In March 2017 I had full blown adult acne. Sounds crazy but I was more fascinated and humbled than anything. I thought, “Man, so this is what it feels like.” “Feels like” is what came to mind rather than “looks like” because this wasn’t about my looks. The initial shock and struggle to find a remedy for my acne was more overwhelming than anything. I feared that the discomfort of the cystic acne would never go away but I made an effort to still go out and live my life. I’m humbled to have gone through this because it truly tested my patience and resilience. Unless you’ve gone through it, you don’t understand the emotional rollercoaster one feels when dealing with acne.
To take you back a bit, I started wearing foundation when I was only 13 years old because I believed my skin looked better with it. The nuns at my catholic school would make me wash my face and would take away my lip-gloss, which I’m still waiting to get back. I would beg my mom to let me stay home from school when I had a pimple… literally just one. I visited my dermatologist at least once a month and was notorious for begging the staff to squeeze me into the doctor’s schedule due to an emergency (the emergency being I had more than one zit.) If you were to tell me then that one day I’d be sharing photos of myself without makeup I’d say you were crazy. It wasn’t until college that I found my self-worth and confidence to feel comfortable in my own pale (but beautiful) skin… with or without makeup.
The adult acne had me intrigued because for years I’ve taken great care of my skin, washing my face before bed and after workouts, wearing SPF every day and investing in the right skincare products for my skin type. Additionally, I eat SUPER clean. I follow a pescitarian diet and try to avoid gluten, dairy and soy when possible. The biggest irony of all was the fact that I was working at a skincare company of all places. At events I would be promoting products that helped fight breakouts, meanwhile the left side of my face was full of white heads and cystic acne. I wouldn’t see any improvement after countless expensive facials, reassuring me that there was a deeper problem I needed to face. Needless to say, my fascination turned into frustration when my acne lasted for 7 months, some months worse than others.
During this time I tried various prescription topical creams and followed my dermatologist’s orders but my gut kept telling me this was an internal and/or environmental issue. I was living in a new state that had different weather, water, air quality and food. Internally, I was having a tough time living far away from my closest friends and family. The change and stress on my body must’ve been at an all time high. I knew my body was crying out for help, not a quick fix.
Fast forward to today and my skin is clear… not perfect, but free of acne. It’s unclear what exactly cleared up my skin but I believe it was a combination of things. Originally I considered breaking down my anti-acne skincare regimen for you so you could clear your breakouts too. I pictured this post to include a list of the creams and gels my dermatologist gave me, as well as the serums and oils I use regularly. But those creams and gels that worked for me most likely won’t work for you. Hell, what’s working for me now probably won’t in 5-10 years because our bodies and hormones are continuously changing as we age. I will tell you that I started to see a true difference in my skin when I made simple changes to my overall lifestyle and mindset. This experience taught me that if you want to heal something like acne you have to heal other areas in your life first. Here’s some easy changes I made during my acne journey.
SLEEP: There’s a reason why it’s called beauty sleep! When we’re sleep deprived we make more of the stress hormone cortisol, causing inflammation in our body that affects our skin. Lack of sleep also changes the moisture levels in our skin, making our face look more dry, red, uneven and ultimately more prone to breakouts. I’ve had insomnia most of my life but at this time I wasn’t even trying to practice a healthy sleep cycle. I began to see a difference in my body, mood and skin when I cut out caffeine at 3pm and turned my iPhone on airplane mode at 9pm. Do I still toss and turn some nights? Absolutely. ESPECIALLY during the time of the month when I’m pmsing. However, making a conscious effort to break bad habits that catered to my insomnia made me feel more in charge of my mind and body. Sweeter dreams made me feel more in control when my skin looked like a nightmare.
Today, I drink Reishi tea which tastes like coffee and helps me fall asleep faster and feel more relaxed. I buy the tea at Whole Foods and love mixing it into warm almond milk at night. I’m also obsessed with Sunday Scaries CBD gummies. The gummies help relieve anxiety and tension, basically it’s my healthy candy Xanax J Lastly, I’ve been using an eye mask for years now to block out light… it’s the first thing I pack when I’m spending a night at a friend’s or traveling. I now wash my mask more frequently, as well as my pillow case.
DIGITAL DETOX: In addition to turning my phone on airplane mode in the evening, I tried staying off social media as much as possible. On bad days I would log out of my personal Instagram BUT if I wanted to indulge in some Insta stalking I would only look at those who had a healthy, positive and relatable feed.
I admire how Bachelor babes Bekah Martinez and Kaitlyn Bristowe show off their fresh faces on the gram. Bekah is frequently posting stories of her acne progress, while Kaitlyn started the #realstagram movement where she encourages everyone to post an unfiltered, unedited selfie. When it comes to celebs, I look to Demi Lovato, Hilary Duff and Jameela Jamil for body positivity, Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard for a laugh and true relationship goals and Drew Barrymore for when I need to remind myself there’s power and beauty behind those being their most authentic (and silly) self.
My confidence and frame of mind improves when I’m not looking at Kardashian-like photos or stalking a guy I regret dating. Feeding my brain with the right content became just as important as feeding my body the right foods. My digital detox meant more than unplugging, it meant unfollowing accounts that didn’t serve me intellectually, emotionally or creatively.
EXERCISE: My decision to see a trainer stemmed from wanting to build a routine in LA and a stronger body. Little did I know that doing squats and sit-ups were a healthy distraction from me thinking about my skin and other life issues. After one month in I started to see improvement in my body, sleep AND my acne. Contrary to what some may think, sweating is actually great for your skin and interval training can help regulate hormones, potentially decreasing hormonal acne flare-ups.
Since being back in New York I don’t see a trainer but I do switch up my workouts as much as possible so I don’t get bored. Taking classes at my gym helps keep me motivated and although I don’t have a Peloton bike I do use the app. I love going into an empty cycle room at the gym and watching trainers like Ally Love on my phone. Her playlists give me life!
DECLUTTER: Organizing my apartment and tossing out shit I wasn’t using on a regular basis felt amazing. I have to laugh when there’s skincare shelfie’s like this on the gram. While it looks like a dream come true I seriously can’t help but wonder what the heck her actual daily skincare routine is. We all know the saying “less is more” and that is definitely the truth when it comes to skincare! Think about it… if you have 10 different mud masks, 4 mists, 6 moisturizers, 3 serums and 5 cleansers, you’re going to have a hard time narrowing down what works for your skin and what might be making it worse.
It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to hold onto and what I should let go in my medicine cabinet. I felt like a teenager again, unsure if I should be using a product that had salicylic acid or something that was more natural with witch hazel. With process of elimination and a little common sense I was able to consolidate and pinpoint the products I wanted to use on the reg.
Today I’m using a natural rose mist that you could find at Whole Foods, Dr. Jart Color Correcting Treatment that’s available at Sephora, Reviva Firming Eye Creme also at Whole Foods, The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA serum and First Aid Beauty SPF. I don’t use acne products during the day because it would make my skin more red, dry and difficult to apply on makeup. At night I use The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane, the Reviva Firming Eye Creme again and Vitamin E ointment on acne scars or dry areas. When needed I use benzoyl peroxide on blemishes. I found that it worked better on my skin and acne than salicylic acid or witch hazel products. As you can see, the products I use are super affordable. Expensive doesn’t equal results. The less ingredients and fragrance a product has the better… and that goes for all skin types!
If you don’t feel comfortable throwing out pricey products put them into a small bin and out of your bathroom so you resist the urge to switch up a good skincare routine. Consistency is key! The less clutter in your bathroom the better you’ll feel and better your skin will look. Keep it simple ;)
THERAPY: If you’ve read my blog before you’d already know that I’m pro therapy. I didn’t seek out therapy because of the acne but the topic certainly came up a few times. When you open up about any issue you’ve been internalizing it feels as if a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders. The best part about being vulnerable, whether it be with a therapist or friends, is that more likely than not the other person has been in your shoes before and can sympathize. When I began talking to my therapist, coworkers and friends about my acne I realized how many girls have gone through it at some point in their lives. Talking to others about my acne was more healing for me than anything the dermatologist could prescribe.
I’ll never forget having adult acne in 2017. I might be left with a few acne scars but I did not let this experience scar me… it was a blessing in disguise. Oddly enough, it has made me more confident. The bumps on my face were just a small bump in the road, ultimately leading me to a better and healthier version of myself.