Saturday, February 9th, 2008

SCENARIO: When I get pimples/acne, it’s cystic acne that inevitably causes pigmentation and scarring no matter how fast I catch it. What are some skin care products that prevent acne but don’t dry out the skin? I have oily skin and would take recommendations on regimen too. Right now, in the morning, I use cleanser, toner, philosophy’s vitamin C powder mixed with their firming and lifting serum, and a sunscreen. At night, I use cleanser, toner, and a philosophy’s night cream. What are some products that are good at fading pigmentation and acne scars?

Situation courtesy of Shefali!

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42 thoughts on “Step Into My Shoes – Acne and Battle Scars!

  1. Tekoa

    *comforts* I’m in the exact same boat. Lets row together! You’ve probably heard this before, but go to a dermatologist. Its the only way that the scars and pigment can be removed quickly and perminantly. These are the treatments I know of/had myself.
    For the pigment, ask about a photofacial. This takes away the redness and dark pigmentation. And it reduces fine lines and promotes collagen!
    Oilyness, ask about Levulan treatment. It shuts down a few hundred of the thousands of hyperactive oil glands, and kicks the acne down.
    For the scarring, you could have a micro or full dermabrasian. You could even be a candidate for lazer treatments. However, your acne must be gone-gone for the lasers to be an option.
    The doctor likely will prescribe to you a medical grade cream, horomone pill, or antibiotic.

    I truly feel your pain. Literally. Cystic acne hurts! and it tends to be “complicated and persistant”. *lol* Don’t give up.

    • Shefali

      Hi Tekoa- it’s so good to know that are other people have this problem. I am definitely going to look into the dermatologist thing. My mom’s been telling me to go forever but I keep avoiding it thinking there are so many good products out there that could help. I’m also going to try a photofacial and look into Levulan. It sounds like you are well versed in this issue…unfortunately for us…but then you gave me some great advice which I’m thankful for.

      Let’s definitely row together!

    • mehleesa

      I was just wondering how much all that treatment ended up costing you…? Thanks!

  2. naomi

    I am in the exact same boat as well… But I just introduced a new product to my regime: Avene Diacneal. It is- in simple terms, AMAZING! It has already started to fade my acne scars (from the cystic mess I had on my chin) and it takes care of my already present cystic spots, as well as stopping new ones from forming. It contains retinaldehyde and glycolic acid so it exfoliates wonderfully but it does not make my super dry skin any dryer or irritated. I highly recommend trying this- MUA also has rave reviews on it if interested.

    • Shefali

      Hi Naomi –

      Which product in that line are you using? Or are you using the whole regimen?

      Thanks for the tips!

      • naomi

        hey hun! sorry, i just realized they have other diacneal products.. I use the blemish control gel- it really is a godsend as my face hasn’t look this good in years!
        I also just use a very gentle cleanser- avene micellar lotion (Because ultimately you don’t want to use a harsh cleanser to strip oils- because in return your skin will overproduce oil and make more acne!) and then follow with avene thermal water to take off what the micellar didn’t, and then i follow with the dianeal gel on my affected areas. I also don’t use any harsh moisturizers- I tend to use jojoba oil which is GREAT for my dry and sensitive skin- and it actually helps my acne too (especially the blackheads).

        Just as an FYI too, a lot of derms recommend diacneal for this problem- as mine did and i am glad he did :)

  3. Davina

    As an acne sufferer for 15+ years, i completely sympathize with you! my acne has lightened up a bit now into my 30s, but it was particularly bad in my early 20s with cystic acne. I went to a couple different dermatologists and tried tons of products which dried out my skin terribly (not to mention the billions of drugstore & dept. store brands i’ve tried). I finally found a line a few years ago that is perfect for my skin, doesn’t dry it out but keeps my acne in check. Its called DHC ( & i use their Salicylic acne line & love it. Plus i use the deep cleansing oil before I wash. For my scars, I use a combo of the DHC renewing AHA cream & Kiehls epidermal micro-dermabrasion cream for exfloiating (both just once or twice a week), which has all but faded almost every one of my major acne scars.
    These are just the products that i’ve found that work for me, I know everyone is different, but just wanted to share my secrets for acne-free skin for me!

    • Shelby

      Hi Davina

      I read your post about using the DHC salicylic acne wash and you also use their deep cleansing oil before hand for your skin. I just ordered the DHC deep cleansing oil, and their salicyclic acne treatment system they have yesterday. I’m excited to give them a try because I have acne-prone skin, but I’m alittle nervous to try the deep cleansing oil, I’m worried it’ll cause me to breakout more.. have you noticed since using the oil and the acne treatment improvement in your skin still?

  4. Carrie

    I have had really good luck with a product that I didn’t even start using for this purpose. It’s Prescriptives Vibrant-C Brightening Lotion Moisturizer.

    So here’s where I start to sound like a paid advertiser, ugh! But, the SA recommended this to me as an alternative to a powder highlighter, as it has a very subtle shimmer. But now I am HOOKED on it for how much it has improved my acne scarring and skin tone. Been using it for about 3 months under my makeup in the morning every day and my skin has never looked better. It faded a lot of my red and scarred areas and regulated the moisture. It doesn’t retexturize the skin surface, so I still have the scar pits, but the skin itself is soo much better.

  5. What a great post to address a very common problem. I too suffer from some mild acne scarring and hyperpigmentation due to sun damage, hormones, and life!

    I strongly recommend treatments with Vitamin C for clarity and healing your damaged skin. PCA’s A&C Serum is incredible, and now that I am reading your comments, I might be checking out Prescriptives Vibrant C.

    I also have heard so many good things about hydroquinone, however, I have also heard so many horrible things about its side effects. Namely, it can cause more damage and hyperpigmentation of your skin. AHA’s you should look for in a fading cream or serum should be: combination of both kojic and azelaic acids, plus lactic and citric acids. All gentler and more effective AHA’s for your skin. I have also heard good things about Mama Lotion which combines Malic and Mandelic Acids.

  6. Addicted_2color

    I’m so glad this was posted because I have been looking into seeing a dermatologist as well. I had really bad acne as a teen and then I had wonderful skin when I went on the patch. But I had to stop that because the hormones were giving me migraines. So hopefully the dermatologist will have something for me. I have tried so many acne clearing kits from sephora and nothing has helped.

  7. Amanda

    You might want to try calendula extract. You can find it in most vitamin/health stores. It’s a nice, natural, relatively cheap way to get rid of scarring — doctors sometimes apply it to burn scars. Calendula’s been my saving grace!

  8. Kimberly

    Also make sure you are taking a vitamin E every day, it is truly one of those amazing things that if taken on a regular basis you will notice huge results.

  9. Courtney

    I am in pharmacy school and we just had a unit on acne. My advice is, go to your doctor. Nothing over the counter will be able to competely resolve your acne and since you are getting scarring, getting a prescription is the only thing that will help. Your dermatologist will be able to tell exactly what grade your acne is and presribe product accordingly, you will get either topical or oral retinoids and maybe an antibiotic, depending on if you have inflammation or not.

    Good luck!

  10. Maybe try Bio Oil? It’s made for scars. It smells nice, but I’d only wear it at night because it’s oil (duh). Or, you could ask your doctor who may be able to prescribe scar reducing steroids. I have loads of tubes of steroids for scars on my arms (though your face skin would be more sensitive).

  11. cristine

    count me in as well!
    just recently my dermatologist mentioned “accutane” because my acne is persistent. stress and my worktime are culprits to my acne, :( inevitable.
    give it a thought, she said, referring to accutance, but thing with this is that you cannot get pregnant. has anyone heard of this yet?

    • Tekoa

      Oh yes. accutane and baby = VERY BAD. Where I am, if you are a female of child bearing age and you’re prescribed accutane, you MUST go on birth control pills at the same time. It is the nuclear bomb of acne medication, but it cures (yes, cures) acne for 60% of people on the first round.

    • amy

      i was on accutane for about a year a little over a year ago and am getting ready for a second round of it. it is amazing and i would def. recommend it, if you can deal with all the requirements. you have to be on birth control (which also will probably help a little with your acne) and you also have to sign an agreement saying you’ll use condoms or abstain from sex completely. if you get pregnant while you’re on accutane the baby WILL have birth defects. you also have to be “counselled” by your dermatologist before you can get the prescription every month because there’s a slight correlation between depression and accutane. you have to take an online quiz of some sort before you can get the prescription each month, as well as having to have bloodwork done every month (pregnancy test and regulating some other stuff – sugar levels, etc.) it sounds like a pain in the butt, and it is, but it really is amazing. i have HORRIBLE acne and for that month and about 9 months after my skin looked amazing. i didn’t really start breaking out again until i went off the birth control too (8 or 9 months after stopping the accutane) and even now, it’s nowhere near as bad as i was before i started accutane. there are a few side effects, but i only experienced the most common ones which are chapped lips and dry skin, both of which are easy to remedy. i’d seriously look into it if you’re in a position to try it.

  12. Erin

    Cristine- the reason you shouldn’t get pregnant on accutane is because it can cause your fetus to develop irregularly or otherwise cause complications. That is a very powerful medication, if you ask me, if it can do that. Also, never go out in the sun without a hat and SPF as high as you can get it, or it will crisp your skin. I had a friend who was on accutane and he stayed out in the sun too long with exposed cornrows. I can’t even describe it- it was like a horror movie.

    Try buying vitamin E capsules and working the oil into your skin. I have a friend whose face was burned by an exploding can of soup (always vent your cans when using a fire while camping, folks!), and her scars have faded so much they are unnoticeable. That’s the only thing she did, is use the vitamin E.

  13. Yes, pregnancy and accutane don’t mix. Retinoids in general should be avoided during pregnancy.

    Are you wanting to deal with the acne issue or the pigmentation/scarring issue, or both?

    There are so many products out there that promise results; it is confusing. I would highly recommend reading about acheiving the optimum ph balance with your skin, reading about ingredients to use and to avoid on and Renee Rouleau, and seekng the help of a skilled Dermatologist.

    Best wishes for great skin!

  14. Sophie

    Neutrogena Visibly Even cleanser, moisturizer, and treatment (forget what it’s called) all fade acne scars. But they don’t prevent acne. Maybe you should go to a dermatologist. They gave me topical cream so I could still use whatever cleanser, toner, moisturizer I wanted. But African black soap helped me fade marks in just a few weeks. has black soap.

  15. elyse

    hmm… I am not a DHC fan, even though I always want to like it. Accutane helped me out a bit, but during treatment it is not pretty. I am a fan of Retin-A myself, but I just started using juice beauty products and i like them. some products definitely make my skin worse, like smashbox primer, andything from the body shop, and mac foundations and concealers.
    make sure your derm listens to you!

  16. Sabina

    I am of tolerant skin (I guess to compensate for my troubles with acne), so I use or have used with good results:
    1) AHA + glucolactone products (Neostrata creams)
    2) MAMA lotion – malic and mandelic acid
    3) daily or bi-daily peeling with Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant
    4) lactic and glycolic acid peels (home)
    5) vitamin C preparations, now making my own from vitC powder and glycerin
    To offset all that acidic treatment (although my skin has never reacted badly) I cleanse and moisturise with natural oils (coconut, grapeseed, castor oil mixed with a lighter oil, hemp, pumpkin seed, etc.), with glycerin and/or fairly rich creams (Weleda rose cream, Clinique continuous rescue antioxidant dry skin formula). Although I do get occassional hormonal cysts and due to large pores I get clogged pores, I am quite happy with my skin and scars vanish after a time. Having said that, I am at loss when it comes to pitted scars – I have a few from before. Any advice? TY!

  17. Sabina

    And I forgot to mention above I also use Diacneal. It sure does help reduce hormonal flare-ups of acne.

  18. Tonee

    Hi Shefali,

    I didn’t have acne as a teenager – I started to get outbreaks of cystic acne when I was in my late 20’s (ugh!) and found the following regiment helped out a lot. Since the acne was stress+hormone related, I started taking zinc supplements as well and it really helped me.

    I used a very mild cleanser in the morning (Cetaphil) and a stronger one at night (Neutrogena Deep Clean).

    I applied a light coating of a salicylic acid based gel (Pure Zone) and once it dried, I applied a benzoyl peroxide gel (Pan Oxyl 5) over that. Did this twice a day – it was a really difficult routine to stick to but it was very effective.

    For lightening pigmentation marks, I found the following products worked for me:

    1) Clarins Brightening night cream
    2) The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil Blemish Face Night Lotion (miracle worker IMO)
    3) Murad Age Spot gel

    Hope this helps!

    • Shefali

      Hi Tonee – I will definitely try those brightening products you recommended. I started getting my outbreaks in my mid-20s too!!! WTH? Then they disappeared and it was great…and now in the last couple of months they are back. Probably the stress of working full-time, having a husband, and a 14-month-old have gotten to me :)

  19. Sheena

    hey shefali
    drink wheatgrass every day….
    acnefree terminator 10 is a godsend as well….

  20. Kelsey

    I’ve had cystic acne before, a really bad case, and yeah, it’s no fun.

    I definitely recommend going to a dermatologist. My dermatologist recommended Accutane, a strong prescription drug that basically cured my acne. I haven’t had acne in years! It’s so awesome.

    You might not want to take Accutane though if you plan on getting pregnant; it causes severe birth defects and while on it, you have to get your blood tested regularly.

  21. Shefali

    Wow!! I can’t believe how much great advice is here. Thank you so much everyone!! I think I have an arsenal of stuff here to get me started and back on my way to less acne and pigment on my face. I’m really excited to try everything, except the Accutane b/c I’m actually going to be trying to get pregnant starting in April.

    I don’t have any pitting from the acne, so I’m not sure what could help those who do.

    I feel so much better too knowing that I’m not the only who is having this problem. This post was like group therapy for me :)

  22. mithi

    I have a scar that is hyperpigmented on my hip and i’m using a product called Epi-Quin micro that I picked up at a medical spa. The cream is AMAZING on hyperpigmentation.

    As far as acne is concerned, I also use a product that I found at a medical spa. The line is called “IS Clinical” and I use the cleansing wash with glycolic acid. It worked wonders on my skin!

  23. madison

    I began getting cystic acne since I was in college. Before then, I never had a single zit.
    The reason my face flared up was because of hormones/stress.
    I’ve been getting photofacials, peels, etc.
    my parents spent THOUSANDS of dollars on vitamins, mineral water, and other internal and external treatments.

    my best advice:
    i got the huge industrial sized ones.
    and once a week, i still get photofacials.
    Just make sure you do the collagen for a few weeks first. it’ll reduce the inflamation.
    unless you reduce inflamation first, any harsh treatments like photofacials, dermabrasias, peels, will only make you look worse.

  24. Laura

    I am soooo thankful I found you guys. I’m 32 and have been diagnosed the Adult Onset Acne. I didn’t even break out this bad when I was a teenager. It’s worst across my shoulders. So painful! I look forward to trying some of your tips.

  25. katie

    Nice to know that there are others out there. When I was 22, I started to get really awful cystic acne on my back- not my face- just my back. I’m on my 4th month of Accutane, and it really works. I’ve tried everything else (over the counter, naturopath, other medications), and this was the only one to work on my skin. Once I get off Accutane, the plan is to have laser treatments for the scarring. Hopefully, that will work.

  26. victoria

    oh no bad memories i don’t want to bring back. everyone is so different. i broke out using b.e. and it took me months to figure what was the source so i ended up with bad acne. sometimes going back to your old makeup and cleansing routine is best if you didn’t have a problem before. and sometimes the solutions are just simple products like cetaphil and a light moisturizer. take your vitamins, eat right, drink lots of water and get lots of sleep and don’t pick on your face.

  27. recoveringfromadultacne

    Like a lot of you guys, I always had perfect skin until my late twenties.. but I know exactly what happened. I was on birthcontrol pills for almost 10 years, and when I went off them, my face errupted. I tried a lot of things, including proactive which dried my face out so bad it hurt to smile. Eventually, I just went back on BC pills (the yaz variety) and 3 months later, I am back to having no pimples. Unfortunately, I do have quite a lot of residual hyperpigmentation and some pitting, which is a real bummer. I currently use:

    Mario Badesco acne facial cleanser
    Mario AHA grapefruit toner
    mario acne serum
    Mario drying cream (on an active pimple works well to dry it out)
    mario spf 17 day lotion
    Body shop tea tree blemish fading night lotion.
    I also use mario’s whitening mask, and just started using Origins modern friction dermabrasion (36$)

    All the mario stuff is pretty reasonably priced (around 15$) and is highly recommended by a lot of people.
    I also read microdermabrasion is good for pitting, but since I could never afford that (and have read mixed things about how good it is for your skin in general), I bought this DIY origins version that is supposed to be really good.

    I still have the red marks on my face though, although I think they are fading.. I am wondering about the vitamin C stuff people have been talking about here?

  28. Jeanine

    Accutane! Accutane! Accutane!! I had cystic acne so bad that I had to do two rounds of accutane! Nothing else worked as well and I haven’t had acne since – 8 years after treatment. My skin is now smooth and I never have breakouts anymore. I also take YAZ birthcontrol, which helps keep my hormones under control, my face smooth and acne free. To combat the acne scarring visit: and learn more about treating the scars with copper peptides. It has completely smoothed out the surface of my skin. Also I highly recommend: for daily/nightly treatments and peels for acne scarring.

  29. Amy

    The dermatologist I used to work for sometimes prescribes the anti-biotic Doxycycline and Doryx (a brand-name, time-release version) for persistent adult acne (and like Accutane, it can’t be taken during pregnancy).
    During some recent travel I was on Doxycycline for malaria prevention. I’m 25 and have had some relatively persistent acne since my teens, and this was the first time my skin was perfectly clear for months on end (even with climate changes, diet changes, and a lot of travel).
    Here’s the problem: as soon as I went off the drugs, I broke out with cystic acne like never before in my life—my body went into withdrawal without the medication. My acne was relatively mild before, and now it’s become quite serious. It only calmed down a little when I started taking Doryx again. I don’t know if other non-topical medications have caused the same reactions in anyone else, but it’s something to keep in mind. Obviously I needed this drug to ward off malaria, but had I known what a reaction I would have to it after the fact, I never would have taken it just for my skin. Has anyone gone off Accutane and had a reaction like this?
    As a final note, my dermatologist sometimes prescribes in-office glycolic and salicylic acid treatments for patients with adult acne. They’re really mild chemical peels (you don’t leave the office with your skin peeled off, but just a little pink like after a facial), and they have helped some people with scarring.
    I am going to try some of all your suggestions, thanks!

  30. I use without problems and great results NeoStrata Lotion Plus – AHA 15 extra strength lotion with 15% AHA: it improve the visible signs of scar, even skin tone, improving overall texture when used as part of a daily skin care regimen.

  31. ppek

    I had over scrubbed my face with a loofah about 2 years ago and that was the start of non-stop pimples. Beginning of this year I went to see the dermalogist and was prescribed 2 acne meds and worked like magic but this only stopped my acne. I had scarring on both of my cheeks. I looked into laser treatments but were too costly and some would not have worked on my tan skin (Asian). I decided to try Origins, Modern Friction for over 6 months now and have lighten the scarring and a little goes a long way. I only used this product twice a week and it works. I do not have to wear heavy foundation anymore to cover. Give this a try!!

  32. Pricillia

    Awesome discussion! I went to the dermatologist for a flare up on my chest and while we discussed that he also noted my mild acne, it was so mild I didn’t think I suffered from ACNE! I thought I just had really prolonged breakouts lol, but he gave me a prescription for something called Tarzorac. I used Tarzorac for 2 months before I saw any changes in my skin. It worked but the dermatologist didn’t tell me that it is something that I have to continuously use to keep my skin in tip top shape. Any body that has ever used a retinoid knows all too well the burning, peeling, itching phase that ensue from use and I have dark skin so peeling was very visible, I was ashamed. Needless to say, i couldn’t see myself using this all the time. I did some research online and came across african black soap and shea butter. I sampled some and decided to go head and buy a whole pound of this stuff. Let me tell you I have done very well at keeping up the results that Tarzorac afforded me with my daily regimen of black soap and shea butter. I buy mine from, I highly recommend them to keep your skin flawless after an acne treatment. I haven’t had a breakout in years. Both shea butter and black soap are organic so that’s a plus. Honestly I will never go back to another retinoid, but I can say that it does work. Just make sure to have a thorough regiment okeep the results, i think that’s where a lot of people make the mistake. They use a treatment and call it a day. Nope, you have to keep up the work.