Last week, I published a review of scar treatments I've tried. Today I will be reviewing acne treatments I've tried. Whether it's stress-induced, hormone-related, a side effect of steroids, or an unknown cause, acne has been a part of my journey with chronic illness. Yes, I struggled with some acne since I was in grade 5, but it got much worse when I became sick.
Since I've been struggling with acne for more than half of my life, I've spent far too much money trying every product in the drugstore, every prescription cream my doctor has prescribed, many diet changes, naturopathic and homeopathic remedies, natural products, and DIY products. At this point in my journey, I cannot easily find a DIY recipe on Pinterest that I have not tried multiple times.
Although I prefer only using natural products on my skin/hair/nails, I became desperate when I was bedridden and developed cystic acne on my shoulders, arms, chest, back, and face. I not only felt awful, I now thought I looked awful, and that combination is detrimental for one's self-esteem. The cystic acne I'm referring to ended up being a symptom of a hyperactive thyroid tumour I was later diagnosed with. I tried every natural remedy I could find but nothing worked. No diet, no supplement, nothing. I ended up on Accutane despite not feeling confident with that decision, but I'm glad I did. I was on a small dose for around 5 months which took away all the cystic acne I had (that hasn't come back since). However, due to side effects I experienced on Accutane, I didn't want to stay on it for as long as my dermatologist recommended. If I were to have stayed on it, I do believe my facial acne I still experience would have cleared up, but I've thankfully found other things that have helped with that.
As I'm writing this, my skin is better than ever before since developing chronic illness. I was a bridesmaid for a wedding this year and decided around March to start being more proactive in terms of skincare. These are my experiences..
*Acne is a complex condition. If there was one simple cure for it, no one would have acne. So remember that just because they worked for me, doesn't mean they'll work for you. Try at your own risk.*
1. Blue-light therapy. This has been a recent and life-changing discovery for me. I've put this treatment as the first point on my list because it's been the most effective (with the least amount of side effects) for me. However, I tried all the treatment options below first (and have continued with all but Accutane). I went to a skincare clinic in hopes of clearing up my scars on my arms and left with a package of 10 Blue-light therapy treatments. I originally wanted to try one, which was $50, but the clinic sells a package of 10 for $200 which was a way better deal. Each session lasts around 30 minutes and involves sitting in front of a light with goggles on. After my 2nd session I started noticing improvements and by the 4th I barely had any acne at all. I recommend downloading a podcast on your phone before going because sitting still for 30 minutes can be boring otherwise. Near the last 10 minutes, my skin sometimes starts to sting a little bit but there is no downtime and I experienced no other side-effects.
Blue light therapy ultimately kills acne bacteria. The cons: few studies have found lasting benefits. So it'll work as long as you continue it. I'm hoping that clearing up my skin once (it's the first time I only have 1 zit in my life) will help the spread of the acne bacteria (picking at your skin can spread the bacteria around and cause more acne to form), and that treating my hormonal issues will help it to develop again. However, even if I find that my acne comes back, going even as little as once a month for 10 months (almost a year) to get some relief for only $200 is far cheaper than how much I usually spend on products. I just finished my last session of my package yesterday so we'll see how well I do without it (I'll update on my Instagram).
2. Eliminating dairy, processed sugar, and gluten. All my skin issues flare if I have a weekend where I ended up eating gluten, dairy, or processed sugar at social events more than once. Unfortunately, I haven't had the same life-altering effects that some have by eliminating gluten and dairy, in which their skin has completely cleared up. However, staying away from dairy and gluten has been an important part of my skincare regimen.
3. Eliminating food sensitivities. My skin has genuinely improved since eating an anti-inflammatory diet that avoids certain food sensitivities I've had because of MCAD. I've recently learned that MCAD issue can also flare acne. To test that theory, I took some extra MCAD meds and they did mildly improve my symptoms. However, I've heard people have better luck with creams aimed at treating this. Avoiding my food sensitivities has helped, but it's definitely not been enough.
4. Exfoliating on a daily basis. I use an exfoliation glove with any natural cleanser I own at the time (I try new skincare products on a frequent basis). SPUD groceries sells these bamboo exfoliating gloves. I put them in the dishwasher to disinfect them every once in a while (I use 100% natural dishwasher detergent).
5. Microneedling weekly. Last week I shared my love for Gin Amber Beauty's quality microneedling tools. I originally bought a cheap 0.5mm dermaroller from Amazon for my face. I also used it on my acne scars on my shoulders a couple times with no success. I was ready to give up when I came across a YouTube video explaining how the quality and depth of the needles on a dermaroller makes a huge difference. This YouTuber personally recommended Gin Amber Beauty products and she wasn't sponsored by them.
I ended up getting a 1.0m dermaroller for acne scars (on my shoulders) from Gin Amber Beauty but continue to use my original 0.5mm dermaroller from Amazon on my face. Gin Amber Beauty has a 0.25mm dermaroller designed to help your skin absorb the products you use, and a 0.5mm dermaroler for wrinkles. I have had a lot of success with my 0.5mm dermaroller from Amazon, but since the needles on my Gin Amber dermaroller are of higher quality, if you're getting one from them you might want to start off with 0.25mm.
I use my dermaroller once a week and make sure to disinfect it with alcohol between uses. I will use it with my Organic Rosehip oil.
6. Using this ice roller. Ice rollers help reduce skin irritation, redness, and inflammation. On days I dry brush or microneedle, later on once the product has been absorbed, I will use this product to reduce the redness. It helps a lot! I make sure to clean it with alcohol frequently because if I'm using it on a day that I've done microneedling, I technically have open wounds and do not want to risk infection.
7. Vitamins and supplements. I have tried many vitamins and supplements to help treat my skin. The ones that have helped a bit, and I have stayed on, are: Biotin, Collagen, "Vitamin Code's" Raw Prenatal vitamin (the POTS Biofeedback Treatment Centre in Dallas, Texas recommended this prenatal for my general health), and Candida supplements (I take every couple months).
8. DIY acne toner. There are two different acne toners I use. The first is pictured above. I use basil essential oil instead of tea tree oil because tea tree oil isn't safe for dogs. I don't want to put something on my face that isn't safe for my pup who's constantly cuddling up near my face. Basil essential oil is also great for acne. I also have a DIY toner I made with raw apple cider vinegar ("with the 'mother'"), distilled water, and frankincense oil. This second DIY toner burns a lot more than the first, but both are equally effective for me. I find that I have to switch up my skincare routine frequently so my skin doesn't get used to a certain product. So I switch back from one toner to the other. I usually apply toner after exfoliating and before moisturizing.
9. Basil roller blend. I also add basil essential oil and fractioned coconut oil to a roller bottle and apply as-needed throughout the day. I even keep a roller bottle of this in my car and apply when a new zit appears which helps me stop it in its tracks.
10. DIY acne gel. I make my own acne gel with aloe vera gel, which in and of itself can be great for acne, and tea tree oil. I know I said above that I don't like using tea tree oil, but I'm okay with applying it to a couple zits (as opposed to washing my whole face with it). I've found this to be one of the most effective DIY acne products I've tried.
11. Exfoliating with baking soda. Every once in a while I put baking soda, distilled water, and lemon juice in a container and exfoliate my skin with it. It brightens my skin and does help with acne, but it burnnns. I find that all of these DIY recipes work equally as well (in that they provide mild-to-moderate relief), but my skin gets used to a product easily so I mix them up when that happens.
12. DIY clay masks. I put green bentonite clay, distilled water, and an essential oil in a bowl and apply it around once a month.
13. DIY activated charcoal masks. I put activated charcoal, frankincense oil, and distilled water in a bowl and apply it to my skin. Activated charcoal has a brightening effect (I also use it on my teeth).
14. Moisturizing with coconut oil or Organic Rosehip oil. My skin used to be really oily so I would have never put an oil on my skin, but nowadays it's both oily and somehow dry from all the products I use. I switch back and forth from moisturizing with coconut oil to Organic Rosehip oil and I find both to be really effective.
15. Accutane. Like I said above, I was on Accutane for around 5 months when I couldn't take any more huge, cystic acne. I surprisingly didn't have any side effects on the smallest dose of Accutane, which is amazing considering most medications I've tried have hospitalized me in the beginning. However, I didn't experience any benefit until my dermatologist increased the dose. I felt a bit off but since my cystic acne still wasn't clearing up, my dermatologist increased the dose once more. That's when the side-effects came in full-swing. I stopped because it made me too emotional- my mental health couldn't handle that. However, I also developed an (TMI!!) anal fissure which is apparently common. I wish I could have handled staying on it for longer, because the people I know who did still don't have skin issues years later, but I also hated that I was putting my body on such a harsh medication. However, Accutane is the only solution for some people with extreme cystic acne, including myself.
16. Stop picking your skin! If you're anything like me, you have a bad habit of picking your skin. Dermatologists recommend against popping pimples, but #cantstopwontstop. I have a whitehead remover tool that is disgustingly satisfying, but helps to prevent scars and bleeding. I have a tool from Winners that has a whitehead remover on one side, and a blackhead remover on the other side. The bestselling acne extraction toolkit I've found on Amazon is this one. Make sure you do your research before using tools like this so you don't cause more harm than good!
17. Frank Body "Original" coffee and coconut oil scrub ($16.99 Canadian). I love this product because it makes my skin feel so good, completely erased the stretch marks on my boobs (after thyroid weight gain), and helps with acne. It's really messy so I don't use it often, but I will before an event. It has all natural ingredients and I've tried to make my own DIY version of this product (with almost identical ingredients) but it wasn't nearly as effective. If you want to see some great before-and-after pictures for acne results, I'd recommend visiting Frank Body's Instagram page specifically created to show the results of this product.
18. Zo Medical products. 2 products recommended by a dermatologist specifically for my hyperpigmentation on my arms and face are "Zo Medical by Zein OBAGI MD's "Melamix Skin Lightener & Blending Creme" which I put on first (every 2nd day) and "Brightenex Skin Brightener & Correcting Creme." The dermatologist also recommended Zo Medical's acne pads but I find they don't work much more effectively than Oxypads that you can find at a drugstore for a fraction of the cost.
19. Dark Angels and Ocean Salt scrubs from Lush. I love both of these. Ocean salt stings and I use it more on my keratosis pilaris, but it's a really powerful exfoliator.
20. Being picky with makeup brands. I used to use an all-natural powder, and sometimes even made my own, before my acne started flaring. Every type of foundation would clog my pores (even with a primer or pore minimizer to provide a protective layer between my skin and the foundation) and flare my acne. That is, until I discovered Clinique's acne solutions liquid makeup. It's on the pricier side than what I was originally used to, but it lasts a long time and is cheaper than buying more acne products to combat the side-effects of other makeup. I still hope to find an effective natural solution, but in the meantime, Clinique's foundation is the only foundation that not only doesn't cause more acne, but has ingredients that fight acne.
Do you have an acne remedy you swear by? Share it in the comment section below!