My Experience with Acne

Acne happens when hair follicles get blocked and sebum that usually drains to the surface of the skin is blocked and bacteria begins to grow.  Acne can be in the form of whiteheads, blackheads, nodules or cysts and usually occur at the face, back, chest and even shoulders.

My Struggle

I have struggled with acne for more than half my life – since 6th grade. Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep my acne fairly under control with my a combination of eating & sleeping habits, medication, and skin care products.

My skin still flares up from time to time, but overall, I am able to treat it and I am grateful for that.  I wanted to share costs associated with treatment/medication/make-up and some helpful tips that I’ve picked up over the years.

Disclaimer: Please note these are from my experience only and you should always consult your doctor, dermatologist or health care provider before trying new medication or products on your skin.

Costs Acne Treatment

I have had various treatments over the past 15 years; however, in this post, I will  only discuss my current costs.

The Acne Clinic

The Acne Clinic was recommended to me by a friend during my last year of my undergraduate studies.  Since then, I have been seeing my dermatologist for almost 3 years and I have been fairly happy with the results.

My dermatologist was able to help me calm my flare ups and get my skin under control.  I was only comfortable using topical lotions (no antibiotic pills), and so this was the treatment method my dermatologist used.

In my experience, it is very important to see your dermatologist more when you just start the treatment (about every 2 weeks), until your dermatologist figures out what works best with your skin.  Following that, you and your dermatologist can work out a schedule that works best for your needs.  Right now, I’ve been seeing my dermatologist every 3 -4 months, depending on my skin.

At this clinic, each visit costs $30 and includes injections for active nodules/cysts.  My dermatologist gave me sample sizes of medication to try prior to prescribing full sized medication, which I found really useful.  My medication costs approximately $180 every 3 months.

My health benefits cover 80% of the costs, but this can be expensive for anyone without extended health benefits.

Pure and Simple (P&S)

Earlier this year, my face started flaring up again and it started to get super dry (then super oily).  No matter what my dermatologist tried, it seemed to just keep getting worse.

I read about P&S through a FB’s blog review, and decided to try it.  After my first consultation and first facial with P&S, my skin started to look much better than it had in months.  P&S is really good with educating their clients, and I learned that the medication I was putting on my skin were really harsh and dehydrated my skin.

I know a lot of spas tell you a bunch of crap to get you to buy their products, so I was wary.  After 2 weeks of using (free) samples provided by P&S and following their “rules”, I saw a big difference in the skin.  My skin felt less oily, less tight and my complexion was better.  I still got a few pimples but overall, my skin looked a lot better.

I knew my problem couldn’t be fixed with one facial, so I bought a package of 5 Clear Complexion Facial ($595 + tax, ouch!).  I went once a month for my first 3 facials and could see the improvement in my complexion.  Ideally, I would like to go for 4 – 5 facials a year, if I can afford it.

P&S product line is reasonably priced and they use natural products.  I always try their products, first – they are great about giving their clients samples to try.  I bought their Algae serum ($20) and Oily skin sunscreen ($15), and have slowly been building a small collection of their products in my bathroom.

Nothing is covered under my health benefits, so this option for acne treatment can be very expensive.

Skin Care Regime and Products

I try to keep my skin routine as simple as possible.

In the evenings, I remove my make-up, then wash my face with a gentle cleanser (I like SpectroJel – $15), and then I apply my serum, moisturizer and eye cream (sometimes). In the mornings, I do the same thing but skip the eye cream and use sunscreen (SPF 15-30), instead.

Once or twice a week, I would use a mask or another one of my home-made toiletries concoctions for deep cleaning or moisturizing .

Daily Make-Up

I try not to wear heavy make-up, which clogs my pores, and would like to try more natural make-up, as well (after my shopping ban is over, of course).

On any given day, I use a bit of concealer for spot treatments and blotting powder to reduce shine at my T-zone, eye liner and blush.  I’ve been using MAC products for the past 3 years and it hasn’t broken me out.  I would estimate my make-up costs about $150, and lasts me about 6 months to 1 year.

Acne Affects Self Esteem

Acne is not just about looking “pretty”, acne has a huge impact on self esteem. Without self esteem, it’s hard to have the confidence to move forward in life, whether it be acing that test, going into an interview, asking for that promotion, meeting new people or getting control of your finances.  It’s a big deal.

When I struggled with acne, my self esteem was pretty low. I would loathe taking pictures, dressing up, and generally shied away from people, dances, parties at school and kept to myself.  I was very sensitive about my skin, and teenagers can be so cruel.

Today, my self esteem is a lot healthier.  I enjoy getting out and meeting people, dressing up, and I feel more comfortable going au naturel.  Most of all, I feel more confident.


I hope that in sharing my experience with acne, I was able to help some of my readers figure out what type of treatment is available and bring a bit of pf into the topic.  Always talk to your family doctor about your options, first before trying new treatments.

Update: I’ve almost used up my 5 facials from P&S, and this method is too expensive for me to maintain.  I also get “scolded” for not getting facials more often by the estheticians (i.e., one every 4 weeks max), and I feel pressured to get them more often.  I’m sure that my skin would be better if I went more often, but I can’t afford it, and will be returning to see my dermatologist.

I also started reading the book “Skin Type Solution” by Dr. Leslie Baumann (dermatologist and scientist).  Basically, it’s a book that guides you to categorize your skin type and suggests skin care regimes and products that work for your skin.

It sounds promising, and I love always educating myself about my skin. I will do a separate review and summary of the book in a another post. In the meantime, please wish me luck as I once again battle my acne.

Readers, have you struggled with acne?  Please share some of the ways you have dealt with your struggles in the comments.



Filed under Personal

26 responses to “My Experience with Acne

  1. I do not have super bad acne, but my skin is nowhere near where I would like it to be. I also have an issue with picking…which I know only makes it worse, but I can’t stop. I have been using a prescription cream for a whole and am happy with it but it dries out my skin…on the bright side, my insurance pays for it. All in all I have not been able to find a miracle cure. When I went for facials they said to exfoliate the skin, but that did not help that much either.

    • I’ve gone back to my prescription creams for the past few weeks and it’s helping, but also really drying out my skin. I hope to slowly incorporate less harsh products slowly – just really need to treat the bacteria on my skin now. le sigh.

  2. I have bad skin to… boo. I thought as soon as I hit 18 I was an adult and would no longer have to suffer from acne; I was wrong. I went through tons of prescriptions to try to clear up my face however, I always had wicked oily skin. Instead of using expensive face wash I started using Dove soap and found it dried up my constantly oily face. I find I still get a lot of black heads and no matter how many time I squeeze them they always come back. I started using an exfoliator made for your body not just your face and find it works better since it has larger particles.

  3. Jen

    Have you ever heard of ocm? It’s a method which you cleanse your face with oil. I had a similar situation to you but dermatologists never could find an acceptable solution. Started ocm with plain grapeseed oil followed by a 50/50 apple cider vinegar and water toner. It’s amazing at how fast it cleared my skin up. All the chemicals etc in commercial face products and even prescriptions were a causing my breakouts. You should check it out!

  4. It’s funny, I never really had bad, overall acne when I was younger, just some spots here and there. Now in my late 20s, I get acne on the regular with my hormonal changes. Once a month, I get a few big zits around my mouth and chin – the most noticeable areas for acne. I have just learned to accept them and don’t do anything except covering them up with powder and trying not to pop them. I have always had blackheads on my nose, for this I use the Queen Helene mint julep mask, which works great.

    I’m interested in the P&S facial now, must go on their website and check it out!

    • I recommend giving it a try.

      They are knowledgeable and have great products. What I don’t like is the “scolding’ when I don’t come back often enough. But come on, the facial is $120 + tax + tip. It’s expensive! /rant

  5. saint frances

    i’ve always had issues with acne and have been on birth control for years because of it. but lately my skin has been a lot better WITHOUT washing my face. every time i go back to regular facial cleanser and moisturizer, my skin breaks out like it has for the past few years, even with help from the birth control. now i wash make up off with just water and use witch hazel to “clean” my face, once in the morning and once at night. i tried a mix of apple cider vinegar and water for awhile but it didn’t keep my pores as clear. to moisturize, i use jojoba oil. the only other thing i really do is use a scrub consisting of honey, EVOO, and sugar about once a week. my skin still isn’t perfect but it’s definitely the best it’s been in a long time.

    • I’ve been on BC for years and lately came off of it. I found that BC definitely helped but I didn’t like the way the BC was making me feel.

      I’ve heard witch hazel is a good thing to try – good for the fighting bacteria, I think(?). I’ve tried jojoba oil but it seems a bit thick and oily for me. I like the honey scrub, but I haven’t used it since I started breaking out. Maybe I’ll use it as a mask instead.

  6. Benzoyl peroxide. That’s what did it for me. (It’s in Clearasil and many other treatments).

    I think the pill also helped, but it’s hard to say; it could just be an age thing.

    Now, I wash with just water/Cetaphil and use Lush/Body Shop moisturisers that are as natural as possible. I do still get pimples – often around the time of month or after eating peanut butter – but I wouldn’t call it acne anymore, thank god.

  7. I’ve battled with acne myself and have spent countless time and money on trying to get rid of it. I’m just thanking the heaven and skies that my face has been tolerable after getting my very first facial. The extractions are not my favorite BTW.

  8. BIG TIME! I had intermittent zits in high school, but my skin went nuts at 17 and was going haywire until about 9 months ago. It progressed from lots of deep pimples, to skin that was constantly swollen and sore, to cysts to that wouldn’t go away (one for over a year, even with an injection). I went to the dermatologist and ended up on medication (a progesterone blocker), and a vitamin A cream (Differin). I wish I had found that solution 2 years sooner, because it’s left scars behind now.

    Like you, I tried the facials and found that I was constantly being scolded by the facialist for not coming in often enough. I easily spent over $1000 there in facials and products. I’ve had to make some big changes in my diet (banned most caffeine – decaf coffee only, go easy on the teas and chocolate), changed the way I wash my face (oil cleanser with the occasional gentle soap wash if needed, the harsh cleansers make it worse for me), started moisturizing (found one that doesn’t make me break out – La Mer *cringe*), had to teach myself to stop picking at it (still working on it), and had to find sources of stress relief (yoga, reading, etc…)

    Dealing with it really can be more than just finding a different face wash for some people. Thankfully it sounds like you’re getting yours under control. Best of luck hun.

    • Yikes. I’m glad you have it under control. I remember my acne back when I was in high school – it was really bad.

      I really don’t like it when spas tell you to come back often, it’s like they think you stay away because you want your skin to be bad or something. Don’t they realize how expensive they are? And don’t even get me started on tipping – why do we need to tip? Aren’t we already paying +$100 for the facial itself?

      My aunt recommended La Mer. I can’t stomach it.

  9. Sonia

    I second the OCM. It’s cheap and it works! The beauty of the stuff is that it is a make up remover as well as a cleaner and semi-moisturizer. I still use a light moisturizer after, but many people I know don’t bother. They percentage of oil is dependent on your skin type. If you have combo skin, do a 50% oil vs. castor oil. If you have oily skin, do 75% castor and 25% oil.

    I had such BAD acne and the dreaded backne when I was a teenager and again when I was pregnant. I know how bad it can get and yes, it is does effect your self esteem. I wouldn’t leave the house unless I absolutely had to when I had bad breakouts.

    Hope you find something that works well for you and is affordable!

  10. appelkullen

    my sister had really severe acne (that kind that leaves scars behind…) and she found out that it seems to have everything to do with sugar and the carbs that we eat. she is an anthropologist and found out that acne is a problem that only occurs to western people – who eat western food, which is full of sugar (you can’t believe the amount of food that contains sugar! look closer!). once non-western people change from the traditional diets to (more) western diets (like indians in south america did, or inuits), boom! acne appears.
    she cut out sugar, totally. after some weeks she was able to stop medication (that would only suppress the symptoms, and not the cause, anyway. sometimes doctors and patients are just so lazy. acne? throw in this and throw in that. pills pills pills. and medical lotions. but don’t question your diet and lifestyle, because then we doctors wouldn’t get all your money for the pills.)
    she has very clean skin by now. (but spots show up everytime she eats sugar…)

    i just have blemished skin (i’m 24), but i definitly see the effects that food has on my skin. it really seems to be (too much) sugar, (too little) water, (too little) vegetables/fruit and the wrong oils (my skin loves ecological oils that are not refined. works with non-ecological oils too, as long they are not refined and pure). whole-grean is also better that white bread.
    i stopped using cosmetics altogether. i just wash my face with water and use a simple natural cream if needed (rarely). i found out that my sister is right – it really doesn’t matter what stuff i used ON the face, it only matters what stuff i put IN my mouth 😉
    oh – and i don’t use makeup any longer. not just because it causes spots (on my skin anyway) but because i don’t need it anymore 🙂

    besides, i save a fortune and my skin never looked better!

    (the funny thing is, our dad always said, girls, don’t eat all that junk, don’t eat all that chocolate and chips and burgers from mcdonalds, and don’t use all that makeup, it causes bad skin. we didn’t believe him because he’s our dad.)

    • I think when I was a teenager, my hormones were so all over the place it didn’t matter what I ate. I tried cutting out meat, chocolate, all fried foods – to no avail.

      Now I notice that there are certain foods that really don’t agree with me, and I try to avoid them. Sugar, fatty foods, shell fish, and carbs.

  11. appelkullen

    oh and i forgot to write:

    i tried many products. especially those for acne. but these just dried out my face which then got panicky and produced more oil. i didn’t know that in my teenage years. when i started university, i found some intresting facts in beauty forums: if you have acne, your skin is in reality very sensitive. it shows you that something is wrong. you should be very kind and not bombing it with benzoyl peroxide or all that aggressive anti-acne stuff.
    so i downgraded. from clearasil (teenage years – worst skin ever! now i think, maybe without clearsil it would have been better…) to products for dry and sensitive skin, handmade soap, washing with just water every other day, using only water.
    step by step my skin grew better, less oily and less spotty.
    but only changing my diet really helped.

    i hope, my experience can help some of you 🙂 good luck with your skin! never forget: be nice to your skin!

    • Thanks, will try to keep that in mind 🙂

      And yes, my skin is really sensitive. I took the Skin Type Solution questionnaire by Dr. Leslie Baumann and my result was oily, sensitive, non-pigmented and tight. Will discuss in a post.

  12. hi
    I have acne when I was teenager. it was not bad and i use Retin A cream. at first my skin dry and become red. after 6 weeks only I have amazing skin. my friends was asking me about the name of foundation I used. while i didn’t put any make up it just the result of cream Retin A. when I got married I didn’t pregnant for 4 years. I went to the doctor and she told me to use Clomid pills to get pregnant. after using it my skin full with acne. it is so bad to the extent it cause scars on my face. I hared about roaccutane but it has many side effects.soon i will go to the dermatoligest .
    what is ocm method?

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