As one of those early bloomers, I started having my first mini breakouts around the age of 10. While my mom made me wait a few years before I was allowed to dabble in makeup, I still remember the painful embarrassment of heading to school with red, blotchy skin and bumps I couldn't get rid of. Unfortunately, it wasn't an ailment that became better with age — in fact, I'm nearly 30 and I still suffer from frequent breakouts. What finally worked for me was a mixture of a few solutions, including a seven-month Accutane treatment and the discovery of a night and day serum — DermWORX — that keeps the large cysts at bay. Even so? Traveling, stress, my period and dairy can stimulate zits, blackheads and clusters. To say it's annoying is an understatement.
That's why I relate to lifelong acne sufferers — it's a community we never wanted to be part of, but one that can be helpful when acne continues to show up far past adolescence. If you need a dose of inspiration and a reminder that you can achieve clear skin and healthy pores, try these best acne treatments and diet switches real women swear by.
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"I Paid Attention to Food Sensitivities."
Consistent breakouts followed author and speaker Cindy Girard far into her 30s, serving as what she called a "source of shame and self-hatred." Over many decades, she put everything to the test: commercial products, antibiotics and prescriptions, but nothing would fully rid her skin of its issues. Unfortunately, she also had additional health struggles that serendipitously led her to a solution for her pores. Because she needed to test for environmental and food sensitivities to detect her health ailments, she eliminated processed foods, artificial ingredients, wheat, dairy, sugar, coffee and chocolate. While it's a long list, she realized how much her surroundings inflamed her skin. "Now, I am able to eat many of the foods I eliminated previously. The only time I get acne is when I eat chocolate or have more than a cup of coffee. My research has indicated that food sensitivities, especially dairy, are a huge problem for many people," she adds.
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"I Tried a Sulfur Mask."
Since the sixth grade, blogger Olivia Frescura started putting up her dukes with acne. She continuously picked her skin after being bullied and her mom finally took her to the derm. Though an antibiotic worked for a few years, it turned part of her tongue black (no joke!). Going on birth control was a game changer for her — instead of near-daily breakouts, she only found zits once a month.
Even so, to manage those zits, she uses Proactiv Skin Purifying Mask, $38. She says this has worked the best, thanks to one major ingredient: Sulfur. "I don't use this mask on my whole face, just a thick layer on any breakouts. I use it overnight, which can make a bit of a mess but your pimple literally shrinks overnight — it's amazing! I like this mask because it's the first sulfur product I used, and even though the full Proactiv line doesn't work for me, this product is the best and significantly cheaper than other sulfur masks on the market," she explains.
"I Started Using MD Complete Acne Clearing System."
Amber Knight labels her skin as extremely sensitive from her pre-teen days, causing her to constantly treat breakouts. As soon as one would clear up, another one would form. "The other challenge with my skin is that some parts are dry while others are oily, which triggers my acne because products typically treat one or the other," she explained. She went after anything she could find — Neutrogena, Proactiv, PCA Skin, Philosophy and derm-prescribed products. Some of them actually made her skin worse, while others would cease effectiveness after a week. That's why discovering MD Complete Acne Clearing System, $49.99, was a game changer.
"The products are gentle and refreshing, but they work. I have noticed my skin has a much more smooth appearance and my breakouts have decreased. When I do have a breakout from eating a bunch of junk food or getting sweaty and not being able to rinse off my face, this product line quickly gets my skin back on track," she says. Another helpful part of this regimen is the probiotic. "It seems to counteract the stress in my life, which prevents my acne and gives my skin a smooth appearance. From someone who has struggled with acne for 14 years and tried too many products to remember them all, I am happy to recommend this system to anyone trying to address their breakouts."
"I Tried a Sugar Detox."
Acne was a tough topic for natural health coach Denise Martin for many years, since decades of severe acne damaged her self-esteem profoundly. She tried anything and everything available to her — from products and beyond — but there was never a solution that stuck. At the age of 38, she did a sugar detox and suddenly saw her skin improve. It was a lesson that taught her she could beat anything, including cancer and managing psoriasis, by paying attention to her diet. These days, she shies away from refined sugar, only drinks high-quality water and avoids coffee. "In my opinion, all skin diseases are born out of dehydration, which stymies the colon and puts our skin in overdrive to detox us," she shares. "Whole foods and high alkaline water will heal the skin."