Suffering from acne can be a very lonely journey so it’s sometimes comforting to know that you’re not battling this alone. We’ve documented a 3 month journey with before and after photo’s so you can follow the progress and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Find the ‘Yay and Nay’ list of products including Rx medications Accutane, Minocycline, Over-the-counter skin care products, peels and makeup in Part 2.
I’m 30 and an acne sufferer for most part of my life. It’s been the bane of my existence. I have the cystic hormonal type, superficial bumps, painful mountains, small whiteheads under the skin, blackheads…EVERYTHING! I get them around my chin, my cheeks, my forehead and around the temple area – sometimes in all the places at once, sometimes in clusters in an isolated area. Yes, I pick AND squeeze…which means scarring and LOT’S of it and I’m a face touch-er – which has made it worse on my right chin, cheek and temple – all places I touch when I’m stressed or thinking. I’ve used Proactiv for years, over the counter and prescription meds including Accutane – which gave me the best skin of my life for 6 months, then it returned!
There hasn’t been a day (besides the 6 months of great skin) where I’ve not thought about my pimples and scars. It plays such a huge role in my day-to-day decisions - I accept and decline social commitments, dinners with friends, beach outings, dates etc… depending on the condition of my skin. When I meet people, it feels as if they’re staring at the acne. There was a stage where I was living like a vampire…only venturing out at night because the dark concealed some of the acne. If I was going away for the weekend, the first thing I’d think about would be how to do the ‘no-makeup’ makeup for times where I shouldn’t be wearing makeup like after I showered or when I woke in the morning. When I went out to dinners, I’d hope for a restaurant with dim lighting because it’s more forgiving. There was absolutely no beach outings or days lazing about the pool in summer because I couldn’t go in the water in fear of my concealer dissolving and my acne being exposed to the world! Every morning was depressing because I’d wake up and count how many new pimples have come up overnight! I was obsessed with my skin.
The journey starts one winter morning…my acne had flared up from all the stress, traveling and change of climates. It was aggressive - 2 to 3 new cystic pimples a day and smaller ones forming under the skin that’ll be erupting in the next few days. Fed up, I decided to throw out my usual acne routine – which was Proactiv. It seemed to have stopped working for me. It was good while I was in my early 20’s but perhaps my skin had formed a resistance to it?
Off I went to the pharmacy – I picked up:
A cleanser: Clean and Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser with 10% Benzoyl Peroxide (BP). The BP in this cleanser is the active ingredient in Proactiv, but more powerful. The Proactiv cleanser has 2.5% BP whereas this cleanser had 10%! I researched this and found that a higher % of BP does not mean it was more effective. 10% Benzoyl Peroxide could be just as effective as 2.5%. I washed my face twice a day as instructed – I have thick skin from so many years of using acne products so I didn’t get any irritation, those with sensitive skin should perhaps try it once per day at night before increasing. It left a tingly peppermint like feeling after washing, which I didn’t mind.
All over treatment: DermaDoctor Ain’t Misbehavin’ Medicated Acne control Serum. This all-over treatment has 2% Salicylic acid to help exfoliate the skin and shed the dead cells that clog the pores. The associate raved about this product above all other ones – so in my desperate state, I bought it. It smells a little like witch hazel, but absorbs into the skin really well. I used it in the morning under my makeup and once again at night. I liked this, but it was a little expensive and I’m not entirely convinced that other cheaper face treatments with 2% salicylic would also do the job.
A Spot treatment: Neutrogena Rapid Clear 2 in 1 Fade and Fight gel. This also has 2% Salicylic Acid which helps ‘fight the acne’ but not sure which ingredient was there to help the scars ‘fade’. I applied this twice a day – morning and night. It didn’t absorb into the skin but sat on top of it, which made applying makeup a challenge. I didn’t really like the feel of it on my face, but hey, if it was going to control and fade my acne scars, I’m going to stick to it!
Clarisonic Acne brush head: I already had the Clarisonic Plus and was using it with the normal head. I thought I’d go out and get the acne brush because it was gentler on the cystic acne.
I didn’t notice much improvement in my skin with this new routine but was determined to stick to the regiment – after all, everyone says to be persistent if you want the results right?
I did notice my skin becoming a little red on the problem areas and flakey where I applied (and reapplied) the spot treatment. I increased the spot treatment to 3 times a day.
Week 3 and 4
I’m getting a little impatient – acne is still aggressive as ever! My skin is a little sensitive so I avoid any type of waxing. Frustrated, I added to my product list. I went out and bought:
A scrub: St Ives Apricot Scrub – not to be confused with the St Ives Apricot Cleanser. This one has 2% Salicylic Acid and little sand-like grains. I LOVE this! It’s fantastic! I’m usually very heavy handed and scrub until my face is raw, but the cystic acne is hurting me so I needed to be gentler on my problem areas. This makes my skin feel so clean and fresh.
A toner: P50 Biologique Recherche. This is expensive stuff (approx. $90 a bottle) and hard to get my hands on but a complete game changer! If I was stranded and could only bring one thing only, this would be it for me! It completely changes the texture of your skin! I read so many reviews about this cult product and when you’re at dire straits with your skin, you’ll try anything! Don’t be scared by the smell and intense tingling on your face –apparently its normal according to the thousands of reviews I read! It has a brief numb-like sensation on the sensitive areas (like around your lips) which lasts about 30 seconds…nothing to be alarmed about. I also went a little pink for about a minute…but all this subsided after my skin became accustomed to it. I used this twice a day after cleansing, morning and night. I poured a little in the palm of my hand and applied it onto my face – I couldn’t justify soaking cotton balls in this stuff, as the bottle says to do! Don’t expect changes overnight – this stuff subtly changes the texture of your skin. You won’t be able to notice it until you stop using it for a week and realize your skin’s looking a bit dull!
The regimen now was:
Morning: Cleanse (Clean and Clear), Tone (P50), All over face treatment (DermaDoctor), Spot Treatment (Neutrogena), Apply makeup.
Makeup: I used only mineral makeup – Bare Escentuals Original mineral Powder and ColorScience Pro Mineral sunscreen. The minerals help with the sensitivity and didn’t make me breakout. To conceal the scars, I used Clinique Spot Concealer, which is supposed to have salicylic acid in it, but doesn’t state what percentage – I’m a bit iffy about this one. It was quite cakey when I applied it onto the affected areas and it didn’t blend very well – but I couldn’t bear the thought of making my skin worse by using all this makeup, so if this was going to conceal and help with the acne – I’m sold. As for blush, some blush can make you breakout so be careful. I didn’t want to look too ‘made up’ so rather than using a mineral powder blush- which would have made me look very matte, I used Benefit’s Benetint. This looked natural and because it’s a liquid, it gave me a nice dewy glow on top of my powdered face.
Noon: Spot Treatment (Neutrogena).
Night: Cleanse (Clean and Clear) using Clarisonic twice a week and St Ives Scrub Twice a week when I’m not using the Clarisonic; Tone (P50 solution), All Over Face treatment (DermaDoctor), Spot treatment (Neutrogena).
Week 5 and 6
I’m starting to notice the fruits of my labor pay off from my persistence with the regimen above. I’m getting fewer pimples, but still get 1 or 2 new big bumps every week. The scarring is the problem now. It makes it look worse than what it really is!
The big guns are called in – I venture to the dermatologist where I’m prescribed with antibiotics (Minocycline), a retinol peel (1%) and a prescription for 4% hydroquinone cream – which is now banned in the US! The antibiotics are supposed to reduce the bacteria causing my cystic acne, the retinol and hydroquinone are for my scars.
After 3 days, the retinol peel has made the top layer of my skin peel off in slabs – like a sever sunburn. It didn’t hurt when it went on and still doesn’t hurt but I’m red and a little sensitive. I see the new skin underneath and it looks promising – even though right now it looks like I’m suffering from some kind of skin condition. I’m advised to start the hydroquinone in about a week after my skin has completely stopped peeling. While I’m peeling on the retinol, I’ve also stopped using anything with active ingredients such as Benzoyl peroxide or Salicylic Acid. Instead I used Cetaphil to cleanse and Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream to soothe the dry itchy patches. For sunscreen, I used the ColorScience Pro Mineral Sunscreen.
To Be Continued...