My Acne Story: How I Cured My Hormonal Cystic Acne

Image of Rachel Sheldon
Rachel Sheldon
Here it is: my acne story.

First things first, there's a caveat to the title of this post: I am by no means claiming that I have perfect skin.

I still get breakouts, hormonal or not, and I still suffer from acne scarring from previous breakouts, uneven skin texture, rosacea, and blackheads.

This is just my personal story of how I dealt with the worst acne of my life back in high school, and how I keep my skin under control now.

The High School Years

When I was a kid and a preteen I had pretty flawless skin. I always took it for granted until I was in my sophomore year of high school, 15 years old, and my skin went absolutely crazy. 
I don't have any pictures from this time, but even if I did I don't think I would post them. I was experiencing painful cystic acne all over my entire face, with the worst of it concentrated along my chin, jaw, and cheeks. There were times when it hurt to smile or talk because my acne was so painful.
My mom bought me the Clinique system of acne-fighting products, which is marketed as suitable for sensitive skin. Unfortunately for me, my skin reacted horribly to the products and things got even worse.  
It completely destroyed my confidence. I started wearing thick, heavy foundation to school every day to cover up the acne ravaging my face. All that makeup was just aggravating my skin, and I would break out even worse. It was a vicious cycle. 

How I Cured It 

The way I cured my hormonal, cystic acne was by seeing two professionals: a dermatologist and a doctor. 
The dermatologist told me to use the CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser and prescribed me the product that I think saved my skin the most: clindamycin. I used a 1% clindamycin lotion once a day, and a benzoyl peroxide/clindamycin spot treatment every night, along with the CeraVe cleanser. And that was it. I threw out all my other products and only used those 3 skincare products religiously. This is also when I first purchased the Olay Cleansing Brush, which I used with my cleanser every night. The combination of these products helped my skin so much. 
The other product I changed was my foundation. I had been using my mom's Estee Lauder Double Wear Foundation because of its extreme coverage, but I knew it was breaking me out. I switched to using the CoverGirl Clean Sensitive Skin Foundation, which was much lighter and let my skin breathe while still providing a little coverage. It was scary to go to school with such a light coverage foundation while my skin was still so bad, but it definitely helped in the long run. 
It was also at this time that I saw a doctor and discovered the root of my acne problems: my hormones were extremely unbalanced. My estrogen levels were low and my testosterone levels were high, which was causing my terrible breakouts. I decided to start using the contraceptive pill Yaz, which is intended for women with acne, and I have been on it ever since. It was incredible how quickly I saw changes in my skin once my hormones were regulated. 

What I Do Now

Since I cleared up my acne back in high school, it has been relatively stable ever since. I still break out along my chin and jaw at that time of the month, when I'm extra stressed, or if my diet has been poor. I experience occasional zits on my forehead and cheeks if I've been lazy with my skincare or if my skin reacts to a new product. 
I talked about my daily skincare routine already on the blog, and one change is that I don't use clindamycin anymore. I was using it religiously up until a few months ago when my insurance stopped covering it. I was terrified my skin would freak out after so many years of continuous use, but luckily I haven't noticed a huge difference. 
Having a consistent skincare routine has really helped keep my acne under control. Once you find products that work, stick with them for a while and your skin will thank you. I've also found that when I try to incorporate too many products into my routine, I start to break out. When that happens, I pare my routine down to the bare minimum to let my skin recuperate.
I'm meticulous about changing my pillow cases and towels every few days and keeping my hands and makeup brushes clean. I also avoid touching my face as much as possible, and I try not to pick at my skin (though of course, we're all human and sometimes you just have to pop that zit. I know you know what I mean.) 
I try to have as many no-makeup days as possible, or at least minimal makeup days. And I follow the cardinal rule: never sleep in your makeup. It doesn't matter how tired or sick or drunk you are, wash your damn makeup off before you go to sleep. Amen. 
I'll probably do a round-up post soon of my top skincare tips for maintaining clear, glowing skin because I have plenty more. 

UPDATE (2021)

A lot has changed in my skincare routine since I originally posted this - for a more up-to-date routine (including retinol!) check out this blog post.


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