One of the many unsightly side effects of my recovery from anorexia didn’t make itself known until post weight-gain, about six months ago to be exact. My crazed hormones gifted me with an orgy of adult acne nestled upon my chin area, not unlike the mogul run at your favorite ski resort–if said run was sprinkled with garish red marks. Because trying to deal with the newfound lumps of my body [curves or whatever] was not enough, I was now also facing some bodily bumps that were actually disgusting. Life really knows how to kick your confidence when it’s down, am I right?
I tried every trick in the book–the book being Google, and every friend I could think to ask. Antibiotics prescribed by my doctor helped a little bit, but it was brief, and soon enough the bacterial bulbs were back in action, challenging everyone in my vicinity to a staring contest [or, at least, that’s how it felt]. I found solace for my seriously first-world struggle in making fun of myself, but while I laughed, I was really just bumming hard on the inside. I hated myself for caring and, yet, I couldn’t seem to shake it. As I’ve often been told, “everybody has shit in their lives, and just because someone else’s is worse doesn’t mean yours doesn’t really suck for you.” Of course, the worse it got, the more I seemed to be surrounded by ladies n’ gents with spotless skin, their poreless faces mocking me with their apparent perfection.
Though I’ve gotten the occasional pimple since hitting puberty, I never had an acne flare-up quite like this. “Why now?” I had to wonder, wishing that it had happened in middle or high school, when most everyone else was struggling with it too. Time apparently was not on my side, which was made clear by the fact that the skin shit-uation increased tenfold the night before I left to see a lover-slash-friend this summer. Panicked, I texted friends, my mother, and my therapist in the security line at the airport – “It looks like my face is moonlighting as the Grand Canyon!” I cried, “I might as well just turn around, drift into an eternal seep, and give up on romance forever.” Dramatic? Not I.
But eventually, I found a regimen that worked for me, and having a newfound empathy for those who are plagued by pimpalia (file under: new word) I feel it is my duty to share it. I am, of course, no expert (though I have a PHD in virtually everything else on the planet—just ask my parents), and everyone’s skin is different. That said, none of my suggestions are very extreme (no Accutane here—gotta keep the ovaries in check) and most of the advice I’m bestowing on you has been gifted to me via pros in derm offices and at popular spas. So without further adieu, here is my preferred placate-zee-pimples action plan, because Adam Levine (the new face of those never-ending Proactiv commercials) doesn’t know shit.
Note: If you want to get really real and decide if any of this is right for you, I mostly dealt with the large, painful type and clogged pores around the schnoz, rather than, say, a smattering of medium sized gems. If some of this stuff seems too pricey, I’m here to tell you it pays off (and no I am not sponsored).
- Invest in a Clarisonic and use it once a day, but avoid it over heavy breakouts or large pimples. It will only make those worse, but will be preventative in other places. I know they say you can use any face wash with it, but I’ve found the Clarisonic brand’s Acne Daily Clarifying Cleanser to be best.
- Get a good facial. I avoided them for years after I found that the last one I had seemed to make me break out more. It might have that effect for the first few days, but then your skin really cleans up. None of my advice will work very well for you if you don’t have a professional squeeze all that latent gunk out of your handsome lil’ face. I recommend the Bliss Spa No ‘Zit’ Sherlock for your first time, and then the Mini-Microdermabrasion for any time after that. Microderm doesn’t hurt, it feels like someone is very gently sandpapering your face—but in a good way?
- When you’re not using the Clarisonic, wash your face first with Exuviance Gentle Cleansing Crème, which is the best I’ve found for taking off any and all make-up. Follow that up with Laboratoire Remede’s Matte Therapy Cleansing Gelee—rub it around your face in circles until it dissolves into a skim-milk-like consistency. Be sure to use these both right after exercising, too.
- Moisturize, even over breakouts! This was a hard one for me to believe in, because I always felt that creamy or oily-seeming products would just make pimples worse, so I avoided those areas. Not so! It is one of the best things I’ve done for my skin. I use three different moisturizers on rotation: Avene Eau Thermale Clean-Ac Crème on the driest, never-get-pimples-there areas, Kiehl’s Rare Earth Pore Minimizing Lotion on my nose and chin (where pores get clogged most), and SkinMedica Ultra Sheer Moisturizer as my go-to for the entire face.
- Oils are bueno for dry patches, and generally just great for your skin. I am partial to pure Vitamin E oil (it has a thicker consistency) which can be found at any drug or health food store, and Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse, which I have a tiny bottle of that has lasted me forever because I use it sparingly. It smells great and I tend to put it on my forehead and neck.
- When I do get a pimple or merely feel one coming on (which I’m happy to say is a rarity now!) I swear by Aczone, a product given to me by my dermatologist. It was apparently used to treat malaria or something totally random, and they found that it works really well for acne. I have never before had a topical product that was so reliable and consistent in clearing up my skin—it works great even on those deep, cystic babies. For the more minimal breakouts, I turn to Kiehl’s Acne Blemish Control Daily Skin-Clearing Treatment. I don’t use either of these products daily, only when really necessary.
- But the best tip that I’ve been given is to use the following three products: Dr. Dennis Gross Original Formula Alpha Beta Peels, which are comprised of two different face wipes that you use in tandem. I use them every other day, and though they are supposedly great for anti-aging (not one of my issues just yet) they also work to clear up acne-laden skin and large pores. Afterwards I switch between using two SkinCeuticals products—they come in dropper bottles and I just use a few droplets and clean fingers to apply. C+AHA is their exfoliating antioxidant treatment, which will sting at first. I usually put it on in the AM but if my skin feels extra sensitive that day I avoid it. Their Phyto Corrective Gel is much gentler and considered a complexion-calming product, it is bright green but absorbs into your skin immediately. I usually put in on before bed.
- Extras: I use Murad’s Clarifying Toner a few times a week and Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal mask about once a month, especially if I’m not getting a facial (because I can’t afford them as often as I’d like!) For the latter, make sure to keep it on until it’s very dry and tight before washing it off. Moisturize immediately afterwards.
So yeah, it’s not exactly a bohemian wash-and-go regimen, but I’ve found the time it takes to be totally worth it. If you need some extra motivation, blast Beyonce’s “Pretty Hurts” and let her commiserate. But most importantly, try not to let your occasional pimply pals get the best of you–have you ever truly judged someone for having one, or five? Here’s to hoping that answer is no. In reality, we seem to expect people to treat us way worse than we treat them. I have caps-locked FAITH that with a combination of confidence and the above tips in your arsenal, you will be able to make facial bacteria your bitch in 2014.