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Post in Acne-Prone Skin

Acne Investigation Diary!

Hey folks, I thought I would start an "acne diary" here reporting on my observations and experiences trying to get rid of acne.  I hate those days (which sometimes stretch into weeks) when my face feels like a battleground full of acne and post-acne marks and I either feel bad when I look into the mirror or spend way too long messing with concealers/foundation before going out.  


We've had so many posts here about what products to use to combat acne, but fewer posts about the actual causes of acne.  I think this is because it's so different from person to person, and also unless you have the patience of a saint it's really difficult to force yourself through the intensive trial and error needed to figure out WHAT is causing your breakouts.  And even then, it might be due to vague causes like "stress" or "environmental irritants" that you have no control over.


I'll try to update once a week or so, to report on what I'm currently adding (or removing) from my routine and what the results are.  I would also love to hear other people's personal experiences and maybe we can all learn from each other.


EDIT Apr 28:  Here's the new motto for those of us trying to isolate ingredients at the root of our skin problems:


So what do you do when your skin is freaking out and you don't know which product is causing the issue? "Quit everything cold turkey," advises Dr. Chapas. "Makeup, moisturizer, sunscreen—stop everything you're using. Try to use a mild topical hydrocortisone on the skin until your reaction goes down. Start adding products in slowly and use mild, fragrance-free formulas. Eventually, you'll find out what's offending your skin. If your skin continues to react, see a dermatologist."


thanks to krunce (is that pronounced "crunchy"?) for pointing me to the Victoria Stanell Beauty Myths article on beautylish!


Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

Whoohoo, go, Moregun!!! It's always a personal victory and joy when you hit that sweet spot and find that balance! Victory dancy!!!

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

Wow, congrats Moregun!  A whole decade of must be exhausted!  I think I'm in that process now...sllloowwwly dialing back the amount of stuff I put on my face.  It's so scary because you never know whether a single change will make the problem worse!  And it's also hard because there is so much skincare stuff I really want to try out that I get impatient and hate waiting!

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

I know the feeling, good for you for doing it though and I hope that it helps!  I'm really excited to read the updates to this thread, it should be fascinating Smiley Very Happy

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

aww thanks!  i hope i have interesting stuff to report, and not just "more acne this week" over and over again, haha

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

This is a great idea in general when you're trying to isolate the possible causes of anything (my doctor made me keep a journal for headaches). It's funny how acne can strike at any age -- and how your skin changes, so what once worked wonders no longer does. I never had any issues until my late 20s, when I started getting massive cystic pimples on my jawline (usually only one or two at a time, but they were so large, concealer wasn't effective). I think this was hormone related, but I really overdid it with tons of products that ultimately didn't work (and were not well suited for my skin type, which wasn't really acneic other than these cysts).


I will never be sure exactly what stopped them -- I should have kept a journal! Around the same time, I started using the Clarisonic, I started using Clindamycin (an antibiotic lotion from the dermatologist) on that area, and I stopped using Make Up For Ever HD foundation. I had been using Retin-A consistently over this time period, so I don't think that hurt or helped (unless using the Clarisonic then rendered it more effective / able to absorb better) -- but, as you mentioned, it could have been something totally unrelated to any of those causes (or it just happened to get better on its own). I will be interested to see your updates! Smiley Happy


Also, maybe you answered this in another post, but would you consider seeing a dermatologist, or have you done so in the past and not found them helpful?


Smiley Happy

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

yeah i actually haven't gone to see a dermatologist yet about acne (i have in the past for eczema though).  it's only gotten discouragingly bad over the last 6 months or so and it sorta crept up on me so there wasn't really a point where a light bulb went on in my head where i thought "i should see someone about this".  if things don't get better in the next few months I guess I'll make that appointment, but for now I prefer to try OTC stuff if at all possible. (also the nerdy part of me kind of thinks this could be a "fun" research project, especially if I get good results)


hey, what did you use the retin-A for?  many people seem to be using it just for general skincare/antiaging stuff and I've been curious what the general effects are, and how it compares to a daily retinol treatment like PTR.

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

UPDATE #1  February 27

Hmmm where to start. There's still a bit of catch-up to do before I get to my current state so I might as well do that. Last week I wrote that a couple of years ago I started noticing more breakouts, especially the kind that starts deep within the skin and slowly erupts into a large, painful, cyst-like thing. Coincidentally, two years ago is about when I started using sunscreen regularly (I can just hear the gasps of shock and horror now!).


I especially noticed the breakouts were worse when I used BB creams with mineral sunscreens (like Clinique City Block SPF 25 and Too Faced Tinted Beauty Balm, both of which I LOVE unfortunately). That's when I got suspicious about titanium dioxide as I remember reading that mineral sunscreens tend to cause more breakouts (not sure if it's just because of the thicker formulas, or the mineral ingredients themselves), and from my online research, it seemed titanium dioxide was more likely to cause breakouts than zinc oxide.


So the major change I made this January was switching to chemical-based sunscreen (Neutrogena Ageless Intensives Tone Correcting Moisture SPF 30). ***


Towards the end of January I was still getting a lot of clogged pores and realized that a lot of my powder blushes had titanium dioxide as a main ingredient, so I pulled those out of rotation just to make absolutely sure.  *sob* goodbye Benefit boxed powders! Smiley Sad


In the next update I'll talk about what happened when I added PTR Glycolic 10% to my routine, and a little more about what my routine actually is.



*** btw I picked the Neutrogena because it has good-for-skin ingredients like vitamins C, B, E, retinol, other antioxidants, and some anti-irritants. Also the sunscreen actives contain avobenzone 3% (max allowed concentration) which is further stabilized by octocrylene. For those interested in sunscreen, avobenzone blocks UVA rays, but breaks down in sunlight so lasts longer if stabilized.

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

Best of luck to you! I know the kinda bumps you're talking about... Sunscreen does that to me too. Unfortunately for me, it doesn't matter if it's chemical or mineral b/c they all cause those bumps on my skin. Chemical is far worse to my skin than mineral but still. Ugh. I tried for years to find a sunscreen my skin would tolerate. Even imported european formulations that used different chemical actives caused the same bumps. Finally I gave up on sunscreen only to find out that even secondary contact causes the same bumps/cysts! 


I have truly given up on sunscreen. I hope you're results are much better than mine. Just in case the Neutrogena still bothers you, there is one sunscreen I have found that won't bother my skin through secondary contact: Olay's Complete Sensitive SPF 15, the original formula with octinoxate and zinc oxide. Even though it's only SPF 15 it protects great. It keeps my husband from burning and he has very little tolerance to sunlight.

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

Wow, that's awful to have to totally give up on sunscreen!! Smiley Sad  I wonder what it is that your skin reacts to!  Hopefully you live in a climate where the sun isn't too strong.


Thanks for the Olay recommendation, I will check it out!  I have been eyeing other options with the same mix as the Olay, with octinoxate and zinc oxide...hopefully that will be gentler on my skin.  It's been about a month with the Neutrogena and I'm still getting clogged pores, so I'll switch when this bottle runs out.

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

@ drrragon: Well, I know for sure Avobenzone (butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane), octocrylene,  oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), or any benzophenone causes cysts and eczema on my skin. Not just on my face either, anywhere on my body the product is applied and/or touches from someone else using them. The only exception I make is the benzophenones in nail polish; it seems once that dries there's no problem.


Octinoxate (ethylhexyl [octyl] methoxycinnamate) doesn't seem to overtly irritate my skin, but definitely dries it out horribly. Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide only seem to cause problems once it gets beyond a 1% concentration in the product. While these products, again, don't overtly irritate my skin the multitude of clogged pores and flaky skin it creates tells me it's overdrying my skin. Since there only so much exfoliation I can do to my skin before it revolts it just leads to nothing good b/c that when I start getting the staph infections.


Fortunately, I live in Michigan so to me it seems I get very little sun exposure. Especially after spending time in Central America when I was younger.


You're welcome on the rec. I hope you find something that works for you without alot of pain, time and money.

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