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8 People on the Acne Remedy That Finally Worked for Them



Woman using skin care products

After struggling with hormonal acne for fifteen years, I’d say I’m a veteran when it comes to testing out every acne treatment available. From harsh acne washes to pure honey cleansers, to antibiotics and then spironolactone, I’ve tried it all in the name of clearer skin. Although it took me many years of trial and error, I finally discovered the cure-all that worked for me—eating a dairy-free diet, quitting coffee and getting on birth control.

Since everyone’s acne struggle varies widely, it’s no surprise that one person’s acne treatment might not work for someone else. I interviewed friends and acquaintances—all former acne-sufferers—on the one thing that helped clear up their skin.

“I started using gentler skincare products.” —Celia, 36, New York

What her skin looked like before: “I have struggled with pretty serious acne for most of my life. I’m not exaggerating when I say that from ages 11 to about 19 or so my face looked like a before ad for Proactiv. Back then I tried every acne medication that was out there and eventually it cleared up. Then, in my early 30s, my acne came back with a vengeance. I returned to the same products I had used to successfully fight it as a teen—like face washes and moisturizers with benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid—but nothing worked.”

What she did: “I had a facial with skincare genius Ildi Pekar and she told me all those acne products were ironically causing my relentless breakouts. Until very recently, most acne products were designed for super oily teenage skin. Those products were all over-stripping my skin of natural oils, putting my skin in oil production overdrive to replace them. Except for a spot treatment, I tossed all of those products and swapped them out with gentle moisturizers, cleansers and serums for sensitive skin. Within a few weeks, my complexion was almost completely clear and my skin was no longer oily at all.”

The results: “My skin had been clear for a long time, but like everyone else, I’ve been very stressed for the last few months which manifested in the worst breakouts I’ve had in years, so I had to add an acne-fighter to my skincare routine again. Now that I’m in my 30s, I like retinol since it fights breakouts and fine lines. I’m especially loving the Dermalogica Retinol Clearing Oil—its super gentle formula means you can use it every night without any redness or peeling.”

“I actually started washing my face properly.” —Lindsay, 31, Boston

What her skin looked like before: “My skin before had many breakouts, along my jawline and cheeks. It was worse during my period, but frankly, it was all the time.”

What she did: “I started washing my face and using an at-home blue light treatment. I know it sounds so simple, but for a long time, I thought I was washing my face of the day’s makeup but in reality, I was leaving a lot behind. I now wash, use micellar water to get rid of any lingering makeup, wash again, then apply my nightly routine. I also started using an at-home blue light treatment that’s made a huge difference.”

The results: “My skin has been pretty clear since I started washing thoroughly and using the blue light three times per week. Since the blue light can be drying, I use an oil-free moisturizer to protect my pores.”

“This sounds a little dramatic, but Accutane changed my life.” —Mary Elise, 27, Bangkok

What her skin looked like before: “I had noticeable, consistent pustules and nodules, and also had acne on my shoulders and chest that ended up leaving some scars.”

What she did: “I went on Accutane [the oral prescription retinoid isotretinoin] in August of 2009, right before my 17th birthday. Being on it was pretty terrible—my skin was constantly dry, to the point where I had to get prescription chapstick! I had to get blood tests done once per month to make sure my liver function wasn’t compromised.”

The results: “This sounds a little dramatic, but Accutane changed my life. My acne and terrible skin were my main insecurities in high school, and Accutane basically removed that problem entirely. I don’t have any long-term side effects that I can attribute to taking Accutane, so, for me, it was totally worth it. I still get minor breakouts here and there, but nothing like my pre-Accutane days.”

“I was prescribed spironolactone.” —Leah, 29, New York

What her skin looked like before: “I used to have cystic acne, which manifested in large red bumps. Since the cysts are so damn big, they’re noticeable even under makeup, and worst of all, they hurt. Not only did I feel self-conscious about my skin, anytime I smiled or touched my face I was reminded of just how broken out I was. The cysts would take weeks or months to shrink, leaving a dark mark of hyperpigmentation that was almost as visible as the pimple itself.”

What she did: “I went to my dermatologist in the midst of a total skin eruption, with multiple painful cysts scattered around my face. She suggested I try spironolactone, and once we talked through the minimal side effects, I decided to take it as a twice-daily medication.”

The results: “It took about a month to see lasting results, and combined with other prescription treatments, like Aczone, Oracea, and a short dose of antibiotics, I did see my breakouts subside much sooner.”

“I saw a friend post on her social media about DIM and decided to try it out myself.” —Stephanie, 29, New York

What her skin looked like before: “My acne was 100% hormonal—it was mostly around my chin and mouth and it would reappear at the same time every month. It was a mix of blackheads, whiteheads and cystic, inflamed bumps. I had it all! I had been experiencing hormonal acne for over a decade before I tried DIM.”

What she did: “I saw a friend post on her social media that she had been taking a natural supplement called DIM to help clear her acne that she had been trying to manage for years. I discovered that DIM (Diindolylmethane) is a ‘hormone-regulating supplement’ for acne. It’s natural and consists of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower. From what I was reading online, it didn’t sound like too much of a risk, so I bought a 30-day supply and started taking 200mg immediately. I had to take DIM for about two months before I started seeing results.”

The results: “My face was completely clear after about three months, with only the odd pimple in the days leading up to my period. I took DIM for about 7 months and lived an acne-free life. Unfortunately, it suddenly stopped working. I stopped taking it and my doctor mentioned that I must not have a metabolic need for the supplement anymore, but by that point, I had gone on a real low-dosage contraceptive pill that had also been great at clearing up my skin.”

“My preventative Botox helped clear my forehead acne.” —Pia, 28, New York

What her skin looked like before: “I was suffering from mild breakouts on my forehead.”

What she did: “I’ve always struggled with acne, but I never thought Botox would be a solution for it—I found out by accident. I was getting preventative Botox on my forehead when my dermatologist mentioned that it could help with acne. I couldn’t believe it! Since Botox can curb oil production, it has the ability to reduce breakouts.”

The results: “Most of my pimples are on my forehead, which is where I get my Botox injections. While it doesn’t completely get rid of them, my breakouts have significantly gone down, are less painful, and are smaller. I don’t get Botox specifically for my acne (I get it as a preventative measure to slow down the visible signs of aging), but its acne-reducing side-effects have been very welcome. I get Botox more or less every eight months.”

“I tried CBD to reduce inflammation.” —Teona, 35, Boston

What her skin looked like before: “I am someone with very oily, acne-prone skin and have struggled with acne my entire life. A few years ago, I was fed up with the acne rollercoaster and my dermatologist recommended I try spironolactone—it took a few months to kick in, but it was a life-changer. It prevented the dreaded hormonal breakouts when I got my period and cleared up my body acne. I was also taking hormonal birth control since I was 18 years old for my acne. About a year ago, I decided that I wanted to freeze my eggs, and since I had been on birth control for so long, I needed to go off for a while to fully get it out of my system—I also needed to stop taking spironolactone. The first few months were fine, and then all of a sudden my skin freaked out, and I was getting the most painful hormonal breakouts I have ever experienced. Months went by and it just wasn’t getting better.”

What she did: “I discovered CBD for breakouts, and it’s been a gamechanger. I started using face masks with CBD (cannabidiol), cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabinol (CBN) and ingesting a CBD tincture daily to calm inflammation throughout my body. I knew CBD was great for anxiety but never thought to take it for my breakouts.”

The results: “I started taking the tincture and using the face masks regularly, and after about a week, I couldn’t believe how much my hormonal breakouts cleared up—and it was preventing new ones, too. I even texted my dermatologist and was like, ‘I might be going crazy, but I think this CBD is clearing up my skin and I’m having similar results to when I was on spironolactone.’”

“I visualize clear skin consistently.” —Geri, 31, Boston

What her skin looked like before: “Before I started skin visualization, I had blemishes along my jawline, around my mouth, and on my lower cheeks.”

What she did: “I’ve been visualizing clear skin during my meditations on and off for quite a while. It wasn’t until recently that I realized the months where my skin was the clearest were during the times I was meditating consistently with this visualization technique. To do this, I begin meditating until I feel relaxed, then I imagine a bright white ball of healing light directly above my head. I visualize the light flattening out and slowly scanning down, and when the light reaches my face, I visualize it healing each blemish as it passes, leaving only my most ideal complexion behind. I don’t just visualize it, I believe it.”

The results: “I’ve been doing it every day for the last month, in addition to my usual clean diet and skin care routine, and my skin is clearer than it’s been in over a year. After fifteen years of struggling with acne, I’ve finally learned that healing has more to do with what you put inside your body than it does with what you put on it. Eating clean, drinking plenty of filtered water, reducing stress, and taking the supplements best suited to your body is essential.”



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