How I Finally Kicked My Adult Acne Problem

Perseverance, people.

By: Emily Ramshaw

At The Cov we talk about health and beauty on the regular, and we're all pretty vocal about our own issues—what's worked, what's hasn't, our favorite treatments—it goes on. When we're completely lost on something or just really curious (like when should we toss our mascara? Or, does LED light therapy actually work?), we call up the pros and have them break it all down. But we decided it was time to talk to you guys about something, um, a bit more personal. Specifically, the journeys (one self-treated; the other dermatologist guidedstay tuned for part two tomorrow!) that a couple of our editors have taken in order to get a handle on their adult acne issues. If you dealt with it as a teenager, your whole life, or are currently in the midst of your own breakout dilemma, just know that we're right there with you (oh, and we think a good concealer and a red lip really help, too). 

I’ll put it this way: I’ve been dealing with some form of acne, pimples, zits, what have you, for what feels like a very, very long time. When I was age 13, 14, 15, while I might have had it earlier or slightly worse than my friends, at least it was par for the course of teenagehood. But now? I’m 26. And it’s just annoying.

A loose chronology… When I was a somewhat shy and sensitive 14-year-old, packing on the CoverGirl foundation and spot treatment concealer, my doctor-and-nurse parents felt for me and sent me to a dermatologist who tried a couple prescriptions (antibiotics of which I can’t remember the name and an intensive birth control pill call Diane-35) before we finally settled on Acutane. It was a miracle worker. After six months my skin had cleared up almost completely. (As an aside, the drug was no joke—it required monthly blood tests, that I abstain from any alcohol and certain other medications, and cause my skin, eyes and nose to be perpetually cracked and dry).

For the next five to six years, throughout college and into my early twenties, I was pretty well-situated. And I thought it would last forever, until I went off Yaz, the birth control pill I’d been on for many years (for its intended purpose, not for my skin), when reports began to emerge that it caused blood clots. Turns out whatever chemical complex was causing these clots was also keeping my acne at bay. Long story, short: I was now 23 with the same skin I’d been suffering through as a teen—and no parentally appointed derm in sight.

 

Since then, I’ve been stalking drugstore aisles and skincare reviews in the hope that I might find some topical miracle worker. To be clear, my skin isn’t terribly awful—I don’t have cystic acne, nor is my skin totally covered—but I get enough minor breakouts along my jawline, chin and nose that I never go without face makeup; and I’m the type who thinks that less is more when it comes to makeup. Anyway, finding some healing, or, at the very least, helpful measure, has been in the works for a long time. And when Alicia and I first conceived this story, I began, in earnest, trying to solve this endless skin issue myself.

Here’s the thing though, in case you hadn’t caught on already from the no makeup aside, when it comes to beauty and selfcare, I’m relatively lazy. Not, like, direly lazy—I submit to a monthly wax session and shave my legs somewhat regularly—but lazy in the sense that I derive no pleasure or enjoyment to what we (on this site, on the regular might consider) treating oneself. As in, there are many more things I’d rather do with my time than a weekly manicure or face mask. Any extend beauty routine is, frankly, boring to me. I’d rather be watching a movie with my boyfriend or reading a book or doing almost anything other than applying Kate Somerville’s foamy acne mask on a Tuesday night. (You’re probably wondering why I even have this job—trust me, I really, really love fashion; beauty, I’m learning).

Anyway, this here story has forced me into a routine. And, shocker of all shockers, the secret, it seems, is a routine. As in diligent face washing and discipline (like actually taking the time to wash my face when I’m out until the early hours on a Friday). But, I’m here to tell you that, in fact, if you search them out, there are some products that are better than others. How do I know? Because I’ve tried a lot of products. On the drugstore side, Yes to Tomatoes. Their new charcoal cleanser is great. And their toner. And then there are those that cost a little extra $$$$ (but if you’re as frustrated as me, it’s totally worth it): SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense serum (apparently I’m at that odd age that requires action for both problems) is probably the only fast action treatment that doesn’t suck my skin completely dry.

And then there’s Biologique Recherche. I only discovered the brand after closely questioning Vanity Fair’s beauty editor, SunHee Grinell’s, skincare routine. She swore by the brand’s P50 formula. So I set out on a mission and ended up at a salon in North Toronto where the Biologique Recherche technician measured the moisture and oil content (among other things) in my skin with a series of odd looking technical instruments. A week later, my prescribed products showed up. I haven’t used anything else since. And, perhaps because of my disciplined usage, perhaps because the products are truly great, my skin has never been clearer. Sure, after 30 plus hours of plane travel, I get a zit or five, but otherwise, I can actually get away with not wearing a BB cream (my ultimate, lazy girl, no makeup joy). And it feels amazing.

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