How to Get Rid of Acne Overnight With Black Voodoo Magic
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Not gonna lie, I’ve been putting off writing this article because sh*t is about to get emotional. But it needs to be done. So here it goes….. How to get rid of acne in 3 simple steps, with product recommendations and all. Make sure you don’t miss the 10 additional tips at the end as well!
For more of my before and after photos, read my about me.
Table of Contents
- 1 Introduction.
- 2 Change Your Mentality Right Now.
- 3 Step #1: The Cleanse.
- 4 Step #2: Treat.
- 5 Step #3: Moisturize.
- 6 How to Build Up A Routine.
- 7 Summary.
- 8 Ten Additional Tips to Get Rid of Acne Faster.
- 8.1 1. Reduce irritation whenever possible.
- 8.2 2. Add a hyaluronic acid toner.
- 8.3 3. Clean up the diet.
- 8.4 4. Eat beef liver. Wait what????
- 8.5 5. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.
- 8.6 6. Exercise.
- 8.7 7. Need to pop a pimple?
- 8.8 8. Change your pillow cases often.
- 8.9 9. BE GENTLE WITH YOUR SKIN.
- 8.10 10. Avoid stress.
- 8.11 11. Be an Eleven.
- 9 Final Words.
- 10 Want to Subscribe for Updates?
Let me start off by addressing the title gore. I hate to break it to you, but no… you cannot get rid of acne overnight with black magic. Sorry to disappoint.
Here’s the thing, there is no one-size-fits-all product or pill that’ll get rid of your acne overnight (except perhaps, the nuclear option: Accutane. But we won’t be discussing that in this post). Anyone else that tells you otherwise, is a lying sac of balls. The sooner you realize that, the faster you’ll clear your skin.
Don’t let your insecurities con you into believing what you want to hear. This world is FILLED with deceptive marketing, and quite frankly… BS, with the sole purpose of making $$$.
See this photo here? That’s approximately 8 years worth of MY OWN products! Full story here.
And the saddest part is that only a handful of those worked. Learn from my mistakes, follow the guidelines I will list here, and you should clear your acne in no time. I have made all the mistakes so you don’t have to. I am here to help you.
Change Your Mentality Right Now.
Skincare isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. Treating acne will require patience, time, and dedication. Often times the trick is having the willpower to not jump the gun and bombard your face with dozens of arbitrary products all at once. More is not necessarily better. Often is the case, that less is more.
I know you don’t want to hear this, but the difference you see in the photos above of my acne didn’t happen “overnight.” It was the result of a 6 month long skincare routine targeted towards my unique skin with products that work.
Note: if I didn’t make additional mistakes along the way, I could of have realistically achieved that progress in about half the time.
Just remember that consistent skincare effort paired with the right products for your unique skin, will do more for you than any magical lotion or potion promising to “cure your acne overnight” — whatever that means.
Note the emphasis on UNIQUE SKIN.
Ever wonder why a product on Amazon.com can have several thousand 5 star reviews, as well as hundreds of 1 stars? It’s because everyone’s skin is different. What works brilliantly for one person may not for another, and that’s for a whole host of reasons (e.g. genetics, environment, the acid mantle, hormones, skin type, sometimes diet etc.)
If this weren’t the case, we’d all be like those amazing people who can go weeks without showering, put bacon-grease mixed with equal parts dog and leave it sitting for a couple days, then cleanse with a baking-soda-poison-ivy infused face wash and still have GORGEOUS skin that’s never tasted the existence of a pimple!
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little… but you get the point. There are people out there that literally do nothing for their skin and still have a baby’s ass on their face (case in point, my mom 😒).
Everyone is unique. Some people have bad skin that requires multiple products; some people have great skin that requires minimal products; there’s sensitive skin, oily skin, dry skin, blemish-prone (ef our lives), dehydrated, balanced, aging skin, elephant skin, cheetah skin — you name it, and it probably exists!
With that said, let’s go into some time-tested, scientifically verified, clinically-sound routines, ingredients, and advice that’ll lay a strong foundation for building a skincare routine to clear your acne in no time.
These 3 steps are all you need! They will realistically clear up 90 to 95% of people. And if they don’t eradicate your acne completely, then there’s a few additional steps you can implement which will get you there. I will include these too. Let’s start!
Step #1: The Cleanse.
Pretty self-explanatory. You gotta clean your face. However, the type of cleanser you do that with is very important! You want a barebones, gentle, not-drying, pH balanced cleanser.
Let me repeat: you want gentle, non-drying, pH-balanced cleanser! So none of these harsh acne-washes with active ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide; these ingredients can be beneficial but are generally less effective in face washes.
To make this easier for everyone, I’ve provided a list of great cleansers (including some of my favorite) that are very well tolerated, and most importantly — pH-balanced!
I have found all of these to be gentle, yet cleanse well enough without stripping the natural oils from the face (yes, those are important). These will go a long way in maintaining the health of the moisture barrier.
If you don’t understand what pH is, or why it is very important to skincare. Read my guide all about it here.
|Acne.org Cleanser||pH 5.5||Good for normal skin.|
|CeraVe Foaming||pH 5.5.||Good for normal to oily skin.|
|La Roche Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Facial Cleanser||pH 5.5||Good for dry, normal, or sensitive skin.|
|Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser||pH 6-7||Good for normal to oily skin.|
Step #2: Treat.
This is where the bulk of the magic happens in terms of clearing acne. The idea is to use something that will actively treat and prevent breakouts. Simply cleaning your face isn’t enough to get rid of your pimples all on its own (for most people).
You’re gonna need some heavy duty active ingredients to come in and do the heavy lifting. You should be looking for something that has comedolytic, keratolytic, anti-inflammatory, or anti-bacterial properties to address all the major causes of acne. (1)
Now, I don’t want to overwhelm you here… but you have A LOT of options! Think of it as a good thing. To try and make this part as simple to understand as I possibly can, I’ve provided a mega-list of ingredients and products that treat acne.
I ordered the ingredients from the most to least effective. So, for example, because benzoyl peroxide is the first active ingredient listed on the table below, it is the most effective.
On the contrary, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate is the last active ingredient listed meaning it’s the least effective (doesn’t mean it won’t work! It’s just simply less effective than the rest).
I also provided general recommendations to encompass all skin types, so you can make the best informed decision possible. If you’d like to learn any more about one of these ingredients specifically (for example what it is, its benefits, the science behind it, how to use it, side effects etc.) — I have written extensive articles about each ingredient individually.
Feel free to click on the links provided below if you’d like more information!
Best Acne Treatments
|Benzoyl Peroxide||2.5% as effective as 10% with less irritation. Antibacterial, unclogs pores, anti-keratinizing. Very potent!|
|Recommendations:||Acne.org 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide|
|Salicylic acid (BHA)||Chemically exfoliates, unclogs pores, bacteriostatic, and keratolytic agent. Doesn't cause photosensitivity (i.e. increase adverse effects of sun exposure).|
|Recommendations:||Humane BHA Toner (Good for sensitive, dry, or dehydrated skin); Stridex Pads 2.0% BHA (Heavy duty. Good for normal to oily skin. Very affordable); Neutralyze Exfoliating Pads (contains 1% mandelic acid for additional exfoliation / brightening)|
|Azelaic Acid||Powerful tyrosinase-inhibitor. Antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-keratinizing. Well tolerated.|
|Recommendations:||GIGI Bioplasma Azelaic Cream 15%; Ecological Formulas Melazepam Cream; 20% Skinoren Cream; 15% Finacea Gel|
|Retinoids (e.g. Adapalene, Tretinoin)||Unclogs pores, regulates cell-turnover. Has anti-aging benefits.|
|Recommendations:||Differn (0.1% Adapalene) (first FDA approved prescription strength retinoid OTC. Full review here); Retino A Gel 0.4% (Note: Indian version of Retin-A micro just cheaper. Manufactured by Johnson and Johnson, the same company that makes Retin-A); A-Ret Gel 0.1% Tretinoin|
|Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (SAP)||A vitamin C derivative. Comparatively better than antibiotics. Lightens skin. No side effects. Very gentle. A "natural" solution.|
|Recommendations:||Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum; (Full Review Here)|
Step #3: Moisturize.
Finding a good moisturizer that doesn’t break you out is honestly one of the hardest freakin’ parts about treating acne. If you can find one, you’re golden and more than halfway there! For most people this is what makes or breaks their routines.
So why do we have to moisturize?
Because treating skin with active ingredients can be quite irritating. We need to counteract this by replenishing our moisture barrier with support products.
For my younger readers, this step will be of less concern (but still important!), because youthful skin is quite resilient and can better handle the onslaught of therapeutic agents like tretinoin or benzoyl peroxide.
However, if you’re an adult and reading this make sure to pay particular attention to this step. The nature of the skin changes as we age, and so does its potential for irritancy.
UPDATE 7/12/17: Adults also have a higher predisposition to fungal (malassezia) sensitivities. If you have tried many skincare products to no avail, and seemingly breakout from everything, I highly encourage you to check out my guide on treating fungal acne, and / or malassezia-prone skin. That blog post has been beneficial to many of my readers.
Now back to our scheduled programming….
If you’re suffering from adult acne you need to be really focusing on the moisturizing aspect of your routine. I’m willing to bet the leading cause of adult acne is a damaged moisture barrier, sensitivity to malassezia, or using the wrong skincare products, (Unless it’s hormonal, which is another story entirely.)
Contrary to westernized advise, you don’t want to kill your acne by drying it. Trust me when I say this. Acne has to be killed with kindness. This means no lemon juice, no baking soda masks (read why in my pH guide), no harsh scrubs etc. None of that.
Ever heard of pinterest? Yeah, avoid it. 90% of the content on there is absolute nonsense, and quite frankly — stupid.
Just remember this: damaged skin has less ability to fight acne, so you want to baby your skin as much as possible, reduce irritation wherever you can, and be above all else — be gentle.
One final note on this: me saying this isn’t just mere hearsay. Studies have shown that a moisturizing routine treats acne faster and with less side effects than a drying one. (2, 3) When the stratum corneum [i.e. outer layer of skin] is properly hydrated, everything runs like clockwork!
“Adequate hydration of the stratum corneum serves three major functions: (1) it maintains plasticity of the skin, protecting it from damage; (2) it allows hydrolytic enzymes to function in the process of desquamation [i.e. exfoliates itself naturally] and (3) it contributes to optimum stratum corneum barrier function.” (source)
And in the the words of the American Academy of Dermatology,
“Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Keeping the skin properly hydrated is the key to successful acne therapy, and the daily use of a moisturizer has been shown to increase the skin’s ability to tolerate medications that often cause irritation.”
This is why so few people see success just using benzoyl peroxide or tretinoin mono-therapy, it’s simply too drying for the skin on its own, which inhibits its ability to heal and repair itself. Most people aren’t even aware of the fact that they DON’T need active ingredients to treat acne. Often times, just using a proper moisturizer is enough!
With all that said, here is a list of the best moisturizers for acne prone skin. I have written extensive reviews about some of them in case you’re looking for more information.
To be on the safe side, all the moisturizers I included (except CeraVe PM) work for malassezia-induced conditions like pityrosporum folliculitis, better known as “fungal acne,” a.k.a. the culprit behind many adult acne cases.
Best Moisturizers for Acne Prone Skin
|Avene Tolérance Extrême Emulsion||Good for ALL skin types, especially those who break out from all moisturizers. Formulated without any preservatives, parabens or fragrances, making it great for especially sensitive skin. Rest assured, the formula is sterile thanks to the airtight packaging.|
|La Roche-Posay Toleriane Sensitive Fluide||Lightweight moisturizer, contains only 9 ingredients including niacinamide for brightening. Great for those who are very prone to clogged pores.|
|CeraVe Baby Cream||Very rich. Great for barrier recovery. Contains ceramides, cholesterol, hyaluronic acid, and petrolatum. Avoid if you have pityrosporum folliculitis a.k.a "fungal acne."|
|CeraVe PM||Excellent for hyperpigmentation and barrier recovery. Contains ceramides, cholesterol, 4% niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid. Best for dehydrated, dry, or normal skin, though many oily folks also report success with it too. Avoid if you are prone to malassezia / fungal breakouts.|
|Sebamed Clear Face Gel||A no-frills, very barebones moisturizer. Contains no oils or emulsifiers. Doesn't provide much hydration, but if you absolutely cannot tolerate any moisturizers this is your best bet. Very safe for adult acne, and malassezia-sensitive skin. Full review here.|
How to Build Up A Routine.
START SLOWLY DAMN IT. You hear me! >:/
The last thing you should be doing is throwing everything at your face at once. You need to build your way up slowly through PATCH-TESTING. Personally, I would start with just a cleanser, and do that for a few days to see what my skin does naturally. It’s a good way to assess your starting point.
Some people find a gentle cleanser is all they need to treat acne! They just never knew it because they were constantly nuking their faces with products for years, not realizing it was making things worse. This is known as “acne-cosmetica.” In other words, acne caused by skincare products.
Are you skeptical? Don’t believe anyone can realistically clear their skin by just cleansing? Check out examples 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 — you get the point!
Wanna know why it worked for all those people? Because they let their acid mantles take a break! In the absence of disease, skin does a mighty fine job of regulating itself and shedding corneocytes (dead skin cells) all on its own. This will be particularly true in cases of adult acne. Less so during our teenage years because our sebaceous (oil) glands are working in overdrive.
So yes, start with just a cleanser. Do that for about a week or so, then incorporate your moisturizer by patch-testing. Make sure to patch test it for at least a week before applying it all over your face! After you’ve established that your moisturizer doesn’t break you out, it’s time to incorporate your active ingredient of choice.
Again, start slowly with this as well! If I sound like a broken record: OH WELL. Here have some more: start slowly, start slowly, start slowly!
Which active ingredient you chose will dictate how many times you can use per week. For example, a salicylic acid product should only be used about 2-3 times a week when starting out, but sodium ascorbly phospate can be used twice daily because of how gentle it is. The maximum amount of times you can use any of these active ingredients is twice a day!
The best way to gauge how often you should use your treatment step is to examine your skin closely and proceed as tolerated. In other words, use it as much as you can, but once you start seeing ANY signs of irritation (be it redness, dryness, skin feeling “hot” or tight, flaking etc.) — BACK OFF. Continuing on this path will only lead you down a dark road.
Give your skin a breather, let it regroup, then pick up where you left off. Missing a day or two in the grand scheme of things isn’t going to realistically set you back. Remember: treating acne is a marathon not a sprint. The trick is to have the willpower to do less and not jump the gun. I said this already, but it bares repeating: more is not better, often is the case that less is more. Progress isn’t about speed; it’s about direction. You need balance before anything else!
I know a month or two on a consistent regimen may seem like a long time, especially when you so desperately want your STUPID stubborn acne to just die! But trust me on this one, a month or two to make substantial progress or eradicate acne completely is nothing in comparison to the lifelong satisfaction you’ll feel from finally having clear skin.
So start slowly, and go as tolerated. Repeat after me: I need balance before anything else.
Good job, young cricket. Consider that your new nightly prayer, and you’ll be well on your way.
1. Begin with a cleanser only. Use it for about a week to assess your starting point.
2. Incorporate your moisturizer by patch-testing for at least a week before going full faced.
3. Once you’ve established your moisturizer doesn’t cause blemishes, incorporate your active step as tolerated. Any signs of irritation? Back off then resume in a couple days.
4. Repeat the cleanse, moisturize, and treat step once or twice a day (depending on your skin) for at least 6 weeks! By the 6 week mark you should know if something is working for you or not.
Ten Additional Tips to Get Rid of Acne Faster.
These are not required, but in my opinion WILL significantly speed up your progress! Don’t avoid these, and try to hit as many of them as possible. If had to pick the most important tips from this section they would numbers 1, 3, 5, 9 and if you’re brave enough — 4.
1. Reduce irritation whenever possible.
This can be done in many ways. For example, say you are using benzoyl peroxide and it’s drying out your skin immensely. Try applying it after your moisturizer; this will provide a buffer, slow down the penetration, and increase the time it takes to reach its end point.
If you want to reduce its irritation even further, do “contact therapy” — in other words, put it on your face, let it dry, then wash it off before proceeding with the rest of your skincare routine. Doing so will only slightly decrease it’s effectiveness. (4)
If contact therapy works for you, THEN DO THAT! There is no reason you should be adding more into your routine if it doesn’t have to be there. “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it,” as they say.
Example #2: say you decided to opt out for stridex or paula’s choice BHA, but are finding your skin is dry and tight. Try using the COSRX BHA instead. It’s more hydrating, gentle, and in my humble opinion — works better anyway.
I’ll give one more example. Are you finding that your skin is dry after your morning cleanse? Try a more hydrating cleanser, or skip the morning cleanse altogether and see if that doesn’t work. There are so many ways of doing this. None of them are wrong. Just experiment, and try to reduce irritation wherever you see fit.
2. Add a hyaluronic acid toner.
My favorite is the Hada Labo Rohto Gokujyn HA Lotion. This is such a basic product, but a great way to add some serious hydration into your routine. The Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion includes three different types of hyaluronic acid.
Hyaluronic acid is a power humectant capable of holding 1000 times its water weight. It hydrates the skin by drawing water from the environment and dermis (deeper layer of skin), and significantly speeds up the wound healing process. (5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
3. Clean up the diet.
Reduce your intake of dairy, gluten (barley, rye, oat, wheat, spelt), poly unsaturated fatty acids (e.g. canola oil, corn oil, nuts etc.), and glycemic-rich foods (e.g. white rice). All of these have been implicated in systemic inflammation or acne. (10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18)
Hint: saying there is no link between diet and acne is a load of horse doodoo.
But more importantly, focus on your gut health! The easiest hack for curing digestive problems, which will as a result clear up skin immensely, is by taking high quality probiotics. I have written an extensive guide all about probiotic supplementation for treating a wide array of skin issues and concerns. Check it out! I’m serious. Probiotics did more for my skin than most skincare products I have ever tried. I cannot recommend them enough.
And lastly on the subject of nutrition, make sure you’re not vitamin D deficient. Best way to get it: sunshine! Yes, sun protection is important, and will go a long way in preventing skin aging, but remember that avoiding the sun altogether increases all causes of mortality (e.g. heart disease, cancer)! One study found that sun avoiders had a lower life expectancy by about 2.1 years on average, in comparison to those that got a lot of sun exposure. (19)
You only need about 600 IU of vitamin D a day, which is roughly 15 minutes of sun exposure. Of course, this will vary depending on your location, altitude, and overcast. I like to use an app called “dminder,” which allows you to track all of the above to let you know approximately how much vitamin D you generated. Here’s a screenshot:
4. Eat beef liver. Wait what????
Yes, tis true. Beef liver is the most nutritiously dense food on planet earth. 100 grams of that stuff has 28,571 IU of Vitamin A! (20) To put that into perspective, 100 grams of carrots only has 16,705 IU of Vitamin A.
- Beef liver (100 g) = 28,571 IU of Vitamin A
- Carrots (100 g) = 16,705 IU of Vitamin A
In case you didn’t know, vitamin A will DESTROY your acne. (21) Ever wonder what Accutane is? A.k.a what I called the “nuclear option” at the beginning of this article. It’s just a synthetic metabolite of vitamin A: lots of it.
Now, before you go try overdosing on vitamin A — Chill out! Vitamin A toxicity is a thing, and its dangers are very real. If you’re going to supplement with vitamin A, talk to your primary doctor first.
Other natural sources of vitamin A include organ meats, egg yolks, grassfed butter and cream, salmon, and cod liver oil (among others).
Want to read a story about why I swallowed 6 pounds of raw beef liver? Click here.
Also consider taking a zinc supplement (keep the dosage below 50 mg a day). Studies have shown that zinc is beneficial for inflammatory acne. (22, 23, 24)
5. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.
The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to stop thinking about your acne as something to hammer away at. Acne is strange in the sense that it has to be killed with kindness. Find ways to moisturize your skin deeply.
One of my favorite ways is by taking a trip to slug-life boulevard. For the uninitiated, that means putting vaseline over your moisturizer as the last step in your skincare routine.
“Vaseline over my skin?!?! BUT THAT’S GONNA CLOG MY PORES!!!” I can hear you already.
Contrary to popular belief vaseline is non-comedogenic. It’s molecules are simply too big to clog pores. And it is the most effective occlusive on planet earth, capable of preventing 98% of transepidermal water loss (TEWL). That’s just fancy science talk for saying IT’S A DAMN GOOD HYDRATOR SON.
Don’t resist the slug life! >:)
Stop being a fatty. It’s good for your overall health, and sweat produces lactic acid (good for skin) as a byproduct of energy depletion. (25, 26)
7. Need to pop a pimple?
Read my guide about how to do it properly to speed up recovery time and prevent acne scarring.
8. Change your pillow cases often.
9. BE GENTLE WITH YOUR SKIN.
Your skin does not serve you; you serve your skin! Imagine you just had a baby, and someone glued it to your face. Treat it accordingly.
10. Avoid stress.
Pssssh, yeah. Easier said than done. But uh… avoid that stuff. It’s not good.
Here are some ideas: listen to music, write music, paint, go to a park, take a hiking adventure, write a poem or letter to someone you hold dear, do some deep breathing exercising, get a massage, talk to friends, make yourself a nice dinner, watch a good movie or T.V. show…. Stranger Things, anyone?
If all else fails, watch this video for more ideas.
11. Be an Eleven.
I’m going to leave you all with a quote from a woman I absolutely admire. She said what I want to convey better than I ever could.
“I’ve learned that you pretty much have to let acne runs its course. If you get a breakout, there’s only so much you can do until your skin pushes the blockage out on its own. Topical skin care products definitely help to refine your skin, but only to a certain extent. Along with acne treatments, you just have to figure out what other things you can do to make your skin happy. You have to be calm (not-frustrated or angry), level-headed (mind-over-matter), and even somewhat scientific about treating your acne.”—Skinacea
I hope you’ve enjoyed this and found it useful. With love.
I got nothing witty to say this time. Just, please share this. It could change someone’s life.
Hey, there. For anyone looking for product recommendations, I have recently begun using skincarisma as a general guide. They have a large database of products with a ton of information about ingredients. It’s awesome, and I will attempt to explain why, but I think you’ll just need to check it out for yourself.
You can search for products in their database, or you can come prepared with an ingredient list of a product of interest. If you don’t have a product in mind, but would like to search based on a specific set of criteria, you can filter the search. Want to avoid parabens? Maybe you have an allergy? Maybe you want a cleanser with a PH lower than 6? Filter away.
In the description of each product, there are quick product notes to show whether the item meets each of the following: Paraben-Free, Sulfate-Free, Alcohol-Free, Silicone-Free, EU Allergen-Free, Fungal Acne (Malassezia) Safe, Minimal Ingredients. Maybe you care about none or all of those things, but if you are really concerned about any of those attributes, it’s a great, quick check/way to eliminate a product from your shopping list. If you want to do a deeper dive, there will also be a breakdown of each ingredient listed, with safety ratings and warnings related to specific skin concerns. (For example, Lactic Acid might irritate sensitive skin, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax might trigger fungal acne, etc.)
I know f.c. has created quite a buzz surrounding the topic of fungal acne, and I thought this would be a great resource in particular for those of you battling that demon. While this site might not be a fool-proof way to avoid triggers, I think it’s a heck of a place to start. Supplemented with your own knowledge of your own skin, I think skincarisma is GOLD.
TANGENT ALERT: It seems that most of us are in the fight to find peace within ourselves. I think something we share is that goals (especially skin goals) tend to be moving targets. I keep saying “I will be happy WHEN…”, but the “when” is always changing. Constant goals of self improvement? AMAZING! Chasing perfection? Let’s just not. The line between the two might be very thin or very blurry, but I think the difference can be defined by whether or not our goals result in healthy attitudes and actions that make us feel positive and productive.
Best of luck, and much love.
Hey f.c., the fatty comment hit me the same way it hit that other person and I want to explain: how you felt about your skin for those 11 years is how many people feel about their bodies. There are a million possible reasons why your skin/body is the way it is, and a million “cures” and cures. What works for lots of people doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s difficult to find what works for your unique body/skin (and for some people, it’s genetic and there’s no way to change it). I just read your about me post and if you felt heartbroken, tired, and powerless in that photo at your dermatologists… then you also know what it feels like to be fat.
I have binged this entire blog and I now know what I need and what to look for. I always knew most products were a bunch of hooey and never tried many because I had no idea what worked or why/why not. Now I know and it is all thanks to your hard work… and science! I am only two weeks in but I am already seeing a major difference… except I learned the hard way that skin dehydration is a thing when trying a bentonite blackhead treatment. A minor setback! Still going strong!
The reason why I am commenting is because I suffer from cystic acne and nothing has worked to eliminate it. Cystic acne is really something else. Everything I’ve tried just angers the cyst and they shrug treatment off like it was nothing! It’s like having the Terminator under my skin. I will try something and the nodule will just laugh like Jabba the Hut “hoh hoh hoh…” and get stronger. The inflamed red HILL literally thumping with pain wasn’t even its final form. Worse, something that worked a *little* one time may be entirely ineffective for next week’s breakout. If I do anything, ANYTHING, if I even look at it funny it punches me in the crotch for daring to try. I always have at least two huge cherry red breakouts on my very pale face at all times and they can last for MONTHS! They hurt! They are ugly!
Hopefully following guides here and improving my overall skin health will help. But there isn’t any post for cystic acne here and I see a lot of cries for help like mine in the comments. I know cystic pimples are caused by bacteria and clogged pores but for the love of god I am healthy as an ox, I eat pretty well, I have a probiotic breakfast a lot! I wash my pillow and my pillowcase constantly! I exfoliate! What am I doing wrong? Is there anything out there to help prevent them scientifically that isn’t a really expensive cream that only sorta works if the stars align? Is there a possibility that I have harmful bacterial flora on my face in general/long term much like people can have yeasty fungal flora holding court on their face? How do I turn around and rehabilitate the bad neighborhood that is my face?
I will try to document my new skincare routine following the suggestions for general acne. Let’s see if it helps the cysts at all. But if you have any suggestions for cystic acne or potential bacterial tyranny, please please share! I’ve struggled with this most of my life, ever since puberty, and I am so sick of it.
I was into this until “stop being a fatty” which was offensive and not necessary. Encouraging exercise and healthy eating is one thing but body shaming is quite another.
What do you think about the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser? I currently use it but not sure anymore since reading this post. Is it still a good option?
THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH. I have been struggling with acne since middle school and it’s been more than a decade since. Many times I had given up on my skin and admitted that I’m just born with bad skin. I really do appreciate your time and effort in explain everything sooooo elaborately. God bless you!!!
For everyone with adult back acne:
This last half year I have done some major strides towards a much healthier skin. It all started right before I first bumped into this website, and then mainly from understanding that oily skin might be actually under-moisturized skin. I have lived with severe back acne for over 20 years and I started putting loads of stuff on my back like around 20 years ago. I remember actually the first time I put BP on my back, it stinged like crazy and got extremely flaky, but after about a week, my skin had adapted and was now showing no signs of being distressed whatsoever. At the same time I have always used some kind of acne cleanser when showering, and I shower every day, manically. Not sure exactly what concentration but there has of course always been SA in the cleanser. The fact that my skin eventually became oily even while using these products have led me to believe that I have very oily skin, just like on my forehead, I thought my whole body was all oily.
During this past year, I started zooming out and really thinking about the problem, my idea was: I am 37 years old, I have no other health issues and not much acne elsewhere, I have no allergies(well, at least not that I am aware of). I rarely get sick, I eat well, I exercise a lot etc etc. Yet I have acne and everywhere around me I see people with no back acne. What is so different with me? Should I really have this much acne?? This is when I read your blog and I thought to myself, at first let’s try the probiotics, I do have some issues with my stomach sometimes being bloated and funny. Then I thought to myself I should try not cleaning my back as much and not showering as often, I have heard doctors saying we clean too much. Maybe it is really just a case of my skin needing to adapt back to a normal environment, without harsh cleansers every day.
I have gone back and forth between different cleansers and different moisturizers and different showering schedules. What I am currently doing, and which seems to work pretty well for now is I wash every other day, this fits with my gym sessions. When I shower I use CeraVe Hydrating cleanser, I have found that the CeraVe Foaming cleanser is too rough(go figure, I think I have very sensitive, dry skin). I have found that my skin is always at its worst right after a shower and at its best having been left alone for a few days. Best would probably be to shower every 3-4 days but this doesn’t really work.
I have also been thinking about the balance between having existing acne clear up and trying to prevent new breakouts, I realized that my skin is much much better at healing acne spots if being left completely alone, having moisturized properly during or after a shower, then the longer it takes until next shower, the better it deals with breakouts(to some limit perhaps, but this was really a great thing to realize for me). If using SA and BP on my back without moisturizing, pimples would stay for what felt like an eternity, usually 3-4 months but sometimes even up to a year. This means that to get clear on my back I would have to be persistent and thorough enough to keep pimples from appearing for months and months, cause that one pimple would stay forever. This is not a feasible approach for me cause on the back it’s so easy to miss a spot or even skip the regimen altogether and I usually got a few new spots a week, which damaged the picture pretty much. On the long term it felt much more feasible to see what can be done to have spots disappear much faster and hence improving the overall view of the back over time.
The fact that I am now improving my back acne is completely mind blowing. It is one of the strangest things I can remember, how literally doing nothing to my skin can actually improve it, when all we are hearing is use this, use that, SA, BP etc. Maybe this does not work for all of us, but I would say: please consider if you are maybe causing this by breaking down skin barriers, or mistreating your skin just because it has become a habit over the years. Try to give it some time and see how it reacts. It’s astounding to me that I have tried everything and every time my skin has found a way to form acne breakouts, but now that I am doing nothing it is actually for the first time in 20 year, improving. I guess the most important word is balance, if you do need BP or SA, balance it off with a very very good moisturizer. Maybe I also needed it as a teenager but right now I don’t seem to need it, all I need is healthy skin that can fight off bacteria in a natural way.
And also, not picking and squeezing really do help. When I squeeze, marks stay for years(I have very bright skin). When I squeeze, a huge area on my back gets irritated and swollen(which cannot be a good thing). If I choose to squeeze, I do it only a very lightly, I never squeeze hard, if it doesn’t come out while squeezing just lightly, I just let it sit for a day or so and then I might come back to see if it is white. Best is to leave your back completely alone.
Hi, I’ve been on the acne.org regimen for a few years now, and my skin is super dry, irritated, itchy, and my skin complexion is darker. I’ve also noticed that I can’t be in the sun for too long or else my skin would get super sweaty. I’m only 20 but I fear years of putting so much stuff on my face has caused permanent damage. Is this reversible, and if so what can I do to make my skin what it once was
do you suggest any other toner and anything after moisturizer to mattify the skin , i like the acne.org moisturizer but after it leaves me oily any suggestions , i also have PIE any topical suggestions for that???
Is there any cleansers that are good for oily skin with adult acne and fungal acne? I really need a good cleanser that works both for acne and fungal acne but also works with oily skin
I have a question about fungal acne. How long does it take for malassezia to manifest? I finally found a sunscreen without alcohol or silicone but it has glyceryl isostearate, glyceryl stearate, and polyhydroxystearic acid in it. I would wear it from 8 am to 11 pm then wash it off with nizoral, then youth to the people face wash (safe!). If malassezia manifests within 24 hrs this would be very problematic but I couldn’t seem to find any literature on it. I just want to make sure that it will be ok for me since I couldn’t find any other FA safe silicone free sunscreens and silicone breaks me out bad. Can you help me?
This was super informative.
I also wrote about my experience conquering acne on my blog
Eliminating dairy has made a huge impact for me. I used to get big flamed acne on my face when I drank dairy. Looking Clearly that wasn’t “normal” acne . Of course it wasn’t cystic but it was still big and painful and left pih
I have a question. How long did it take you to recover from overexfoliation on your forehead?
Another amazing article. I feel like I have had the worst year of my life. I had never previously suffered from acne. Then all of a sudden this last year full blown adult acne which im sure has a hormonal component. Nightmare. Ive read everything u can imagine. Spent thousands of dollars this last year. And my face went from beautiful to destroyed. I now feel like I have to wear make-up to cover the marks. I love Cosrx products but have yet to order their BHA. Im using a 2% retinol, Klairs pure Vit C serum, and the Cosrx good morning cleanser but really not much improvement. Im also using some items from DECIEM’s sub brand The Ordinary, specifically the 10% Niaciamid and 1% zinc, and a few other things here and there. I guess I need to strip it back.and start from scratch? Ive tried HA’s but Ive woken up with my skin all dried out??? I dont understand it at all. I NEED a moisturizer but for someone with sudden acne thats a terrifying step. Even my Dermatologist who Ive seen countless times this year hasnt been much help other than doing some painful biopsies to rule out certain things. Im hoping you might have some advice on hormonal adult acne? Truly lost and at my limit –
Thanks for all of this information. I’ve been binge reading all of your posts! What are your thoughts on the CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser?
Well written post! It helped me so much. What’s your opinion on Neutrogena’s Ultra Gentle Cleanser? It seems to work for me.
Waking up today, I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting a bit of acne around the hairline of my neck. Could you recommend a possibility to treat this, or how it can be treated by an AB routine? My current routine has only been for my face, and in an attempt to remove my excessive PIH–Tretinoin included, and as my only active. Do you think some sort of BHA would be best, especially in that I don’t want use Benzoyl Peroxide because of its bleaching effects on fabric?
In other words, are there any specific products that I ought to get, and in what steps should they follow? I would also like to get a new cleanser, since my current one only focuses on hydration with Hyaluronic acid, and of which its pH I’m not even aware of (heads must be rolling).
As per my face, I’ll definitely be picking up the CeraVe PM as a moisturizer for after I apply Tetinoin, and if it’s any consolation, I’ve been slugging it up with Vaseline, and will continue to do so as my final step.
Thank you for any further help you can provide, and I’m glad I’ve come across your website.
omg this is so great, I’ve been dealing with adult cystic hormonal acne for 3 years now literally tried errryyyythang.
I have a q about facial oils: I love them, so moisturizing and luxe but are they contributing to my acne? I’ve tried: straight up rosehip, sunday riley luna (stopped cause i use a topical retinoid already), farsali, nude omega, fresh seaberry.
Just ordered the cerav lotion!
I LOVE your blog, I just discovered it (while googling Azelaic acid and you popped up!) and I truly enjoy your writing style, sense of humor and openness about your acne struggles!
I am 30, female, and struggle with hormonal acne (some cystic and some inflammatory) and lots of redish/purple PIE all on my cheeks and jawline (beard-zone) as well as some congested pores in my T-zone – that don’t bother me too much. I am super pale, so every little bump and spot stands out so much. I have what I consider moderately sensitive and oily skin, prone to redness.
I have been on 3 different Rxs from 2 different derms (EpiDuo (BP and Adapalene), Benzefoam (BP foam) and most recently Veltin (clindamycin and tretinoin) all of which have produced little to no results, and I used them RELIGIOUSLY. My last visit with my derm I brought up Fineacea after having read that a lot of people with hormonal acne had great success after being unresponsive to BP, to which she curtly replied, “no, tretinoin is better”…
So I have decided to go rogue after 8 weeks of having ZERO results from the Veltin and bought some products thinking I might have better results on my own (hopefully?!) So, long story longer, wondering if you might help with an order of use? Or any thoughts on replacing one thing for another etc etc? This is what I have in my arsenal (some old and some new based on your blog) and a few other things I found while googling OTC Azelaic Acid products:
CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser
Sesderma Azelac RU Facial Serum (do you know this brand? This serum contains 20% Azelaic acid 10% Mandelic acid 5% Phytic acid 5% 4N-butyl resorcinol 2% Ferulic acid)
Cellex-C High Potency Serum (vit C serum)
Biologique Recherché P50 PIGM 400
Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion
CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion
CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM (spf 30)
CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream
Sesderma Azelac Moisturizing Gel (contains Azelaic acid, Hyaluronic Acid)]
Thank you SO much for your time!
I have healed my acne and folliculitis (basically acne around ingrown hair) following your basic tenent – I started being gentle with my skin.
My skin is acne prone and with lots of sebum, but also prone to dryness and very sensitive. I have actually experienced burns from Benzoyl Peroxide, even in low concentration and avoid completely.
I researched and started a K-Beauty regimen. I’ve tried a zillion different things. I decided that anything that caused any burning whatsoever went in the bin.
My start was three things – gentle cleanser, Vitamin C +Hyaluronic Acid serum and hydrocolloid patches (which also helped me refocus away from my dermatillomania). I quickly had to drop the moisturizer I had been using, once my skin started healing as it was way too greasy.
I tried and added and subtracted so many different things as I am also older and wanted to address aging as well as the acne.
I now have attained the proverbial 10-step process. I follow it religiously and my skin has never been happier.
So, basically, I wanted to recommend just a couple of my most favorite, will never replace them products.
Moisturizer: Derma E Oil-Free Soothing Moisturizer – this stuff is so hydrating yet leaves me non-shiny.
I top off with Bioré’s Watery Essence SPF 50.
And my super duper hyper favorite is Laniege’s Water Sleeping Mask. It’s a jelly mask that you put on as your last step step after moisturizing for the evening. It stays on all night and simply absorbs. Obviously, YMMV, but it has done wonders for my skin. My 22 year old DIL uses it as her sole nighttime moisturizer after she had an abrupt change from dry to oily, acne prone skin and loves it.
Thank you for your great site – I happened upon it doing some follow-up research on vitamin c. Your efforts are much appreciated!