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My Tumultuous Journey with Acne and How I (Actually) Saved My Skin

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

The state of my skin has been an insecurity for me since middle school. I always hoped I was just going through a phase but unfortunately, the skin concerns followed me from middle school all the way to college. 

Believe me when I say I tried every supposed acne cure. Starting out with Neutrogena pink grapefruit face wash and maturing to products from brands like The Ordinary (and sampling everything in between), nothing worked. 

Finally, I decided to see a dermatologist. She prescribed me two topical creams to apply daily, one of which was a combo of tretinoin and benzoyl peroxide. Fast forward about a year and a half, and I was feeling worse about my skin than ever before. 

Not only was the acne still there, I had a new problem: incredibly dry, flaky, irritated skin. I expected a “purging” phase (as is common with acne medicines), but this had gone on for over a year. I even decreased usage to once per week, and I was still a mess. It was to the extent that even splashing my face with water made it burn and turn red. I bought the thickest moisturizer I could find and nevertheless, the extreme flakiness persisted. 

When I told my dermatologist what was happening, she advised me to just keep using it. While I tried that, I eventually had to quit using it. The burning every time anything touched my face was just too much. 

Fast forward again to the Summer of 2023, during my trip to South Korea. Obviously, I couldn’t leave Korea without checking out their famed skincare. After some internet scouring, I went home with several of the bestselling products. I don’t mean to sound dramatic or clickbait-ish, but that stuff completely changed the game for me. 

I now use almost exclusively the Korean skincare products I bought in my daily routine (I’ve even had to reorder some online). For the first time in years, I feel pretty confident in my skin. It’s not 100% perfect, but it’s so much better. I’m not sure what they put in that stuff to make it so much better than literally all the products I’d tried previously. It almost feels too good to be true.  For those looking to dabble in K-skincare, here are some things I use:

  • Mediheal Madecassoside Toner Pads: Don’t just wipe these across your face. Apply one to each cheek and let it set like a mini sheet mask. I swear, these give me the “glass skin” effect after using. 
  • Sheet Masks: DO NOT bother with the $10+ ones from Sephora. That price is criminal and the quality isn’t as good. I love the multipacks from Mediheal or Nature Republic (which equal about $1.40 each). You can find varieties for any skin concern, making them THE skincare weapon. 

I think a lot of things can be ordered from Amazon, but Olive Young does so many sales and freebies, it’s kind of absurd. The internet may try to feed you a lot of lies, but I can personally attest: Korean skincare is worth the hype. 

Lily is a third year Political Science major at UCLA from Sarasota, FL. In her free time, she loves binge-watching sitcoms, listening to music, and finding new coffee shops.