I got a huge cystic pimple on my nose two weeks ago. It was so red and inflamed that even now that it's gone away, I've been left with yet another scar. That one moment was so frustrating for me that I decided it was time to start trying some new things. So far, it's been working so well, my skin is almost 100% clear -- all I am dealing with a couple of very tiny pimples that I got during my period (which I am convinced will always happen) and my acne scars.
Here's a little background: I didn't get any acne until I was 20-21 years old. I'm almost 25 now. My acne has been mostly on my cheeks, but I did get pimples almost everywhere. They were bad enough that I have tons of little red marks on both cheeks even now but not so severe that they were all cystic, or that I had more pimpled skin than non-pimpled skin, if that makes sense.
I first used Proactiv to treat my acne and it worked for about a year. When it stopped my acne came back even worse than it was before (surprise, surprise) and my acne on my college graduation was the worst it had ever been ... noticeable pimples all over my forehead in particular. I went to my doctor and got Clindamycin lotion that summer and have been using it for the past three years. It kept my acne almost entirely at bay this whole time, and with the help of Clinique Spot Treatment, most of my scars had gone away, too. I was using a variety of different acne cleaners during this time from Neutrogena to Clean & Clear.
But this past summer, my acne came back. Again, it came back worse than before. My cheeks were full of noticeable pimples and I was getting more cystic ones than ever before. I started using a cleaner with Tea Tree Oil from Trader Joes and it irritated my skin even more than before, causing my pimples to break open and bleed, it was awful.
So, I went to a dermatologist and he immediately wanted to put me on antibiotics or birth control, both of which I said no to (I don't think my acne is hormonal because I don't have any other hormonal issues with either menstruation, emotional etc.) and I didn't want to be put on a long antibiotic treatment. Instead he gave me Tretinoin cream to use in conjunction with my Clindamycin cream. I also bought Biore Blemish Fighting Ice Cleanser, which seemed to be doing wonders for my skin. I was clear for about a week before I got that huge cystic pimple on my nose. Then I started doubling on on cleansing and medicine and my skin got so painfully dry that I had to stop everything.
Now, here is where the new routine comes in. I have been doing all of the following for the three weeks and it already seems to be working for me/yielding great results:
- I have cut out diet soda completely. I didn't do this intentionally to benefit my skin, just to benefit my overall health, but I have since read some articles that say there is a link between diet soda, your pH levels and acne. Not sure how truthful that is for everyone, but I have to make some correlation between the soda and my skin now that I've stopped drinking it cold turkey and my skin is already 10x better.
- I drink at least one mug of green tea every day. Not only is it great for your overall health but there is tons of research linking it to healthy skin, since it's full of antioxidants and helps release toxins. I've also done a couple of green tea steam facials (just put your head under a towel over a bowl of boiling water with the contents of one green tea bag inside for five minutes.) It helps give your face a nice glow and is great for opening pores before washing.
- I stopped using acne cleansers. I think a huge part of the problem with my skin was my overuse of acne medication. These products are full of nasty chemicals and are extremely drying to the skin, which just causes over production of oil, which just causes MORE pimples. I have since been using Trader Joes Nourish All in One Facial Cleanser and Cetaphil Facial Cleanser exclusively. They are both great for sensitive skin, contain far better ingredients and don't overly dry out your skin.
- I use Vitamin E oil for moisturizer. After I get out of the shower at night I use a very small amount of Vitamin E oil on my entire face and neck as a moisturizer. Vitamin E is supposed to promote supple skin and reduce acne scars. My scars do seem to be fading even without the use of a Dark Spot remover and my skin feels so much softer all over. Plus, I don't have any more awful dry spots. I only use this once a day and no other moisturizer is necessary. I was really worried that this would make my skin overly oil, since I have a problem with combination dry/oily skin, but it's actually helped with both the dryness AND the oiliness.
- I still use my Clindamycin and Tretinoin... in moderation. I used to slather both of my medicines all over my face in the hopes that it would prevent the pimples that always popped up everywhere. But I think I was really sabotaging myself by, again, over-drying my skin. I now only use the smallest amount (I don't even squeeze anything out of the tube, I just tap my finger on it and take the smallest amount out possible) as a spot treatment for any small pimples I currently have and on the center of my cheeks where my scars are (and which was my biggest problem area.) I don't use it anywhere else and I only use them once, at night.
- I take at least two Hair, Skin & Nails vitamins every day. I swear these pills are like little miracles. They're filled with Biotin, fish oils, and so many other skin healthy vitamins. On the bottle it says you should take three pills a day, but I usually get it at least two, one in the morning with my coffee and one at night with my green tea.
- I take at least one tablespoon of coconut oil every day. There are so many great articles about the health benefits of coconut oil that you can check out. I think it helps with skin because it helps release toxins, though it's also great for weight loss, heart health and tons of other things. I take a tablespoon with a small piece of chocolate for a treat sometime during the day. I have also put it in my coffee and tea, but have found I like it eaten directly rather than mixed with a drink. Whatever works better for you.
- Slight dietary changes. Besides cutting out diet soda completely, I now drink mostly just water or Perrier with some Dasani Flavor drops when I need a little different taste. When I drink anything else it's a sparkling lemonade from Trader Joe's, Diet Snapple Iced Tea, a Green Juice or my one daily morning cup of coffee. I've tried to cut down on snacking too much, especially on sweets and processed foods. I thought that my issue was with dairy and carbs at first but have been eating them both at my average moderate rate and haven't had any problems with my skin, so I don't think my diet was a huge issue. But the little changes I have made seem to have helped.
Anyway, that's what I've been doing and my skin feels smoother and softer, isn't overly dry or overly oily, is looking for radiant and I have only 1-3 teeny tiny pimples at any given time, which I think are just hormonal. Now my biggest problem is my scars, which are also slowly fading. I will report back if this method continues to work for me, but I just thought I would share what has been working with all of you! Good luck.