Acne Regret #1: Overdoing it with actives and prescriptions

Over the past decade I’ve made a number of regrettable decisions when it comes to treating my acne, and I wanted to share these regrets in a series of posts for all my of acneic friends out there!

I used to blast my skin with every sort of active ingredient and prescription ointment known to humankind because I was so frustrated with the negative feedback I received about the way my acne looked, and the physical irritation of cystic acne was no joy either. Because of this, my skin barrier was super fragile and my skin became quite dehydrated, red, and sad. My skin never had a moment to breathe and repair itself, and it showed. •

In a bout of desperate online searching I came across @liahyoo ‘s video “Clear Acne without Acne Treatment: Minimal Acne Skincare Routine”, and it entirely changed the way I viewed and treated my skin. Following Liah’s instructions I tried downsizing my skincare routine to just a cleanser, toner, hydrating product, and sunscreen for a number of weeks to see what would happen.

This little skin rest gave my skin barrier a chance to chill the hell out, and my skin became less irritated and dehydrated. Only after a long break using just the basics did I begin to gradually (VERY gradually) incorporate AHAs and retinol back into my routine. Even now that my skin is relatively clear, I still revert back to my barebones routine of @tatcha Deep Cleanse, @herbivorebotanicals Jasmine Green Tea Balancing Green Tea Toner, @zoskinhealth Rozatrol Normalizing Serum for red, sensitized skin, and whatever sunscreen isn’t breaking me out at the moment.

If you’re in the same boat I was, or are overwhelmed by the hoard of skincare products in your bathroom cabinet, sometimes it’s nice to just press pause and keep it simple for a bit. It’s been a long, LONG process but I’ve finally gotten my skin to a point where it doesn’t physically irritate me, I have minimal breakouts, and my redness is at a fairly manageable, healthy level.

Glycolics and Hormonal Acne Trial Run

A few folks from my PCOS FB support group were interested in more posts about my trials with products for hormonal acne, so if that’s what directed you here, hello! Happy to have you here!

I’ve had acne for the past decade, and it’s always been difficult to treat. It became even more difficult to treat when you threw in a lovely hormonal imbalance (from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) on top of all of the usual dietary, environmental, and stress-related triggers. Recently starting training to become a full-time skin laser technician has given me access to many different products and treatments to help with my acne, including the Celazome Gly-Trio.

The feature ingredient of the Gly-Trio is glycolic acid, which is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), and acts as a chemical exfoliant. The kit features a cleanser, a daily lotion, and repair cream. With these products it’s recommended that you start using them one day a week and gradually increase usage to three days a week, alternating every other day.

For myself, when I started using these I initially broke out. However I googled around and asked around, and apparently this is normal! They call it a “purge” phase, when all of the gunk, crud, and breakout material is first brought up to the surface. Week One was a breakout, Week Two was recovering from the breakout, but by Week Three I was noticing that my skin had really improved. I still had zits for sure, but they were fewer than before, and in the areas where I didn’t have breakouts my skin was significantly more smooth. By Week Four I wasn’t left with much of a breakout, and the mostly clear skin I had continued even after menstruating, which is when I typically have my worst breakouts. Here’s a few pictures of my skin after about a month of using glycolic products:

I look like I just got out of bed because I literally did–in the morning I typically answer snapchats from the night before, and when I opened up the app I was like “DAMN your skin has improved! What?! You need to document this!” Of course you can still see my wonderful accumulation of acne scarring and a bit of the usual redness around my brows, nostrils, and lips, but the majority of my breakouts cleared up.

My favourite product out of the trio is the Gly-Repair Cream because it’s a cream texture that actually feels pleasant on oily skin, and it’s a little fighter with salicylic acid, glycolic acid (10%), lactic acid, malic acid, and citric acid. I didn’t find that any of these product dried me out, but again, I have a substantial amount of oil, so that may be a contributing factor. My skin has been less oily since incorporating glycolic acid, which on its own makes it worth it for me.

I feel awful recommending these specific products, because Celazome is currently incredibly difficult to find. The Celazome plant in the southern United States was hit by a hurricane this past summer, and they have had to resanitize and rebuild, which is expected to take quite awhile. This means that all centres that carry it are unable to order new product, and that the products are not available online from the Celazome site. However, there are SO many other good products out there than contain glycolic acid if you are unable to find somewhere that still has Celazome in stock near you. I will be sure to mention different substitutions in the future as I need them and try them out!

Other contributing factors that may have played a small part (in my opinion) in clearing up my skin and making it feel good lately are drinking green tea (wicked anti-inflammatory properties and makes me feel less awful than coffee), drinking much more water, and taking my vitamins regularly. Right now I’m taking a multivitamin, Vitamin D, and Evening Primrose Oil. I’m not knowledgeable about supplements AT ALL, but I want to look more into evening primrose oil as it contains omega-6 and linoleic acid, which I’ve heard good things about here and there.

Fungal Acne: I needed this video a year ago!

About a year ago I got this weird rashy breakout on my forehead, and I could not figure out what to do about it. I worked at a spa at the time and the estheticians just told me it was likely a stress rash, and told me to keep using the acne products that I had from there. Eventually it did clear up, but it was really quite stubborn and caused me a lot of grief. Not to mention it was unbelievably frustrating because I didn’t know specifically what it was or how to fix it.

Then this video popped up on my subscriptions feed last night, and I knew instantly that this had to be what I had on my forehead last year. I can’t say for certain obviously that it was for sure fungal acne, as it was never diagnosed by a dermatologist, but the pictures, causes, and symptoms all align with my experience of it.

I am so grateful for Youtubers like Liah Yoo who work so hard to do their research and do more than recommend whatever expensive skin care line is trendiest at the moment. I wish I had known how to treat fungal acne last year!! At least this time around I am prepared in case it ever comes back full force.

Biophora Acne/Oily Skin Kit Test Run

On November 25th I started with the Biophora travel set I received from work, and took some before pictures to show what my acne looked like beforehand.

I had a fair bit of acne lingering on the lower half of my face above my lip, on my lower cheeks and jawline, and on my chin.

The kit itself contains their Bioactive Cleanser, Bioactive Solution, Bioactive Gel, Light Hydration, SPF 30, and Antibac Veil. It is recommended that the Bioactive Cleanser, Solution, and SPF 30 be used in the morning, with the Bioactive Cleanser, Bioactive Solution, Bioactive Gel, Light Hydration, and Antibac Veil. The Bioactive Gel is to be “used as tolerated”.

For myself, I found that my skin was too dry to simply go without a moisturizer in the morning routine, so I use the Light Hydration during the day as well. The Bioactive Gel was quite strong, so although I did try it in the morning as well, I cut back to every evening or every other evening. In the evenings too, I found that after the Bioactive Gel and Antibac Veil my skin stung slightly and felt really dry, so I put on additional moisturizing products as well.

After three weeks, my skin looked like this:

I think there have been slight improvements on my upper lip and chin, as well as my cheeks. Nothing drastic, but still a bit of a reduction. I really don’t mind this line. It is quite strong, so I definitely would not recommend it for those with acne and sensitive skin. In the winter it is far too drying though, so additional hydrators are needed. The smell of these products isn’t enjoyable or horrible. I don’t think these products alone would necessarily get rid of all of my acne, because a large portion of my acne can be blamed on PCOS hormonal imbalances, stress, and diet.

Out of all of these products, I would probably purchase the Bioactive Solution, the Bioactive Gel, and the SPF 30. The SPF 30 does wear quite well under my makeup, and has a nice consistency.


Going foundation-free semi-permanently has been on my mind a lot this past year. When my skin was really clear, I was going without face makeup to work the majority of the week in the summer. However, as my skin started to break out due to hormones and severe stress this semester, I found myself reverting back to my old unhealthy relationship with foundation, where I felt that I had to cover my acne at all times because it was ugly. I realized that I was getting back into this negative puddle of self esteem crisis, and wanted to get out of it because I started doing the usual spiral into self hatred and feeling ugly.

I had seen Liah Yoo’s #foundationfreesunday posts a few times on Instagram, and today I finally went and watched her “How to Go Foundation-free”  video. I really like Liah because she’s not only super knowledgeable but absolutely kind and positive and lovely. Her video made me realize that going foundation-free more often may help my skin recover from these stress breakouts, and eventually I may re-develop that confidence I had when I had clear skin. In lieu of this, I started looking for more foundation-free videos and Youtubers, and made a personal goal of going foundation-free three days and week and going from there. I’ve compiled a very list of foundation-free tutorials, if you’d like to check it out as well!

Foundation-Free Youtubers/Youtube Tutorials:
JkissaMakeup: Here’s a video in which Jkissa describes how and why she goes foundation free. What I found particularly helpful is her section of the video where she discusses contouring and adding blush to foundation-less skin. I personally love her because she’s cruelty-free and manages to create really flawless looks without using foundation. From what I’ve seen from following her for awhile, she does have pretty dry skin and tends to go for a dewy finish.

The Anna Edit

Mariah Leonard

Keara Graves: Side note: I really enjoy that she is gender inclusive in her tutorial!




I had my first microdermabrasion treatment this past week, and it was interesting. It’s something that has been positively recommended to me by multiple coworkers for my oily skin, acne, and acne scars, and a local spa had a sale for the treatment so I booked in on a whim.

If you’re not familiar with microdermabrasion, essentially it is a skin resurfacing treatment that reduces the appearance of acne, photo aging, hyperpigmentation, and rough skin texture. It takes place on the top-most level of the epidermis, the stratum corneum. The treatment basically exfoliates off the stratum corneum and the body reacts by treating this as a small injury and quickly works to create new skin cells to replace all of the ones that came off. The esthetician uses a small stylus that is hooked up to an air compressor of sorts that sprays out crystals at the skin and sucks up the crystals and dead skin simultaneously through a vacuum. I realize this sounds awful, but it actually felt quite nice. The esthetician I had mentioned that many feel as if a cat is licking their face, but to me it just felt like a slightly amped up regular exfoliation.

Though you do see some progress after the first treatment, they do recommend coming in for a series of treatments in order to get full results. After one round my skin felt substantially smoother, and some of my previous acne scarring was slightly less noticeable. I do think I would have to follow up with more treatments in order to get my skin to where I want it to be. It’s also important to note that you are supposed to avoid heavy workouts or sun exposure for at least 48 hours after the treatment. I am glad that I tried it out though, as it’s something I’ve wondered about for over a year.

If you’re interested in microdermabrasion, here are a few links that explain it better. I’ve also linked a short 2 minute video that shows the procedure being done. Trust me, it sounds kind of intimidating, but it’s really quite relaxing!

Microdermabrasion demonstration and benefits by CrystalisedSkin
The difference between dermabrasion and microdermabrasion by WebMD
HowStuffWorks: Microdermabrasion

My ridiculous acne: what helped, what didn’t, what it’s like now

I used to have miserable acne, and still do have breakouts, usually during my breakdown points of the school year. I wish I had some before pictures to show you to contrast with how my skin is now, but I have very few pictures of myself from 5th to 11th grade because I was so embarrassed of my acne, and the internet does not need to get its hands on that! 

In brief, what didn’t help:

  • ProActive. It helped for awhile until it completely dried out and destroyed my combination skin!
  • Stress. This is a no-brainer, I think. Stress aggravates hormonal acne like nothing else.
  • Puberty, periods, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Again, all of the above messed (and continue to mess) with my hormones. 
  • Neutrogena, Clean and Clear, and every other super drying drugstore acne product out there.
  • Seeing my family doctor. I would get put on antibiotics that would help for a bit, but the acne would come back immediately after I ended the prescription. She also insisted all I needed to use was Dove soap, and bless her heart for trying, but that wreaked havoc on my skin. 
  • Not moisturizing! I thought that because my skin was so oily, that I didn’t need to moisturize. In reality, my skin was beyond dehydrated from all of the acne treatments and was overproducing oil to try and compensate.

What did help:

  • Getting ahold of my stress levels as best as I could. Once I started journaling, seeing a counsellor, getting massages at the spa I work at, walking more, and cutting out negative commitments in my life, I was much less stressed. 
  • Staying hydrated. People always flip flop back and forth between saying water helps and water does nothing. For me, my whole body feels like crap when I don’t get enough water. Drinking a decent amount of water each day helped.
  • Changing my pillow cases every week or two. I used to neeevvverrrrr change my bed sheets and pillow cases because I hated doing laundry and I didn’t know how to adult. Now I do my best to change my pillow cases every week, so I’m rubbing my face in fewer germs and less drool each night. 
  • Aloe Vera! I religiously used aloe vera for a few months and it helped immensely. I would wash my face, dab on some liquid aloe vera (that I think was actually meant for smoothies but yolo) and then wash it off after a few minutes in the shower. 
  • Hydrating my skin. Hydrating my skin has so much to balance out oil production. My skin used to feel like an oil slick, yet somehow itchy underneath the oil slick. That itchy discomfort for me is a sign that I need more hydration. My favourite moisturizers for my combo skin are Moisturizing Factors + HA by The Ordinary and Tatcha’s Water Cream. They’re hefty enough to deliver what I need but don’t feel creamy, oily, or heavy.
  • Getting older. I’m fairly sure growing up and growing out of it helped a bit too. 
  • Controlling what touches my face. I broke my habits of touching my face to some degree, and started sanitizing items like my phone and glasses, which often touch my face, a lot more. 
  • Gel cleansers, gentle toners, and serums. The Ordinary’s Niacinamide (dear god I hope I spelled that right) and Touche’s Oxygen Serum are still my go to’s.

Currently my skin is in a place where I am happy with it. It doesn’t physically hurt, like my acne used to, and I feel confident. I do have a lot of acne scarring and deep blackheads, and that’s what I’m hoping to treat next, as well as keeping the breakouts away during school year stress. I just watched Gothamista’s new video on the impact of green tea and spearmint tea on androgens and hormonal acne, so I’m going to try and make tea a more regular occurrence! I’m still doing my own little research on reducing acne scarring. It sounds like there are many products out there, as well as the option of microdermabrasion, so I’m sure I’ll find something that works for me. 

How have y’all coped with acne, or embraced your acne? Any tips for acne scars? 

Cheers ❤️