UPDATE 1/3/14: The closed comedones are back with a vengeance this winter, UGH! Last winter I was able to keep them at bay with sunlight, sulfur ointment and improved lifestyle. I am still convinced lack of sunlight is large a factor, but that has been hard to attain with crappy New England weather and a full-time job.
The hardest part is the picking; I feel like I have to pick the comedones order for them to go away, but then it creates scarring and red marks. MUST STOP.
I was using diluted ACV and the De La Cruz Sulfur ointment last winter with success, but this winter they seem to be having minimal effect on these comedones. So, I ordered Paula's choice 2% BHA Gel and have been using it daily for only four days. I've already noticed an improvement in the texture of my skin and there's minimal irritation, so I'm hoping the bumps and red marks go away in a few weeks!
Has anyone noticed an improvement by taking high/regular dose birth control? I've been on a low-dose pill for about four years and I feel like my skin's been more acne-prone since then.
I recently bought some BareMinerals foundation to replace my existing foundation; I've heard it helps with acne or at least improves skin texture. I know I'm throwing in a lot of treatment factors here, but I am desperate to get rid of these things!
Here's my current regimen:
Wash 2x a day with Burts Bees Radiance Facial Cleanser - this stuff is gentle and mostly natural; great at melting away makeup and does not irritate your eyes
Exfoliate with Paula's Choice 2% BHA Gel
Moisturize with either L'Occitaine or Keihls. I was using organic oils (joboba and coconut), but will cut those out for now
If my skin is feeling/looking extra bumpy or congested, I gently exfoliate with the Sephora beauty brush (it looks like a baby brush)
I'll report back over the next few weeks to see if PC gets rid of the comedones and improves my red marks.
Overall my acne is mild, but it's the scarring and red marks that kill me. I know the comedones will go away (hopefully) in the spring but then I'll be left with hyper-pigmentation and scarring. So goes the vicious cycle.
Original post Winter 2011/2012
I've never had perfect skin. I started getting closed comedones when I was ten, and so began the neverending ritual of washing, exfoliating, moisturizing, treating, obsessing. The closed comedones went away, but my skin was certainly acne-prone. I got the occasional whiteheads, usually after skimping on washing my face or experiencing high levels of stress. I had enlarged pores and blackheads on my nose, which I still have at 25 (I'm convinced they'll never go away). My skin was simultenously oily and dry, though I don't classify myself as having true "combination skin." I started using powder or blotting sheets to manage the oily nose and forehead.
At 23, I started working in an office full-time. I packed on 15 pounds after a few months, thanks to sitting on my ass all day and indulging in the endless supply of snacks. My forehead also exploded into a mess of comedones, which I first blamed on trying the oil-cleansing method. I still think it may have been a factor then, but we'll get to all the factors soon.
Utterly exasperated with my new appearance, I cut out all sweets. I started doing intense cardio and dropped most of the weight. But the comedones persisted.
Worst of all was the post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. In the past, any marks faded in a week tops, but these seemed deep, permanenet. I cried often about my face, and wondered what the hell had happened. I'd always gotten compliments on my skin (regardless of it not being perfect), and now I felt like one of my good features was destroyed. I was ugly.
In the spring, the comedones finally went away, some of the PIH faded, and I was able to mask the rest by tanning and using sunless tanner. In the summer my skin looked AMAZING - clear, glowing, moist. I could pretty much put anything on it and I wouldn't break out at all. I concluded it was because of:
--LOTS of sunshine and fresh air --> the weather in New England was awesome all summer, and I was outside a lot - I even went away to Cape Cod for a week --rapid exfoliation from tanning (and sunburns...oops) --lower stress levels --improved diet and lifestyle
However, once fall rolled around, my tan peeled off and the COMEDONES RETURNED. Extremely disappointed and frustrated, I turned to the Internet (especially Acne.org!), trying to find answers. I started thinking, "Hmm. The comedones showed up the EXACT same time last year. What is it about this time of year?" The many articles about vitamin D and acne caught my eye.
The comedones showed up in October each year. The link between acne lack of sun/fresh air/vitamin D seemed like a possibility. So, while I was maintaining a healthy diet, I started running outside on my lunch breaks. It not only cleared my skin, but also made winter seem much less depressing.
I was amazed at how quickly the comedones disappeared. Fortunately, the fall and winter have been mild (and sunny!) in New England, so there was plenty of sunshine to be had. I'm sure the intense cardio from running also helped, as it just does many good things for the body and mind in general.
It's now February and the comedones have not returned. I do still have PIH and large pores, but sunless tanner and makeup has helped me ignore them.
So...on top of the other factors listed, I'm jumping on the acne and sun/fresh air/vitamin D link. To reiterate, I think there are MANY factors that cause acne, and will be different for each person. However, all we can do is trial and error. So, I think I've finally found my answers.
Now to battle blackheads, enlarged pores, and PIH
My current face regimen:
AM and PM Face Regimen
Wash face with Yes to Carrots Cream Cleanser
Exfoliate with Sephora beauty brush OR First Aid Facial Radiance Pads -- I had to cut down on exfoliating since I started getting little whiteheads. I now do it once a day, every few days.
Moisturize with The Jobaba Company jobaba oil
Moisutirze with Jergens Natrual Glow for face (Every few days) -- this isn't a good moisturizer, but it gives you a fake tan. Good for hiding PIH and making you look like you're not a corpse in the winter
Pimple treatment: Clearasil Adult Treatment Cream (tinted)