6 Women on What Finally Cured Their Acne

The beauty industry is intent on selling us the idea that good skin comes from good products. More specifically, a carefully designed lineup of luxury ones. All we have to do is nail down the specifics. I can’t really complain; the shelf in my bathroom proves that this is an effective strategy. But I was shocked when I discovered I could get clear skin with one (very free) lifestyle change. SO MUCH WASTED MONEY.

When I moved to New York, my jawline broke out like crazy. I chalked it up to circumstance — new stress, new climate, new everything — but as my mind and body adjusted, my face didn’t. So I blamed my hormones. I tried everything: facials, new products, the whole nine yards. Nothing worked.

Then, one day, I overheard someone drawing a connection between jawline acne and dairy consumption. I googled it. Half a million hits. Fuck. The last thing I ever wanted was to blame was my diet. I was sold on moderation; I didn’t want to become the ingredient checker, the birthday-cake skipper, the nitpicky one at dinner. I didn’t want rules. But those reasons didn’t compare to bad acne. I cut dairy from my diet completely and within a week, my active acne healed. Within a month, I realized I hadn’t gotten a single zit since. My skin changed completely. There was no tapering — it was sudden. I was surprised, considering I’d never had any digestive issues with dairy before. The downside? Now I do get stomach aches when I eat dairy. I’m still negotiating this rule. I’m both thrilled and annoyed by it.

Either way, the answer is clear: dairy triggers acne for me. And the more I shared my experience with other women, the more I learned that many of them had similarly dramatic anecdotes, but with a different catalyst swapped in. When I put a call out on Instagram, I got hundreds of responses. Many were solutions I’d never even heard of! These stories are worth sharing, I think, as an alternative to the narrative that more and more products are the answer. Read on to hear six women’s experiences and then, if you have a story of your own, please share it below!

Candace Marie, 29

Tell me a little about your skin and history with acne.

My skin has always been a combination of oily and dry, so it was very difficult to find an antidote that could clear up my face. Even into my mid-twenties I remember FaceTiming my mother and her always asking me why my skin was breaking out so badly.

What solutions had you tried that didn’t work?

Traditional remedies like Proactive and drugstore products. I became so exhausted trying different remedies that I met with a dermatologist who suggested Accutane. After hearing about the side effects and everything that I would have to do to just take the drug — including being on two types of birth control — I began researching to find a natural remedy.

What finally did work? And how did you come about trying it?

I learned about tea tree oil, and also learned that vitamin C can help clear acne scarring, which I also struggled with. I found the tea tree oil at Whole Foods and online at iHerb: Aura Cacia Lavender & Tea Tree Oil. The vitamin C treatment I use is called Vitabrid Spot — it’s available exclusively at Barneys and will be online in August.

What’s your skin like now? What’s your routine?

My skin just slowly started to glow. As I stuck to the routine, my face started to clear up, slowly but surely. Now I feel comfortable not wearing makeup and when I do put on makeup, I don’t have to cake it on. I can just lightly touch up my face and be done. My routine includes a light face wash with cold water, blotting my face with tea tree oil and dabbing Vitabrid Spot over any scarring before applying my makeup. I do the same routine before I go to bed at night.

Would you recommend it to others? Why or why not? Have any tips?

I would say try it. I do think that everyone’s skin is different and what might work for one person may not work for another. I love that my routine is simple and natural. I would advise people to do their research. I learned that a lot of dermatologists suggest a drug because they get a percentage of the sale, so I wanted to make sure I wasn’t being force-fed a skin antidote when there might be a simpler solution.

Angela He, 25

Tell me a little about your skin and history with acne.

I got my first pimple when I was 10. I remember my aunt dabbing Chinese medicine on it and laughing, “You’re becoming a woman!”

Like many teenagers, I had acne. Unlike many teenagers, it didn’t go away when my teen years ended. The stress blemishes I got before exams turned into raging cystic pimples that lasted weeks at a time. As college started, I felt as if I was permanently marked. It felt shameful, as if my skin was a reflection of something I was doing wrong. I refused to be in public without a thick layer of makeup. I’d apply a full face simply to pick up my mail. My self-esteem was nonexistent.

What solutions had you tried that didn’t work?

I tried everything you’re “supposed” to do as part of a healthy skincare routine. Wash, tone, moisturize, use non-alcoholic products. Three-step routines, 10-step routines! My best friend (who has flawless skin) even posted a note on my bathroom mirror that read, “Don’t be too drunk to wash your face!” Nothing worked.

My dermatologist, unconcerned but growing aggravated with my continued skin sorrows, finally suggested I “grow out of it.”

So I waited…

What finally did work? And how did you come about trying it?

At 18, I visited my doctor in hopes of a cure for a newfound lethargy I was experiencing. I was also missing periods and having trouble losing weight. She immediately sent me to an endocrinologist, and later to a gynecologist, where I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

PCOS is a hormonal disorder that causes enlarged ovaries and cyst growth inside the ovaries. Symptoms can include facial hair, irregular periods, obesity and cystic acne. Left untreated, PCOS — which is also a leading cause of female infertility — can increase a woman’s chances of diabetes, depression and endometrial cancer. Though there is no cure, hormonal birth control is a commonly prescribed treatment.

At the time, my symptoms were mild (some acne, some weight, some tiredness) and birth control was frowned upon by my parents who thought cosmetic reasons were not enough to justify the possible side effects. (Oral contraceptives still carry a stigma, both medical and moral, in Asian American communities.) They persuaded me not to take it, in the hope that I would again “grow out of it.” So I let it go and forgot about it. What we didn’t know was that symptoms of the disorder can worsen as women enter their prime reproductive years.

By the time I turned 22, I was ready to put my foot down. I was having crazy mood swings, painful irregular periods and my weight was inching higher every year despite my best efforts. My acne had also grown out of control and makeup could no longer hide it. I felt foreign in my own skin. I was depressed, anxious and lost. I was about to start my first big job in New York City. I couldn’t go on like this.

I began researching how I felt and one thing kept coming up: PCOS. I dug up my records and demanded that my doctor put me on hormonal birth control the next day.

Tell me about the change. What’s your skin like now? What’s your routine to keep it that way?

It was like night and day. Three months into taking hormonal birth control pills, my acne became practically nonexistent. The occasional pimples, which were few and far between, were easily treated by better lifestyle choices and beauty products.

Now my skin finally reacts to a routine! Not being in constant battle with it has allowed me to really enjoy beauty and makeup products. I wash my face of makeup and pollutants with Shiseido’s Perfect Cleansing Oil, then follow with Nature Republic’s Green Derma Mild Foam Cleanser and a toner. I moisturize with Clinique’s Moisturizing Gel and use TonyMoly sheet masks twice a week. (I clearly enjoy this process!)

And, most importantly, I take my birth control pill every night.

Would you recommend it to others? Why or why not? Have any tips?

Yes. 100%. If you think something is wrong inside your body, be vocal. Go to your doctor, get checked out. Being treated for PCOS has not only cleared up my acne, but has also vastly improved my emotional and physical health. I’m very lucky that my birth control is covered in full by my insurance for now, but that may not always be the case, which is both frustrating and terrifying. Call your Congressional representatives. Support Planned Parenthood. Support each other. Support women.

Patty Carnevale, 29

Tell me a little about your skin and history with acne.

Hormonal. Wildly hormonal. It flared up when I hit puberty in high school, and then had I bouts here and there in college, but it wasn’t until my early to mid-20s that it raged into full-fledged, painful adult acne.

What solutions had you tried that didn’t work?

Proactiv, Spironolactone, elimination diets, doxycycline hyclate, retinols like Epiduo, facials, yoga, herbal teas, pleading with the universe…

What finally did work? And how did you come about trying it?

Isotretinoin (Accutane). I had been to three different dermatologists over four years by that point. With the first two, I’d refused to entertain the idea because of some scary things I read online about Accutane — namely mood swings and mental health issues — that they both seemed to be underplaying. When I exhausted all other options, I did additional research and started to talk about it out loud, which is when I learned that a few people I knew had tried it and it had really worked for them.

Tell me about the change. What’s your skin like now? What’s your routine to keep it that way?

I took what looked like horse pills twice a day for five months (it’s prescribed for anywhere from three to six months depending on severity, so that gives you an idea of how bad it was), then I was done. After the first year I had zero breakouts (this was three years ago). It was magic. This problem that took up so much space in my brain, whether I wanted it to or not, was suddenly solved. I felt really free. I don’t think I fully understood how much adult acne was impacting me until it was gone. Today I use gentle cleansers and moisturizers like CeraVe and keep things simple in the makeup department. I do occasionally get a breakout here and there, but it’s nothing compared to what it once was.

Would you recommend it to others? Why or why not? Have any tips?

I advise lots of research and talking to your doctor. In the US, anyone who is prescribed Isotretinoin must sign a digital contract each month saying they’ll use two forms of birth control while on the drug and and also must see their doctor for a monthly blood test. (You can’t take it if pregnancy is at all an option during that time.)

What I so appreciated about my dermatologist (Dr. Alison Gruen in NYC if you’re looking for a good one) is that she walked me through the process, didn’t try to minimize the seriousness of the reactions I could/would have while taking it and offered solutions and regular guidance throughout. The reactions vary from person to person, but universally it totally dries everything out. I tend to run on the oily side, so that was actually kind of nice. A major plus was that I didn’t have to wash my hair as much and I had to drink a shit ton of water every day. I definitely piled on the moisturizer and lip balm, and left the house in a coat of Aquaphor during the winter months. The skin sensitivity freaked me out sometimes — forget loofahs and body scrubs of any kind — but it was all very very worth it for me.

Aubrey, 30

Tell me a little about your skin and history with acne.

I have had acne off and on most of my life. My skin used to be super oily when I was younger. Going on Accutane in college balanced that out, but I would still break out on my chin and along my jawline. Big, deep zits followed by itchy rashes.

What solutions had you tried that didn’t work?

A variety of topical creams and chemical peels. I even tried putting toothpaste on pimples. Nothing was successful.

What finally did work? And how did you come about trying it?

Quitting caffeine completely! I came about that solution in a sort of roundabout way, though. I have a lot of food allergies that cause digestion problems. I had two serious attacks with anaphylactic symptoms that sent me to the clinic for a steroid shot. I went to see my allergist to reevaluate why I was having these reactions. All the anaphylactic food allergies, foods that cause your throat to close, came back negative. I couldn’t figure out why I kept having this throat-tightening feeling and bad breakouts with rashes. After doing some research, I found out caffeine can cause this. I gave it up last summer. No coffee, no chocolate. Sad face. It is pretty amazing how fast my skin cleared up, though, and my throat hasn’t tightened since.

Tell me about the change. What’s your skin like now? What’s your routine to keep it that way?

I don’t get giant pimples anymore, even under stress. My skin stays clear with the occasional dry patch from the change in season. I drink chicory in the mornings now, which has the same texture as coffee, but without the caffeine. I wash my face twice a day and am loyal to using CeraVe hydrating face wash and moisturizing cream, even though it’s like putting butter on your face.

Would you recommend it to others? Why or why not? Have any tips?

I highly recommend trying it if you haven’t. It’s not only given me great skin, but more energy, too. That afternoon sleepy lull has been rare for me since cutting caffeine. It probably helps that I also always drink a lot of water.

Ysenia, 22

Tell me a little about your skin and history with acne.

I was a very late bloomer, and so was my acne. When I got to college, I had massive breakouts in my T-zone, specifically my forehead. It was a slice of pepperoni pizza that I tactfully cropped out of every single selfie.

What solutions had you tried that didn’t work?

I tried Proactiv, but that was a total bust. I religiously followed another three-step routine (Clinique), which was semi-effective but did nothing for my forehead issue. After that, I wondered if the problem was that I was being too hard on my skin with chemicals, so I switched to a “pure and natural” face wash that ended up doing NOTHING. I tried using rose water as a toner. Rose water by itself. Just a bar of soap. Scrubs. Toothpaste. Eventually, I just settled for the three-step routine that worked okay.

What finally did work? And how did you come about trying it?

The beauty routine just maintained and controlled the acne that I had, so I figured it was my best bet. My big skin change, though, was something that happened unintentionally.

About two years ago, I went on a health kick and decided to cut most dairy out of my diet and switch to soy. Within a month, my skin unexpectedly began to clear up. Not completely, but a lot. At some point, I started dealing with bad stomach pains. I honestly assumed they were caused by my pants being too tight around my waist. I lived with the pain for over a year because it didn’t happen all the time. It wasn’t until about four months ago I realized it happened when I consumed soy-based drinks.

As a result, I made the full switch to almond milk, and let me just say, it was magic for my stomach and my skin.

Tell me about the change. What’s your skin like now? What’s your routine to keep it that way?

Now I have little to no breakouts, and I’m starting to see the scars disappear. Of course, I still deal with occasional pimples caused by PMS and resting my chin on my hands, but for the most part, my skin is a lot healthier. I’m comfortable enough to walk out of my apartment with no makeup on. My routine is a Clinique three-step with a Clinique scrub once to two times a week!

And no dairy. And NO SOY!

Would you recommend it to others? Why or why not? Have any tips?

I’m not an expert, so I can’t say cutting dairy and soy out is THE solution to having clear skin, but I definitely think it’s worth trying. You don’t have to be allergic to something for your body to react to it in unexpected ways.

My one tip would be: When you’re breaking out, don’t jump to the conclusion that you need to change your routine. Think about all external influences that may be the source of the problem.

Leslie Price, 35

Tell me a little about your skin and history with acne.

I didn’t start having real issues with my skin until I went off hormonal birth control pills. Things very quickly spiraled. It was terrible. I mostly had jawline problems, weirdly focused on the far corners of my jaw. (The more I type “jaw,” the weirder it looks. JAW. J.A.W.)

What solutions had you tried that didn’t work?

I tried all the usual stuff — Retin-A (which seemed extremely harsh), facials, the entire Somme Institute kit.

What finally did work? And how did you come about trying it?

A non-prescription DIM supplement called Estroblock. I found it on a blog after hours and hours of fruitless late-night internet research, looked at the Amazon reviews and was like, “Fuck it.” It took a while to work — honestly, more than a few months — but it’s been very effective. I’ve been taking it for six years now. I notice that when I go off it, I have skin problems. A lot of people have blogged about it: see here, here, here and here. I take one capsule in the morning when I wake up, and one when I go to sleep.

Tell me about the change. What’s your skin like now? What’s your routine to keep it that way?

I have very few problems with my skin now, save for dark undereye circles and occasional redness. I barely do anything to it. I’m lazy/efficient like that.

Would you recommend it to others? Why or why not? Have any tips?

I would recommend it to others, with the caveat that they do their own research. I’m obviously not a doctor; I can only speak from my own experience.

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  • Andrea

    It’s always great to see what works for other people–I’ve battled acne for almost 14 years now, aka over half of my 24 years on earth. It’s awful! Switching to a low androgenic birth control has helped tremendously. Cutting out dairy and soy would definitely help, but I’m a vegetarian so that would basically eliminate the bulk of my diet 🙁

  • Cate

    Spironolactone has been a godsend for me, but similarly, dairy will still manage to break me out on my jawline. Sometimes it’s worth it (pizza), but I try to limit my consumption as much as possible.

    I will say that I tried to cure my adult acne by myself for three years, before cracking and going to a derm. I dearly wish I’d gone sooner, as it would have saved me a number of scarring issues. If it’s in the cards for you, I would definitely at least go in for one appointment to see what they have to say. Derms do get a bad rep for pushing products they get $$ for, but if you find a good one, it can be life-changing.

    • Jac

      SAME. I tried to manage my adult acne for probably 4 years before going to the dermatologist, who took one look at me and gave me a routine (benzoyl peroxide wash in the am followed by rx clindamyacin lotion, gentle face wash at night followed by differin and spironolactone) that has pretty much cleared everything up in 3 months. i can’t preach the miracles of the derm enough

    • Nicole

      Seconded on the Spironolactone. It did make my periods worse for a while (even though I’m on hormonal birth control) but that subsided. I’m still considering accutane because I don’t want to take Spiro forever and it’s only effective as long as you take it. I still get pimples sometimes, mostly caused by shaving my face in between laser hair removal appointments, which you can’t do on accutane.

    • Sarah

      Thirded on Spironolactone. It’s been the only thing that’s really helped, plus eliminating most of the dairy (once in a while I go for it), and regular facials. I’m 30 but FINALLY seem to have cracked the code for myself. It’s so frustrating that everyone touts “this is the miracle cure for acne”, when it’s so deeply personal and what works for one person may not work at all for another. It’s all trial and error. I started getting bad acne when I started college and it went through phases of being worse and then marginally better depending on stress in my life. It’s ironic that I wish I had had teenage acne instead of this adult acne that is ridiculously difficult to get under control.

  • Mary Kate Kloeblen

    Very interesting to see so many women struggling with acne as well! I, also, have been battling acne off and on for the past 10 years of my life. I’ve found it’s actually gotten worse with adulthood. Honestly, for me the biggest things that have worked have been lowering my sugar intake, eliminating dairy, and eliminating soy. Additionally, I’ve found stress is a huge factor for me – every time I go through an extremely stressful time my acne becomes so aggressive. In terms of product, I’ve tried everything – proactive, epiduo, the all natural route, etc but I’ve found the Clinique skin care system, using a natural exfoliator (Alba Botanicals is the best!) 3-4 times a week, and getting regular facials has made the biggest difference for me!

  • Abby

    Differin!!!!! The only thing that has ever worked for me. My skin still isn’t perfect, but the improvement is stunning and my pores have basically stopped existing.

    • ValiantlyVarnished

      I just started using Differin a few months ago and I like it. It takes awhile to work but I did notice a difference. I had to stop using it for a few weeks because my eczema was flaring up on my face – and I almost immediately started getting breakouts again. Just started using it again and hope that it can help really clear things up once and for all.

      • Abby

        That’s really interesting – Differin also flares up my eczema on my face! I found that if I only use it every other night I get the benefits but my eczema isn’t affected.

        • ValiantlyVarnished

          That makes sense! I was using it every other night for the first month with zero issues but when I ramped up to every night that’s when I started having the flare-ups. Thanks for letting me know – I think you solved the mystery for me!

          • Abby

            I hope so! My eczema is treatment resistant so every flare up is a months long debacle. Just trying to help other people with the condition avoid it!

    • cmoney

      Yes!!! Wish I’d known about it/had OTC access to it sooner, but so glad for it now!

  • Eva Skewes

    Haley I also recently considered cutting out dairy from my diet, but couldn’t do it completely over acne concerns but couldn’t commit to it fully and instead cut out soft cow-cheese and milk (so I can still have hard cheese and soft goat cheese) and I do think I’ve seen some significant improvement. (I also cut out peanut butter and switched to a zero-oil moisturizer, so I can’t be sure it’s the dairy).

    • Jac

      i also found that dairy is an acne trigger for me, but the spironolactone has minimized the effects a ton. I used to get cystic breakouts every time i ate dairy, and now i can get away with small amounts a few days a week without a problem. from my online research (i’m not an expert, so this may be totally pseudo science!) it sounds like most cow dairy in the US comes from cows who are fed lots of hormones to produce more milk, which can then trigger hormonal acne when you consume it. It may be the case that non-cow dairy products or certain types of cheeses etc aren’t treated with hormones/with as many hormones or are imported from places where that isn’t the norm, which makes them less of an acne trigger?

      • Eva Skewes

        Yeah it’s hard to say what is and what is not total bullshit, but I’ve also read that it might be linked to the hormones in cow-milk. I know hard cheeses, butter, and goat cheese are lower in lactose than milk and fresh cheese. Whether lactose plays an issue I do not know. My dad developed a lactose intolerance later in life, so I wonder if that’s also a development. Either way, in the past month or so since cutting out soft cheeses like mozzarella, I haven’t broken out around my mouth/lower jaw. We’ll see if that continues!

  • Abby

    I obsessed about my skin for years and felt like I had tried/researched EVERYTHING, like the women interviewed. I spent so much money on different products, then tried using absolutely nothing on my face, tried steaming my face in the sink, tried different diets, special tea, laser treatments for my scars (TOTAL RIP-OFF), I even made sure I never leaned my back against my pillow just in case ~germs~ would then get on my face at night… But finally after years of trial and error I realized that dairy is what breaks me out, particularly the combination of dairy and sugar a.k.a. everything delicious like cupcakes and cookies. Alcohol causes acne for me too. Practicing moderation for these things works for me, plus for the last two years or so I only wash my face with water unless I feel like I need to use a scrub. I don’t wear any makeup (finally, after years of being so self-conscious about my skin that I couldn’t imagine leaving the house without a full face), just moisturizer with SPF because my skin is finally clear, and I’m okay living with my residual red marks.

  • I had bad acne as a teen, and even my freshman year of college my face exploded into horrible cystic acne that is so saddening to look back at in photos. I still have scarring from it.
    I had used drugstore face washes, then Proactiv til it stopped being effective, then tried oil cleansing. I think it was the oil cleansing and aging out of it that was most effective. I found that drying out my skin with harsh surfactants made it overreact. My skin is much happier when it is well moisturized. Having adjusted my diet probably also plays a role, with limited wheat, sugar, and dairy.
    I wish I’d been encouraged to try a more holistic approach when I was much younger.

  • I probably had undiagnosed PCOS in my teens and early 20s based on my symptoms, but after 14 years on hormonal BC, I got an official diagnosis. No idea if the BC caused it or what, but it took BC to clear up my oily, acne-ridden skin. (I also tried everything on the face of the Earth.) Once I was off of BC, coconut oil as face cleanser SAVED. MY. FACE. Schmear it on, it removes ALL your makeup including waterproof mascara, cover your face in a steamy, wet washcloth for 45 seconds, wipe it all off, and rinse. If I eat too much dairy or drink too much wine, I’ll break out a little bit, but I opted to cut down on everything rather than cut out completely. Because you only live once, and wine, cheese, and ice cream are wonderful.

  • Abigail Larson

    Tea tree oil is amazing and I mix it with my nightly oils to keep bacteria at bay. I went vegan and it’s been the best thing for my entire body. Also, blotting your face often (especially if it’s oily or sweaty) and using a weekly deep cleansing mask is essential. I get extractions as well to keep any clogs out of my pores. Of course, skincare really is unique to you and your needs.

  • notinlondon

    I had been on birth control for seven years, and I never, NEVER had acne. It was a beautiful time. When I decided I wanted a tiny human, I stopped and everything changed. They came back for me. Now, the only thing that helps is clay. I know sugar really helps with my acne, so I *try* to not eat candy(oh my god, I love candy). So yeah, clay masks really help me.

  • Jessie Buckmaster

    I had terrible breakouts and oily skin as a teen and tried every product under the sun. Birth control didn’t improve it at all. I entered my 20s and nothing changed. I finally happened upon an article about oil cleansing and that I was probably stripping my skin with regular cleansers. Within a month the acne was basically gone. I just use pure jojoba oil and slather on lotion (Desert Essence Daily Moisturizer). I still have some issues along my jaw (definitely going to try going no dairy!) and the occasional blemish here and there. But I can go out with no makeup and feel confident, something I never in a million years thought I would do when I was 16.

  • Marleah

    Collagen peptides! I’ve been a long time acne sufferer and collagen peptide amino acids have changed my skin completely. I started taking a hair, skin, and nail vitamin a few years ago and I saw a big change in large pimples, but I was still getting crazy blackheads. Recently, I ordered collagen peptides from Vital Proteins (not an endorsement, just the brand that has worked for me) and putting two scoops in my smoothie every morning. I also started using simple Stridex pads to make sure my pores were clear and closed after I washed me makeup off. After about 6 weeks with taking the collagen everyday, my skin has never been clearer! I hardly wear any makeup anymore–lashes and brows only! I do still seriously struggle with scarring from 20+ years of pimples, but its almost like my skin is so clear now that I hate putting anything on it that could make me break out. I also agree with the dairy cutting to help with big pimples. Just cutting down on dairy helped me.

  • ValiantlyVarnished

    I have been battling acne since I was a teenager. I have oily, acne-prone sensitive skin. The trifecta. The one thing that I tried that worked (long term) for me the was the acne.org regimen. It takes some time and my skin had some MAJOR growing pains in the first two months, but after that my skin was the clearest it had ever been for the longest amount of time. And then I started getting weird rashes on my face around the corners of my eyes and around my mouth and chin. My skin had developed an allergy to Benzoyl Peroxide! Which was the active ingredient in one of the 3-step pieces of my regimen. This is very rare but can happen to those unlucky few (me!). So I had to stop using it altogether (this included a month of not being allowed to wear makeup or wash my face with more than warm water until my skin calmed down). And I was back to square one. I have since been on a search for something effective that doesn’t contain BP or Salyclylic acid – which my skin laughs at and has no effect on my breakouts). I tried Curology – my skin got WORSE. I tried Korean skincare (again my skin laughed), and then I tried Differin (which actually slowly seemed to be helping). And then… my eczema flared up – on my face. And so I had to stop using that for awhile as well. I am now back to using it and hoping I can get some kind of stability with my skin. It sucks to be in my 30’s and still struggling with this. My consolation is that my skin is oily. That combined with my poppin’ melanin equals – no wrinkles! So yay! I also want to add that I’ve been on the pill for the better part of ten years and it has had ZERO effect on my acne one way or the other. Roght now – i just want the two aline living on my chin and nose to dry up and go away! Been applying Mario Badescu drying lotion to those suckers every nght,

    • Teresa

      My sister is also allergic to benzoyl peroxide! Really limits the acne products she’s able to use.

      • ValiantlyVarnished

        It really does! Most things are simply too mild to be effective. And my skin has become completely immune to Salycylic Acid.

  • This sounds so weird, but: Snail gel has totally cleared up my skin. I had acne for basically a decade (age 15-25), and for the last year, I’ve been using snail gel in the morning and evening. It’s light, soothing and clearing. It’s insanely great and has made my skin so happy and clear.

    I also use a mild tretinoin cream that my dermatologist prescribed (retin-a)—it dried my skin out for the first month, but she promised me that would subside. After I got through the “dry spell,” it has made my skin incredibly glowy & helped to fade my scarring from old acne.

    • Lindsey

      Yes! I used a snail gel as my moisturizer and my skin has never been so smooth and nourished. I really, really love it.

    • Nschne

      Would you mind sharing the one you use?

      • Yes! It’s Mizon Snail Recovery Cream Gel. It’s super affordable (usually about $14 USD), and I can’t recommend it highly enough

  • Paige

    I had perfect skin until after my senior year of college, when I started getting cystic acne on my jawline. It was so awful! Combined with the fact that I’m a picker, they lasted forever. I took doxycycline a few times and things would clear up while I was on it, but then return to awful once the dosage ran out. I now use a Benzoyl Peroxide cream in the morning and at night and have completely eliminated dairy. My doctor also adjusted my birth control for a better balance of estrogen/progesterone and things are so much better!

  • Mary

    Prescription retinol + nontoxic products including vitamin C and some acids!

  • Emily

    I was diagnosed with PCOS at a young age and recently went off of birth control for the first time in a decade. I felt great but looked like I had the chicken pox –
    not so great when you are almost 30. After some SERIOUS research and too much $$ spent on doctor visits/product trial and error, I have found that a low-glycemic diet and daily cardio exercise is the key for clearer skin with hormonal deficiencies. I also refrain from dairy/caffeine/gluten/soy and drink a LOT of spearmint tea (helps with those pesky testosterone imbalances). The real difference started when I stopped washing my face as much (thanks for the advice Harling!) – I just rinse with cold water in the morning and apply a vitamin C serum followed by sunscreen. At night I use Cetaphil and then rub a massive amount of Derma-E’s Very Clear moisturizer all over my face. It’s a lot of self-checking and forlorned staring at pizza, but the pink cherub skin of my early 20’s is slowly coming back. It also helps to change your frame of mind- a pimple here and there is like a super cute/young accessory! And you can’t deny yourself cheese forever, let’s be honest.

  • MO

    Does anyone have experience with accutane seemingly curing your acne and then having it come back again years later? I took accutane and I was good for 3 or 4 years but now my acne is back in a totally different place/pattern (used to be more t zone, back and chest, now its all on my chin). If this has happened to you and you tried something that worked I would appreciate input!

    • Grace Elizabeth

      YES! My freshman year of college I did an 8 month tour of accutane (!) and immediately saw results. My skin continued to be a non-issue for about 2.5 glorious years, and then around senior year I started to get aggressive cystic zits similar to the ones I’d experienced pre-accutane. I went to my dermatologist right away, and she put me on spironolactone. Since then I haven’t gotten a single zit! I would do some substantial research on it before you follow up because some of its side effects aren’t great (it lowers blood pressure and can make you dizzy, dehydrated, and tired), but I found that for me it was a small price to pay to not have to stress about my skin anymore. Especially after undergoing the intensity of accutane already…

      • boingboing

        I think Spiro is as effective as Accutane for some but only if, as you point out, you can tolerate it. I couldn’t. Two days in to my first round I nearly fainted in the shower. I couldn’t do my workouts. I was tired for days. I wanted to gut it out, see if it got better, but my doctor said nope, and told me to stop immediately. For the rare few, like me, it’s a no-go. My niece on the other hand tolerates it well, and it’s cleared her completely. Glad it’s working for you, too!

      • spirotroubles

        I just wanted to add my experience to this for anyone reading––everyone’s body is different, but be careful with spiro. It’s definitely effective, and it was the most clearing thing I’ve ever tried, but it spiraled me into a whole new health problem: chronic migraines (i.e. every other day). I’m off it now but the migraines it set off (previously non-existent, though I was genetically predisposed) remain and my whole life revolves around treating them now. It was a very very high price to pay for temporarily better skin. Listen to your body and do your research!

    • libs

      I’m having a similar experience! It’s been almost exactly three years since I finished my course of roaccutane and after a year/eighteen months of perfect skin, I started getting some spots again 🙁 like you, mine are mostly chin/jaw. They’re also much much less painful than cystic acne – it’s just frustrating after getting a taste of good skin! However I’ve found this new acne is actually responsive to all the stuff that never worked pre-roaccutane. Eating less sugar and dairy and trying to reduce my stress now actually seems to tame flare ups, which never worked four or five years ago. So possibly if you can figure out your environmental triggers, that could help?

    • ESW

      My acne never came back as bad as severely after I used Accutane, but I still had break-outs. I remember at the time, my doctor said that I could resume Accutane for a touch-up. I have never felt like it was necessary to do that, but maybe it is worth asking about. I think you could just take it for a briefer period, like a couple of months.

      • boingboing

        Yes, your second round is a lower dose at a shorter duration. Best of luck in whatever you decide!

    • Lebanese Blonde

      Yes, although I realized my issue was almost definitely due to switching off of birth control about 4 years post-Accutane. Story-time:

      Went on BC (for my skin) in about 2009-10, which did little to help. So, I did Accutane in 2011 (with quite good results, although my mom is convinced my derm took me off it too soon, and that that was part of the ultimate problem) and had decently good skin with just a few stress-related breakouts throughout college.

      I decided to switch to the IUD in 2015, and while it made me feel better than BC in almost every way, my skin went back to high school-level break outs and just generally being unresponsive to everything. I suffered for a year until a new derm told me a lot of people need 2 rounds of Accutane to really fix their skin forever. So, I did another round of 6 months. It wasn’t too bad side-effects-wise, though I was religious about moisturizer, barely drank alcohol, and was really careful about exercise (bc joint-pain issue was my worst side-effect the first time I took it). Now my skin is pretty much perfect and I could not be more grateful.

      This is a very un-professional hypothesis (and doesn’t make a lot of medical sense), but my sense is that Accutane fixes your skin in the context of your hormone/oil production constitution at the time. Changing that constitution (via going on or off BC, getting pregnant, etc.) even years later shakes that up and (in my case) basically forces you back to square 1. Currently planning to keep my IUD until I’m ready to get pregnant, then just cross my fingers that my skin doesn’t rebel too much.

      • boingboing

        I think you’re on to something with the first sentence of your last paragraph. I did a course of Accutane at 25. I was totally clear—not even a blackhead—for 15 years. Then I went off the pill at 40. I started to get cystic breakouts within months. Small at first, and infrequent, but nothing helped. I knew they were here to stay (and scar all over again), so I did another course of Accutane. Been clear ever since (I’m 52 now).

    • Teresa

      My sister and I went on accutane in high school and it cured both of our acne… for a time. When it returned for my sister within 2 years, the derm prescribed a different brand of the medicine because (if I am remembering this correctly) the version we were previously prescribed was found to be less effective in the long run among patients (I think the company was using a lesser dose in an effort to quell fears (re: googling and late night ads) but this led to acne returning). After the second round, her acne has been gone for 5 years now. When my acne returned, I was in college and not willing to give up drinking, maintain an extremely dry face, or come home twice a month for the appointments and requisite blood/pregnancy tests (insurance required me to have it done at the hospital) so I went on hormonal birth control. My skin is always fine when I take it, but if I take a break it is horrible! So long story short – yes accutane “cured” our acne but required follow-up work to maintain.

  • Tretinoin. I never had TERRIBLE acne but it was always there – and now it’s not. What a feeling.

    I do not work for them, but I get my product from Curology. It’s a monthly subscription service – I’d definitely recommend checking it out. It’s fast/easy/cheap – the trifecta of an excellent business model.

  • Rachel

    I have always had combination / oily skin with hormonal acne. I have tried self-diagnosing many times, but to no avail…I finally went to see a dermatologist and he put me on tretinoin and told me to STOP using moisturizer, which I thought sounded ridiculous the first time I heard it, but figured it was worth a try. My skin immediately cleared up once I quit using moisturizer. He pointed out that my skin already had enough moisture and I shouldn’t feel the need to moisturize based off what we’re traditionally told to do… Just to ensure that using moisturizer was the culprit, I started using it again and noticed that I began to break out again, so I went off of it again. My skin has found a way to generally re-balance itself once I quit moisturizer and simplified my routine, i.e only using cetaphil to wash my face and using as little makeup as I can get away with. I still get the occasional breakout around my period, but they are much less severe. Also, I’ve found that staying off dairy helps but I’m not as religious as I should be!

    Lastly…some resources I’ve found super helpful in the past. r/skincareaddiction (on reddit) has a goldmine of information from people who have battled with acne. It’s worth digging through if you have the time. I’ve also started using Paula’s Choice BHA (and AHA) skin perfecting gels for acne scarring and have noticed a pretty significant difference in the texture of my skin since I started using it. FYI – Sunscreen is a MUST (regardless of whether or not you use the BHA/AHA) because the chemical exfoliation leaves your skin more sun-sensitive as a result.

    That’s just my two-cents on what I’ve found to be most effective. Can’t say this will work for everyone but it certainly made a difference for me!

  • Hannah Laub

    I have very sensitive skin but it is also breakout prone but it is also dry. So finding a cure for my acne basically turned into a full-time research job. I’ve struggled with acne since high school, but back then Proactiv did the trick. Around 20, Proactiv completely stopped working AND made my skin incredibly itchy and reactive. Since that time I have tried everything. What I realized is that “all natural” methods are hell for my skin, as is anything too harsh or emollient. I toe a fine line here, people. Now I won’t touch anything that has alcohol, fragrance, oil of any kind, essential oils, parabens, or sulfates. I first cleanse with Garnier Micellar water, then with Glossier milky jelly. After that, Paula’s Choice 2% AHA exfoliating liquid then Elta MD AM moisturizer and a very very light layer of The Ordinary squalane too lock in hydration. If you have dry but sensitive and acne prone skin, Elta MD will save your life. Once a week I do a layer of 2.5% benzyl peroxide treatment after the Paula’s Choice and if I have a pimple I spot treat with 10% benzyl peroxide. My skin has TRANSFORMED. I almost never break-out and no longer have dry patches or flakiness. My acne scars are fading and the texture and tone of my skin is getting better as well. After years of spending hours and hours and hundreds of dollars trying to help my skin, of feeling like absolute shit because my face didn’t look like my face, it turns out that a super simple routine with minimal ingredients was the trick.

    • A

      Thanks for sharing. My skin sounds very similar to yours, so I’m gona look into these products. I’ve recently found micellar water and drinking 3x litres of water a day has helped make a difference for me.

      • Hannah Laub

        I hope they work for you! I started off by using the Paula’s Choice every other day or so because my skin needed time to adjust to a chemical exfoliant. It immediately started reducing my breakouts but it definitely took months before I saw my skin completely change so my biggest advice would be to be patient. If you are using micellar water already, I HIGHLY recommend the Garnier one. Everyone swears by Bioderma, but it has added fragrance which a) speeds up aging and b) is awful for sensitive skin. Also, the Elta MD moisturizer is more money than I would like to spend, but I think it is absolutely worth giving it a shot. It is my holy grail product. I also am obsessive about reading ingredient lists. So many best-selling brands that claim to be safe for sensitive skin (like Avene) have additives like fragrance or mineral oil. I stay away from any moisturizer that has things like oils especially mineral oil, shea butter, or beeswax. Instead, I look for things like hyauloronic acid, plant-based squalane, and ceramides. Knowing your ingredients will help you find drugstore dupes. Cerave is a great place to start! I hope this helps!

    • Ginger

      Can we talk more about squalane? I’ve just heard about it and am considering for my AM moisture instead of rosehip oil. Rosehip oil has been working wonders for me but I’ve been using it AM and PM and I feel like in the morning it just makes my face *too* oily. Would love to hear more thoughts on this!

      • Hannah Laub

        I don’t know that squalane will do the same trick as other oils, as my understanding is that it’s primary purpose is to lock-in moisture. Usually, you will find it as an added ingredient in a moisturizing cream or lotion. That’s why I like it in addition to a light-weight moisturizer. Then again, if you are more oily, it might be all you need! My skin hates oils but it loves squalane. If you want to try it, go for The Ordinary. Its $6 bucks and awesome. Other brands charge $50 for the exact same thing. It’s insane. Just MAKE SURE you buy a squalane which is plant-based (like the Ordinary). Otherwise, it’s made from shark livers which is horrifying for a variety of reasons.

        • Ginger

          Thank you!!

  • Jaime Gelpi

    Just gotta give props to MR for always openly talking about adult acne in any and every form. My issues are alllllways chin/hormonal. Birth control and dermatologist visits help, but it’s a constant battle. I’m a no makeup kinda gal (literally have never put on foundation, blush, any of that. completely bare always) and sometimes the acne gets the best of me. Luckily, I have MR to feel like I am certainly not alone with honest discussions from women just like me!

    • Aydan

      you are not alone!!!

    • amcrni

      I get this type of acne too. It’s a constant battle.

    • Brie

      This may not work for you but it did me – the skincueticals line is made for aging/hormonal skin and it’s the ONLY thing that has ever worked for me and I’ve tried it all. I use the LHA cleaning gel and I haven’t had a hormonal cyst zit since I started using it. One time I had 7 on my chin and didn’t even go to work because I was SO embarassed, they’re the worst because they’re impossible to cover up. It’s definitely worth a shot though! I wish I used this earlier.

      • Caroline Christianson

        I second this cleansing gel! I switched face wash from this and right away broke out

    • Kattigans

      I have struggled with hormonal chin and occasional cheek acne for years but has become especially worse/inconsistent the last few years as a young adult. Take this week for example – Friday my skin was totally fine and then yesterday I woke up with 3 cystic pimples on my chin. So painful! They take forever to clear up to and are so sensitive. The worse is when one finally does go away and then the mark it leaves behind or it suddenly decides to reemerge. I’ve tried so many things – Paula’s choice, dermatologist, birth control, retinol from The Ordinary but nothing has really helped stop the cycle. Any suggestions??

    • Kattigans

      I have struggled with hormonal chin and occasional cheek acne for years but has become especially worse/inconsistent the last few years as a young adult. Take this week for example – Friday my skin was totally fine and then yesterday I woke up with 3 cystic pimples on my chin. So painful! They take forever to clear up to and are so sensitive. The worse is when one finally does go away and then the mark it leaves behind or it suddenly decides to reemerge. I’ve tried so many things – Paula’s choice, dermatologist, birth control, retinol from The Ordinary but nothing has really helped stop the cycle. Any suggestions??

  • fluffinella

    Topical antibiotic prescribed by my dermatologist. It worked in about two weeks to cure what was deep cystic acne on my chin for approximately 5 years! Still clear after a short run of treatment.

  • boingboing

    Acne is such a horrible disease. Docs know WHAT it is, but not WHY, why some people’s pores work as they should and other’s do not, causing everything from blackheads to painful, scarring cysts. For the latter, the nuclear option, Accutane, was my savior. One round at age 25 after 12 years struggling with my skin put me in remission for 15 years. Not a single blemish in all that time. Got off the pill at 40, boom, acne came back with a vengeance. I put up with that shit for about a year, fiddled with various ineffective therapies, then said, uh-uh, give me another round of the Big A. Been clear in the 10 years since.

    • ESW

      I also had a great experience with Accutane.

  • Hayley

    A combination of P50 W (whole face, in AM) and Sunday Riley’s UFO (on my chin and nose) have kept away my hormonal breakouts.

  • Abby

    My weird trigger was gel caps! I was taking thryoid medicine in gel caps and I was getting horrible cystic acne that I never had before. My endocrinologist said “it may be the medicine itself, but it might be the gelatin cap”. She switched me to a regular style pill and the cystic acne went away. Even happened when I took vitamin D gel caps and then realized what I had done and switched back to regular!

  • Lyndsay

    Dairy. I went off it when my bf did, for practicality reasons, and noticed an immediate improvement in my skin. I also use Tretinoin gel now, which allows me the odd bit of cheese without disaster striking!

  • Dani beth

    I had clear skin in my teens so I thought I was just going to be one of the lucky ones. Then it seems as soon as I turned 20 I started to break out. It worsened after I moved to San Francisco two years later. It could have been the fact that I was drinking and eating out more, since I was finally on my own and free to make my own mistakes with no discretion. But no matter what I did, I could not get my skin clear. I tried almost everything I could afford, from harsh chemicals to baby cleansers to clean eating. I had days so bad that I have actually called out for work just because I couldn’t bear to face the public and see everyone glance at the constellations of grossness. I sadly had to assume that I was just going to have acne for the rest of my years to come.
    And I did, until just recently. I believe it has to do with a lot of factors, one being I moved from cool SF to humid Texas and two, that I was taking care to use more gentle, natural cleansing. What really kicked my skin up was the raw honey masks. Finally, FINALLY(!!!), my lower face is no longer freckled with red scars! And charcoal face wash has been my ultimate saviour and the rose water toner! I do still break out occasionally but no where near on the level before. Maybe my skin war has finally ended to merely aging or to other topical reasons or the combination of all.
    Which is great, because my hope was I would have clear skin on my 30th birthday, so the signs are looking good. 🙂

  • Aydan

    I had minor acne when I was growing up and used proactiv regardless. was totally fine once I hit college, but post-grad school I blew up. I mean I was 25 and dealing with cystic acne. It clearly wasn’t diet, as I don’t eat much diary regardless (or soy) so I started accutane. (Yes the skin drying out thing sucks–I have a scar on my knee nearly three years later that you can still see from a running accident I had during that time), but EVERYTHING cleared. I now take evening primrose supplements every morning and use the clearcalm REN regime and find myself without ANY breakouts–never. I’ve had like one pimple in nearly two years and boy does that feel great!

  • The Eclectic Ginger

    As a sufferer from Cushing’s syndrome (but for many years several endo’s said oh you have PCOS don’t worry when jokes on you ya’ll got the diagnosis wrong) I’ve been through the mill with skin care regimes and several birth controls that wouldn’t work. What has been working for me however were two things: finding the right vitamins to take daily and using manuka honey as my only face wash. I’ve tried raw organic honey and though it did work wonders it still wasn’t the best. I finally bit the bullet on the manuka and can’t tell you how much it’s changed my skin. Definitely worth the money. And for vitamins I take MCM (or sulphur tablets) as well as evening primrose oil tablets. Both have kept my skin at bay and the sulphur tablets have also helped keep my pores clear. Do some research to see if it works best for you but I can’t recommend those three items enough!! Overall trying a more natural route for my skin care has truly made a big difference.

  • Skye

    Changing my pillowcase every night really made a difference for my breakouts. Now I have the deja pillowcase so I don’t have to do so much laundry (and on late nights it’s hard to remember to put on a clean pillowcase)

  • MTSW

    For me, what finally worked in my 40s after a lifetime of persistent acne, was witch hazel toner. I tried it in desperation after I had to stop salicylic acid because of a skin reaction. I tried Thayer’s alcohol-free witch hazel toner, and the cystic acne that I’d had since my teens just went away. I was not an herbal remedy kind of gal, so I was shocked, and I still can’t even explain it. But it has made all the difference and it’s a completely natural, gentle, inexpensive product. That plus a light cleanser and good moisturizing seems to be the trick.

  • Gillian Nash

    If you have hormonal acne and/or PCOS I would highly recommend the book WomanCode by Alisa Vitti!

  • ladle

    I had dry skin and no acne all the way through high school. I maybe had one pimple on my face ever. Then puberty evened out and i got pimples when I was 19. Took me several years to realise the cystic acne on the side of my face were because my skin went from dry to normal with some oily spots and I switched facial creams and washes. Now I just have blackheads that turn into acne right under my lips and on my t zone every month when I get my period.

  • Jenny

    Thank you for this Angela He!
    I was diagnosed with PCOS 3 years ago, after having experienced erratic/missing periods and increasing acne for the past 5 years so or. As I have a ‘light case’ I’ve been fortunate to not experience any weight gain or other more serious symptoms. I too started taking birth control, and it has entirely cleared up my skin, I couldn’t be happier!
    However… I do feel taking hormonal birth control is often frowned upon, or seen as some kind of defeat. I often have people suggesting I try to ‘cure myself’ through diet, natural therapies, dietary supplements, homeopathics, acupuncture, praying to the lord of light…you name it! I’m all for trying alternative remedies, but the basic fact of PCOS sufferers lacking in estrogen and the pill providing you with just that – remains.
    What I basically want to say to anyone affected is, if being on birth control fixes your problems, you do NOT have to explain your choice to take them or even bother listening to all the laypeople experts out there touting the risks. Be nice!

    • Emily Michaelis

      here for this comment!!

  • Charlotte Gjedsted

    I also cut out dairy, in addition to peanuts, seaweed, things with heavy iodized salt, and soy products. I was a vegetarian before–now I’m a real joy at dinner parties. I have to say though, cutting out dairy has been the single most significant factor in clearing up the giant zits I used to get along my jaw line.

    That, and finding an esthetician who knows her shit about acne.

  • The best thing that has helped me is being consistent with my skincare routine. I think I thought my skin was beyond hope and that acne (including cystic acne) was just something I was going to have to continue to deal with (even at 27). Until I started taking care of my skin that is and being diligent af. That means washing, cleansing, toning, seruming, etc. It has made such a difference. I’d say the one product that I’ve noticed has dramatically helped my skin is the tatcha essence. It is unreal amazing and so pricy it’s unreal. But it’s just so unbelievably good, it’s worth any amount of money. I could not recommend it more highly.

  • Kritsida

    Thanks for sharing this! I’ve always dealt with bad skin, and it can be so frustrating feeling like the only adult who still breaks out. My skin has calmed down a lot due to a combo of things (I’ve tried almost everything) and am so happy to be able to keep my routine to a minimum now!
    x. kritsida

  • elpug

    Less sugar (when I can… sweet tooth here!) and mario badescu enzyme cleansing gel! It clears my face overnight literally.

  • Shay

    this is a relatively newer thing, but i signed up for curology where u send them pictures of your face and describe your issues, and they send you a custom bottle every month, explaining what’s in it and why. My skin started changing immediately, i haven’t gotten any zits (save for one or two during pms but they were TINY compared to the usual monthly situation), and my pores are definitely looking tighter. Also! My scars and fading like the wind

  • Falcon Cara

    I suffered from acne as a teen, went on birth control which helped but as soon as I went off the cystic acne came back. Going vegan 3 years ago literally saved my skin, still dealing with hormonal issues due to being on birth control so I totally discourage it.

  • Anna

    I love this article and how honest it is. It feels good to know I’m not alone in the acne battle. I’m 26 and for over 10 years I had bad chin acne (nasty white heads). I’ve tried everything, Korean beauty products, high end products, supplements, birth control, low-end products, you name it. Nothing worked. Finally, my derm prescribed me erytheomycin 2% gel. In just 3 days my chin acne disappeared. I still can’t believe it. Why didn’t I get this stuff years ago? Luckily, I don’t have to use this stuff very frequently (1-2 times a month) to keep the bacteria from coming back. I also tried the Dr Perricone skin diet. WOW in a week my skin looked glowing and healthy. From then on I learned how important a healthy well balanced diet is for your skin.

  • dricous

    For me it was quitting dairy for a while, Im back to consuming dairy, but only fermented and moderatly.

  • Rachel

    Has anyone here dealt with acne rosacea? Nothing has worked for me, and I always have very red cheeks with bumps, sometimes red and sometimes little, white, and fluid-filled. I am really desperate. I live in the UK and it is very difficult to see a dermatologist here.

    • a

      Hi, I have for 6 years with it getting worse over time. Mine has improved in the last 6 months doing the following; Cleanse morning and night with Bioderma H20 on a cotton pad, and then at night (and sometimes also in the morning) with REN gentle cleansing milk. I also use REN glycolactic radiance renewal mask and Aesop blue chamomile facial hydrating masque once a week. The only other thing I put on my face is Armani luminous silk foundation. That + drinking 3 x litres of water per day has improved things so much for me. There is still some redness on my cheeks, but it’s not bumpy and I have no dryness despite not using moisturizer (just makes it worse). Medication wise, I was once on a course of antibiotics for something not related to skin, and this made it better as well, so maybe ask your GP about that.

    • sj

      Yes – my skin was a total nightmare a few years ago. I never had TERRIBLE acne, but I had the little red rosacea bumps all over, and the flushing part of my rosacea was out of control. Every little thing set my skin off and I was sooooo sensitive and dry no matter what I did – like my skin would just wear away in big sore patches sometimes.

      I switched to a new derm a few years ago and she put me on a regimen of the pill Oracea (doxycycline) once a day, washing my face in the morning with Plexion, and using the Soolantra cream at night. The difference was like night and day. The little red bumps went away almost immediately, and the flushing subsided a lot, to the point where I hadn’t had a major rosacea flareup in months (and I still haven’t, over two years later!). Once my skin improved significantly, she took me off the Oracea first, then the Soolantra, and I just went off the Plexion earlier this year. I still have minor redness in my skin and the occasional hormonal breakout, but both the texture and overall health of my skin are about 1000% better, and my skin heals from zits/a breakout a lot faster than it did before.

      It’s worth noting that I also started doing a 7 (or 10) step Korean skincare routine at the same time – I didn’t use any medicated products other than what my derm prescribed, but I think the super-moisturizing benefits of the gentle serums and creams helped balance my skin out as well. Now I tend toward a bit oily in my t-zone rather than super duper dry, but like I said, the overall health of my skin is so much better that I’ll take it.

      • sj

        (Plexion is a wash of sodium sulfacetamide 10% and sulfur 5%, and Soolantra has some sort of anti-inflammatory properties.)

  • Beatriz Gonçalves

    I quit dairy, i took isotretinoin, i don’t eat much meat, i use acnatack, i wash my face everynight, i almost don’t smoke, i’ve had one laser treatment.. it’s still here. It’s much much better since i tooked isotretinoin but it’s still here. My aunt told me that her acne only went away after she got pregnant. She also had very nasty adult acne. I’d advise isotretinoin and washing your face everynight and morning and no make up, not even oil free on the bad areas.

  • Victoria L.

    My face is always ~mostly~ clear but I’ve always, always struggled with acne on my back! I’ve gone to the dermatologist but nothing seems to work. I went on the pill, which helped my face and back a little, but not perfect. Still hate going out in tank top, etc. Anyone have any suggestions?

    • Marta Millere

      I struggle with the same thing, it’s so embarrassing. Tanning my back
      (and chest and bum – where I also get zits, FML) seem to help. Also scrub
      those parts of my body with a Japanese washcloth and spray it with body
      sprays enriched with salicylic acid. But still, they re-appear and the struggle is real. Help!

    • Alexia

      How often do you wash your bra? Sometimes not washing your bra enough could be an issue. Also try switching shampoos.

  • anna

    Thank you for mentioning someone with PCOS. Would love to see man repeller do a whole article on it!

  • Laurie

    I feel like I have to post my experience in case it helps anybody struggling with acne! I’ve had horrible and cystic acne since I was a young teenager and started taking birth control for it as soon as I could. A stronger pill worked (but took almost a year) to clear my skin but it wasn’t a pill I could really stay on long term. So, I switched to a lighter pill that I still take but it doesn’t clear my skin anywhere near as well as I need. I’ve been to derma’s, taken prescription stuff, used all sorts of topical systems from dermatologists and I’ve been on Accutane. Literally nothing worked. I have mixed race skin that scars really easily and I still have craters on my cheeks from cystic acne from when I was a teen.

    Almost a year ago now I stopped using things from the dermatologists and stopped using soap and topical acids. I wash my face with just warm water (weird at first without soap) in the morning and night and if I’m wearing any make up (which I usually don’t) I make sure to take ALL of it off with micellar water. I’ll sometimes use a tea tree oil castile soap to make sure it’s all off. I try to keep my face clean by using a clean, designated face towel and keeping my pillowcase washed often. After washing my face I always use Thayers witch hazel & rose petal toner and I bought a huge aloe plant that I take pieces from. I just wash the piece and store it in a fridge for up to a week! I break off a piece from that and use the cool gel/water all over my face (I usually use quite a lot and let it dry) morning and night after washing&toning. Also, SUPER important: I exfoliate more often than what people usually recommend — with a little mixture I made of honey, brown sugar and activated charcoal at least 3 times a week and really make sure I scrub everything. Finish with the Thayers and fresh aloe. My skin has almost completely cleared up a year after starting this with no more cystic acne. Additionally, the aloe is treating my scars really well and they’re fading quickly. I’m trying to treat my acne more like wounds that need help healing and letting my natural face bacteria (which actually fights acne itself) do it’s thing. I haven’t used a single acid at all. I found that I was probably just killing my skin’s natural defence system with all the acid/products so it was sensitive to anything that ever touched it and I would break out. I’m 27 now and my face is less oily, super clear and is able to fight for itself. My decade-old scars are finally fading!

    I highly, highly recommend trying this to anyone who has terrible hormonal acne like I do and who suffers from scarring. Accutane didn’t even do it for me. Hope this helps!

  • Aida

    Actually, what the birth control pill is doing is just masking the symptoms, not resolving the actual problem. I was diagnosed with PCOS at 18, I am now 24. The gynaecologist prescribed the pill, of course, saying that there really was nothing more to do…however the pill has a lot of side effects – very dangerous ones at that and I do not think they should be the long term solution. What I am realising is that most doctors do not recognise PCOS as a real disease – it is just a syndrome to then. Hence, I do believe the pill solution is really just a quick-fix solution for a problem that is not yet understood. PCOS is a metabolic dysfunction, usually associated with increases in you fat profile (cholesterol and triglycerides) and insulin resistance, hence making us much more prone to develop heart disease and diabetes. I have been taking the pill for the last 6 years and I have been having seriously bad acne for over a year. I have high cholesterol levels and have a healthy lifestyle. So, I have recently gave up on the pill because what I have been reading does not make it the appropriate solution for PCOS. What current research is saying is that PCOS can be controlled with lifestyle changes – you must loose weight (because high weight is linked with greater insulin resistance), you must cut on the sugar (because of the diabetes-prone profile), you must be extra careful with what you eat, and also avoid endocrine disruptors (little chemicals that mess up out already sensitive hormonal system, like the one found on perfumes, cosmetics…), and of course, exercise a lot. So I do not recommend the pill – it had no effect on me. I do believe we can reduce acne with lifestyle changes – eat better, exercise more, avoid xenobiotics (eat organic, when possible) and ease on the facial treatments (I have been reading a lot about it and apparently, when it comes to our skin, less is more, so the old routine of cleansing, exfoliating, moisturising is just bad for our skin, too aggressive. Man Repeller could cover PCOS a little more – it is very very often nowadays.

  • EmUhLee

    My Mirena IUD gave me awful jawline-pattern acne, and a combo of Differin 0.3% and Spiro cured it. I still have the IUD two years later because I’m stubborn af.

    The medical gods giveth and they taketh away.

    • Caroline Christianson

      Ok this is my exact situation. Worried about starting the spiro I just got but now I’ll give it a try

      • EmUhLee

        Drink plenty of water and give it a couple of months! Good luck!

  • Jeanie

    For me it was going gluten free. It was like a miracle. My acne was BAD. Spots covered my whole face. Makeup couldn’t hide it. Then I started cutting gluten. It cleared up so quickly that I went fully gluten free. Not saying it would work for everyone, but I think very often acne can be an allergic reaction to some food you’re eating. I highly suggest trying to figure out if it’s your diet first. Especially if your acne is hormonal. It’s more affordable than trying a bunch of skincare and safer than taking hormones. Also, one of the biggest mistakes is being too heavy handed with acne creams. That stuff can dry you out and make things worse! Less is more.

  • Payal Mitra

    Get Dr. Hauschka! I have quite lovely low maintenance skin that I’m super happy and delighted with – except the three bouts of horrific acne as an adult, due to PCOS, dairy and then fibroids. All hormonal I guess.

    Each time I heard my body and worked on the actual problem itself. In the meantime, do yourself a favour and get on the Dr Hauschka cleansing system. At the very least – the original cleanser and clarifying toner.

    Here’s what happens – regardless the reason or type of spot/plug – the hot flannel steams your pores open. The press-and-roll (I press and pull, creating suction with m hands on my face) pulls the gunk out in the gentlest way and the cold flannel tightens your lubricated and moist skin – gently pushing the rest of the crap out. No tightness. No scarring. Eventually, no new spots forming at all, as pores are always and continuously being cleaned out!

    Bonus – All of that organic goodness will make your skin glow like a beacon!

  • Chanel

    I just started dealing with acne this year, at the age of 20, and it completely took over my life in the worst way. I thiiiink I’m starting to see the end of it though.. If there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that products are not the answer, and less is more. Some things that have helped me personally are taking birth control at the same exact time each day, eating probiotics, apple cider vinegar+aspirin as a spot treatment, yogurt and lemon masks, raw aloe vera, and cutting out sugar and dairy. I also went back to using Paula’s Choice BHA (which, yes, is a product, but it’s worked miracles for my skin in the past and I’d recommend it to anyone). I microneedled, lasered, and experimented with dozens of expensive products, all of which prolonged my breakouts. Definitely learned the hard way that natural is best. Good luck, ladies!! You’re not alone.

  • Lebo

    I used to drink half a cup of garlic water every night before I went to bed, for about a month, and moved to more natural skincare products. I haven’t had acne issues ever since.

  • Youngweon Lee

    I used to have a fair amount of acne in high school – it wasn’t horrible, but it was enough that I felt very self-conscious and refused to go anywhere without full coverage foundation. When I moved to New York for college, it just magically cleared up completely for no reason. People started complimenting me on my skin, which is something that never happened before. I think it might just be the different tap water and my skin reacting differently to chemicals/minerals.

  • Kayla Sweeney

    A customized prescription cream from Curology cured my adult acne that popped into existence a year and a half ago. It also helped two of my friends. I recommend checking it out!

  • CarinaChiara

    I’m a African American woman that has struggled with acne for over 15 years. I also have hyperpigmentation marks and I have hormonal acne. I’m 34 years old. Okay, so the journey has been long and frustrating AND expensive. Dermalmd blemish serum has been a savior for my cystic acne thay developed on my chin and neck. I realized that with persistent use that it has really helped to prevent a breakout which keeps the result of hyperpigmentation low. A tip, if you have a cyst… don’t just dab it on the cyst, spread it out further because it will help in the drying process and prevention of the infection hitting a closer side of the area..

  • ScarletTindle

    I have adult acne, and I noticed that any acne medication that I used with salicylic acid would make it worse. I tried a mask that has sulfur in it, and noticed that it helped clear up my skin a lot. I don’t have time to have a mask on my face every night, though. I am so thankful I found dermalmd acne serum! Since using this serum, my face has cleared up so much that people have actually made comments about how good I look.