Musings on Acne

Hi everybody,

Sometimes I wonder why I still talk about acne. At my age, I’m officially too old for acne but still young for wrinkles. Acne is anything but glamorous. When the acne fairy comes, she brings some zits. And when she’s gone, she leaves some scars. I believe the scars are worse than the zits as they take longer to fade.

Since the tender age of 12, I got acne and with the exception of one or two years with blemish-free skin, there seems to be some zits on my face. I went through the whole circle of denial to acceptance and finally, I have to come to the fact that it may take a long time for my zits to go. Therefore, I have to find a way to live with acne.

The cover of Free Gift with Purchase by Jean Godfrey June

Reading “Free Gifts with Purchase” by Jean Godfrey-June gives me some perspectives. In this book, Ms. Godfrey-June shared three ways that may help acne sufferers: go to a dermatologist, have a regimen, and be compliance. Believe it or not, I’ve tried all three and so far the last two works.

1. Dermatologist:

When I was back home, I got free access to a dermatologist who’s a relative. She prescribed me antibiotics and later, Differin to reduce the amount of zits on my face. Antibiotics worked to a certain extend but I had to take it for about 3 months or so. The side effect was my menstrual cycle went kaput during the time I took the drug. It’s a rare side effect but it happened to me. Differin, on the other hand, worked very well but it was drying. As it is a retinoid, Differin sheds skin cells on my face and after a while, my skin became thin. I was lucky not to get sunburn at the time.

In my opinion, having a dermatologist helps to a certain extend. However, if you do not press them, they do not tell you what to do to maintain clear skin. (And why should they when they can make money with you coming back to their office?) Therefore, learning the causes of acne (bacteria, dead skin cells, and sebum) is the way to keep your skin clear.

2. Regimen:

Talking about regimen, the original acne regimen that everybody knows is ProActiv. One of my aunts felt so bad for my face that she ordered some kits of ProActiv for me (I didn’t have credit cards at that time.) The active ingredient in ProActiv is benzoyl peroxide, one of the two popular over-the-counter anti-acne ingredients. At the time ProActiv came to market, every OTC acne meds were jacked up with high concentration of active ingredients (10% benzoyl peroxide) but research showed at 2%, benzoyl peroxide works as well as at 10%. ProActiv worked, and it worked fast! After 3 days, the zits on my face subsided and the result was so noticeable that my cousins even recognized. However, like many other anti-acne meds, ProActiv is drying and benzoyl peroxide can accelerate aging process by break down materials to create free radicals. I stopped because I did not see a lot of improvements after some months of use. Also, my supply got dried up and I could not order any more ProActiv kits.

3. Compliance:

In her book, Jean Godfrey-June wrote, “You don’t cure acne; you just vigilantly, constantly, remove the bacteria that cause it. For that reason, pick a regimen with the fewest steps possible, so you’re more likely to stick with it. Seventeen steps every night is a sure route to failure, not to mention wild expenditure.”

Very well said, sister! After some years of denial (and heavy foundation application), I decided to face the truth that unless I care for my face, it’s not going to get any better. Also, the future of struggling with wrinkles while tending some zits is not cute. While my skin behaves well during the wintertime, when summer comes and the temperature rises, my skin is another different animal. During the time I got sick, I neglected my skin. With the added heat and humidity in the air, the zits came to pay a visit (and I could not believe it!) So, for the last week or so, I’ve been very diligent in washing my face and applying my acne med.

Here is my routine:

Wash my face with Neutrogena Deep Clean facial cleanser: it’s not an anti-acne cleanser but has a trivial amount of salicylic acid. This cleanser is affordable ($5-6 USD) and does not dry out my face. Yeah, I replaced my faithful Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser since my skin is oilier in summer.

For daytime, I use Olay Complete moisturizer for sensitive skin and Avon Hydrofirming eye cream. These are dirt-cheap products that provide enough moisture. I do not use cream with salicylic acid in the AM as (a) I find out once a day is enough for my face; (b) I tend to get sunburn when I use salicylic acid, even when using it with sunscreen.

For nighttime, after removing makeup and washing my face, I do not just apply acne treatment cream, I SLATHER it all over my face. Yeah, no kidding! Slather, not apply a thin layer. The later is kids’ game and a waste of time. To see the zits shrink, go ahead and cake on your salicylic acid, kids!

I love Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Stress Control 3-in-1 Hydrating Acne Treatment. This stuff is gold: it does not dry my skin, smells like cucumber, hydrates my skin so I do not need an extra moisturizer, and shrink the zits fast. Also, it’s cheap and won some couple of awards here and there. In fact, it’s the only acne treatment I’ve found not to dry out my skin like Sahara desert. I also use the same eye cream for the PM and pray to God that Avon does not discontinue this stuff in the future. It’s really good (and did I mention cheap?)

So, boys and girls, the lesson learned here is you can have clear skin, even when you’re not genetically blessed that way. It is attainable as long as you have a regimen that works and be vigilant with it. I learned my lesson: now, even when I’m petered out, I have to at least wash my face at night. (Applying the med usually comes as the result of having a clean face.)

If you’re living with acne like I do, I wish you a future with clear skin. It’s up to you to use either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, as one may work better than the other. Once you find your routine, please stick with it as this is the key to maintain blemish-free skin.

Take care and as always, stay gorgeous!


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