I think we can all collectively agree that acne fucking sucks. It's something that no one should have to deal with and yet, something that everyone has dealt with at one point or another. (unless you're some sort of pore-less, oil-less, super human which in that case, I hate you.)
Most people get hit with acne around puberty, deal with it throughout their teen years, and grapple it by the time they get to college. My skin, however, had a different plan in mind.
Throughout high school, I had very average teenage skin - on the oilier side, with a casual breakout. Never amazing and airbrushed like some of my friends, but never insane. That is, until grade 12.
Halfway through grade 12, my skin turned on me. Big time. Huge, cystic breakouts popped up on either of my cheeks that showed no signs of stopping. I took a trip to the doctor to get an oral antibiotic. After three months, my skin cleared up by prom. I thought my Canadian Horror Story – skin edish, was over.
But when I got to first year in university, somewhere around November, my skin lashed out again with the same, terrible breakouts as before. I was so embarrassed at the big red marks I wouldn't dare leave the house without a full face of makeup and even got self conscious talking to classmates. This was supposed to be my time to meet new people and be myself, but how could I do that if I felt so ugly?
After some serious research and a lot of reluctance from my mom, I went on a serious acne medication called Accutane. Accutane is well known for curing acne, but also for being very controversial. The drug is known to cause a lot of dangerous side effects in the process – varying from clinical depression to chrones disease.
Dangers aside, I hopped on the Accutane bandwagon for about 5 months and it really did almost immediately clear my skin. My breakouts stopped. My skin wasn’t oily at all. I was dealing with dryness, sore muscles, and crazy mood swings, but I had my skin – and life -back. Although Accutane did really save me, it also f*cked me up enough that I wouldn't hop back on unless I desperately needed to. It's also important to note that if you're sexually active at the time (which I was not) you need to go on birth control, or be extremely careful about sexual relations. Some doctors in the states even insist on abstinence solely because if you do get pregnant or get a woman pregnant, your child will without a doubt have birth defects; which is a risk no one should be willing to take.
It's been 4 years post-Accutane now and I've finally gotten my acne under control. After some spurts with my dermatologist and fluctuating hormones, I've figured out what works best for me. It's important to note that everyone's skin is different and I'm not a licences dermatologist or skincare professional in any way shape or form - but I do have some tips that have worked wonders for me & friends I've shared with.
1. Use products that are oil-free, non-comodegenic & fragrance-free to reduce risk of irritation
Ingredients really are everything. By limiting what you put on your face, you greatly decrease your risk for skin irritation. Fragrances and oils can obviously cause your face to freak out via clogged pores and redness. Non-comodegenic is a fancy word for saying "won't clog pores". Oil-free is basically a given for any of my oil-faced friends out there and if you're prone to irritation, fragrance free is a good way to go. Look for these key words when purchasing both skin care & makeup.
2. Watch how much you're washing your face
Fun fact - your face doesn't really need that much of a clean in the morning. I remember reading in Vogue how a certain model skips her morning face wash because of all the good oils your face produces over night. After this, I started washing my face with a warm wash cloth in the morning - no cleanser, nothing. I follow up with a toner, treatment and moisturizer that serves me just fine for my day to day. Sometimes, over-washing or washing your face with harsh ingredients can do more harm than acne-fighting good. I'm not saying a wash-skip is a great idea for everybody, but you could try it out and see how it works.
3. Take advantage of your local doctor
Even if you can't get in with your dermatologist, some doctors may be comfortable with prescribing acne treatments. If not your local doctor, walk-in doctors are also super helpful as well, whether in prescribing an acne cream or an oral antibiotic. If your acne does get super serious & cystic, your doctor can also refer you to a dermatologist who's more familiar with treatment.
Accutane is not the first step to clearing acne. Your doctor and term will most likely prescribe at least 2 other medications before throwing you on Accutane. As I've mentioned, there are some very serious side effects associated with the drug, and even still, it doesn't ensure your acne will be gone forever. Even now, I take a pill to help level my hormone levels/eliminate hormonal acne, and that's 4-years post Accutane.
4. Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (!!!)
This shit is truly magical. I use this as a natural toner every goddamn day. 1 part organic apple cider vinegar (I use Braggs brand) to 1 part water makes for an amazing acne cure. For added bacteria fighting ingredients, add some tea tree oil. You can even drink a shot of apple cider vinegar with with a glass of water as a way to further treat your acne and detox your body.
5. Try out chemical exfoliation
Exfoliation is truly key to making sure your pores are clear and healthy. Unlike physical exfoliants with beads and particles to abrasively scrub at your skin, chemical exfoliants sink into your skin to chemically shed the surface levels of dead skin to keep pores clear and skin glowing.
You might have to shop around to see what kind of exfoliants work best for you - whether it's Alpha Hydrolic Acid, Beta Hydrolic Acid or Glycolic Acid. When it comes to chemical exfoliants, it's very important to give your skin time to adjust to the treatment, meaning you'll want to ease into it at first. Read product directions carefully and when it doubt, always patch test!! I use the Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser every night with this cleansing brush. (A tiny bit goes a LONG way) and these peels weekly/before a big event for a glowing complexion. My skin definitely scars more than the average person's and I totally credit chemical exfoliation for my clear complexion.
IDC what your misconceptions about moisturizing are, you need to do it!!! Your skin needs nourishment and hydration. When you skip out on moisturizing, your skin can go into overdrive on oil production making you much more greasy and bringing on the pimples!! For day-time, try gel moisturizers. They're much lighter and absorb quickly into the skin - I recommend Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel and this one from La Roche Posay.
Night time's when you can really layer on for that thicccccc hydration - so I'd suggest this great affordable option from Simple. I also love adding some Organic Rosehip Oil to my moisturizer for added hydration and skin-repairing benefits. Contrary to popular belief, some organic oils will NOT break you out, but actually nourish your skin even more! I also love organic organ oil & tamanu oil as night time mix ins.
7. If you do wear make-up, make sure you're doing a good, thorough cleanse
Seriously, on the days I cake my face I remove my makeup with a good old fashioned Costco make-up wipe or this handy dandy make-up eraser, followed by cleansing with super gentle, dermatologist approved Cetaphil and then my Mario Badescu cleanser. If you're already having trouble with clogged pores, the last thing you want is makeup clogging them too!
8. Mix in some great masks & spot treatments
To pull impurities from your face, you can try this mask from Amazon. I mix it with apple cider vinegar and water to get a really good, deep cleanse once a week. It does wonders for blackheads/clogged pores and 100% natural.