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MilGirl

Retin-A, hormone replacement therapy

History: 28 y/o female, total hysterectomy at age 23. Started hormone replacement therapy directly after surgery. Most "successful" HRT was estratest which contains some small amount of testosterone. Very healthy, clean diet. Exercise 6 days a week. Military career requiring long work hours, high stress load (12 hr shifts, minimum 60 hr weeks, day and night shifts). Had some acne ever since puberty, but comes and goes unpredictably and has never been that bad. Some cystic acne also. Approximately 6 weeks ago, all hell broke loose - literally - on my face. Started with one, then two, then last week I had 12 cysts, no apparent reason! I saw my gynecologist because I suspected HRT had failed. Other symptoms included more sweating than normal (for those who have been through menopause, the "regular" sweating is enough! but more?!), sleep disruptions or insomnia, high stress load, some mood swings. I tried all the OTC options I could find. All I succeeded in doing was drying my skin out to the point where it was flaking off nonstop, but the acne kept coming. Very embarassing! I am normally a very confident woman but find myself avoiding going anywhere if I'm off duty. If I had a choice about it, I'd call in sick a few times!

5 days ago:

Doc switched my hormone to Ogen, or Estradiol, 1 mg tablet daily (all estragen, no testosterone). She also gave me Retin-A cream .05%. She didn't feel comfortable giving my antibiotics. Can't see a derm as it takes forever for referral approval, then waiting on an appt, and I am headed overseas in 2 months for a 13 month assignment.

I switched my daily multi-vitamin to a menopausal daily vitamin pack including evening primrose oil. Have been only washing my face, gently, when I wake up (very oily t-zone - you cannot NOT wash it!), after workouts when I shower, and before bed. Apply small amount of Retin-A at bedtime, wait 10 min or so before applying Cetaphil moisturizer to seal in. Also moisturizing in morning. I got a cucumber cream face wash at GNC that is working pretty well so far (I also have Cetaphil face wash). Both are noncomdeginic and moisturizing. I bought all new makeup in case I had some sort of bacteria that was attached to the old (yes, I know, probably paranoia). I always drink TONS of water, eat very healthy, avoid extra sugar or sugar substitutes. I am in excellent physical shape, but my face is apparently not! I also bought zinc yesterday afternoon, 100 mg tablets. I have Vitamin A and E on hand, but I think that is overkill with the Retin-A and multi-vitamin packs. I was going to buy the no-flush niacin but they were sold out so I will try again this week.

Results to date:

Seeing some improvement today. The Retin-A certainly has a drying potential, but with my oily skin and regular use of cetaphil moisturizer I am holding that at bay pretty well. The cysts and pimples are definitely "softer" and going away faster than ever, also easier to cover with a bit of concealer when I have to go to work. The redness of the acne is more vivid though. I suspect it will take a long time to get that all to fade away. I have never had a problem so severe as this before and I am scared to death I'll never go back to being "me" again! Will try to maintain a log here to see how I do. I am dreading the IB, but then again, can't imagine it being much worse than what I've been going through lately!

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Military career requiring long work hours, high stress load (12 hr shifts, minimum 60 hr weeks, day and night shifts).

Random internet nut says:

Whoomp -- there it is! The most powerful anti-acne hormone is melatonin, which: slows cell division, is anti-androgenic, directly anti-oxidant, and stimulates cells to make more of their own anti-oxidants. We screw up our melatonin cycle by living in dim light during the day (staying indoors, using hats/sunglasses when outside) and sleeping in light pollution at night. Of course, working some night shifts is the quickest way to screw it up. Furthermore, estrogen helps regulate how much melatonin the pineal gland produces, which is what ties acne to monthly cycles and menopause.

Worse, when we live in dim indoor light, we get carbohydrate malabsorption. That interferes with the digestion of things like tryptophan (required to make melatonin), creating a vicious cycle.

Solution: pretty tough when you're in the military and somebody else controls your sleep cycle. Look for any opportunity to keep your eyes in bright outdoor light (no hat/sunglasses) during the day, and darkness (e.g., use a sleepmask) at night. Probably it is frowned on to get the 9-10 hours sleep per night we evolved to get. Eliminate caffeine/alcohol/drugs that can interfere with melatonin. Eliminate or greatly reduce fructose (soda/apples/pears/other high-fructose fruits) that are the worst for carb malabsorption. Take a Vitamin B supplement to ensure tryptophan isn't being diverted to manufacture Vitamin B. Take a zinc supplement, since carb malabsorption may interfere with zinc digestion too, and zinc is used to make one of the key anti-acne anti-oxidants (zinc superoxide dismutase). If you can get a regular bedtime, try not to do intense exercise close to bedtime; moves the body clock forward so your nocturnal melatonin surge is trying to start up after you've already got up for the day.

Since you say you're eating "healthy", that probably means you're eating lots of sugar via fruits. I'll reiterate that the excess fructose in fruits is not your friend (might as well be drinking caffeine-free Coke instead, in terms of acne symptoms). Fruits with very low fructose/glucose ratio (best example: pineapple, if not packed in fructose syrup) are probably fine in moderation. You do want to be eating tryptophan sources (primarily meat), which some people reduce when they think they're eating "healthy".

Lycopene offers an alternative route to do one part of what melatonin does, and the most concentrated source is tomato sauce, so if you have the opportunity to choose meals floating in tomato sauce on a regular basis, that's worth a try.

Being in the military is going to make it hard to actually change what's causing the acne (and probably ain't doing the menopause symptoms much good either).

If you're going to mess with niacin (a generic name for several different chemicals, some of which have little to do with acne), why not at least use a formula actually studied and shown to offer at least modest improvement of acne symptoms? Roll your own Nicomide.

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Thanks for your reply. I did read your very well written log concerning melatonin, sleep schedules, sunlight, etc. I have not yet tried niacin, although I did get zinc. I will grab some melatonin tomorrow. I have been watching my fruit intake, actually, although bananas are a must for someone as athletic as myself. I did increase my meat consumption as it had dropped off. Is chicken good enough? I really don't like eating tons of red meat. Slows me down.

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Update: Day 7

I'm sticking with it but not totally satisfied. I believe it's improving but the wait is difficult. Some new, smaller spots have appeared but they are not cystic - just slow to disappear. One more large one on my chin. Grrr. Another 3 that are older but just not completely gone - not hugely swollen or anything, but still visible even with makeup. My skin is scaring so easily now which it never used to do until this past 6 (or is it 7 now?) weeks. The Retin-A has dried it out somewhat, but doing ok with use of cetaphil moisturizer 2x a day. I was off duty today and after a brief errand this morning, came home and caught up on some much needed sleep. My skin will probably benefit from rest and lack of makeup. I never put it on thick anyway and don't use foundation, just concealer and some powder. As for the hormone therapy, I don't know how long it'll be until they are fully in effect. Not having a ton of hot flashes, which is good, but also not able to rest well (which may just be the stress load).

Will get some melatonin tomorrow to add to my vitamin regimen. Hopefully in another week or so things will be much improved. I think that positive thinking is necessary in times like this because being negative will only cause more stress and therefore, very likely, more acne. But I must say I am not the most patient of people!

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I will grab some melatonin tomorrow.

Melatonin from a supplement is generally ineffective. You usually can't time it right (assuming it even gets past the intestine, if you're not using sublingual delivery), nor can you produce the night-long flood of melatonin your pineal gland would create for you if you were living in bright light and sleeping in darkness.

Is chicken good enough?

All meat's got tryptophan. The choke point is getting it absorbed. Easy if you live with your eyes exposed to bright outdoor light 10-12 hours per day, but otherwise a variety of carbs from fructose down to pasta can to a greater or lesser degree interfere with absorption.

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So, on my schedule, I'm pretty much SOL until I'm back on day shift. The good news is that is finally next week. For now, I did get melatonin, have been taking zinc daily, and my husband grabbed some no-flush niacin for me earlier today.

Progress so far... The cluster on my chin seems to be lasting forever. I think there may be a new one attempting to come in on my upper right forehead, but I'm not messing with that area at all. Otherwise, things seem to be improving a bit. The larger one that appeared on my chin actually drained already this morning. Now I'm just waiting to see if it'll start going away or if it wants to be neighbors with that d*mn cluster. A little more dryness on my chin but the moisturizer helps when I apply it.

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A solid week of Retin-A

I am not suffering a severe dry skin or flaking problem that I have read about from others, so that's good. I *think* things are improving. It is a slow process for someone as impatient as I tend to be. I know, I know, it takes weeks, sometimes months! So today I decided to not wash my face when I got out of bed. This is an absolute first for me. I have oily skin so believe me this is a major life changing event. I rinsed with cold water only, pat dry, no picking (though highly tempted as those cluster sisters were calling my name). I did apply a small amount of an antibacterial enzyme gel by Clear Skin which I got at sephora.com. I actually did that last evening as well in hopes of reducing bacteria around that cluster since they seemed inflamed. As I saw improvement this morning, I thought hey a little bit more won't hurt! It doesn't cause drying that I have noted so far. If you ever use this, 1 squirt goes a LONG way! I applied a little bit of cetaphil moisturizer prior to make-up application. I also used a blotting sheet to remove the excess oil. Ever tried putting make-up on over oil? Not good.

Anyway, cluster is shrinking, but is sure to scar. The other big one on my chin has gone down a little bit but still there, still noticeable, still irritating me, however it doesn't hurt or throb and isn't all "hard". That possible one on my forehead looks more like a probable but I think that by not touching or over-treating it I may avoid a major lump. I am suffering from some itchiness. It takes every ounce of self-control not to scratch. My forehead itches the most! Will continue the Retin-A at bedtime, use the cetaphil or cucumber cream wash 1x (or if I work-out, maybe 2x a day). Going to avoid washing in the mornings because it seems like that might actually be beneficial. Also have implimented some no-flush niacin, zinc and melatonin, and evening primrose oil.

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DAY 8 :D

I can honestly say things are improving, it's not my imagination! My skin looks so much healthier, almost supple. Yes, I still have some of acne, but it's not huge and painful and irritated. It's healing. The rest of my skin looks almost radiant, which I cannot remember seeing in years! I look young for my age normally, but now, I'd swear a few years have disappeared. I am not sure exactly what to attribute this to but I like it! I hope I am able to maintain that!

No new breakouts today. That cluster drained by accident this afternoon - I thought to gently brush a piece of dry, flaking skin from the side and turns out that was all it took. It drained. Very gross, but yet satisfying in a weird way. It looks much more flat. I rinsed carefully with cold water and applied that antibacterial gel and have left it alone (I did finally have to put some makeup over it prior to work tonight but so far it seems fine). My forehead still appears somewhat bumpy but it's getting better a little at a time. Maybe in a week or so I will be lucky enough to report that it's finally flat again? I sure hope so, but the way things go for the majority of people, I kind of doubt it.

I only rinsed with cold water upon waking and applied that gel. Later when I showered to get ready for work, I washed gently with cetaphil, and about 30 min after that applied cetaphil moisturizer only to the areas that needed it - not all over because too much moisture isn't good for my oily skin. Continuing the vitamins/supplements/ibuprofen, tons of water, drinking some yerba mate tea until my rooibos arrives next week sometime, Retin-A at bedtime, and the antibacterial gel 2x a day.

Also should note: I decided yesterday to avoid milk, cheese, and ice cream (although I rarely eat ice cream anyway). I am not a huge dairy consumer as it is, but I like an occasional glass of skim milk, or a slice of cheese. I don't THINK I am in any way allergic or lactose intolerant or anything of this sort, but it's worth a shot to find out. Once I'm clear, I may try adding back an occasional bit of milk and see what happens.

Edited by MilGirl

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Day 12

So far, so good. I am experiencing a bit more peeling here and there (mainly right around my nose and my chin, a little on forehead). It's not overly bothersome and the cetaphil seems to keep it under control. Finally got to have my Thanksgiving yesterday since I worked through the holiday again. I did have a few sips of eggnog (which contained milk) and a bite of cheesecake (but only 1 bite) and 3 tiny slices of cheese. So I guess I'm starting over on that no milk, cheese, ice cream thing! I almost forgot to take my vitamins and minerals last night but got most of them in after dinner was over. I will do better today! I still run 6 days a week and lift at least 3 days a week - I think today will be a heavy lifting day to help burn those turkey cals!

Waiting on the rooibos tea to arrive sometime this week. I got some "detox" tea made by Yogi in the meantime to supplement my green tea. It tastes ok. I expected much worse. I want to reorder this antibacterial enzyme gel I've been using (from psfskincare), but I'd forgotten it was kind of expensive. I can afford it but I almost feel guilty about it. Almost... but clear skin is so worth it!

The cluster on my chin is pretty much gone! It's a patch of scars and currently some dry flakes but not much at all. The other one on my chin is in the same state. The one I thought I was getting on my forehead is going away, and another that has been hanging out for weeks (red, but not swollen up much - it was painful) is going away! I have had some whiteheads that appear pretty suddenly and go away nearly as fast. Literally I can wake-up with one and it goes away before bedtime. I get a small red mark that fades quickly so long as I leave it be. When they come in, they itch like crazy!! I do have a lot of scars that need to disappear but I'll worry about those later. Just glad to see this active acne suffering their retin-a induced deaths!

Current vitamins: menopausal multi-pack from GNC, evening primrose oil, zinc, no-flush niacin, vitamin D, E, A, melatonin. Face wash: cetaphil 1-2x a day. Moisturizer: cetaphil as needed (no more than 2x a day). Retin-A at bedtime. PSF Antibacterial Enzyme Gel 2x a day. Will add Rooibos tea when it gets here. For now, still having green tea, yerbe mate tea, or detox tea.

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im glad to hear RAM is going so well for you! hope things continue to improve! reading that you run days a week is def a wake up call, i used to run soo much (for triathlons) but kinda felll out of it 3 months ago. i miss it now!!

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Day 15

I am not 100% happy but doing much better than I was 2 weeks ago. I have some peeling from the Retin-A, but not as bad as some people have mentioned suffering. I am clearing up for sure and haven't had major cystic appearances like before. The one that started to come in on my forehead, then went away... well it came back and went away a few times... yesterday it swelled up pretty bad and felt pressurized. It itched. I was miserable. Once I was done for the day with work, I was able to clean it carefully. I pricked a very small hole with a sterilized needle and pressed and OMG! I have never seen so much come flying out at such a rate of speed! It could have put out an eye! I rinsed it with cold water, then iced and took 2 motrin. After icing for about 10 min, I put some neosporin on lightly to kill bacteria (it was still a slightly open "wound" but not bleeding, just not "sealed up" yet). It seems to have worked. When I got up this morning it was flat and looked pretty good. Like a small bruise under the surface of it, but nothing else apparent at this time. Otherwise, have had a few smaller pimples come and go, but like I said nothing huge and unsightly and painful like before. I can live with this for now as I heal up.

The scarring is not attractive, but I can cover it with green concealor then a layer of skin colored concealor. Takes a while, but it works. Once I quit breaking out altogether I'll worry about the scars. For now, just keeping the cystic acne at bay and not having a major problem with minor acne is good enough.

I just went back on day shift yesterday so I think the regular light/dark schedule will help a lot. I will have to guard my diet carefully. It's easy to maintain without other people around, but now that they are working with me I am continually bombarded by snack food and asked what "we" should all have for lunch. Yesterday I got accused of being a calorie counter or health nut because I didn't want a cookie. I just watch what I eat, I don't count! LOL! I make good choices instead of eating 400 calorie packaged cookies, you know? I ended up unable to go running last night, which I felt guilty about, but I was exhausted and dizzy from the schedule change so I knew it was a bad idea. I chose to sleep 8 hrs instead. I think it was a good choice and I'll make up the miles tonight and tomorrow.

Current vitamins: menopausal multi-pack from GNC, evening primrose oil, zinc, no-flush niacin, vitamin D, E, A, melatonin. Face wash: cetaphil 1-2x a day. Moisturizer: cetaphil as needed (no more than 2x a day). Retin-A at bedtime. PSF Antibacterial Enzyme Gel 2x a day. Will add Rooibos tea when it gets here. For now, still having green tea, yerbe mate tea, or detox tea.

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Hey there,

I've been enjoying reading your log, I'm in my 8th week of tretinoin Weird European Liquid Brand. I'm interested as to why you only apply cetaphil two times a day? I used to use cetaphil and have just recently switched almost exclusively to jojoba oil. I have a theory about moisturizing on retinoids that I posted in the retinoids forum, and I wonder if your reasoning is the same.

Anyway, good luck with your journey!

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Well, I apply it first of all around my schedule, and secondly I have oily skin naturally. I don't want to over moisturize on top of the oil. I am also trying not to overwash my face - I think it irritates it and strips it of the "healthy" natural moisture. The cetaphil is good moisturizer for me, but it does have a bit of an oily texture if over applied.

Not sure what your theory about retin-a is? It feels soft when I put it on, almost like a moisturizer. I don't actually get dry areas until I wash my face in the morning (or even just rinse with cold water). Now that I'm on days I have noticed I do well until about 6 hrs after I've applied make-up, then I start getting flakes around the edge of my nose and on my chin. It's kind of itchy and unpleasant but I try not to mess with it. It's a challenge!

Good luck to you as well!

Edited by MilGirl

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americaninparis - Now that I consider... I have noticed that my skin feels and appears healthier when I don't wash it in the morning. Just rinse with cold water to carefully splash away the excess oil. Now that I am on day shift, I shower before work right after waking up (at 0400 ugh!), and while in the shower it's my habit to wash my face (gently, with cetaphil). I think... it's not for sure... but I think that irritates it MORE, dries it out MORE, and therefore causes more flaking and perhaps even further break outs than other days when I don't wash it. It's either that or wearing make-up for that long of period of time is the problem, but I haven't had that problem previously. Hmph. Well I placed an order for jojoba oil and it should get here Friday. I hope that helps solve this problem. The dry skin is ITCHY when it flakes up!

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Day 17

NO ACTIVE ACNE! Yes, you read the right! I woke up this morning and had nothing new beginning to rear it's ugly head, and all the old healing away. Sure I have scars to fade, but the mere fact that there isn't anything new brewing is a shock in itself. It's been at least 2.5 months, probably longer, since this has happened. I look like ME - scarred, but once I have makeup on that won't be noticeable!

Yesterday I removed my makeup with watered down Vitamin E oil before I showered, then gently cleansed with cetaphil. The vitamin E softened the skin considerably, but I was worried about just leaving it on there for fear of clogging up the pores. My skin feels very supple now. I like that. The jojoba oil I ordered should arrive today, as should the rooibos tea. I am looking forward to those!

I also decided this dairy thing could be a trigger. Who knew! I have always loved dairy - milk especially - and with my usually minor acne that came and went I never really thought that could be a problem. I bought the Silk Light Vanilla milk yesterday. It's good, not quite milk, but good tasting. I also got an all soy protein replacement powder (vanilla flavor) for my post-workouts, avoiding the likely trigger of Muscle Milk (light, chocolate). Chocolate could be a problem for me, which sucks, since it's a rare treat I used to allow myself but I will not put my skin through this again. Not worth it!

Current vitamins: menopausal multi-pack from GNC, evening primrose oil, zinc, no-flush niacin, vitamin D, E, A, melatonin. Face wash: cetaphil 1-2x a day; Vitamin E Oil (watered down) to remove makeup. Moisturizer: cetaphil as needed. Retin-A at bedtime. PSF Antibacterial Enzyme Gel 2x a day. Will add Rooibos tea when it gets here & Jojoba Oil as well to replace the vitamin E oil. For now, still having green tea, yerbe mate tea, or detox tea. Switched to all soy milk products and protein replacements in vanilla flavors. No chocolate!

Edited by MilGirl

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Day 17

NO ACTIVE ACNE! Yes, you read the right! I woke up this morning and had nothing new beginning to rear it's ugly head, and all the old healing away. Sure I have scars to fade, but the mere fact that there isn't anything new brewing is a shock in itself. It's been at least 2.5 months, probably longer, since this has happened. I look like ME - scarred, but once I have makeup on that won't be noticeable!

Yesterday I removed my makeup with watered down Vitamin E oil before I showered, then gently cleansed with cetaphil. The vitamin E softened the skin considerably, but I was worried about just leaving it on there for fear of clogging up the pores. My skin feels very supple now. I like that. The jojoba oil I ordered should arrive today, as should the rooibos tea. I am looking forward to those!

I also decided this dairy thing could be a trigger. Who knew! I have always loved dairy - milk especially - and with my usually minor acne that came and went I never really thought that could be a problem. I bought the Silk Light Vanilla milk yesterday. It's good, not quite milk, but good tasting. I also got an all soy protein replacement powder (vanilla flavor) for my post-workouts, avoiding the likely trigger of Muscle Milk (light, chocolate). Chocolate could be a problem for me, which sucks, since it's a rare treat I used to allow myself but I will not put my skin through this again. Not worth it!

Current vitamins: menopausal multi-pack from GNC, evening primrose oil, zinc, no-flush niacin, vitamin D, E, A, melatonin. Face wash: cetaphil 1-2x a day; Vitamin E Oil (watered down) to remove makeup. Moisturizer: cetaphil as needed. Retin-A at bedtime. PSF Antibacterial Enzyme Gel 2x a day. Will add Rooibos tea when it gets here & Jojoba Oil as well to replace the vitamin E oil. For now, still having green tea, yerbe mate tea, or detox tea. Switched to all soy milk products and protein replacements in vanilla flavors. No chocolate!

Hey Milgirl -

Yeah, it's interesting, from what I've read, dairy (specifically milk) is the ONLY food/drink that studies have confirmed has a connection with causing acne. Unless you're allergic to something of course. I've stopped having milk in my cereal and having soy yogurt instead (unfortunately you will never, EVER take cheese away from me) but when you're throwing a bunch of changes/supplements at the problem, it's hard to tell what is working or not.

As for my moisturizer theory, I thought it was super compelling, but no one gave it any notice on the Retin-A message board. Anyway, I just was getting a really really bad prolonged IB on Retin-A and did some research. Do you know that cetaphil (and nearly ALL cream-based moisturizers) actually have comedogenic ingredients in them? My theory is that when used once or twice a day, it's not a big deal. But on retinoids our skin gets so dry that I was often moisturizing 3-6 times a day, and so my theory was that maybe it had a build-up effect in those areas and made my breakout worse. Not sure.

Anyway, my skin is naturally dry and now I only use jojoba oil on it as a moisturizer, and I use it to cleanse too. So far my skin loves it, I can't recommend it enough, and I haven't really had a breakout since.

Just thought it was interesting, good luck on your progress!

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Hey Milgirl -

Yeah, it's interesting, from what I've read, dairy (specifically milk) is the ONLY food/drink that studies have confirmed has a connection with causing acne. Unless you're allergic to something of course. I've stopped having milk in my cereal and having soy yogurt instead (unfortunately you will never, EVER take cheese away from me) but when you're throwing a bunch of changes/supplements at the problem, it's hard to tell what is working or not.

As for my moisturizer theory, I thought it was super compelling, but no one gave it any notice on the Retin-A message board. Anyway, I just was getting a really really bad prolonged IB on Retin-A and did some research. Do you know that cetaphil (and nearly ALL cream-based moisturizers) actually have comedogenic ingredients in them? My theory is that when used once or twice a day, it's not a big deal. But on retinoids our skin gets so dry that I was often moisturizing 3-6 times a day, and so my theory was that maybe it had a build-up effect in those areas and made my breakout worse. Not sure.

Anyway, my skin is naturally dry and now I only use jojoba oil on it as a moisturizer, and I use it to cleanse too. So far my skin loves it, I can't recommend it enough, and I haven't really had a breakout since.

Just thought it was interesting, good luck on your progress!

I know, I am throwing a lot of stuff at this problem - I happen to be a very patient person when it comes to life goals and work, but not so much when it comes to my skin and self-esteem. I should work on that. However, I have to say, I'm absolutely sure that MILK plays a role in my case. I went a few days without it or using muscle milk (chocolate flavor) as an after workout recovery, saw some improvement in my skin, then used the muscle milk again for 3 consecutive days. I immediately saw my skin worsen - the texture, oil production, type of acne, irritation, etc. I abstained from using milk, muscle milk, cheese, etc, again for 3 days and sudden improvement occurs. I went so far as to NOT eat cheese with chicken tacos at home last night. I love cheese, it almost killed me... but I did it. I am not sure if cheese itself is a problem, or if it's mostly milk, or chocolate in particular, but I don't want to mess up my progress on taking a chance like that. I'll experiment later... For now, Soy seems to be a safe alternative.

I wondered about over-moisturizing causing problems as well. My solution to the overdrying is not to wash with an actual cleanser more than 1x a day now - that's after a workout - and mostly just rinse carefully with cold water. My jojoba oil should have arrived yesterday as I paid an exhorbitant fee for overnight shipping and it did NOT come. If it's not here today I will be contacting the company to complain very loudly about that. I used some high quality vitamin E oil, watered down, to remove make-up and it worked pretty well - definitely softened the skin a lot! I think using jojoba oil or vitamin E oil is a good solution to the dry/flaky skin that is caused by the Retin-A. My worse dry area seems to be on my chin, under my mouth on either side and a little in the center. Also, a bit flaky in the corners under my nose but not too bad. I would like to get away from using any cleansers, but with as much working out and sweating as I do, I am not sure that's the smartest thing to try.

The rooibos tea arrived yesterday and I'm sipping on it now. It's got an OK taste, not fantastic but not gross either. My husband made fun of me for "attacking the problem from all angles" when he saw the "Get Gorgeous" package, and I said hell yea, since when do I ever just give up and accept something I don't like? Might as well try this as well, it certainly cannot hurt!

Todays Skin (18 days?)

Woke up at the horrid hour of 0400 for work. Had highly irritating itch under left corner of mouth. It was a blackhead that had pushed through to the surface and was begging to be removed. I grudgingly assisted it. No swelling, no further itching. Hopefully it's gone for good. No other appearances of unwelcome visitors on my face, just the redness left from the others which will probably remain for a while. Oil production seems slower throughout yesterday and today. Will continue to monitor that. I would love to have less oily skin for good but am afraid to hope much on that end! A little dryness/flaking on chin after my shower. Only rinsed face, no cleansers. Hoping that jojoba oil gets dropped off on my doorstep today while I'm at work!! ;)

americaninparis - I have read some posts where people are using Aloe Vera Gel as a moisturizer... it's a thought. It wouldn't be a "cream" moisturizer with comdegenic properties, I suppose. Hmmm... Well for now I'll stick with what is working but if I dry out too much I may consider that as an alternative.

Edited by MilGirl

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I hope your jojoba oil comes soon!! It's really been such a miracle for me in this process, I can't even say. Another big turning point for me was when I stopped using my normal cleanser and started the Oil Cleansing Method (don't know if you know it, it involves using oil and steam to clean your face, basically washing out your pores with the oil. . .) I like the idea of the steam opening my pores to clean them rather than my cleanser which was very drying and I felt closing my pores up. . not sure if this visual is correct.

I bought a big tube of aloe vera weeks ago and really wanted it to work. I know it has good properties for the skin, but moisturizing is not one of them for me. If my skin was even a little bit irritated, it made it so much worse! Everyone's different though. I, for instance, love the smell of Tea Tree Oil, and everyone I know hates it.

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I don't actually know how to do that cleansing method, but I definitely want to try it. I'll do a search.

I understand what you mean by your description of how your pores feel. Mine have felt like that as well. As for tea tree oil, I had forgotten the scent of it until recently. I bought a bottle a few weeks ago and when I opened it up I had a flashback to a time about 9 or 10 yrs ago when I last had it. LOL! It's definitely an unforgettable smell. I can't say I hate it, but I don't love it either. Too bad the aloe didn't work for you. I always worry about what I'm putting on my face - almost neurotic about the process. I don't even want my husband touching my face - I visualize the dirt and oil and who knows WHAT on his hands... He is blessed with almost perfect skin, very rarely has ever gotten a blemish at all even as a teenager, and it drives me NUTS! Of course he doesn't understand why I obsess about products, clean pillow cases, and types of tea! I'm very glad everyone here on this site "gets it"!

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americaninparis - Are you using only jojoba oil for the oil cleansing method? Or are you mixing it? I read through some of the posts about it so that's why I'm asking! I hope mine arrives today. I don't see any negative aspect of using vitamin E, so far, but who knows in a week or two I might think differently. LOL!

EDIT: I also have a theory that I (*knock on wood*) have avoided the IB - so far - due in part to the use of the topical antibacterial enzyme gel. Now, in a week or two, I might come back cursing my head off about breaking out. I had read through the sticky post about the possibility of an IB and that sometimes antibiotics help but I can't get antibiotics... seemed like the next best thing. Too bad it's $38 a bottle, eh? I ordered another bottle since I've had such good luck with it so far, but it's rather pricey to sustain regularly and justify it to the man...

Edited by MilGirl

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hey milgirl,

i really hope you avoided it too!! in my case i thought the couple whiteheads inflaming into zits was the IB when actually...it wasnt. always be prepared!! $38 is alot (though i spend more on one article of clothing so i shouldn't be talking) but its TOTALLY worth the emotional struggle of going through an IB. i wish i could just buy a magic anti-IB gel, no wait dream big!! anti-acne forever gel. anyways good luck!!

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Well... I did wake up today with 2 whiteheads (1 on chin, 1 inside eyebrow) & two red spots - 1 on my inner cheek near my nose, the other above my eyebrow near the left side of my forehead. Not so beautiful of a day today. I'm hanging in here though. Those red ones don't feel "inflamed" or painful or even swollen like so many have in the past. They may turn into that, I suppose it's too early to tell. I can't complain considering how far I've come, and how much worse some people have it in comparison! I wonder if steaming in the shower may have drawn this stuff to the surface faster than it otherwise would have come? It's a possibility. I steamed after work last night - it was sooooooo relaxing. It also drew some "gunk" out of my pores, which I assume was just dried sebum.

I do need to vent, however, that my jojoba oil didn't come!!!!! GRRRRR! I'm contacting them tomorrow to complain!

I'm with you, aprilmay, dream big! LOL!

Edited by MilGirl

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So it's come to my attention suddenly that I might be a tad bit on the OCD side. Hmmm. Yea I suppose I've been called that before, but never by a professional so I didn't pay any attention to it. I've been reading stoppickingonme.com (which I highly recommend to anyone who occasionally - or often - squeezes at their skin). READ IT! I am starting to re-think my behavior towards my skin, although it won't alter my current daily regimen, it will keep me from picking/popping/overanalyzing/etc!

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Ok, I have a mild breakout. Darn it! 3 whiteheads on my left cheek - the "bad side" - and 2 on my forehead. That one slightly large one swelled a bit, but isn't a cyst, and another little one next to it. I sense the possibility of another one almost between my eyes, slightly above and to the right, but it may not do anything at all. I think a part of my problem is these darn 12 hr shifts. I am not going to go to work without makeup altogether & I do only wear it minimally, being careful about how I apply it, etc. My days off, my skin looks a lot healthier. I think a part of that is me having time to sleep a bit because on work days I get up at 0400. But also it's just that I don't wear makeup for that long - only as long as I'm out & about, but once I'm home for the day it's off.

Anyhow, still hanging in here. I think it's getting better overall. The texture of my skin is improving, as is the "healthy" coloring, and I'm not getting cysts which was my major problem. I can't complain about a minor breakout, right? I'm maintaining a positive attitude! I used some rooibos tea as a toner last night and it felt really soothing. I am going to do that again tonight! And I took fish oil today... figured, hey, why not? I'm trying all the other ideas people have tossed at me.

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Hey there! Sorry to hear your having a minor breakout but hey at least its minor and it is that dreaded time when the IB is suppose to happen so it looks like everything is going as planned lol. Glad to hear that your liking the change in overall skin color and texture always gotta look at the positives. I noticed you are taking niacin No Flush. i just ordered some yesterday to hopefully combat the IB i may be getting next week. How long have you been taking it, and have you noticed anything from it? Hopefully things will only get better from here on out!

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