Confessions of a Cystic Acne Survivor

{This post is by one of my long time writers, and friend, Teresa Luong on her struggle with cystic acne and road to clear skin}

Best beauty products for cystic acne

Everyone wants that flawless, luminous, glowing skin, but for me it’s more than a desire; it’s an obsession.  Since nature’s cruel joke of puberty, I was cursed with the onset of hereditary cystic acne.  I had what looked like puss-filled boils all over my face, neck and body – and I mean all over.  These painful lumps were the cause of ridicule and childish torture for three years of my life. I would beg my parents to home-school me as to avoid having to face another day of my adolescent peers. Even though they made me go to school everyday, my loving parents spent hundreds of dollars on any product that claimed to help acne, but to no avail.  I found out I was allergic to benzoyl peroxide, the active ingredient in most strong acne medications, including ProActive, and that salicylic acid wasn’t strong enough for my breed of acne.  Finally, one of my many dermatologists came up with a solution, a new drug on the market called Acutane.  Not yet approved by the FDA, this drug claimed to prevent breakouts for up to 10 years.  Acutane is now known for some of its severe side effects, such as:

–       Depression

–       Liver or kidney damage

–       Birth defects if pregnant while taking medication

–       Vision problems

–       Sunlight sensitivity

Precautions were taken while I was on the medication, such as birth control and monthly blood tests, but a lot of my health issues are attributed to my year stint on Acutane. Would I do it all over again if I knew then, what I know now?  Absolutely!

It’s been over 10 years since I’ve taken Acutane but even now, most of modern treatments for cystic acne still do not help me out when I get the occasional break out.  I have a strict regime with my skin to avoid breakouts and really monitor what I eat as well.  The products I use, I use religiously and vigorously wash my face and body every night before bed and in the morning when I wake up.  I apply prescribed medication, such as Aczone to spots more inclined to break outs, and I use a sulfur based body soap 2-3x per week.  I exfoliate my skin 4 days a week to prevent build of dead skin cells and oil.  A lot of anti-aging creams can be heavy so I tend to use gels or lighter balms and serums.

Taking off my makeup before bed is a must or else it’s a guarantee for morning blemishes. Changing up my diet has really help improve my skin as well.  Eating lots of whole fresh foods, cutting out gluten and avoiding fried foods are key.  There are certain foods in the Vietnamese culture deemed as “hot” foods, which are believed to internally heat you up causing breakouts.  Even if “hot” food is just a wives tale, I still try to avoid them, such as mango, spicy foods, watermelon, etc.  I have such a fear of cystic acne, that as soon as I have one appear, I go straight to the dermatologist to get a cortisone shot, and then retrace my steps to see what might have caused it.  I keep a pretty consistent food diary to track anything that might cause acne as well.  My lifestyle is a reflection of just how important clear skin is to me.  It’s an obsession.

Skin Type:  Oily with a Dry surface  – Sensitive and Acne Prone

My Regimen:

Mornings are key to prep my skin for the day.  I like to use a gentle cleanser like Dove’s newer Dermaseries Ultra Caring Gentle Cream Face Cleanser with the Boscia Konjac Cleansing sponge for gentle exfoliation and a deep clean.  After I pat dry my face, I use Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Toner followed up by a light moisturizer with SPF, like Avon’s Anew Rejuvenate Daily Revitalizing Moisturizer with SPF 25.  I use Algenist Firming and lifting Eye Gel to refresh my eye area.

My Night time routine consists of really cleaning the day off my skin and making sure the products I use have restorative and anti-aging properties. I clean off all the make up, dirt and grime with Aveeno Positively RAdiant Cleansing Pads.  They give my skin a nice radiant clean glow.  I revert back to my Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Toner followed by Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair Serum topped off with my Darphin Ideal Resource Retexturizing moisturizer.  For my eyes I use L’Occitane’s Precious Eye Balm.

Twice a month I treat my self to different masks depending on the need.  For a deep pore cleanse I like to use Boscia’s Black Mask which make’s me feel like I get a whole new face!  When I need a really good exfolation, I use Ren Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask.

My body is also prone to acne, so I use Dove Moisturizing Bar for Sensitive Skin – Unscented with an Exfoliating Hydro Towel to get a gentle exfoliation and deep clean.  2-3 times per week I’ll use a sulfur soap on acne prone areas like my upper back and chest; I like Joesoef because it doesn’t have the sulfur smell to it like most of the other ones do.  After a shower I DO NOT dry my body off and slather on Dove Cream Oil Intensive Body Lotion.  I do this because water acts as a vehicle for the lotion to absorb deeper and more effectively into the skin, leaving my skin luminous and as soft as a baby’s bottom.