizer that accentuates my glow.

What sort of break-outs do you get?
When my skin isn’t happy it’s all down to my hormones, stress and, because I travel a lot, air pollution, changes in sleep and changes in water. Good skin after a 30 hour flight? Forget about it. Also, as I’ve aged my pigmentation is worsening. It took me a while to accept there’s not a lot I can do to stop it entirely because it’s just something that happens with people with my skin tone, but it’s a battle to make it less noticeable. 

Basically my skin is a reeeeal fussy bitch.

So, how do we keep her happy? 
Well, I treat her like I treat my friends, give ‘em acid and keep them hydrated. jk jk jk. But really... I’ve been to a lot of doctors. Nowadays, I use a lactic acid cleanser and low percentage (14%) glycolic scrub daily. I use a really thick moisturizer morning and night and I finish off my evening routine with a retinol and hyaluronic acid. Basically, if I‘m as consistent as I can be with these core products I see a noticeable brightening and evenness to my skin.

If I’m having a breakout I get a little salicylic acid peel from my dermatologist; this is a type of beta-hydroxy acid and is often in over the counter acne creams, but if you get it straight up from a professional it’s super effective. I also get prescribed topical clindamycin—a type of antibiotic—when I have weeks where the skin issues are deep and just won’t clear. 
So you’re not opposed to medicating your skin?
Not at all. I think some people leave their skin issues too long and try DIY solutions that can scar or do further damage. Sometimes you do need that medical-grade products to get rid of something properly.

You mentioned pigmentation, what’s your current approach to that?
Well the retinol helps with evening the skin tone but, being Australian, I know to worship sun protection. Given that I have pigmentation using an SPF is good but I MUST use a physical barrier too so zinc is a must for me. 

As a model, how do you prep your skin differently when you shoot? Or do you even do that, at all? Did I make that up?
It’s just all about keeping it clean and clear because it means that the makeup can sit nicely. Also I like to do a mask before I head to set because that way my face is juicy and plump and won’t be as inclined to suck in the oils from the makeup to hydrate itself.
For those of us who don’t have a fancy dermatologist to consult, can you give us some second-hand intel for free?
Yeah, let’s just preface all of this by reiterating I’m not a doctor! But I think seeing a professional for your skin is great if you can because, even with over the counter stuff you, can do some real damage. But I understand it’s pretty $$$.

I’d just say, even with a doctor to ask you’re the only one who can ~feel~
your skin so I think one of the best things you can do is just pay attention to it. It’s an organ, after all, so that means it’s constantly processing and adjusting to your environment and working in conjunction with a lot of other systems in your body. 

My doc says the same routine won’t work forever so when my skin starts to behave differently that’s when I know I need to switch up how I care for it.


Do you take pleasure in reading the skincare routines of strangers?! More of that here.