Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Home Acne Treatments

I've been plagued with acne since the onset of puberty.  Unable to afford the doctor's fees and medications, my parents were unable to do much about it while I lived at home.  As soon as I got out on my own and got a real job with real insurance however, I dashed off to a dermatologist to get my pimples taken care off.

What followed were years of yo-yo wins and frustrations.  Yes, the medications worked, but by the time I needed more (usually after two years or so), it'd been "so long" since I'd been to the office that they couldn't just call the prescriptions in, I'd have to come in again as a new patient.  (Really?!?! Two years?)  So I'd fill out fresh paperwork, have to go to the stupid follow-up appointments even though nothing had changed and then finally be left in peace for a year and half to two years till the prescriptions expired and we'd have to start the whole process over again.

I tried different dermatologists, hoping that I'd find one that wasn't creepy, or scatterbrained, or more aesthetician than actual doctor, or one who didn't have a waiting list of several months.  I tried to explain that I didn't need countless followup visits or wholesale quantities of the expensive treatments they hocked.  No go.

So within the past year or so I finally resigned myself to a life of endless acne (at least until menopause strikes in another 10-15 years); too fed up with the medical establishment to want to play their games anymore.

Problem is I'm getting married in a few short months and I'm still vain enough to not want my face to be covered in angry red bumps on my big day.  Still unwilling to step foot in yet another dermatologist office, I was going to have to research home remedies.

Acne is a complicated condition, it's not just a matter of person hygiene.  It has as much to do with your digestion (apparently), as your skin.  Treatment therefore needs to tackle the issue from several angles.  The following is a (long) list of things that have helped.

1) Wash your face at least twice daily.
Seems like a no-brainer.  My skin is so freaking oily in the summer that I really could actually get away with washing a third time at noon (I choose not to though).  In the winter I get dry scaly patches despite the rest of my face being fairly greasy.
In the morning I use a facial cleaner with benzoyl peroxide.  This tends to irritate some people's skin, but it works great on mine.  I get a cleanser with the highest percentage of BP I can find.
In the evenings I use a simple dye-free, perfume-free cleanser.  I don't use a moisturizer (obviously) or any other skin-care product.

2) Change your washcloth with each use.
Your washing dead skin cells, bacteria, dirt and oil off your face (along with any leftover cleanser).  Don't put that stuff back on your face again later.  Buy some extra washcloths and change them out each time.  Just do it.

3) Change your pillowcase every couple days.
Think about it: you're mushing your face into this thing for hours at a time.  It collects all the stuff you're trying to keep off your face.  As with the washcloths, you may have to buy more pillowcases if you don't do laundry too frequently. 

4) Pepto-Bismol is your friend!
But you don't need to drink it!
Put that stuff on a cotton ball and dab it on your face a few minutes before bed.  Let it sit for 10 minutes or so and then rinse it off.  Pepto has two ingredients in that are found in common acne treatments: benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid and it's much cheaper than the prescription acne stuff.

5) Stay away from greasy, sugary foods.
If you have acne you probably already know this one, but it's worth mentioning just in case.

6) Don't drink ice-cold liquids.
This is a new-ish one on me.  In researching home acne remedies, this is one that came up.  The reasons were rather nebulous, but since fridge-cold water does trouble my stomach sometimes, I've taken this advice to heart and have tried to cut back on the cold beverages.
According to this school of thought one shouldn't drink anything colder than room temperature - which to me is actually right about the temperature I prefer cold beverages to be anyway; so win there!

7) Instead, drink "Seed Tea".
This is an Ayurvedic remedy I came across in my research.  The recipe is pretty easy:
Boil 5-6 cups of water
In a tea ball, add 1/2 tsp each of: fennel seeds, cumin seeds and coriander seeds.
Turn the heat down to low and let the seeds seep for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and drink throughout the day until it's gone (I usually have it finished off by 2:00 in the afternoon, but I drink a lot).
This tea actually doesn't directly have much to do with treating acne.  Instead it cleanses the liver and strengthens the digestive system so it's better able to deal with the bacteria and toxins that are bringing those nasty sores to your face.
I should warn that this tea can irritate your bowels.  It takes about a week for your body to adjust to it.  If you're noticing bloody stools, you can dial back the seeds to a 1/4 tsp of each for that first week or so.
Speaking of which:

8) Make sure you poop regularly.
At least once a day for good digestive health (again, it's so your body can handle that bacteria bloom your skin is harboring).  Up your intact of fruits and veggies if your bowels are reluctant to empty themselves on a daily basis.  Just keep in mind that fruits have a lot of sugars (which aren't your friend).  You'll have to find a happy balance between fiber and low-sugar intake.

So that's it!
I've been following this regimen for a couple months now and it is definitely helping.  No, my skin isn't completely acne-free - but it never was even with the prescription medications.  If I'm less than vigilant with any one of the above-mentioned items, I get breakouts; but my skin is better than it was.

Though this routine more or less works, I'm still open to trying different things so if you folks out there have advice - things you've found have worked for you - feel free to share in the comments! (Please don't do a "let me Google that for you!" and post links that you've found without having personal experience to back it up.  There's lots of info on the interwebz and I'd really rather hear personal anecdotes than from helpful researchers.)
Has anyone out there tried the "Oil Cleansing Method"? What mixture has worked best for you?
Anyone out there treated acne with diet alone? How'd that work?
Any other off the wall treatments I've never heard of? Share with the class!

1 comment:

  1. I've been on Accutane (isotretinon) twice--the side effects were unbearable--and that was just as effective as the much cheaper and less damaging benzoyl peroxide mix sold on Acne.org. I loved that and used it for 3 years with tremendous success... until I suddenly developed an allergy to benzoyl peroxide. So as long as you're not allergic to BP, I highly recommend the regimen and products sold on Acne.org. After my BP allergy, I gave the horrible Accutane another shot 10 years after I first used it. But the side effects were unbearable, so I quit after a few months and began cycling through various dermatologist-prescriped topical creams again. I'm now using Aczone with tremendous success (although it's only been two months, so take that with a grain of salt). So those are my two recommendations: BP from Acne.org (follow the regimen carefully--deviation from it can dry you out) and Aczone.

    (My background: I first developed acne in second grade and hves never had a break from it. I can't count the number of topical and oral medications I've used in the past two decades.)