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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!

Great thread! I don't have to much to offer but here is what I have:

1) My clarisonic has helped a great deal clearing pores to prevent acne and I am going to get the brush heads specially made for acne.

2) When a pimple gets inflamed I like to wrap an ice cube in a paper towel and apply it to the spot

3) I agree with @makeupmaven what you eat plays a big part in how your skin looks. Antioxidants are good so foods like, leafy greens, dark berries and green tea.

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

I just stumbled upon this thread, and I'm really glad I did!  I'm 29 and have been battling oily skin and acne since I was in 4th grade.  My first memories were of Sea Breeze and Stridex pads (I'm sure they're formulated differently now).  I think I've finally reached a point of successfully conquering my oily face (it will still get oily for sure, but I'm no longer conscious of feeling my face by noon- those with oily skin know what I mean).  As for the acne, the journey and interesting occurrences continue.  Last November, I got a Paraguard IUD (non hormonal), in the hopes it would improve my acne.  Actually it made it much worse, and made me realize that acne that is predominantly on the chin, jawline, and neck is most definitely hormone related (and my dermatologist confirmed this).  For some people, not having the extra hormonal component can make acne better and for some (like me) it makes it worse.  I developed huge, cystic acne on my jaw line.  So a couple months ago, I went back on the pill and noticed some improvement but not completely.  I still have the copper IUD, so that may be contributing to the problem, but if it is I don't know how it could be (and doctors and science don't know either).  In any case, I also started taking an oral antibiotic (Doxycycline) a couple weeks ago, and I've noticed continued improvement (no new cysts or significant acne- just remnants of the old stuff).  


So to summarize, here are my conclusions from this most recent 6 month cystic acne episode- hormonal birth control helps keep severe acne at bay for me, and Doxy has been effective at clearing up the cysts (I've also been using Aczone and Tazorac for some time now, which are effective for clearing up/preventing acne and oil). 


Some other thoughts-

-  I got a Clarisonic last October and I think it's ok.  I think it has improved the texture of my skin somewhat and lessened oil production, and possibly makes pores less noticeable.  The key I think is moderation, so that it continues to be somewhat novel (when I first started using it, it was really great, and now that effect has lessened).

-  I think oils can be really beneficial (although somewhat counterintuitive!).  I've used the Nude ProGenius oil, and it's really great for making my skin more smooth and less flaky.  Basically it balances my skin, because all the spot treatments and acne treatments can really dry out portions of the skin, and they can also cause the skin to produce more oil.



-  Have you found an effective treatment for clogged pores?

-  How do you know when too many products or too much of a product is too much?  I realize that question may be next to impossible to answer since each person is different.  But for example, this is what I use (am I using too many products?)- 

             -  Morning- Aczone, serum, a little bit of moisturizer, primer, foundation, concealer, powder

             -  Evening- Aczone, oil (or pore refiner), moisturizer/night cream, Tazorac

-  This may be a dumb question- is using a moisturizer or foundation (or primer) with SPF just as good as using a designated sunscreen?  I haven't really used 'sunscreen' on my face in a long time since it usually just makes my face oily, and since my moisturizer or foundation has SPF I figured that was good.  But now I'm wondering if there are secret benefits to using a specific, designated sunscreen?

-  What about professional chemical peels?  I have yet to try them.


-  I'm going to look through all my products at the ingredients, since I haven't really considered ingredients as being a potential issue.  

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

Hey Feline5190 Smiley Happy


It's possible the reason your Doxycycline is clearing up your acne is because Doxycyline (and some other antibiotics) lower the amount of estrogen in your body. It may be estrogen that is causing your acne. Does your birth control contain estrogen or does it only have progesterone?

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

The birth control pill that I take is Apri (Desogen) which has both estrogen and progesterone.  So since my acne is better when I'm taking it, I guess I need both estrogen & progesterone to combat my acne somewhat.  

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

hi feline5190,


glad you found my thread!  sounds like we've had very widely varying approaches of trying to solve our respective acne problems! and "interesting occurences" is a hilarious way to word things.  I'll try to answer your questions.


- Have you found an effective treatment for clogged pores?

Well, all the research says that benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are the two ingredients capable of penetrating into the pores.  And it really depends on what type of blemish you're dealing with.  I found for the tiny bumps under my skin that result from clogged pores, that glycolic acid worked the best in getting rid of them.  Other people swear by salicylic acid.  For huge cystic inflamed acne I need higher concentrations of benzoyl peroxide or even sulfer as a spot treatment.


What I've been trying to do with this thread is get to the bottom of WHY my pores are clogging in the first place.  It's really slow going though and takes a LOT of trial and error.

- How do you know when too many products or too much of a product is too much?

Yeah, it's going to be different for each person.  Back when dry skin was a much bigger problem for me than acne, I could layer tons and tons of stuff on my face and not worry about it.  These days not only am I putting fewer layers on, but have to make sure the products are formulated for oily skin, not dry skin.  I'd say test it out after your evening skincare routine.  If your face is still sticky after, say, half an hour, then I would look at scaling something back in your routine because something is not getting absorbed into your skin and is just sitting on top, clogging your pores.  I feel like going to bed frequently with a sticky face led to more clogged pores, especially since I'm a side sleeper.


- This may be a dumb question- is using a moisturizer or foundation (or primer) with SPF just as good as using a designated sunscreen? I

I'd say yes, and in some cases it's even better since you're adding just one layer rather than two.  The thing to check for is whether the moisturizer has a high enough SPF.  I think that's the preferred way to go, since a moisturizer with SPF may contain interesting ingredients like antioxidants, ceramides, retinol, etc, you are not likely to find a sunscreen that has all those good-for-skin ingredients.  I typically do not depend on foundation for sun protection, since I don't usually slather on enough foundation for the sun protection to actually reach the SPF on the label.


- What about professional chemical peels? I have yet to try them.

I haven't tried these either, but I do think they would go a long way towards really getting your skin a lot brighter and more acne-free. I just sort of prefer at-home methods rather than forking $$$$ over to a stranger who doesn't know my medical history, but I do think I'm likely to try it some day.


edit to add: I'm not sure but I think primer and foundation is likely to contribute to clogged pores.  Unfortunately I have to use them when I go to work to cover up the damage from all my other clogged pores!  Kind of a vicious cycle.  I'm trying to use only powder foundations to see if that helps any.

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

That would be good to know about the why- why your pores are clogging in the first place.  But do you think you'll be able to stop the clogging with products?  Have you found any products that seem to act as a preventative (or products that you think may be causing the problem)?  I'm thinking the root of the problem may be genetics, hormones, stress...and maybe the only way to treat (or maybe prevent) would be with stronger things- oral meds or prescription topicals.  That's been my experience at least- with big problems you need to take prescription medications.  But maybe there are effective products out there too that can prevent, treat, and can problems at bay.

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

Well, the big no-no for me seems to be anything containing large amounts of titanium dioxide (see older posts in this thread for details).  The huge cysts I used to get stopped after I ditched my sunscreens and foundations containing TD as an active sunscreen ingredient.  For stopping clogged pores, I don't really know that any product can really help with that.  In general daily use of benzoyl peroxide and/or salicylic acid works to clear out clogs before they can become huge flareups, but the pores are still getting clogged.

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

@drrragon, this is really interesting (lots of great advice and I'm glad you're starting to see an improvement). Just curious (not meaning to pry), have you made any changes to your diet or can you describe your typical meals (what you look for/ avoid/ supplement with, etc)? I've never suffered from acne, but I am a firm believer that what we eat can really contribute to the health of our skin (since we are literally made up of what we eat). I make a smoothie every day which includes spirulina and coconut oil (and also take a supplement which includes a perfect balance of essential fatty acids), all of which promote healthy skin.


Thanks again for sharing your experiences/ trial and error with us!

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

I'm also a firm believer that good nutrition plays a huge role in general, overall well-being.  I try to eat really healthy, and I definitely notice how it impacts my energy, mental state, and overall physical well-being.  Although, I'm doubtful that nutrition plays a significant role in acne.  I think good nutrition can promote healthy skin and hair, but I think the causes of acne and oily skin specifically, are ultimately rooted in other things- hormones, stress, genetics, etc.


Coconut oil is really great.  I use it for baking and such.  I also started using it as an experimental topical treatment on my cat, since he has a weird itchy dermatitis that is only localized to the bottoms of his back feet (I'm a vet).  I just started using it, so I can't be sure if there is improvement yet.

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

how cool that we have a vet on BT! Smiley Very Happy

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

hi makeupmaven,  thanks for your comments!  my diet has been pretty much the same for years and hasn't changed.  I'm an omnivore and not particularly picky about organic, vegetarian, or whatever.  However, it's definitely possible I have some hormonal changes going on, as I saw a doctor a month ago who prescribed me medication for hypothyroidism.  we'll see how that goes....

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

My friend broke out from her hypothyroidism medication during the first month, but it went away...guess her skin got used to it.

Its definitely a possibility

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

hopefully that's the case for me as well!

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!


Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

I had a lot of success with the Kate Somerville toner also. When I ran out I decided to try the OH pick me up tonic and cannot wait to finish it off so I can go back to Kate Somerville. 

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

Hi dannyc, what did you like most about that toner?

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

It's non drying, is alcohol free, has witch hazel to help those hormonal breakouts, and I saw my post acne marks healing a lot quicker. It didn't leave my skin feeling tight, and did a good job at removing any left over traces of makeup. I was thinking of getting the FAB pads for post workout sweat clean-up, but @triciaann12 reminded me how much I loved the Kate Summerville toner, I might just use that instead of a pad that's overly drying. 

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

Wow it's helped get rid of sun spots for you?  I'll check it out for sure!  I think for the hot and humid summer season I'll be looking for something like that.  I think toners with interesting ingredients are great since they still add good stuff to your skin, but without the extra emollients or creaminess that makes oily-skin people cringe.    boohoo on not using my free money though, lol.

Re: Acne Investigation Diary!


Re: Acne Investigation Diary!

@trrriciaann -- i didn't know what you meant by "skin tag" at first and was visualizing a tattoo or something! LOL!

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