I can categorize the years between middle school and post-college by the acne medication I was taking at the time.
Middle school: Retinol and antibiotics.
High school: Retin-A and, finally one round of Accutane.
That six-month treatment of Accutane took me through my college years, when by the time I graduated I thought I had been cured once and for all by this “miracle drug.” After years of being teased by my small-pored peers, I finally felt as if I was free from a condition that seriously affected my confidence during those critical growth years.
When my cystic acne started creeping back up the summer before grad school, I once again made a visit to my dermatologist. We were on a first name basis at this point. I begged for one more round of the “miracle drug.” By this point in time, the laundry-list of Accutane side effects were becoming more widely known, but I was willing to go through the pain of severely dry skin, radical mood swings, limited exposure to sun, and painful muscle aches just to have beautiful skin again. That’s how terrified I was of my acne returning. I completed an abbreviated three-month treatment, side effects and all, with clear skin as a result.
But after the treatment finished, I asked myself, “What was the payoff?” Would I have to put myself on medication every three years just to avoid having a face full of breakouts? Would I have to subject myself and my family to the crazy side effects just for a fleeting moment of clear skin? It was an unpleasant route I had been down before, and I had nothing to lose if I tried an alternative. Additionally, shortly after I tackled acne, I began to fight the development of melasma on my face, a patchy brown skin condition. According to my dermatologist, the only treatment was hydrocortisone and bleach. That’s where I drew the line.
I began researching how to maintain clear skin naturally and I learned how oil is actually beneficial to “oily” or combination skin. Fight oil with oil? You must be crazy. Everything I had been taught up to this point screamed “no chocolate, no sugar, no oil! You must dry your skin to the point of breaking to find a solution!” Well, sometimes conventional wisdom can be wrong.
After finding out my organic face-wash was anything but non-toxic, I began to wash my face with a mix of honey, olive oil, and soap. I also searched high and low for topical toners to balance the ph of my skin and fix the hyper-pigmentation, usually paying $10-15 for a small 4 ounce bottle. It was completely unsustainable and not economical. So I found a recipe that used apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, and almond oil. I’ve been using it for two years. The result?
I’m still acne-free. And the hyper-pigmentation from the melasma is manageable.
If you struggle with problem skin, talk to your dermatologist to see if a kitchen remedy might be appropriate for you rather than taking an expensive drug that carries lots of side effects. Here are the recipes I used. While they worked for my skin, everyone’s skin is different and the key is to experiment. As always, there’s an adjustment period where your skin will need to figure out just how much oil it needs to produce (Translation: You may experience a week or two where you do breakout. Don’t worry, your skin is just figuring out how it needs to adjust after 20+ years of being dried out!)
Honey Lemon Face Wash
Cost of the above recipe: $6.34 for three month supply
Almond Tea Tree Face Toner
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 4 tsp almond oil
- 2 drops tea tree oil
Place above ingredients in a small dark glass jar (to protect it from light damage) and shake. Apply a small amount to face twice a day with a cotton ball.
Cost of the above recipe: $1.20
Under no circumstances should you ever apply apple cider vinegar undiluted to your skin, as it will cause a burn. If you do experience, rashes, burns or severely irritated skin from using the above recipes, stop using immediately and seek a doctor’s care. If your troublesome skin conditions persist, see a dermatologist or doctor for medical advice.
Stay tuned next week for the continuation of my recipe series: Body wash and deodorant.
How have you managed to tackle your skin problems?