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I always thought that once I got into my 20s, and surely my 30s, my biggest skin concerns would be wrinkles and aging.  I also thought that since I made it through my teens with little to no acne issues I would never struggle to get clear skin.

So, yeah, I was wrong on both counts.

I can’t pinpoint the exact time it began, but somewhere in my mid-20s I started getting these incredibly large, red, and painful acne spots.  They would appear one at a time, usually on my chin, and were below the surface of my skin.  Not only did the actual pimple last for over a week, but the scar would remain for six months or more.

It took several years for me to finally realize this type of pimple had a name: cystic acne.  At that point I also realized I was far from alone.  Cystic acne is, unfortunately, common in adults.  From all the research I’ve done there doesn’t seem to be a direct cause, or a sure-fire way to get rid of it.

But I could go months without getting a cystic acne spot, so I considered myself pretty fortunate.  That is until about six months ago, when my skin took a turn for the absolute worst.

Just before our wedding in May I began to experience incredibly clogged pores in the areas around my nose and on my chin.  As we got home from Mexico and the wedding, those clogged pores began to turn into acne—both cystic and regular.

I was completely caught off guard.  I had never struggled with more than one or two pimples at a time, and even then, very rarely.  But suddenly my face seemed to be covered in red spots and I had no idea why or what to do.

All of the little tricks I had picked up over the last several years just weren’t working.  I stopped using products, started trying new products, and even stopped taking probiotics in case they were causing the issues.  But nothing changed my skin.

This went on for months.  Now, in October, I finally think I am getting the situation under control, though I can’t exactly pinpoint why.  I have my ideas, and I will share them here, but I’m not 100 percent sure about anything!

I also know this is not a struggle that is unique to me.  So, last week on Instagram I asked all of you to share your acne solutions.  Here is a summary of your results.


Mario Badescu Drying Lotion (multiple recs)

Dermalogica Breakout Control


Neutrogena Clear Pore Cleanser/Mask

Neutrogena Alcohol Free Toner

Neutrogena On-The-Spot Acne Treatment

PCA Intensive Clarity Treatment

Bye Bye Blemish

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting BHA 2% Liquid Exfoliant

Oxy Acne Medication Daily Cleansing Pads

Kate Somerville Anti Bac Clearing Lotion

Murad Body Wash (for back/body acne)

GlamGlow SUPERCLEANSE Clearing Cream-to-Foam Cleanser

Laura Behnke Best Acne Fighting Products



One of you told me of a similar acne struggle that was likely to be caused by an allergy.  This person had been using Bare Minerals products for about five years with no issues, but then began experiencing a high level of stress.  At that point her skin began breaking out.  Eventually she stopped using the Bare Minerals products and the acne problem disappeared.

According to her dermatologist, it is common for people to be allergic to a product but not know it until another factor is added in, like stress.  In my own experience I’ve had products that I used and loved for years suddenly cause irritation.  So, I know that just because something works for you at one point does not mean it always will.

The tricky thing about allergies to individual products is that is so difficult to pinpoint exactly where the problem lies.  Many of us use multiple skincare and makeup products on our faces every day.  The only way to diagnose an allergy is to remove them one by one and wait to see a difference.

Diet and Hydration

Another one of you said diet and hydration has proven to be the key to clear skin.  She now tries to drink at least 100 oz of water per day and has eliminated processed foods and refined flour and sugar.  This has led to clear skin as well as stronger hair and nails.

Diet definitely plays a role in skin health.  A healthy diet is just a good idea in general, but for some people certain foods do trigger acne and other skin issues.  Dairy has been known to be a cause, along with alcohol and eggs, to name a few.

Laura Behnke Best Acne Fighting Products


In terms of products, I realized I had run out of the Skinceuticals Blemish + Age Defense serum right around the time my troubles began, and never replaced it.  I had been using this serum for about five years and swore by it.  But I was using a few other items at the time I ran out and just didn’t think to replace it.

As soon as I added it back into my routine my acne issues seemed to begin to calm down.  When my skin is at its worst I will use it on my problem areas (nose, area around the nose, and chin) twice a day.  But when my skin is pretty clear I’ll use it just once per day or every other day as maintenance.

I have also sworn by Biologique Recherce Lotion P50 for the last three years.  I was continuing to use it throughout all of my issues over the last few months, and while it didn’t seem to be helping a ton, it definitely wasn’t hurting.  When my skin was clear I was only using It every other night.  So, as soon as I brought it back to my daily routine (at night) I think it helped.

This final product didn’t seem to make any difference over the last few months, but I still recommend it because it has been a life saver many times.  It’s the Renee Rouleau Anti-Bump Solution (formerly Anti-Cyst Treatment).  It works wonders and is the only product I have found to make a difference with cystic acne.  If you apply it as soon as you first notice a cystic acne spot appear you may be able to greatly cut down its lifespan.  It doesn’t always work, but I’ve had enough success to make sure I always have this treatment on hand.

I do believe the biggest factor for me has been stress.  Leading up to the wedding I was completely stressed out with all the planning.  But as soon as we returned home I had to deal with the fact that that huge event was over and now I had no excuse but to get my new business up and running.  In many ways I told myself I had to do that overnight, which is impossible.  So, I’ve spent the last few months constantly worried about my level of success as well as my personal finances and the implications of being an entrepreneur.

In addition to all of that, my dad and my husband’s dad were both diagnosed with cancer, and naturally that has weighed on both of us.

When I step back and think about it, this has been the most stressful time of my life.  So, it makes sense that my skin might have a reaction.  I’m now hoping that just realizing this will help.  I am consciously trying to give myself a break and also looking into ways to relieve stress through meditation and reflection.

Do you have any acne solutions that aren’t listed above?  Please share!

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