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So I've gotten a lot better about not picking, mostly because my skin has gotten so bad that I'm determined to fix it. This is what it took to get me to ease up.

I don't really pop pimples anymore. The only thing I notice myself doing is nervously picking uneven areas/flakes/scabs. But it's getting better, and I'm still working on it. I am in the midst of a setback right now. I have a bad cold and I've been feverish, which really does bad things to my skin. It's also knocked me off my exercise, and my care-habits have been somewhat irregular. But I'm drinking more... so who knows. I've been under ridiculous, ridiculous amounts of stress, and I'm seeing it on my chin.

I'm committed to treating my skin gently. I think most of the long-term damage is from harsh chemicals and picking... so I'm sticking to natural things and doing my best.

I actually made a list of things I can do that I KNOW won't hurt my skin, and will most likely help. I suppose I'll share.

*1) Drink 1+ cups fresh brewed green tea daily (I've been doing this about 4-5x a week)

*2) Rub green tea bag on face after washing, once daily (I've been doing this about 4-5x a week)

*3) Take vitamins daily (been managing about 5 times a week)

**4) Take Lutera daily

**5) Drink more water

**6) Use tea tree oil on problem areas

**7) Change pillow case often

8) Use Neosporin on open zits (I seem to forget that this works)

9) Use toothpaste to reduce size of big zits (Same as above, and it's not always practical)

*10) Don't pick anymore

11) Do hot compresses on painful pimples, instead of picking (I forget this one, and not always practical)

*12) Exercise 3-4 times a week

13) Eat more fruit (my skin doesn't react poorly to any fruits as far as I have seen)

14) Do facials every couple weeks or so (I buy over the counter clay masques... might look into other, gentle, ones)

**15) Keep face and hair clean.

The 2 star ones are the ones I basically have mastered. The one star ones are the ones that I am making a conscious effort to do, but I haven't managed to make it a routine yet. The others are just there to try and expand my regimen and see more results.

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So instead of working on homework, I want to give another update:

I am impatient when it comes to treating my acne, but I think it stems from being very aware of my body. If something's not working, I can tell pretty quickly. If I have a bad feeling about something (i.e. harsh chemicals that left me with perhaps permanent scars), I'm not going to "wait it out." I've stuck with a few acne regimens for anywhere between 3 and 5 months with little, if any positive results; I've learned things. I think I may have already posted these important lessons here, but I'm going to reiterate:

- If you treat your skin harshly, you will probably get worse acne. If you had an infected area on any other part of your body than your face, would you rub sandy-textured things on it? Would you put chemicals on it that contain "acid" and "peroxide?" You probably shudder at the thought of doing any of these. So how can you expect these things to help your face? sure, exfoliating helps, but not in the aggressive way that many beaty companies suggest.

- If you pretend it will go away, it will likely get worse. Since acne is technically an infection, a true breakout is probably not going to go away all on its own, unless it's very localized and you take appropriate measures to prevent it from spreading. But realistically, with bad acne, you can't do too much to stop the spread.

- Skin simply needs to be cleaned regularly, moisturized (only if absolutely necessary), and it helps to eat a balanced diet and exercise. You don't have to over-wash, you don't need to moisturize just because Olay said to. I actually have pretty balanced skin, and once I stopped using harsh chemical soaps I realized I only need moisture in the dry winter months. Otherwise, moisturizer makes me break out. Really, I think moisturizer got this problem as bad as it is in the first place.

-Snake oils don't really work. Certain herbal remedies and concoctions can help with symptoms, but they don't do much for the infection. "Mixing oatmeal, milk, and honey with rose petals and tea tree oil" is, well, bullcrap.

I tried a few natural remedies recently, all kind of together because none of them alone treated the problem... I tried hot compresses (and stopped when I realized they left a crater!). I used tea tree oil, which really did seem to help existing acne, but didn't prevent new. I drank more water, which can't hurt. I dropped the green tea because it didn't do anything that the compresses weren't doing. I also started taking a little extra zinc (but not too much) with my daily vitamin. I can't be sure, since I tried so many things in rapid succession, but the past 2 days have been my best skin days in a long, long time.

I have also made a concerted effort to stop picking. I catch myself doing it subsoncsiously sometimes, but I've really gotten better. My skin is no longer flaking apart from all the various layers of skin drying out and being irritated. I'm evening out.

One brand new thing I started last night was calamine lotion. I'm pleasantly surprised. It reduced the size (and painfulness) of a couple of new zits, and it may have reduced some redness from prior ones. Nothing to pop a champagne cork for, but it's a welcome improvement. I'm thinking I may do it nightly or every other night on trouble spots to dry them up. It's gentler than toothpaste, but basically does the same thing.

I'm just glad I found this website. It offers soooo many helpful reviews and message boards with more accuracy than any other site I've looked at. In fact, several beauty sites copy and paste what's written here!

I found the calamine thing here, and almost everyone who tried it rated it very highly. It's one of the top 10 (i think) treatments reviewed on this site. What's sad is that the rest of the internet is full of morons who don't even have acne and are giving terrible advice to people that do (Yahoo Answers...)

I looked up a calamine for acne thread on Yahoo Answers, and good lord, the awful advice!! "Wash your face three times a day! Your skin's dirty, that's why you have zits!" "Calamine will hurt your skin. It's for skin irritations, not acne." (What is acne, then, in your humble opinion? And how can a treatment for irritations really cause any serious harm?) "Just use ProActiv. It works." (Are you Jessica Simpson? Look up the YouTube video of the guy whose acne became nodular/cystic when he started ProActiv. Read the reviews that say it didn't help, made it worse, or made it better for 2 weeks and then stopped working. And talk to the customer service line there. They're predatory, if you ask me.)

I guess to summarize a plethora of treatments and info: Get enough zinc, avoid harsh chemicals and over-processing your skin, don't pick/pop/touch, eat a balanced diet with lots of water, calamine lotion is gentle and effective at drawing out oily pimples, and beware of amateur advice.

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Amazing, excellent, awesome news. If anyone's still actually reading, I'm sure they're tired of me impatiently switching regimens and making no progress. I think I've finally stumbled upon a skin miracle, and I've actually given it enough time to start playing out!

For 3 weeks now, I have been using a new cleanser by AMBI, called Even & Clear Exfoliating Wash. It's apparently made for darker-complexions, and I'm incredibly fair-skinned, but dude, skin is skin! What drew me to this product was its promise of helping to fade dark spots from prior breakouts without any harsh bleach-like ingredients. It also contains Salicylic Acid, which is one of the few chemicals I trust... it's old as time, it has never caused me more trouble, and it doesn't burn like some other products.

The wash dries your skin a bit, so I've been using it with Clean & Clear moisturizer with S.A. (the only moisturizer which hasn't clogged my pores). I do this routine every night, and to avoid over-drying or over-exfoliating, I use Purpose in the morning with Neutrogena SPF 45. I AM SEEING RESULTS!! WOOHOO!!

I just sent AMBI a big thank you note, because theirs is the only product that seems to have made much of a difference. It made it a bit worse for a while, but within less than a week it helped smooth out some of my previously damaged areas... Right now, much of my chin is becoming smooth. I had a sort of bad flair-up on my right cheekbone last week and I'm still waiting for it to heal, but I think it was just old stuff working its way out. I know 3 weeks may still be a bit early in the game to say I won, but this has often been the point at which I've realized a product is causing more painful acne, more scarring, or is simply doing nothing at all. AMBI and the S.A. moisturizer are making my skin glow. They're making new pimples less frequent and less painful. And, as AMBI promised, it appears to be smoothing and possibly fading some of my dark spots. THIS IS SO AWESOME!

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