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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!

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!

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!

@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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

UPDATE #3  -- April 3


Last update was the discovery that titanium dioxide was the root cause of my cystic acne, but I still had tons of clogged pores.  They started out as tiny little bumps under my skin that eventually grew into huge red angry swollen pimples that did more damage (scars) than the cystic acne did.  I was so frustrated!


Finally I started wondering why my left cheek always had more clogged pores.  I'm a side sleeper and that's the side I normally sleep on!  And no, changing out my pillowcase frequently had no effect.  From there I guessed that I was applying too much goop to my face at night after cleansing, and while I was sleeping the pores were getting clogged between the goop and my pillow!



THE EXPERIMENT -- started mid-February


1. Switch to lighter products designed for oily/combination skin, away from super emollient products for very dry skin.

2. Reduce the number of products applied at any given time (I used to easily layer 3-4).



THE RESULTS -- six weeks later


1. drastically reduced number of clogged pores!!!  Yay!





It seems obvious now, but I failed to realize this for so long because my skin was undergoing a very gradual change. For my entire life I've had the nastiest, dryest, flakiest skin ever. In my worst periods I needed to apply Aquaphor twice a day over my eczema medication (which was a thick ointment!) and my skin soaked it all up no problem. Then when I started getting into skincare 2-3 years ago, due to my extraordinary dryness I had the luxury of being able to layer on multiple products without having to worry about the potential for clogged pores.


Well apparently my skin has slowly become less dry over the last year or so (even to the point of an oily forehead!), and since I didn't really notice this I continued to glop on the same amount of moisturizers and creams designed for extra dry skin.


Once in a while I still get some acne but due to the 10% glycolic acid moisturizer, it goes away much faster than before.  I think it's also helping the acne scars fade faster!




When I get up the courage, I will try phasing back in my Benefit boxed powders and Bare Minerals (Coralista, I MISSED YOU!!!).  Although they contain high amounts of titanium dioxide, I'm hoping it was only BB Creams and goopy sunscreens that were bad for me and not powder products....



Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

I hope your old stuff can work out for you again!  Titanium dioxide is so difficult to get out of pores once it settles in, if the leanser isn't strong enough to dissolve it all, then it becomes a problem for me (like this past weekend when i tried a different one, my face is FINALLY starting to calm down from a lot of grumpiness)! 

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

holy crap MoreGun it never occured to me to consider whether my cleansers were effective at breaking down the titanium dioxide!!  Whence comes this secret knowledge of yours?!  It makes so much sense!  I've always stayed away from harsher cleansers due to easily-irritated skin...that could have contributed to the problem for sure.

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

It was a recent revelation, I used Mario Badescu's Silver Powder for a short time which was removed entirely by a toner when it was done and was nothing BUT titanium and zinc oxides, never had a breakout.  My BB cream uses these as well for its SPF component, when I began using my typical night cleanser (SK-II Oil cleanser) I've noticed a drastic improvement, if I switch back to my normal foaming cleanser at night, there is still some issues, but very few, during this past weekend I was at the fiance's and trying a more gentle cleanser at night since I didn't want to carry the cleansing oil with me, and my face got angry, very angry, because I was not removing these clogging ingredients from my face fully.  


Cleansing oils have proven superior to this task due to the nature that it practically dissolves and lifts makeup from the pores in my experience.  Hope this helps Smiley Happy

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

Wow, that is really valuable information!  I wonder if my Clinique Take the Day Off Balm counts as an oil this is great, so maybe I won't need to lay off the T.D. forever after all.....I reeeeaaaallly loved that Too Faced Beauty Balm!  Thanks MoreGUn! Smiley Very Happy

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

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

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

Bare Minerals clogs pores like nobody's business, or at least that was my and my friends experience. We all used that line for a good chuck of high school (and some into college) with the same eventual conclusion. I hope it works for you better than us. It is always nice to finish products in your collection. 

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