I was inspired by the recent post on adult acne to contribute a bit of my own wisdom on the subject. Here is my primary take away: no one solution will work forever or for everyone. Why? Because the things that cause your acne will change over time and everybody is different. Helpful, right? That said, there are a few products that I have found to be genuinely life changing:

  • Topical Retinol: Retinol gels/creams need to be prescription. Period. You are not going to get much from non prescription and its going to cost you more. If your doctor doesn’t want to proscribe, go to see a dermatologist or ask your doctor for a referral so your insurance (might?) cover it. I live in the UK, so the cost of prescription Retinol is roughly 8 pounds. I realize you won’t all live in the lands of socialized health care, but I recall paying no more than 30 USD when I lived in the states. Retinol causes your skin cells to regenerate and turn over more quickly which means that whilst you might still get acne, it will heal much more quickly. If your acne is caused by having clogged pores due to dead skin, etc. than the retinol will also help you to slough that skin off more effectively. It will make your skin sensitive to sun and some people find it very drying to so make sure you speak to a doctor about it - remember, prescription.
  • Paula’s choice BHA liquid: I use BHA liquid in the morning (a very small amount) all over my face but particularly my chin where I get my breakouts. I find that it helps a huge amount with the discoloration I had and still get due to acne. You can get a bottle to test it out for about 10 quid (15 USD) online. I also feel that it leaves my face really radiant, which is nice when you are a haggard academic.
  • Liz Earle face polish: I just converted to this after years of frustration with face wash. This is my holy grail, it has changed my skin MORE than any other product. You start by rubbing the delicious smelling product all over your face, and then you wipe it off with a pure muslin cloth that is provided in the starter kit. It even takes my Benefit mascara off, which any Benebabe will tell you, is sometimes quite a challenge. It is life changing. My face is clean and exfoliated without feeling dry. It is also a bargain as far as fancy face wash goes. If you cannot/don’t want to try any of the products above - get this product. It is a miracle worker and it has a huge cult following.
  • Avene: Because I use pretty hard core stuff on my face (retinol/BHA) I wear Avene SPF 50 DAILY. Without excuse! I put it on in the morning so I need it to feel like a moisturizer/primer and Avene delivers. A little goes a long way and it doesn’t cause my makeup to slide. I love it. I also use Avene’s Cicalfate hand creme on my face at night. Because I am too cheap to invest in expensive face cream. You know what? No breakouts and baby soft skin. For a quarter of the price. I also use Avene’s spot treatment when I do get those frustrating period breakouts. Its not harsh in the way other creams are and its tinted a bit yellow so it helps to disguise redness under your makeup. Don’t let people tell you you can’t get French pharmacy brands in the US. You can. Hell, if you are really in a pickle I will ship them to you.
  • Diet/lifestyle: I eat terribly. Full stop. I know everyone says that you can change your diet and change your face. This didn’t work for me! I am certain it works for other people, but as above, the causes of your acne change over time. Mine has never been food related but appears to be more about hormones and mixed skin (oil holding down dead dry skin = mt. vesuvius on my face). Someone else can give you diet advice for skin because I live on coffee and junk food. I work a lot and don’t sleep much. I also travel frequently for work. I do not exercise beyond cycling in to my department (15 min, max.). All of these things probably contribute to my acne but you know what? I started with the acne at about 20, long before my lifestyle really kicked in, and back when I was eating healthy and working out regularly because I wanted to be a hot college coed. I don’t prioritize those things anymore. I prioritize having clear skin so that I don’t have to wear much makeup if I don’t want to. Would lifestyle change help my skin? Probably! But it hasn’t so far been the most effective and my time is limited so I’ve found other things that work for me.

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As with all things, what works for me might not work for you and vice versa. However, I stand by these products for having totally changed my face and made my life about 100% easier. In any event - I hope someone finds this helpful.