Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Favourite Acne Busters – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It's that time of the month again... that period where I break out horrendously for a week and don't want to show my face in public. Needless to say, I'm pretty well versed in the world of spot treatment and preventing acne, and have tried a number of products throughout the years.

Here's some of my favourites I've tried and have come back to, as well as the ones that didn't work for me in the past. I've also included products that were meant to fight and prevent new pimples... but didn't quite work out in that sense.

Etude House AC Clinic Intense Pink Powder Spot

This is hands down, my favourite spot treatment. It's similar (and by similar I mean I'm pretty sure it's the same) to the cult favourite Mario Badescu drying lotion. There's a pink powder (calamine and sulfur) sitting on the bottom of the container, with a salicylic acid solution on top. You dip your q-tip in and dab it onto any spots. The salicylic acid and sulfur will fight the acne bacteria and the calamine helps to dry them out and sooth the inflammation. If you catch a zit early enough, this will have it gone in a night. If your zit is larger, expect it to be gone in less than three days. It also helps to prevent smaller zits from getting any larger. Best part is that it's just as effective as Mario Badescu, but about $5 cheaper!

Etude House AC Clinic Intense Pink Powder Water

This came in a set with the Intense Pink Powder Spot. However, it ditches the calamine and just uses sulfur and salicylic acid. This way the solution is white and easily blends out instead of leaving a pink dot on your skin, making it perfect for morning spot treating. The white cast helps to camouflage the pimple, and provides a nice base for your makeup.

Retin A Gel

I use Retin A 0.05% on and off (terrible habit, I know). When I am using it, and breakout, I find the larger pimples heal a lot faster. Yes, they're big and nasty. However, they also come to a head within a day or two of showing up when I'm using the Retin A. Yes, I'll have a pimple randomly pop up at 10 am, get bigger and bigger throughout the day, and at 9 pm, it will have a head of pus on it, tempting me to pop it. So what I'm saying, is Retin A basically quickens the lifespan of the pimple. The 0.05% gel is gentle enough for me, and I rarely experience any dryness or sensitivities.

Now, from here, I can either pop them, or leave them to heal on their own. Now, you shouldn't be popping and extracting your zits yourself, as you increase the risk of scarring and reinfection, but we're all human, and sometimes it's just too tempting. Now, properly popping that nasty volcano gives a lot of satisfaction, and, if you do it right and not prematurely, may even speed up the healing. But it's not usually worth the risk. After years and years of battling acne, I know which pimples I can safely pop without it getting worse, and which I can't (most of them). And that's wear my favourite Etude House Intense Pink Powder Spot comes in, as it helps the to get rid of the pus and infection without the need for squeezing.

Zymogen Houttuynia Cordata Serum

This is new to my arsenal of acne fighters, but one I've been using everyday. While it's promoted as a serum to reduce acne breakouts, I haven't found it to be... as magical as claimed (I was looking at reviews where this definitely improved a couple of girls' cystic acne). So why is it on this list? This serum greatly reduced the amount of redness and inflammation I normally experience while breaking out, meaning that while my skin is bumpy, at least it's not as angry looking. I'll have a full review on this later, as there are a few more benefits I noticed, as well as to introduce you to the ingredients.

Chinese Herbal Cream

This is a no-name Chinese cream I bought from an herbalist when my friend suggested I try a more natural route to battle my acne. Like the Zymogen serum, I don't find it really helps decrease the severity of the breakout, but it does help to decrease the redness and speed up the healing of post inflammatory pigmentation or erythema. There are some antimicrobial properties, so it helps to prevent the bacteria from spreading as well.

La Roche Posay Effaclar DUO

Like the last two items, I haven't found this acne fighting serum to really have any effect on my acne. I live in Canada, so we do have a different version than the US which doesn't contain benzoyl peroxide. The Canadian version uses a combination of salicylic acid and capryloyl salicylic acid, both of which help to exfoliate the skin, and reduce inflammation. Again, I never saw a difference in my breakouts while using this, but it does help to heal the leftover marks from the pimples quite quickly due to the exfoliating nature of the product.

ProActiv Treatment

Full disclaimer, I used to work at ProActiv. However, I'll be as unbiased as I can in this mini review.
I hate the ProActiv treatment. Now, this has nothing to do with whether or not it's a bad product, or a bad formulation. My skin just doesn't agree with it at all, whether I'm just spot treating, or using it all over as recommended. It stings upon application and for an hour after, and once that subsides, I'll be super itchy for hours. If I try to apply a moisturizer on after, my face will get that same burning sensation. Oh, and I still have pimples after all the pain. Now, these are common side effects of any benzoyl peroxide product, and should disappear within a week, maybe two. Not for me though. Two weeks of ProActiv and I'm dry, itchy, flaking, red and sore. No thanks.

Now, don't get me wrong, the ProActiv treatment is a good product for a lot of people, and I used to use it as a spot treatment back in the day. It uses 2.5% benzoyl peroxide, which dermatologists highly recommend for acne. Benzoyl peroxide will basically kill all the acne bacteria living in your pores, as well as reducing your skin's oil production. The 2.5% formula is also considered to be the most gentle percentage while still being effective at treating acne and again, is often recommended by dermatologists. It's just not a good match for my occasionally sensitive, combination skin.

Birth Control

I think this is probably the number one recommendation from my doctor and dermatologist as acne is often caused by hormone imbalances. In theory, the added female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) would balance out the excess androgens your body is producing which might be causing your acne. Now, hormones are finicky, and too much of any, whether it's an androgen, estrogen, or even stress hormones, can cause acne so it's not an end all, be all solution either. I used birth control for about a year and half, and I would breakout in maybe one or two pimples every month, which is tolerable. Unfortunately, my birth control stopped working (hello month long periods) and I'd get cystic acne whenever I started a new pack for two weeks. I did switch birth controls after this lasted for two months, but I was left with the same acne issue whenever I began a new pack. Needless to say, I've stopped the birth control, and am currently waiting for my own body to rebalance itself.


Ah, my love/hate relationship. On one hand, Accutane is an amazing acne fighter. Isotretinoin works to stop the oil production in the skin, thereby reducing your acne. On the other... it's not exactly healthy for you. There are a ton of side effects that may come with Accutane, and luckily the worst I get is chapped lips and dry, fragile skin. But others have reported bone and joint problems, depression, or even liver damage.

I've just started another course of Accutane due to the cystic acne I was getting from the birth control. One thing Accutane doesn't do is fix your hormones. So if hormonal acne is your issue, I would recommend Accutane to clear you up quickly and let you stay clear while you try to rebalance your hormones (whether that's starting birth control, or stopping it). As I've stopped using birth control, I'm now using the Accutane to keep me clear while my hormones rebalance naturally through a healthier lifestyle.


  1. I have a friend who suffers from acne since she is 17. She is 36 now and still has it. I will show this post to her, she will definitely like it. I think you wrote a great post, it will help many people! Well done! denisesplanet.com

  2. Hi it's Skye. I suffer from hormonal adult acne and have suffered from it after having my second child. Not once did I get a breakout when I was a teen. This is what I'm on....monodox (derm prescribed) and I swear by any product from Paula's Choice. It is a game changer. I've been on Monodox since May '14 and started using Paula's Choice Clear (and everything else for wrinkles, etc)...PC has literally changed the texture of my skin. It has this amazing glow, smoother than ever, and I swear I will never ever try any product ever again. And, if you knew me personally, you'd know that in the past (possibly still am w/PC only), a product junkie. I buy everything. I hope this helps you! See you around the blog...Oh and BTW, I'm not a PC pusher...when I love something I promote the heck out of it.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Flickr Images

Real Time Analytics