Your Basket is Empty
Sign in to see items you may have added previously.
See samples, rewards and promotions in .

Item Added to Basket

Free Shipping!

You're only $50.00 away from Free Shipping.

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!

No problem!  Glad it's good info! Smiley Very Happy

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

I was just wondering how you managed to pinpoint the ingredients that you find bther your skin, like titanium dioxide for example. I have recently started getting acne on my forehead and chin, which is really strange because I had acne when I was a young teen, and I ended up trying out endless prescriptive products and eventually acutane (which lasted for about a year after I had clear as sky skin, then the acne came back and my doc had me back on acutane-whereafter it had been clear for 5 or so years). Now I am back to square one, my face is going insane, and I haven't been able to figure out exactly what ingredients to stay away from! Any tips would be appreciated!

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

Hi taylorkiryluik, i've been thinking how to answer your question without writing an essay!  I think it was a couple of years of unintended trial-and-error that keyed me onto the titanium dioxide.  At first I just had huge nasty cystic pimples that seemed random and I had no inkling of why that was happening.  But I finally noticed there was a pattern-- those tended to appear more frequently after I used the Clinique City Block SPF 25.  Back then I was really lazy sometimes and would fall asleep without washing my face, and that might have been my first clue....I ALWAYS ended up with new cystic acne after that if I had been wearing the Clinique that day.  Acne would appear even if I had been wearing only the Clinique and no makeup.


I still didn't know what about the Clinique was causing that, but I stopped using it for a while just to see if it made any difference.  In the meantime I was using other SPF's that still contained titanium dioxide, like Too Faced BB Creme and Josie Maran SPF 40, so there was no obvious light bulb going on.  Towards the end of last year I was regularly using an SPF that contained ONLY zinc oxide, no titanium dioxide.  The event that made me really suspicious was over the holidays I went on vacation and instead of my normal SPF, took something that contained titanium dioxide, and the cycstic acne started popping up again.


After that I decided to ruthlessly cut out ALL titanium dioxide out of my routine (it was really difficult, several of my favorite products have it).  That was about mid-January.  Since then I've gotten maybe one or two cystic acnes pop up, and none in the last few weeks.


Hope that helps you out.  Come back and discuss if you like, I find this whole process really fascinating. Smiley Happy




Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

It makes sense. I have noticed my breakouts since the end of december until now. I also had started on WAY TOO MANY new things. I had two new shampoos (i looked at their ingredients and there are too many to try and narrow it down- some similiar and many different from my old shampoo that didn't make me break out. As well I had just started to turn to all natural oils to moisturize, as I have terribly dry and sensitive skin. So I started using jojoba oil, rose hip seed oil, and coconut oil as moisturizers. I really don't think that oil is what cause my break out, since I have used josie maran argan oil as well as nude face oil before and had no reaction with them. I suppose only time will tell but man I want to figure out what is causing this!! 


Thanks for starting this post though, I am really interested and looking into the discoveries that others are finding is awesome!

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

What a wonderful thread! Im a frequent visitor and they also have a section on Acne Diaries. Its actually very informative and encouraging as yours is as well Smiley Happy


I have also started a mental diary since a massive attack on my face at the end of summer. I have made a few conclusions myself (of course this pertains to my specific skin, but hopefully can be helpful to others)



-adding more acne medication runs the risk of making things worse: using a combination of products with salicylic acid, benz. peroxide, toners, etc just dried out my skin and excessive drying leads to more acne!

-sunscreen is a must for hyperpigmented scars

-dairy and sweets are my foe Smiley Sad 

-Vitamin D and Omega 3 supplements seem to help

-washing face with ionized acidic water also seems to help

-visiting a derm saved my skin


Ultimately, after YEARS of trying different otc products, the only thing that significantly helped my cystic acne was going to the dermatologist. Cystic acne or hormonal acne is best treated with oral medication (antibiotics, accutane, etc). I suggest you visit a derm if you can!

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

Oh no! I'm really loving my new Benefit Hello Flawless powder, it gives my face a beautiful finish, but I also have really sensitive skin. I didn't know if it was just from stress though because I've had a really rough week. I am going to try not using it  and see how much of a difference it makes. I'm totally going OCD right now looking up the ingredients of all my face products! Besides Titanium Dioxide, are there other ingredients that are known to cause breakouts?

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

Kiki, if you have sensitive skin, one you may want to avoid is Bismuth Oxychloride. I know the liquid foundation of Benefit's Oxygen Wow contains it as I wanted to try it, but alas could not. Smiley Sad I used to use bareminerals until it started giving me cystic acne and I eventually deduced that was a major cause of inflammation and breakouts in my skin.

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

Hi Kiki,  the difficult thing is that breakouts are sooooo unpredictable.  What causes breakouts in one person could just as easily work for the next. Smiley Sad  That's why it's so hard to weed out the exact ingredient sometimes.  And even then, it's possible that breakouts are caused by something completely unrelated, like stress as you mentioned, or hormonal changes.  If you really suspect the Benefit powder (which looks so awesome and smooth btw), you could try going without it for a week or two, and see if any new blemishes pop up during that time.


Other things to look out for, rather than specific ingredients, is how much stuff you're putting on your face.  Further down in this thread there's some discussion about overloading on skincare products, and one of the posters MoreGun mentioned that her acne improved once she started minimizing her routine.  I think that's really important especially for those with oily/combo skin.


Hope that helps!  Maybe you could consider starting your own acne investigation diary to keep mine company. Smiley Happy


Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

UPDATE #2 -- March 17 (Happy St Patrick's Day!!!)


Wow, originally I planned to update more frequenty, but with skincare it really can take weeks before you notice (and can be certain of) any changes!


The big change in Jan was switching to an all-chemical sunscreen, and away from BB creams or other sunscreens with titanium dioxide (the two I had used were Clinique City Block SPF25 and Too Faced Beauty Balm SPF 25).  Then a few weeks after that I was still getting lots of clogged pores so I also stopped using any cosmetics with titanium dioxide as a main ingredient (*sob* ... my Benefit boxed powders... Smiley Sad boohoo)


Another major change in my routine, at the end of January I started introducing PTR 100% Glycolic Moisturizer, once a week, then eventually twice a week.  Now (6 weeks later) I'm using it every other day all over, and every morning as a spot treatment.




1. Since cutting off any titanium dioxide, I stopped getting those big, deep, cystic acnes.  They take a bit longer to develop deep underneath and can suddenly appear as painful spots, then slowly grow until they become a big huge mess.


2.  Even after that, I was still getting a LOT of clogged pores.  These started out as tiny bumps under the skin, which would then grow into big ugly red bumps/acne, even though I was using acne products like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid on them twice daily!


3.  The PTR 10% Glycolic has really worked wonders in controlling the acne, although it doesn't seem to stop pores from getting clogged.  What it does, is prevent the clogs from turning into huge honking red pimples that eventually leave very deep and long-lasting post-acne marks.  They either turn into small, manageable pimples, or become extractable.


4.  I believe the glycolic is also helping to fade post-acne marks a lot faster.





1.  Good bye titanium dioxide!!!!

2.  Glycolic acid is amaaaaaaaaaazing!!




How DO you reduce those clogged pores, anyway????


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!

Neutrogena's sunscreen/suncare products are among the better of the drug store/mass brands on the market. I load up on bottles of their regular body sunscreen and mix it with my body creams every day!


It's good that you're narrowing down what you may be allergic or reactive to. That'll help a ton in the future when looking at new products!

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!

Oh that's terrible. If you can't wear SPF, what do you use during the day to combat sun damage?


Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

@ beauty tester: Nothing unless you count wearing non SPF makeup just for the extra layer. Smiley Wink I've been using salicylic acid to try and combat the effects a little bit, but it seems lately that I've been overdoing it. Gonna have to back off a bit. Smiley Sad

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

@zeldahime. Oh noes! I don't know about salicylic acid but I was just thinking about it as I browse I usual morning stuff and I saw an article that said antioxidants are almost as important in combating sun damage as sunscreen. Maybe it would help if you look into a day cream or facial oil that have lots of antioxidants?


Google "skincare antioxidant ingredients expiration refinery29" and it's the first article, which talks about how to get most out of it. Hope that helps a bit. o.O

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

Oooo, on that note! Philosophy has their vitamin C booster powder that you can mix into serums or lotions to give a protective layer to skin to combat oxidation damage and free radicals!

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

Have you visited a doctor or dermatologist about this? I mean I hate to see any of our BT users suffer because of reactions of sunscreens! Maybe a professional and help pinpoint what is safe to use and what to avoid.


I hope you find a happy medium/balance of product!

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.

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

@zeldahime, wow, sounds like you've definitely run the gamut as far as sunscreen experimentation goes.  I've also strugged with eczema and know how frustrating that is.  Would it be ok if i PM you for more details about your sunscreen experimentations?  


Also, just wanted to mention that my mom has never used sunscreen in her life, and her skin looks pretty awesome for her age (mid-70s).  Of course most of her adult years have been spent in Northern Maine so yeah not very strong sun up there either. Smiley Happy

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

2 Replies
Conversation Stats