Acne can be a very annoying condition and often we can’t pin point a thing that has cause it. It seems to appear out of nowhere (maybe a few unhealthy meals or a stressful period of time) and it goes away slowly and after many efforts. Moreover, acne treatments are complicated, painful and time consuming. If you are undergoing an acne treatment, here are some of my thoughts and experiences about dealing with them.
1. Acne treatments are painful
Yes, acne is painful and acne treatments are even more painful. The first 1-2 weeks when I’ve started my acid and retinoid treatments I thought I would peel my face off. The good news is, your skin gets used to it and you won’t feel uncomfortable with the products you are using after a short while. The key is using gradually increasing amounts of product. I started using a pea sized amount on my cheeks and chin (my acne prone areas) until I got used to the products and after one month I use about 4 times that.
Another thing you could do is applying moisturizer first and after that applying the retinoid or acid when you first start the treatment (your skin absorbs the first product preferentially and a smaller amount of the second one). If you find the sensation unbearable, don’t stop using the product, but rather try using it every other day or every other 2 days. Not being constant will not bring any results and, also, it will not allow your skin to get used to the product.
2. Getting rid of acne takes time
Results don’t happen right away. In my experience, I have started seeing amelioration after about 3 weeks of rigurosly using the products, every morning and evening, as prescribed by my doctor. After about 6 weeks, my skin looks and feels considerably better, although not every imperfection is gone. I will actually come back with an update once I will regain my perfect looking skin to let you know how much it took.
3. Acne is something you have to keep under control
I don’t think acne is something that can be “cured”, but rather something that you keep under control. Hormonal unbalance, a poor diet and stress can really take a toll on your skin and sometimes these are factors that we cannot control. My acne started when I was studying for my residency exam and I was under a lot of stress and this kind of things are inevitable in a normal functioning life. What can we do is try using good products on our skins and try to keep up with a healthy beauty routine in order to keep everything in balance.
4. Learn to exfoliate
One thing I can say I found particularly unpleasant about acne treatments is the dryness it causes. The areas I apply the gels and the creams gets very dry and flaky which looks genuinely bad. I even started thinking I preferred the acne that I could cover up with foundation than the huge flakes of skin that were coming off when I had to participate to events or just simply go out.
What I did to make this a bit better is starting exfoliating very gently. My face is pretty sensitive because of the anti acne products and harsh exfoliators (such as scrubs or some brushes) can do even more damage. Dermatologist recommend chemical exfoliation (if you want to use something like this you should seek advice from a professional in order to choose the right product for you). In my case, I use a very gentle silicon vibrating brush, the Foreo Luna Mini 2 (I have been using it for about 2 weeks now and so far so good, I will come back with a review after a bit more time using it, in order to offer a better opinion on it). What I have noticed is generally better looking skin, a lot less flaky and better looking foundation. Moreover, the acne treatments have been working a bit better after I got rid of the layers of dead skin on top. The products get deeper into the skin and don’t pile over dead skin cells.
5. Your moisturizer is your best friend
Acne treatments are very drying and sensitize the skin quite a bit. Therefore, a very important step in your skincare routine is moisturizing thoroughly, every morning and evening, after applying the treatments. I use my usual moisturizer for sensitive, irritated skin (Uriage Xemose Lait Emolient, which I have been using for about 3-4 years now). Recently, I started mixing it with the “B” Oil from The Ordinary and I am pretty much pleased with the results.
6. Don’t be too aggressive
Being too aggressive with your routine is a common mistake that can cause even more breakouts. My advice is sticking to a few products that you know work well for you and don’t use too many different once. In total, my skin care routine consists of
- La Roche Posay – Effaclar Cleansing Foaming Gel, that I use together with the Foreo Luna Mini 2
- Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Serum from the Ordinary (prescribed by my doctor)
- Azelaic acid (Skinoren, prescribed by my doctor)
- Erythromycin/isotretinoin – I use this once every 3 days in the evening (prescribed by my doctor)
- Uriage – Xemose Lait Emolient + “B” Oil from the Ordinary, 3 pumps combined with 3 drops for moisturizing
- UV filter
- Aztec Secret – Indian Healing Clay, once a week
7. Learn to choose the right UV filter
Using retinoids and acids may cause severe side effects if you expose to UV radiation without proper UV protection. Thus, never forget to use a 50+ UV filter. So far I have tried Vichy, La Roche Posay and Khiel’s. I wasn’t 100% pleased with any of them because they break up my foundation and finish with looking pretty bad throughout the day.
For now, I am using La Roche Posay Anthelios XL and I am getting along with it but I don’t yet feel it is the right product for me. I have also somewhat liked Khiel’s Ultra Light Daily UV Defense (they also have a product in this range designed for acne prone skin, but I haven’t tried it yet).
What I particularly like and what is my go-to product during summer is the UV Protective Liquid Foundation from Shiseido. It has nice coverage and it’s easy to apply. Also, it is very water resistant and it survives during intense workouts. What can I say except that I love it and it works wonders for me.
8. Wear quality make-up products
Choose your make-up wisely. Don’t buy cheap because your skin will suffer. Good quality and higher prices will do the world for your skin. A good foundation will not break you out and will look very nice throughout the day, covering all imperfections.
Look for things labeled as “oil free” and “non comedogenic” and you will notice a big difference in how your make-up looks and feels and, most importantly, how your skin feels after a while.
When I go out I use Estee Lauder – Double Wear Foundation and I think it is a great choice for everyone with oily or acne prone skin. It is in the pricier range, but I saw the difference between drug store and high end on my own skin, literally.
Moreover, you should invest in a good face powder, blush and bronzer. Invest in the products you use on your skin and you will get result in the short run, but in the long run as well.
9. Do more than just the topical treatments
Taking care of your skin is just one part of this process. Changes need to be made in other aspects of your life, too. For me, what works is a good healthy diet and a lot of gym time. Find ways to relax and rationalize what you introduce in your body because everything reflects in how your skin looks.
Try to think about the times you had breakouts, maybe you ate something unhealthy or maybe you were in a lot of stress. As I said before, acne is something you rather keep under control, than cure.
10. Always seek advice from a dermatologist! and follow up on your progress
Acne is a condition that can be properly managed with the help of a professional. I also sought advice from a doctor in how to deal with it and I encourage everyone to do as well. They have the knowledge and experience to advise you and personalize your treatment.
A very important step is to follow up and ask all the questions that might come up during your treatment plan. If you feel the side effects are too severe or if you think the routine is not working, don’t stop everything all together, but rather address your doctor to make adjustments together.