Two years have passed since my last blog post. Crazy. I never come to this site anymore BUT that is not to say that I don't appreciate everything it offered when I was in need. I found comfort here when I was depressed and feeling isolated, as though I had no hope to cure my severe acne. This community rocks because at minimum you know you are not alone.
My routine has changed as my face has changed. It is very rare for me to get one cystic-type bump on my face now. I break out a little once a month but nothing my routine can't handle. My scars are still there but they don't bother me as much anymore. One acne.org poster advised me to try to accept them instead of hate them. Over time I think they have subsided some and have definitely faded. I wish I didn't have any scars, yes, but I feel ok in my skin now vs. two years ago. Things have gotten better and I don't think I will pursue any surgical procedures.
Morning: I rinse my face with water. I hated people who claimed that this is all they did when I had severe acne! But I've finally come to see that you only need to do what your face needs. In the morning I just need some water. I moisturize with CeraVe if needed.
Daily: Oatmeal face wash in the shower.
Cleanser 1: Ground up oatmeal face wash. I love this stuff and it is so incredibly cheap/easy/simple. How I use it: Blend oats in a food processor so that they are powdery but still have some larger pieces. Store in a small container. In the shower or at the sink I wet about 1.5 teaspoons worth of the oat powder in my hand and massage into my face. Rinse immediately or leave on longer if you prefer. I like how my skin feels clean and moisturized after each use. It feels balanced, not too oily or dry and looks even. On days where I feel like I need extra cleansing power, I add a little bit of CeraVe face wash to the oats.
Cleanser 2 : CeraVe Foaming Facial cleanser
Moisturizer: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
I've come a long way from the days of prescription cleansers, pills and topicals. Some were helpful but all were harsh on my skin. Now that I'm out of the severe acne phase I'm trying to care for my skin naturally. Here is my nat. regimen:
Morning - Rise and shine with a splash of warm water on the face. Apply moisturizer afterward. If I have a small breakout, I'll put some aloe gel on first and then moisturize.
Afternoon- If needed (usually in the summer) wash with Dove sensitive skin beauty bar.
Night- Cleanse with honey. If I need extra exfoliation I add a bit of baking soda to the honey. Apply aloe vera after cleansing and go to bed.
That is my usual routine but depending on what my skin needs I will switch it up. For example I kind of alternate cleansing with honey and cleansing with the dove beauty bar. I'm slowly becoming a big believer in honey as a facewash. Combined with the aloe it packs a strong punch.
****EDIT 09-29-2012 I still take vitex daily but after moving (which kind of changed my diet) I had some small cysts popping up. Not cool acne, not cool! This finally led me to consider the role of sugar and dairy in my diet. That blog post coming soon*******
Hi I wanted to add my support for vitex! I have not seen a lot of posts about it on Acne.org and I wanted to get a conversation going since I truly believe in it. I've been using vitex for the last six months and it has worked well for me. At first I was very skeptical. I'm NOT someone who takes all kinds of vitamins at all but a friend of mine suggested this since it worked for her. At that point in time I had been using RetinA and skinoren with pretty good results. At first they cleared my skin completely but over a few months a cyst or two would pop up on my cheeks. It seemed like the topicals were not enough. According to my doctors I could either go on Diane BC or accutane. Both of those were options I desperately did not want to try so I gave Vitex a go. I've been taking one pill a day regularly (except for July when I went on vacation, and moved cities). So in short, I like it, it works and I recommend it as worth trying. I'm going to go into detail about it below just for the benefit of whoever wants more info
My kind of acne: My hormones have been tested and found to be only slightly out of whack according to my doc. He was ready with a BC rx but I was not! My acne was severe a year ago and with the help of medical topicals and cleansers I was able to get it in check (not cleared). Even after my acne was in check I still had a bad breakout before my period every month (papules, pustules, inflamation, redness, etc). It would take forever to 'recover' from the breakout. Then right when my skin recovered from that breakout the process started all over again. Sound familiar?
Vitex is not the kind of thing that works really fast. I'd say into the 2nd month I noticed a change. The change was that my monthly breakout was not so severe. Instead of several pimples I might get one or two of the non-inflamed variety. These healed and went away instead of staying and inviting friends. Since then I've had months when I didn't break out at all. Like I said, my acne was not severe when I started using vitex but if yours is I would use vitex in conjunction with whatever topical your doctor might suggest. For my part I am thankful to have found an alternative to birth control or accutane.
I'll finish this post by admitting that I am excited about this supplement. I know I look like one of those people who are raving about the one thing they found that works. It is so easy to go through this website and read post after post about someone's wonder-cure. It can even be overwhelming. My advice is that if you are considering giving Vitex a try do a little research about the supplement. There are a few articles I found online from experts (NOT in forums) that helped me decide. One thing I've learned is that no two people are alike and so it takes time for us to discover what is the true cause of our acne and the right solution for each individual. I'm glad we have this website where we can at least share these experiences (the joyful and the painful).
I like this website because it is research based: Vitex link & Acne link
Even though I don't wear makeup often, I still like to put some on from time to time. A couple of years ago I did a purge of all the un-skin-friendly makeup I owned and only kept the good stuff. Here is what I put on my face.
Bioderma ---Link to product: here
Pros: I like Bioderma because I'm guaranteed a product that won't clog my pores. I've used their sebium facewash, sebium moisturizer and photoderm tinted face cream SPF50. I started using this brand because my derm recommended it to me. It is not cheap though and eventually I found other natural alternatives for the cleanser and moisturizer. My favorite is the tinted face cream which I feel is worth the cost (about $25). It gives an even look to the complexion with medium coverage and hello it protects scars from sun damage! I basically use this cream as a foundation with the option to apply powder mineral makeup over for extra coverage.
Cons: My biggest complaint is that right after application the cream looks and feels greasy. I fix this by patting my face with a napkin. I basically use this cream as foundation.
Everyday Minerals ---Link to product: here
Pros: Affordable, non-irritating, non-clogging and non-toxic. Like I said, I only want to put things on my skin that are safe and won't cause a breakout. EM fits the bill. I love their stuff. I highly recommend utilizing their "try me" sample pack which costs $5 including shipping. You get to choose 7 samples of any of their products. First pick a handful of bases to try so you can match your skin tone. You won't need 7 bases though so I recommend choosing a few blushes and concealer. The blush/concealer samples last forever! I've potted mine in tiny cosmetic containers, the packets are not practical for long term use.
Cons: If you have dry or dehydrated skin like me the mineral makeup will exaggerate the problem obviously. I did notice that they've introduced a jojoba mineral powder line though. I wonder if that helps with dry skin types? Still with the right moisturizer this is a great option for acne-prone skin.
In the future I might switch to a tinted moisturizer without the SPF, or with less. Although the Bioderma tinted cream serves as a good foundation it kind of feels like sun protection over-kill (especially if I'm going out at night!). Once I move back to the US I'll be looking for a less chemical option. Any suggestions on this?
I don't know about you but I've begun to be more and more skeptical of all these companies that sell me crap to put on my face and hormones to put in my body all for the sake of treating acne. Why do we constantly have to buy things to fix ourselves? Why are these expensive treatments rarely a long term solution? The more I research and experiment with natural products the more I learn of their powerful healing properties for the body and the skin. So with that said let me tell you where I'm at today in my acne journey.
Today I am happy. My face is not perfect (hello rolling scars) but things are under control and for me that is the best feeling when dealing with acne. I've got a few pustules that are on their way out --healing up nicely and not inflamed. This is a big change from a few days ago when I had a strong breakout along my jawline. Things were red, inflamed, a few worrisome deep bumps and maybe 6-8 pustules popped up over the course of a few days. I was concerned but instead of reaching for my usual retin-A and skinoren combo I tried a honey and aloe mask. Both have antibacterial and healing properties so it makes sense as a treatment for acne.
I tried this out instead because as much as retin-A and skinoren have worked for me in the past, all that acid was starting to ruin the texture of my skin. No pimples (yay!) but my skin was incurably dry, rough and lack luster. I felt like no matter how much moisturizer I used nothing helped. Even some natural remedies did not help me like: cider vinegar toner and almond oil moisturizer. I think the cider toner was just too harsh and the almond oil gave me little tiny bumps so I quit both. At this point I realized my skin did not need oil or harsh acid, it just needed water. I started looking into natural ways to hydrate skin and came upon aloe vera. After a week of using pure aloe on my face as a moisturizer I noticed a significant improvement in texture. My mineral makeup actually went on smoother than ever before (it used to look so cakey on my dehydrated skin). I haven't been using retin-A and skinoren daily for several months because I haven't needed it but was still relying on it as a emergency breakout/spot treatment. After using honey and aloe I may not need to rely on the medical grade stuff anymore at all.
In summary: My acne is now mild; only popping up on occasion so harsh topicals are no longer a daily routine for me. I've switched to a lot of natural skincare remedies because the chemical stuff was ruining my skin. I take vitex daily. I use Dove extra sensitive beauty bar as a daily cleanser, with a possibility of switching to pure honey cleanser instead. I moisturize both with pure aloe vera gel and an oil based moisturizer. When necessary I use baking soda as an exfoliant. And when I need to really tackle a breakout - aloe and honey mask. *Please remember that skin is unique to each individual. Do what works for you and never try something new without doing your own research first. That is my rule of thumb when it comes to natural remedies. Ok so that said, here are a list of recipes I use on my skin. Please feel free to ask questions or comment if any of these have worked for you!*
In the past I was truly ignorant in regards to taking care of my skin. I knew nothing about acne and what contributes to the problem. So, looking on the bright side, having acne forced me to learn how to care for my skin. I'm not an expert but I've found a few things that work for me now and definitely changed how I approach cleansing/drying my face.
So here is what I did in the past that definitely didn't help my skin:
Using a towel to dry my face.
Sleeping on the same pillowcase every night.
Using tough exfoliants on my (then) severe acne.
Trying to 'dry out' my acne with harsh products.
Picking at the skin
What I know now:
I don't use any towels to dry my face. I use 1-2 cotton rounds to pat dry my face after each wash. This leaves my skin dry enough to apply moisturizer but if I need to have it super dry to (like to apply RetinA) I simply put my blow dryer on cool and have a dry face in a few seconds. This way I am not contaminating my skin by reusing things.
Steam iron my pillowcase before bed each night and then change it each week. This was recommended by my derm when I first went to her with severe acne. The steam helps to kill bacteria/germs so you don't re-infect your face every night. The logic makes sense to me, you can decide for yourself. Once I was out of the severe acne phase I stopped doing this.
Exfoliants and attempts to dry out my face were totally a bad idea. Now I only use products recommended by my doctor (I'm tempted to try some of the ones that get tons of positive reviews on this site though). The main idea I had to wrap my head around was that my skin needed to heal, not be "dried out" using products.
I admit, I still cave and pick sometimes but I'm much more aware and informed on how bad it is for my skin. Knowing that helps me to stop.
Does anyone have any tips for skincare they want to share?
THE BEGINNING: Rx run around
Olive oil face 'wash' - I must have been desperate for trying this. You'll see people post about this home remedy on this site. My view: PLEASE DONT DO IT especially if you have severe acne. I feel embarrassed to say I tried this but I just didn't know what to do and I guess we all want to believe that something 'simple' will fix us right? I'm pretty sure this helped move me from mild to severe acne. Gulp.
Bactrim 80mg - No negative side effects but also did not do anything for my skin.
Doxycycline 50mg & later 100mg - No negative side effects but also did not do anything for my skin.
Lavoclen-4 Creamy Wash (aka benzoyl peroxide wash) - It helped a little but my acne was too severe for this alone to fix it.
Clenia foaming wash (aka Sulfacetamide Sodium Sulfur wash)- Derm had me using both this and Lavoclen plus on doxy: I did not see any significant results.
Clindamycin 1% gel- You guessed it....not results from this either.
Summary: All of the above products were used by me over the period of 5 months (and 2 different derms). I know that is not a lot of time but also understand that we all know our bodies best and I 100% felt these meds were doing zero zip nothing for me. I also felt the derms were not invested in my healing at all. I felt I was just getting the same rx they give to anyone walking in the door with acne without really trying to understand ME and MY situation. Ok. Rant over, on to the second phase of my life with acne:
THE MIDDLE: Hope rises
Metronidazole (oral antibiotic)- Rx was for one week. No side effects for me and it worked! I've never heard of this medicine before moving to Europe. Even now online I can't find much in regards to its use for acne. Here is a mayoclinic link about the drug: http://www.mayoclini...mation/DR600909
White Mystery topical - I'm very sorry to say that I don't know what my derm rx'd for my face as I am in a foreign country and can't read the scrip. She wrote a recipe for the lab to mix together for my face. I applied it every other night for 5 months or more. It contains zinc oxide for sure but the other ingredients I don't know. After applying it at night I had to sleep with it on-looked like a ghost because of the white! Bottom line this is plus the antibiotic worked wonders on my skin. My severe acne was GONE. I still had some stuff to work on but I felt I was out of the woods at this point.
Skinoren Gel - I used this as well and I'm sure it helped some but I would not say it was the main factor.
Summary: This treatment saved me from that desperate place I was in with my acne. I went from feeling hopeless to a point where I knew I had things under control. After about 5 or 6 months (By the summer of 2011) I had very clear skin (scars were still there of course but those are easier to cover than bumps). See my album photos to track the progress. The only problem was A) I had no clue what I was putting on my face , B) It was getting to be a pain having to put that stuff on my face every other night and sleep with it on, C) I knew whatever this stuff was I would not be able to get it when I move back to the states and D) My progress had stalled. Things were decent but my face was not 100%. So I eventually stopped this regimen. Things developed slowly from there and I met with my 4th dermatologist...
HERE AND NOW: Movin' on up
Retin-A .05 - Tough initial breakout but worth it for super results. I can't say enough good things about this.
Skinoren - Itches like crazy when I put it on at first, then subsides. I feel like my skin was 'ready' for skinoren at this point when in the past even if I slathered this on it did not sting or have any effect. Weird I know. I love this stuff now before I was indifferent.
Micro dermabrasion - Pricey but worth it. Be careful to go to a reputable place (I go to a derm).
Summary: This is the best place I've been with my face. With this regimen I had one heck of a 'purge' at first. Lots of pustules and redness popped up worse than before I started. It was tough and painful when I went to the derm (she drained some cysts-ouch). But after a few sessions my skin was getting smoother, cysts stopped popping up (my cheeks being their favorite area) and pustules are few.
I hope this helps my fellow Acne.org peeps. If you're feeling low just try to remember there are lots of us out there who know what it is like. Best to all
AUGUST 2012 UPDATE:
[*]I stopped using Retin-A and Skinoren daily because my face was clear and they were drying it out very badly.
[*]I tried the apple cider vinegar + aspirin toner for a few months. Not bad but a little too harsh for me.
[*]I tried sweet almond oil to help recover from the dryness caused by retin-A/skinoren. Nope, gave me tiny tiny bumps on skin and didn't really work as a moisturizer for me.
[*]I tried and LOVE honey+aloe face mask as a treatment for breakouts. See my recent blog post for details.
[*]I tried and LOVE aloe as a moisturizer. It hydrates my dehydrated skin. See my recent blog post for details.
[*]I now use Dove extra sensitive beauty bar as a cleanser. Also love it.
[*]Still in control of my acne. It is pretty much gone!
[*]Now I'm looking at the indents/scars on my cheeks and wondering what would be the best approach to remove them. Also wondering if I can afford it!