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Expensive New Quest For Good Skin.. Retinol And Skin Peels

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Hi all,

I'm a guy in his mid 20s from the UK who has always suffered with mild - medium acne. However over the last few years (and months!) it seems to be getting worse, not better. I know it is winter, but I still feel like I should have better skin than this. I have a very corporate job and my skin can really get me down/drain confidence from me. Most recently I've been getting loads of white heads and redness on my cheeks and deeper, bigger, more painful spots along my jawline(nearer the back of my jaw) and I've got to the stage where enough is enough.

I went to a skin clinic at the weekend for a free consultation and advice. They do things from laser hair removal to facials for acne. After I explained to one of their skin specialists my issues, she took a close look at my skin, used a machine to take detailed pictures and "rate" my acne, wrinkles, scarring, etc.

She recommended I get a course of 6 "pumpkin peels" (1 every 2 weeks) as well as a new regimen.

The regimen consists of:

1 - Salicylic wash (every evening)

2 - An advanced B5 serum every day and night

3 - An antioxidant smoothing serum every day and night

4 - Retinol youth serum (starting off once a week and building up to daily/every two days)

I was also advised to buy a "clarisonic brush" and use it once a day. However the products alone came to nearly £200 and I didn't want to spend another £200 on the brush when I've always been told being too rough with the skin can aggravate acne!

Now I'm going on holiday in a month, and apparently need to leave 3-4 weeks after you've been in the sun and prepare the skin for the peels so I didn't purchase these just yet as they are very expensive, so just the products for now.

As I've already paid for them I'm going to give this a good go, and will probably try the peels as they were highly recommended by the specialist. I don't have bottomless pockets but I am willing to invest in something which may help my skin. However, I wanted to get everyone's thoughts. Both on the products above and the pumpkin peels. Has anyone had/done anything similar? Any stories?

Also, do you guys think I should be using a moisturiser AS WELL as all this stuff? I know the B5 serum "holds 1000 times its molecular weight in hydration".

Thanks in advance guys, look forward to hearing your stories/thoughts.

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Clarisonic brushes--BAD FOR ACNE. NO NO NO. Scrubbing, believe it or not, can just push the infection around the other parts of your face. Not worth the money. If you need to scrub, try getting a little scrubby pad like this that wont irritate the acne anymore. If you need the wash to go "deeper", just leave it on for 2 to 5 minutes before rinsing. I highly suggest that you screw the face specialist stuff though, and just go to the dermatologist if you're going to spend this much money. It's okay to go to one for mild to moderate acne, because ANY acne can cause anxiety and stress, not just super severe face-eating acne. Try generic Hibiclens if you find the wash too irritating.

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Thanks for your feedback.

To be honest it is so hard. Everyone seems to tell you to do something different! Even on this site you read totally contrasting reviews on both peels and the clarisonic brushes.

After reading a lot of forums, I even hear people talking about how useless going to a dermatologist was, or how they had to go to 4-5 before they found one which was half decent!!

I think I'm also going to try cutting out dairy for a while. I started supplementing my diet with whey protein recently which is very high in lactose and have noticed the skin on my hands getting very dry as well as the skin on my face being reddish. There is definitely a trend of lactose intolerance in my family, so can't hurt to cut this out to see if there are any improvements.

Any other comments would be much appreciated.

I assume I should still be using a moisturiser as well as these products? Any recommendations?

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Hi Diefenbaker,

First of all, you're not alone! I know myself and many others on this site can relate to your struggle and frustration. Also, I just want to say I am no way an expert and can only speak from my own experience.

First of all, I think peels can be a wonderful resource for mild acne or after acne is already under control. However, if you feel that doesn't apply to you, they may not be worth your money at this time. Also, as for the recommended regimen, I think the serums and retinol sound great. I worry the salicylic acid wash may be too drying though in conjunction, which may just aggravate your acne even further. I would recommend a gentler, hydrating cleanser like CeraVe. They have a great moisturizer as well.

Last, I'd recommend trying to find the root cause of your acne opposed to treating the symptoms. That's the only way you're going to have the long term success you're looking for. Have you tried probiotics, vitamins or diet changes? I started taking probiotics and fiber everyday and have seen a really positive change in my acne and overall complexion.

I know it's all just a bunch of trial and error, though, which can be really exhausting.. Goodluck to you! We are all here for support.

Edited by the uphill battle
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Hey Uphill Battle,

Thanks for your comments.

This is exactly what I am hoping to get from this forum, honest opinions from those that are or have been in the same boat!

I will be weary about the Salicylic wash for sure. I have used things like BP in the past which have aggravated my skin at first, but usually I find my skin can adapt quite quickly to these things. From your comments I am guessing you definitely recommend using a good moisturiser as well as the products mentioned to try and avoid this drying out of the skin!?

Looking at the root cause is something I have really not started to explore until recently but I am certainly very interested in it. As mentioned the first thing I am going to do is to try and phase out dairy as much as I can to see if this has an effect. I have experimented with certain vitamins before but to be honest I probably need to start keeping much better records of how my skin reacts to these changes over time as I have never noticed any clear patterns with them. I already get a lot of omega 3, 6 and 9 and have been taking vitamin E supplements. I have heard vitamin A is very beneficial also.

Thanks again for the kind words, it definitely helps knowing there are others out there :)

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I totally understand where you're coming from on the idea that there are totally contrasting reviews and ideas about acne everywhere. It's horrible and confusing. That's because acne is just a symptom--just like a stomachache is just a symptom. Just because one person found out that their stomachache was caused by lactose intolerance, yours might be caused by an ulcer. The problem with acne, though, is that doctors don't necessarily promote all of the things that might cause it, because it isn't always treated with pharmaceuticals. So one has to begin by taking treatment into their own hands and then seek a doctor when they have exhausted their other resources (but not fallen into the idea that there is a magical unicorn-like miracle cure out there just waiting for them to find it!) So this is my theory on how this applies to acne. (this is a rant and may not be helpful at all. I am no expert but this is what I have found from experience and you may take it or leave it. Most people just don't have the patience to do this.):

Some people have acne caused by bad genetics, some people have acne caused by gastrointestinal and nutritional deficiency, some people have acne caused by hormonal reasons, some people have acne caused by insulin resistance, some people have acne because they don't wash their face enough or use non-comedogenic ingredients, and because their skin is sensitive to what they are using on it. The key is to rule out each one by one, NOT try every miracle cure someone comes up with. Of course, if one really doesn't want to be methodical about it (or doesn't have severe acne or isn't that bothered by it, like several people I know) they can jump around and try new things, but I think that even though this looks extensive, it's actually quicker than trying four million new OTC products and maybe a diet here and there and then maybe a dermatologist appointment or two and then some herbal remedies, blah blah blah. But if you do this it is important to keep a log and try the topicals for at least two months, preferably three, and the diets for four to six, and the orals for as long as the doctor prescribes (unless you experience adverse reaction). I might note that someone with really extremely severe acne should see a doctor ASAP and try to work in diet with it, because the longer one waits with that the more it scars and disfigures the face and body. (However, most of the time extremely severe acne does not START severe)


The easiest thing to do first is try washing one's face. Believe it or not, there are a lot of boys and teenage guys who have acne just because they don't realize they should wash their face. No comedogenics. And no picking. Clarisonics might be a good thing in this stage to try. Trying no makeup or mineral make up would be a good step for girls. Some people may want to check their laundry detergent to make sure it isn't giving them body acne.

Next one might try a few popular homeopathic remedies. Like, calamine lotion or tea rinses, ACV, OCM, home-made masks, lemon astringent, tea tree oil, whatever. Could several together. Don't try every remedy out there though because, chances are, if you've tried several of the best home remedies and none work, your acne is just too severe to be handled by them.

Then one can try different OTC products to see if they just have a slight dirt or hormone problem. Instead of trying a MILLION benzoyl peroxide and salycilic acid products, one should try a highly rated one of each. Like, one great benzoyl peroxide/salycilic line, one sulfur/whatever line, one clay/volcanic ash/whatever line, one herbal line, etc, INSTEAD OF TRYING TWELVE OF EACH KIND. Because, believe it or not, most products with the same main ingredients work the same as long as they don't have comedogenic ingredients or ingredients you're allergic to. And, if you use many products with the same ingredients for a long time despite none of them working, you can damage your skin and make your acne worse. If you have no idea where to start, you can see an esthetician (sp?), but make sure they help you follow the method and don't damage your skin. They can be helpful in finding good products and cleaning methods if you find yourself at a loss for a place to start but may be way overpriced. But if you're okay with that, that's okay. If you're not, try reading reviews on here and make up alley, and learning to check for comedogenic ingredients.

If the step one things don't clear you up completely, make note of the few things that worked the best if any, keep them in your regimen, and move on. If none of these work at all, just wash and moisturize with something that doesn't make it worse and move on. DO NOT GET CAUGHT UP IN THIS STEP. You do not WANT to be able to say that you've tried every product on the market. Just take a reasonable sampling and read ingredients. Do not fall for gimics.


Try exercise, a healthier (gov food pyramid/my plate guidelines) diet, vitamin supplements, plenty of water, and adequate sleep first. It's likely in some cases that they're just living really unhealthy lives and their body is using their skin as a warning light.

If you still have bowel and acne issues after that, first thing get checked for IBS (easily diagnosable but not easily treatable), celiac, fructose malabsorption, and lactose intolerance if you can and then get on those diets if you are. If you can't get the latter tests, the poor man's way is to go on the diets and see if you improve significantly.

If that doesn't clear you, try going paleo or following a diabetic diet. If you improve significantly it was probably insulin issues or hormones if it's a girl.

Next step if that doesn't work is to try an elimination diet to see if you're allergic to any of the big 8 or certain food dyes.

If this doesn't clear you up, move on to step three. Remember if you are moderately cleared by one of these, and keep them, or if nothing works go back to eating normally (though my bets are up that the first part of number 2 is applicable to everyone)


You can't fix genetic issues, but you can treat them. Go to a dermatologist. Move from mild to extreme as far as medications go--unless you're allergic to it, start with a benzoyl peroxide/antibiotic and move up the line of topicals and oral meds slowly, giving it time, doing what your doctor advises and not adding any medicated OTC's unless the doctor tells you it's okay. If one is a woman she could try birth control. Use accutane as a last resort.

The idea is to throw away the things in each step that don't work at all and move on to trying the next thing, stop if you find something that completely clears you up, or take something that helps moderately and move on. Because you start at the surface and move deeper, it's easier to tell what remedy is actually helping and more difficult to desensitize or damage your skin with a million products. (and it's much easier on the pockets!!) Personally, I have sort of followed this but I really wish I had realized this sooner. I have killed my face with way too many products that I was sensitive or allergic to or which didn't work at all, I have jumped into trying new medications without diet changes, and I settled for a diet that helped moderately when I might have found one that helped even better. Now, I'm having to almost start all over again after years of jumping around uselessly, to my own detriment. Now I have no idea what causes my acne most (just some ideas of the things that trigger it), and only vague ideas of what I have ruled out. Fighting acne takes determination, even mild acne (because mild acne is just asking for you to make it worse!)

Sorry for the rant. It's okay if you don't find this helpful at all, especially since I'm no expert. But I have had acne since I was 10, and I've been really, really dumb about it at times. And, because I'm basically a huge nerd, I gave up and decided to take a scientific approach and try to categorize things and make a step by step process of elimination, because that's the quickest way to get to the bottom of things. I actually have this all written in my own journal, hidden for no-one to see, but I supposed that sharing it would be helpful to someone who is confused and about to spend a ton of money like I was.

Edited by xpaperbackwriterx
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