My Acne Journey to Clearer Skin

The word “acne” has such a negative connotation to it. Just like with any skin condition, no one really knows the struggle unless you’ve personally dealt with it. For me, it was debilitating, it lowered my self esteem and confidence tremendously. I’ve missed out on so many things because I wanted to hide away. It made me feel like people were judging me as if it’s something I can control.

In this post, I’ll share about my journey with acne, my current hormonal acne situation and treatment plan.

My Journey with Acne

It started when I was about 14-15 years old and has been ongoing. Unfortunately, I inherited my acne-prone skin, so genetics play a big factor. My first pimple was a giant one on my nose and there’s still a pitted scar from it. Every single day, I had at least two pimples. There was not one day that I had clear skin. They were painful and I was so embarrassed by it. I tried everything. My mom finally took me to the dermatologist during senior year in high school. Because of our financial situation, I’m sure that it wasn’t easy because those visits, along with prescription medications were costly.

List of Prescription Oral and Topical Medications I’ve Been On

  • Topical Clindamycin (finally had some relief with this and it helped for about a year)
  • Prescription Strength Benzoyl Peroxide
  • Tretinoin (worked for a short period)
  • Topical Erythromycin (helped for about a year)
  • Accutane (worked well)
  • Differin (before it was available for OTC)
  • Spironolactone

List of Over the Counter Topical Solutions *I typically use for about 3 months to give it time to see results

  • Proactiv
  • Murad
  • Clinique
  • Obagi
  • Face Reality
  • Curology
  • Mario Badescu spot treatment
  • Neutrogena
  • La Roche Posay
  • CeraVe
  • AcneFree
  • Cetaphil
  • Tatcha

The only solution that truly kept my skin clear was Accutane. I was on that in 2009 but the side effects and risks were too much so I stopped less than a year after. I’ve been given hundreds of well-meaning advice. It’s overwhelming and confusing to navigate.

Acceptance and a Miracle

I came to accept my very imperfect, bumpy skin. Then something incredible happened…

During my first pregnancy in 2013, I experienced for the first time, clear glowing skin without medications or expensive skincare! Just naturally clear skin with a simple skincare routine that would’ve never been effective prior. In fact, I could go to sleep with makeup on with no issues. It was pure bliss.

Flash forward, after I stopped breastfeeding my last baby, my skin problems came back. It was 2020 and we all know how awful that year was in general. I tried everything recommended. Expensive treatments with an esthetician, cutting out dairy, not wearing any makeup, not washing my face in the morning, popular skincare brands but nothing worked. I even did silly things like eating fresh garlic and dabbing them on my breakouts which I don’t recommend.

Acne Management

The only thing that helped manage my acne was the Proactive line which I’ve been using on and off since college. Last year, I turned 40 and felt more confident than ever. My skin was the best it had been in a long time so I let my guard down. I wanted more improvement and tried new products.

My skin was responding well until I made the mistake of using a vitamin C serum a month ago. I forgot that my skin doesn’t respond well to that 😔. A combination of this and hormonal changes meant a recipe for painful cystic acne. The skin around my jawline developed tiny bumps. Those tiny bumps turned into big painful cystic acne day after day 😭.

Hormonal Acne in My 40’s

I debated on sharing photos publicly. But decided if it can help someone else who is navigating something similar feel not so alone, that it will be worth it. I’ve felt very alone in this journey. On top of that, since I was young, I’ve been told that my nose is too wide, my skin too dark for being Asian, I’m too short and my skin could be better if I just did XYZ. The media has skewed our perception about beauty. Our physical appearance is too judged by others.

I digress, but here’s what my skin looked like three weeks ago when my hormonal acne flared up and continued to get worse until about a week ago when I started a new skin treatment routine.

my skin 3 weeks ago, when my hormonal acne flared up

My Acne Treatment Plan to Clearer Skin

Now that I’ve entered my 40’s, I’m throwing all the criticism out the door. I won’t let acne define my worth and will be patient as I work to clear up my skin. Here’s my current acne treatment plan.

I’m sticking to my basics of using the 3-step Proactiv treatment, taking Clearstem hormonal acne supplement recommended by a friend, ditching coffee and drinking tea with Turmeric, consuming more foods with probiotic and drinking lots of water.

Proactive 3-Step System: (morning and night) this haș always been the best at helping manage my acne. However, it’s like the poor boyfriend where you think you can do better. I’ve not been consistent with it and have tried other skincare on and off to experiment. But now, I’m sticking to the 3-step system both morning and night. It’s gentle on my skin, exfoliates nicely with the face wash and the toner is the best out of all that I’ve tried.

Verse Dew Point Moisturizing Gel Cream: (morning) the 3-step system will dry out my skin so it’s important that I use a moisturizer. I would use Proactiv’s tea tree oil moisturizer but it’s 3 times the cost and this moisturizes my skin the same. It glides on well and doesn’t gunk up after my 3-step routine. It’s a bit sticky though so I just use in the morning and it actually helps as the base for my foundation.

CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion Night Cream: (night) while the CeraVe ace face wash and serums did not work for me, I love this moisturizing night cream. Feels weightless and helps my skin from drying out.

Clearstem Hormonal Acne Supplement: (take at dinner time) knowing that my skin cleared up during pregnancy, hormones play a big part with my acne. My friend Megan has been using this for over two years to manage her hormonal acne, after getting off birth control pills, before she became their brand partner (I used her code MEGANS if you want to try). She shared her journey with me using Clearstem’s hormonal acne supplement months ago but I was hesitant to try. Then when my skin was at its worst, I reached back out and she sold me on it after she texted me her before photo. Social media skincare girlies will proclaim that they’re “experts” but they’ve never actually had bad skin so….

Acne Patches: I have been through so many! I’ve used the Hero Mighty Patch when I noticed a whitehead. However, it can actually irritate my skin with these clusters of deep cystic acne and make them worse. I do use the Zitsticka Killa patch for a stand alone cystic acne and they help reduce the inflammation and heal faster.

In addition, I’m ditching coffee and drinking my Honey Chai Turmeric Vitality tea.  I add a little bit of oat milk and non-dairy vanilla creamer and it tastes amazing! I’m also consuming more of my favorite foods with probiotic like Kombucha and Kimchi. Apparently they support your immune system, strengthen your bones and joints, destroy bad bacteria, and make your skin healthier. They have truly helped my digestive system.

I’m only one week in with this routine and have noticed improvement. Typically, it takes me months. My hope is to see more improvement with clearer skin before our niece’s wedding on June 2nd.  Countdown is on! Wish me luck!

Read an update on my new acne treatment routine here. Spoiler alert, the progress has been short of amazing!


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Sweetest Regards, Patti