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Some Things That Really Work

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I made up my mind several years ago to read everything I could about adult acne and then to be as scientific as I could in applying what I learned. I've been sharing bits and pieces in reply to other people's posts but now I think I'll try to summarize what works, what doesn't, and what has made a real difference for me. Maybe this will help you, especially if you have chronic resistant acne like me.

I've struggled with cystic acne all my life since age 15. Up until my 30's I kept thinking I would outgrow it but I didn't. During this time I used OTC acne products and my skin was always red, irritated, and they ultimately didn't do much but dry my skin out. In my 30's I did 2 rounds of accutane. Love the stuff and I had crystal clear skin but the effects didn't last. I did Proactive for about 10 years and it helped but again my skin was red, peeling and irritated. Antibiotics helped when my skin was really flaring up but you can't take those forever. I became a vegetarian, ate organic, and led a very natural lifestyle overall. This helped but the acne continued. In my 50's I became desperate and was so embarrased by this disease that would not stop!

What did not work

OTC acne products, including BP --- too irritating

Raw diet and general organic diet --- felt great but did not stop acne

Oil cleansing --- messy and caused plugged up pores

Short-term remedies that work but you can't use them longterm

Accutane --- fantastic stuff...wish I had been one of the lucky ones where it stops acne forever...

Antibiotics --- great for awful flare-ups and calming the skin. Nice to have on hand.

Spironolactone --- worked great in combo with other treatments but can't use forever

Birth Control

Long-term remedies that work and can be used forever without harm

These remedies work together...using just one may not accomplish the goal of clear skin

Tretinoin (retin-a) --- this is the gold standard. It takes forever to kick in so people often give up.

But think about it...tretinoin restructures the pores and skin so it takes awhile to accomplish this. It normalizes how the skin functions. You may have to experiment to get just the right formulation of tretinoin. I like the generic .1% cream.

Spearmint tea --- this has a natural anti-androgen effect that is as effective as spironolactone (google it). I make my own blend of spearmint with a little chamomile and hibiscus and use as a loose tea. Drink 2 strong cups a day for a medicinal effect. I like it with soy milk --- shake up the carton for a latte effect!

Cetaphil Antibacterial Bar Soap --- this is a best kept secret. It is an amazing cleanser that is very mild, rinses clean, doesn't strip skin and lowers surface bacteria count.

Neutrogena Lotion for Combination Skin --- this lotion is very very mild and keeps down oil. I have unusually sensitive skin and this is about the only one I can use without problems.

Avoid these foods and chemicals (these are all documented and researched items that aggravate acne) --- dairy, sugary foods including all sugars, honey, etc and foods with them, white flour and overly processed foods, very spicy foods, alcohol, red meats, Sodium Laurel Sulfate (is in most toothpastes and shampoos - go organic), flouride, sunscreen on the face (even ones for sensitive skin - wear a hat), anything you think you may be sensitive to (everyone is different and it seems most people prone to acne have underlying food and chemical allergies that are further irritating the skin...you may want to get formally tested...I finally did and it made a difference.). Find a non-flouridated, non-SLS toothpaste at the health food store. Many adult acne sufferers actually have perioral acne that can be aggrevated by regular toothpastes. This type of acne happens not just around the mouth but along the jaw and up around the nose and forehead too.

Eat as organic, fresh and natural as possible.

Be outdoors often, walk, play, laugh, be with friends.

Try hypnosis and get a personal CD made just for you...hey it works!

Do yoga, deep breathing, keep a journal.

Read Eckhart Tolle's "The Power of Now". Listen to his talks. Be inspired.

Hope this helps!

Namaste and blessings ~ CVD

Edited by cvd
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I'm recoving from a spiro breakout nightmare. I'm on the same routine you outlined above. I did not know that spearmint tea could replace spiro. I just added that to my diet. I'm actually on the clear skin diet. They only talked about diet so there was no mention of spiro replacement teas such as spearmint. I drink heaps of green tea. How will spearmint work?

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It's interesting --- you can google it (Spearmint tea anti-androgen study). Seems that spearmint tea has the same effect as spiro in lowering androgens. Less androgens = less acne! There are foods that help lower androgens such as soy and flaxseed. The Clear Skin diet is based on this I think...

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Your posts on this board are, and have been very helpful.

Lately, myself, I've been travelling a ton for work, and I've noticed that my happiness and satisfaction with the successes of these travels were spoilt once I came home to a new facial acne breakout. Now I was kind of expecting this, because traveling for me means stress, bad lifestyle and some slacking in my regimen, but I grew so immensely fed up with the 'consequences' that I made an appointment with my doctor and decided to insist on accutane. I'm just tired of worrying about every little thing in the world that could break me out (and it will), so I think I should give accutane a go and see if I'm one of those lucky ones who stays clear on it.

The only thing that has ever helped me was antibiotics but you can't be on them forever.

Differin seemed to help but I've been slowly getting back to getting the bigger nodule-esque acne that I fear so badly and that I seemed clear of for 9 months or so. I don't mind some small acne, but the deeper lesions remain forever and leave a mark that never goes away. So either Differin has never worked and it was just the antibiotics keeping the inflammation down, or it has stopped working.

I feel like I've just gotten to a point where I deserve to try to bring in the big guns.

Of course I could still go for a stronger retinoid like tretinoin, but I'm not sure. I'm still taken by the idea of retinoids and I'm pretty convinced that they can work when given time - I've been on Differin exactly 1 year now! - but I'm afraid I have to wait another year for another retinoid to reach full potential.

Or maybe I'm freaking out and should just go on a short antibiotics course to calm things down and give Differin even more time?

I wish there was a simple answer to all this! Damn acne!

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I am so sorry but totally understand what you're going through...sounds like me! I think accutane is a very good drug and definately worth doing if you have cystic acne. I used it twice. It may not make cystic acne go away forever but it will make it less...less eneough for some other drugs to work like differin or tretinoin. In fact one of the best treatment strategies and one that is well researched is to do 1-2 courses of accutane and then use tretinoin afterwards. I would not hesitate to do accutane...who knows --- you may be one of the lucky ones who's acne totally clears up! Until you do the accutane I think it also makes sense to do a short-course of antibiotics to deal with the flare-up. My derm endorses that and I actually keep some antibiotics on hand for flare-ups (...although I haven't had to use it in a year...yeah!). I'm not sure of how Differin compares to tretinoin but I think tretinoin is the original retin-a and the one most studied. I originally used .5% and it worked okay but I was still breaking out. Switching up to .1% did the trick...and then also using it for over a year. I keep on seeing it repair and heal my skin. It is amazing stuff.

Hope this helps!

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Thanks for your reply. Just as a follow up, I have indeed gotten a short antibiotics course to sooth the flare-up and I hope it will be working as well as it did earlier this year. Also I got some tretinoin .5%. It's the strongest one they had. I think I will try and give this a chance before deciding to really go on accutane. (Unless things get really worse really rapidly) A little paranoid to switch from Differin to Tretinoin, but I think it's time to give it a fair chance. Maybe it'll work a bit faster, coming from 1 year of retinoid-use.

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I hope it works for you! I'm not sure of the difference between Differin and Tretinoin except that one is a synthetic and the other is natural. I think Differin is supposed to be less irritating. I have to say that I still sometimes get a pimple here and there but nothing like I used to get and certainly manageable...more like most people. One thing I'm doing now too is drinkin 2 cups of strong spearmint tea daily. Research has been done that shows it is an anti-androgen. So I'm hoping this will help keep me clear now that I've stopped taking any spironolactone.

Like you - I get so tired of dealing with this but I suppose it is like anything else...it just takes patience!

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