Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Style > Beauty

Dealing with Skincare Troubles and Adult Acne as a College Student

Updated Published
The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

The Her Campus National Editors write about products we love and think you’ll love too. Her Campus has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase. All products are in stock and all prices are accurate as of publication.

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

As a college student, I deal with my fair-share of extreme stress. From taking intense courses on the quarter system to participating in various organizations, I sometimes feel like I never have a break! There have even been moments where I have experienced physical symptoms from this stress, one of which has been breakouts.

I am fortunate enough to never have struggled with bad acne, but I know that many others are in a different situation. I can relate to the frustration of having a painful pimple right before an important event or one that simply won’t go away. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview sisters Eda and Serra Levent, founders of the skincare company Cool As A Cucumber, to learn more about how to conquer the struggles of adult acne. 

Eda and Serra grew up in Istanbul, Turkey and came to the United States to attend college. They are currently located in New York. Both sisters have been dealing with adult acne and were brought together by their shared struggles with acne about three years ago. Although neither of them had backgrounds in the beauty industry, Eda and Serra left their jobs to start their business as a result of their journey in getting ahold of their adult acne.

While Eda didn’t experience any skin problems until she went to college, Serra has dealt with acne her entire life. Their mom said that her acne would go away once they were around the age of having their first child, but they are now thirty-seven years old and still struggle with acne. 

I am sure most of you reading this can relate to the fact that starting college and moving away from home for the first time is difficult. It is the beginning of a person establishing themselves as an adult both socially and as someone working towards a career. Eda felt like her physical appearance, specifically having adult acne when starting college, made her feel alone and took a significant toll on her emotional well-being. She mentioned that even within a close friend circle, not a lot of people were open about this. 

When the pandemic first started, Eda was in graduate school living with her now husband and lived in a small space. In addition to living a life consisting of many Zoom meetings, seeing herself for eight hours a day on a computer screen was mentally draining. This led to her skipping class for three weeks and diving into research.

Through her research, Eda discovered that acne is the eighth most common disease, so even though not everyone was upfront about their struggles, she was not alone. One thing that stood out to her was that there was a list of almost 100 ingredients that are commonly used in skincare products and are known to clog pores, such as shea butter and coconut oil. While these ingredients are not harmful for normal skin, they can have a negative impact on acne prone skin. 

When creating their business model, Serra and Eda wanted to emphasize the importance of customers educating themselves on skincare. One way they did this was by creating a tool that I found very creative: the Skinindex Ingredient Checker. This is something that stood out to me about the brand. The Skindex is a tool that checks product ingredient lists against a list of over 150 potential pore cloggers or acne irritants. I decided to test this tool out by researching the ingredients in a blush that I use on a pretty regular basis. Luckily, most of the ingredients in this blush were safe, but unfortunately, Isostearyl Neopentanoate and Isopropyl Palmitate, two ingredients that can cause pore-clogging, were used to make this blush. I realized that since I tend to deal with breakouts during times of significant stress, this product is something that I should be mindful of using during these periods. 

The key to staying clear is having knowledge on product ingredients and making sure that people aren’t undoing any work being put into having clear skin. In my interview, I learned that the process of eliminating all potential pore cloggers takes approximately three months. Since everyone reacts differently to specific ingredients, the best way to target these potential pore cloggers after eliminating them is to reintroduce them one by one. Pore cloggers are not just limited to skincare, but also include ingredients in makeup and hair care products, just like in the blush I use. 

Being unaware of what causesf your pores to get clogged is a rollercoaster. There are periods of time where an individual may have super clear skin and then, all of the sudden, they get a breakout out of the blue. This “elimination diet” for potential triggers in products allows a person to have a sense of control, which the Skinindex Ingredient Checker can help one achieve.

Another way that Cool As a Cucumber provides a resource for skincare education is the Acne Triggers Diagnostic Assessment. This tool gives a 360 approach to help people understand what causes acne in order to approach it from a more tangible standpoint. Being able to know what could specifically be triggering your acne can lead to a person making the correct changes to their lifestyle and purchasing the correct products. 

As a college student on a budget, I found it useful to have a tool that helps you get right to the point without having to spend a ton of money testing products that may not do anything. I learned that my primary triggers for acne are hormones, diet, and gut health. I had an idea that this was likely the case, but it was great to have a description of how exactly  these issues are triggers for my acne. 

Eda and Serra noted that you do not need to have a ten step skin care routine to get results. It is most important to wash your face every night, use SPF, and ensure to do a double cleanse. This means that you should cleanse your face once in order to remove the makeup and SPF and then again to actually clean your skin. It is key to stick to something simple, as overdoing can be harmful, too.

As someone who personally experiences severe anxiety, I know it is extremely difficult to keep stress levels at a minimum. However, this makes acne worse, as the stress causes cortisol levels to jump and having higher cortisol levels leads to having increased oil (sebum) production. Additionally, stress can also impact an individual’s acne because it may create inflammation. Eda and Serra shared with me how important it is to make edits to your lifestyle to decrease stress. Some examples of these lifestyle changes include mediation and yoga, but stress management tools like these will only be effective if it is done long term. 

Cool as A Cucumber has many resources I found helpful in discovering my acne triggers, vetting my products and overall learning more about what causes acne. In addition to the brand’s resources they have a line up of three skincare products including, Soothe Operator: a Silky Gel Cleanser,  Balancing Act: An Exfoliating Acne Treatment Serum and Hydralixir: A Hydrating Gel Serum. All of Cool As A Cucumber’s products are formulated specifically for acne-prone skin in two ways. First, they contain ingredients that collectively target multiple acne pathways. Second, they are formulated with zero pore clogging ingredients! 

Tessa Scharff is a fourth year at UCSD studying Communication. She was born in raised in Los Angeles and is super thrilled to serve as both a writer and as the Marketing Co-Director of HerCampus this school year. In her free time, Tessa enjoys hanging out with her friends, working out at the gym, and exploring new places. Tessa plans on studying abroad this upcoming fall in Florence, Italy.