I'm 21 and Still Living With Acne - Here's How I Manage It

My acne journey has been a long, winding road that hasn’t lead to success. My struggles with cystic acne began when I was in high school and worsened when I got to college. The combination of my poor diet and hormonal fluxes at that time made for a pimply face. It’s just what happens, said my dermatologist.

I realized there was a deeper problem the summer before my sophomore year of college. That summer, my face was messier than it ever was in the past, my cheeks sheeted with deep, painful pimples. This is what defines cystic acne — a different type of acne, usually hormonally created, that causes deep, painful red bumps underneath the skin that take days, even weeks to recede. I was embarrassed, in constant pain, and my self-confidence was at an all-time low. 

I tried every method to treat this new condition of mine — birth control, Epiduo, a dairy-free diet, microneedling (which I really do not recommend). You name it, I tried it. And today, I am managing my acne in a few successful ways. Here are a few of the habits I currently instill for keeping most of my acne at bay.

  1. 1. The Body Shop’s Tea Tree Line

    What a game-changer. Dermatologists often recommended to me moisturizing face washes that just seemed to clog me up more. I love what benefits tea tree has for acne-prone skin, and love The Body Shop’s face wash, toner, and tea tree oil, which is safe for spot treating acne.

  2. 2. Oral Antibiotics

    An oral antibiotic could be the right solution for you. The largest aid I can give is to see a dermatologist, and ask if they think the acne you’re experiencing is hormone related. What I eventually learned is despite how clean I keep my skin, the acne issues are beginning within my own hormonal imbalances. I currently take spironolactone, a commonly prescribed pill for adult female acne patients.

  3. 3. Light Coverage Foundation

    This seems contradictory to those who have acne. I found that trying to cake my pimples just made them more aggravated. I currently use the Benefit Hello Happy lightweight foundation, and I find that it keeps my oily skin at bay throughout the day and does not irritate breakouts.

  4. 4. Vitamin A Topical Creams

    After trying what feels like every topical cream, what I currently use is Differin gel, which is now over-the-counter at most drug stores. It is a Vitamin A derivative, and I haven’t had any issues with it over drying or causing breakouts, unlike several other topical creams I was prescribed.

  5. 5. Practicing Self-Confidence & Love

    It is really, really easy for me to be down and have little self-confidence on a day where my skin is flaring up. Today, I’ve learned to accept whatever my skin is going through and wear it with confidence. My self-worth is definitely not defined by my acne, and I will keep this in mind whenever I am out at Target and have pimples present. It’s all normal. It’s all okay.

Though my acne has been a thorn since high school, I know it is something out of my control. With these couple of steps, though, I manage to live through the flare-ups and still feel worthy and confident in my early 20s.