How I Finally Cleared Up My Adult Acne, With a Dermatologist’s Help

BY Belinda Franco · July 20, 2020

Woman's face with acne breakout

My skin had seen better days. To be quite honest, I never thought I’d see another pimple on my face after graduating high school. Reality check: I’d been dealing with acne on and off throughout my teen and adult years. But this time, I was really in for a rough patch with my skin, and something had to change.

How It All Began

Throughout the years, my skin journey has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs where one moment I’ll have tiny bumps on my forehead to a small cyst on my chin and then all of a sudden, my face will be clear for months on end (well, except for those pesky ones that pop up during that time of the month).

After attending college for a few years, I became more curious as to how the skin functions. I did some research and I decided to enroll in beauty school, focusing on the esthetician program. Aside from getting hands-on training on facials and makeup applications, I learned more about the anatomy of the skin (who knew the skin is the largest organ the body has?), which products combat acne and more in-depth knowledge of skin care ingredients (hello vitamin C, AHAs and let’s not forget SPF, too!). I was even so bold as to volunteer for facial treatments from fellow students, but my skin would break out badly afterwards. Through this experience, I discovered my skin was more sensitive than I thought, but I was able to find a well-known, three-step acne care system that worked for me. After completing a 600-hour course, I passed my exams and managed to become a licensed esthetician for the state of California. But even estheticians don’t get it easy.

The Havoc

By the time 2019 rolled around, my breakouts were at a minimum, so I decided it was safe to switch up my skin care routine with a new set of products. Big mistake! I gave this new acne regimen a go, and it was a no. My skin became super dry and bumpy, and eventually my jawline started breaking out horribly. I switched back to my original lineup, and my skin recovered­—until I decided again to experiment. I started using an organic tea tree oil bar cleanser and a face oil; a month in, havoc ensued.

Once again, my skin began breaking out, but this time it was the cystic kind rearing its head all over my face. It had no mercy for my chin and jawline either. I tried benzoyl peroxide cleansers, antibiotics and adapalene (a retinoid-based acne treatment), and they seemed to be working, but then I’d break out again and again. I’d had success in the past at maintaining clear skin, but this time my efforts were no match for my cystic acne struggles.

The whole ordeal was stressful and emotionally draining because nothing that I was doing seemed to be working anymore. It was so bad at times that I avoided mirrors and never wanted to leave the house. During my brother’s wedding, I didn’t even want to be in pictures. I even started to convince myself that maybe it was my diet and stress. I ended up giving up dairy and meat and skipped the occasional French fries splurge. It turns out, my diet wasn’t really the culprit. I didn’t see much of a change after giving up these foods, but rather a stream of continuous breakouts.

What Worked for Me

Finally, I knew that it was time to seek professional help from a dermatologist. I could no longer do it on my own, even with my esthetician background and everything I knew about skin care ingredients. With technology making many things easy and accessible, I was able to do an online consultation with a dermatologist and discuss my concerns. After sharing my skin challenges and a few not-so-great selfies with my doctor, I was finally able to get the proper topical acne medication I needed to address my specific skin woes. I was so ecstatic I had found a solution but was still a bit worried these stubborn cystic acne breakouts would continue having a mind of their own and never go away.

After just two months, my entire face has cleared up significantly; I couldn’t believe it. All the bumps are gone, and the redness has slowly dissipated. I feel good going out without layers of makeup on, and I can confidently look at my face in front of the mirror again. I honestly feel like I got my skin back, and my self-confidence has soared. I’m me again, but it doesn’t stop there. As a bonus, the little frown lines in between my eyes look smoother, too. I’ve even slowly gotten back to reintroducing some dairy to my diet and eating French fries again! This was no overnight miracle cure. Everyone’s skin journey is different, and I still struggle with the occasional breakout. But it doesn’t compare to what was going on before.

Navigating these bumps in the road (no pun intended!) was no fun, but I’m glad I ditched my old skin care routine and gave my new treatment a chance—and I’ve stayed true to applying it every night before bed. I’m also definitely more aware that I can’t simply take a gamble on any product because I feel like switching things up. I’m wary of trying new skin care ingredients, but thankfully as my skin progresses more and more, my doctor is simply able to tweak my prescribed treatment to address any new concerns such as fine lines and dark spots. So it looks like future online consultations may be down the road. What’s next? Not letting my skin woes hold me back!

Belinda Franco

Belinda Franco

Belinda Franco is a Junior Copywriter at Dermstore. She is also a licensed esthetician who, in spite of having passed skin care dos and don’ts 101, still deals with her own skin woes (yes, we get breakouts too!). Hence, the inspiration that sparks ... Read More >