I got back from my dermatologist yesterday and we’re starting me on an acne skincare regimen………… I’m trying to let that sink in. I don’t have cystic acne, something commonly found during the teenage years. I do have a lot of blackheads and whiteheads. Since I’m now the proud owner of adult acne skin here we go.
I do have dry skin, very dry skin. Just because you have acne doesn’t mean you have oily skin. I use an insane amount of moisturizer every morning and night trying to keep my skin hydrated. I have a small USB humidifier at my desk trying to keep the humidity level around my face a little higher during the winter.
Acne takes all sorts of forms. The large, red, inflamed Dr. Pimple Popper worthy juicy pimples are on the more severe form that’s fairly common. Common over the counter treatments includes benzoyl peroxide and AHA and BHA. I’m using a system called Obagi Medical (this isn’t a plug I’m actually not the biggest fan of it right now) that I got from my dermatologist. It has medical grade ingredients so the theory is that it’s better. But it is expensive since it does use medical grade.
But here’s the hack. It’s a 2% salicylic acid cleanser, a 2% salicylic acid toner (with a touch of alcohol, which I really don’t like), and a thick moisturizer (which feels very similar to my Klair’s deep moisturizer). The biggest con I have with these products is the menthol. Why do skincare companies add menthol to their products? I get the lust of the cooling sensation but come on man.
There are 2% salicylic acid cleansers all over the place. Paula’s Choice has an ENTIRE LINE devoted to acne outbreaks. Their website is www.paulaschoice.com. The above hyperlink takes you directly to their acne line. I am NOT an affiliate of the program and make zero money from Paula’s Choice or any other affiliate linked program Paula’s Choice uses. It’s a system I used as a teenager and my mom has used for over 20 years. My dermatologist has a deep disdain for Cetaphil and CeraVe cleansers. So contrary to Dr. Dray on YouTube I have a dermatologist telling me NOT to use those products. She likes their moisturizer and cleansers for the body but not above the collar bone. So if you have problematic dry skin on your body there you go.
Salicylic Acid is a BHA or beta-hydroxy acid. These acids are oil soluble and get deep down in the pores and clean out the junk. More commonly you find BHAs with AHAs now. This isn’t a bad thing. BHAs clean the pores whereas the AHAs gently remove flaky skin and acts as a mild exfoliant. Paula’s Choice has a great BHA Liquid exfoliant I’ve used in the past and very highly recommend. They also have a 9% gel that I’ve started to use again. It does make the face look a little oily at first but it’s a solid product and absorbs into the skin after a few minutes.
Whiteheads and blackheads are effectively the same things; however, whiteheads are below a layer of skin whereas blackheads are exposed to the air and the top has oxidized creating the black color. That makes blackheads poppable. If you watch Dr. Pimple Popper she lances whiteheads, in doing so she exposes it to be more easily poppable.
To pop or not to pop??
Really this is a question that’s hotly debated. I personally don’t pop pimples that arise. I’ve even stopped pushing out blackheads and whiteheads. I’ve tried the toothpaste method (placing a dab of toothpaste over a pimple in an attempt to dry it out) and all that does it make my pillow a mess of minty stickiness. I’m more a fan of pimple patches. Of which there are several available at lower and higher price points. The ingredient to look for is salicylic acid for these. Salicylic acid will dry out a pimple shrink it in size. I recommend Skyn Iceland’s Pimple Patch. They’re available at Ulta, Amazon, Dermstore and cost $20. They do stay well overnight and won Refinery29’s for best acne treatment in 2016. K-beauty has a lot of pimple patches as well. If you look at YesStyle.com there’s several available.
The more aggressive approach is cortisone injections. These are only from a dermatologist and really only suggested for the most extreme of cases.
Another product to use is retinol or a retin product. These are vitamin A derivatives that can help to kill the bacteria responsible for acne and help decrease acne scarring. I’m currently using retinaldehyde which is a little more effective than retinol. These can be irritating and you do have to build up to ‘full strength’. I’m using 0.5% retinaldehyde 3-4 times per week or every other day. My skin is a little red and irritated but it’s manageable. Just as a note, Accutane is a vitamin A derivative that is taken orally and used for severe acne. When I was on it my face got so insanely dry and Carmex/chapstick/vaseline/any lip balm I could find was my best friend. Also, LOTs of water needs to be consumed to keep your body hydrated.
A quick note about moisturizer
You still need to keep your face moisturized when you have an acne outbreak. It may seem weird but finding a lightweight moisturizer will actually help your skin. Also, don’t wear heavy matte makeup in an attempt to cover up your acne. The temptation is there but matte makeups will overly dry your face and result in more oil production thereby making your acne worse.
I know this is a long one but treating acne takes even longer to ‘cure’. You may have 2 steps forward and 1 step back. Ladies we’re especially prone to hormonal acne. Stick with it long term. It feels annoying and there are zero quick fixes for acne. On the back end, acne scarring is the worst. I promise that over time it will be worth it. If you feel like you require something stronger don’t hesitate to see a dermatologist. Most insurance companies (for those who do have insurance) cover acne treatments. Mine covered my Accutane treatments, and they weren’t cheap at all. If I recall it was $200 a month and that was for the generic.
If your contemplating Accutane treatments and want me to cover how I got on with mine, let me know. If you have any other acne hacks that you’ve used and seem to work comment down below. It’s always interesting to here what works for other people’s skin.