I have been off the radar for a looooong time. I suppose I will give you a quick update and maybe respond to your questions, though I am not sure the responses will be of use now...
Update: I continue to use tazorac gel 0.5 once per week (maybe twice) over a light cream at night (olay sensitive). I am a bit lazy about it these days because my skin is COMPLETELY CLEAR (ok ok, maybe one pimple around my period). I'm not sure I can really put it on one thing - but here's what happened:
1) The OCM completely f*cked up my skin. Honestly the worst choice I have ever made with my skin. I suppose I wanted to believe all the good reviews and ignored the warnings. Even after I started to notice my skin get congested I kept going because that's what happens on taz - it really does get worse before it gets better. It took about 6-8 months for my skin to get back to normal after stopping the OCM. I was scarred, red, pimply - blackheads in every single pore (or that's how it felt anyway). My skin was soooo rough and uneven. It was the most crushing time of my life. I know that sounds shallow, but everyone was commenting on my skin and asking what was happening. I went to the doctor for a pap and she honestly just spent 45 minutes talking about my skin. She referred me to a derm although that clearly wasn't the point of my appointment. I left the office crying. I spent tons of money on cleansers/potions...then I made another terrible mistake. I went on Yaz. After a blood clot and my skin getting even worse (If that's even possible) - I went off BC/everything for a while.
2) After I calmed down I went to the doctor to reassess my BC options. Surprisingly suggested Alesse. I have read bad things in the past, but the doctor convinced me I should try it for 5-6 months - even though it contains I highly androgenic hormone it contains it at such a low dose that it is less androgenic then some other pills. Either way, I took it diligently. Initially my face got a tad worse (or maybe this was a normal cycling of terrible skin) but my chest which broke out on yaz cleared right up. I noticed some improvement in my face after 3 months - but this basically just got me back to "normal" (pre-taz). I continued to use taz 3 times/week. He said I needed to be cautious about moisture. My skin is dry/oily. Gentle cleansers and moisture are key.
3) I switched my cleansers back to the gentle cleansers - Avene Clean-Ac is my HG - no BP, no SA, nothing harsh ---- no scrubs! A gentle (clean/new) wash cloth every few days in the shower. Oil of Olay sensitive SPF 15.
4) After being on Alesse for 5 months, my skin was looking much better. What really pushed my skin across the "ok" to the "I am sooooo happy" is maracuja oil. Now this is completely random. You think I would have been scarred by my OCM horror story, but I got a delux sample of this at Sephora and used with caution after speaking to a sephora rep about my predictament (dry/oily sensitive skin - but clearly acne prone). I tried it just in one area for a few weeks - no bad reactions. I started applying nightly and in two weeks my skin looked amazing. No blotchiness, my pigmentation is gone, and remarkably my blackheads are really really reduced. My pores look smaller (cleaner, I suppose). I can honestly wake up at my bfs place and go without makeup and not have to be self-conscious. It has had this looping effect. Because my skin is better, I am less stressed, because I am less stressed, my skin is better. I have been using it for six weeks now with no issues. I have to put moisturizers over it, but way less than I would normally use. This clearly isn't going to be everyone's solution, but it helped.
5) MOST IMPORTANTLY (and most difficult) -- I STOPPED PICKING. I know, I have OCD/anxious tendencies. I have pulled hair in the past (not fully recovered) and am a terrible skin picker. During the OCM time, my picking was out of control. I feel my face for unevenness and I KNOW it makes my skin worse. I have kept a stressball at my desk (unoccupied hand holding it), started wearing masks around the house (you can't touch your face with all that crap on it), and even wearing gloves. I threw out my magnifying mirror and blemish extractor. Breaking the pattern is hard - but it is getting a lot better. Also, as your skin clears there is less to pick so it helps to break the cycle anyway. I tried really hard when I was first starting taz because I peeled so bad and it worked for a while, but old habits die hard. If I HAVE to get rid of a pimple (you know, its poking right out) I press my skin with a warm washcloth, dab the spot with alcohol and use two tissues on my index fingers and press lightly. If it doesn't come out easily, stop immediately!! If you have a really bad picking problem, sometimes it can help to talk to your doctor about it or a therapist if you have access to one. They can help you come up with solutions and some behaviour alterations/awareness practices you can try - and in extreme cases maybe some anti-anxiety meds might be needed. It's really making your issues worse. This was the hardest part for me (even just admitting this was a huge problem in my life), but made the biggest difference. It's still a constant battle of course, but is way better.
In conclusion, I have learned to be happy with my occasional pimple. I am not trying to improve my routine. It is working. I promised to stop searching the internet endlessly for my own sanity (which is why I haven't been on this site in 8 months) and really trying to focus my attention to other things. This has been partially a strategy to help manage the anxiety and also a strategy to treat myself well and respect myself a little. Searching constantly and failing only made myself feel worse - especially at the pit of despair in my post-OCM time. Hang in there everyone and remember to give yourself a break sometimes.
ON TO THE QUESTIONS!
1) Did your skin improve after OCM?
Yes. Eventually. But it took a long time and patience. The scarring took a while to go away but almost a year later is completely gone.
2) Re: white bumps after OCM
The only thing that really dealt with these for me was a combination of taz and proper moisture. The facial oil helped a lot in this regard. But many of them took a loooong time to surface. I'll still notice one sometimes but just leave it.
3) Have you used Acne.org products?
No. I don't react well to BP. My skin is super sensitive. I know people say you can build a tolerance, but for me the root cause was hormones and over-treating/dryness aggravated by picking.
4) Which type of taz did I use?
Both taz cream 1% and taz gel .05%. I think the gel ended up being my preferred option. It feels better on your face if that makes any sense. I find it way more drying though - so pea-sized amount is key. I have heard that the gel is a bit better for acne because it doesn't have mineral oil. This can be irritating for some.
5) Did I use antibiotics?
No. Not specifically while on taz. I considered doing a round of them after my OCM breakout. My acne tends to be mostly blackheads/whitebumps so antibiotics wouldn't have helped much initially. I know some doctors prescribe them to help calm the week 3-7ish flare-up, but I just suffered through....
6) Make up?
While on my first while with taz I used make up. I used makeup forever face and body after a while because it was the only makeup which I found gave some coverage without making my dry skin look brutal (very water-based) and then patted on a tiny bit of loose powder to set it. make up forever makes great super-fine powder, but pricey. I tried to wear as little as possible in general though (none on weekends, tried to avoid it on "good" days). I currently use nars tinted moisturizer (oil free).
I got on the clarisonic bandwagon when it was first released. It dried me out big time. Initially made my skin amazing and then red, irritated and grouchy. Using it once a week didn't seem like a good use of nearly $200 (mia didn't exist) so I returned it. Gritty/sandy exfoliators are a bad choice for me and I found made those little white bumps worse. Since taz is a chemical exfoliant, I found just using a gentle, clean washcloth the best solution (only twice a week maybe) to get rid of the flakes. Treat your skin like silk!
I think that's it. Anyway. I will check in now and then Hope everyone on this thread is well.