Acne Treatments That Didn’t Work

Categories: Acne, Dermatologist
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acne treatmentA big reason I started this site is because I wanted to let people know how I cured my adult acne. It wasn’t easy and it took two years of research and trial and error before I was clear of acne! Around 27 or 28, I had moved from San Francisco and was living in Los Angeles. In San Francisco, I had perfect skin and didn’t do anything to it, except wash with whatever cheap face cleanser I could find, and then I’d pat my face with some powder and I was done. No wrinkle creams, no moisturizers, no sunscreen – nothing. All hell broke loose in LA. I don’t know if it was the climate change, the pollution, the water, coincidental hormone changes, or what, but my skin (and my ex-boyfriend’s) started breaking out like crazy. At its worst, I had about 50 pimples at any given time – most were either red non-poppable pimples, or puffy bumpy ones, all over my cheeks and jawline. Picking at them (which is terrible, I know) would cause giant inflamed lumps on my face, I quickly learned. In high school I’d always have some breakouts on my forehead, but I never had more than three pimples at a time. I had been taking the birth control pill Ortho Tri-Cyclen for a few years to keep my skin clear, and it did a wondrous job in the past, but it was no match for LA.

My hair was also falling out when I got the acne, so I thought I had some sort of hormonal imbalance. I stopped the Ortho Tri-Cyclen (stopping of course made the acne even worse) and went to a Dermatologist. Then I saw two more Dermatologists because the hair loss thing was really getting to me, even more so than the acne and the doctors didn’t seem to know anything. I did a TON of hair loss research, and was diagnosed with Chronic Telogen Effluvium but that’s a whole other post (or book) because I have yet to “cure” the hair loss/thinning. So for the acne, these three Dermatologists gave me antibiotics (which initially worked, but once I stopped them, the acne came back), and Benzaclin, a prescription topical Benzoyl Peroxide/Clindamycin cream that didn’t do anything, except stain my towels. They also gave me some Sulpha wash, and Cetaphil cleanser and moisturizer, neither of which I like at all. I can’t even remember now what else these Dermatologists gave me, but none of it worked AT ALL. I didn’t want to go on Accutane because one of the side effects is possible hair loss, and being bald was worse to me than bad acne.

I then started my own acne research. Of course I tried Proactiv because those stupid infomercials are so persuasive. Proactiv didn’t work AT ALL. Then I got the book The Acne Cure. Finally a cure for acne! Ha! I followed the book’s advice and got a drugstore 2% Salicylic Acid and a 10% Glycolic Acid from Sephora and the Benzoyl Peroxide, and I iced my face, and I applied an oil-free moisturizer with SPF. 4 weeks later, I still had acne and it wasn’t any better! My face was always so dry from the different products, and maybe from the hard water in LA, so I was always slathering on moisturizer on my dry, flaky, acne skin. Next, I tried probably 8 different acne creams and washes from the drugstore, all of which promised to banish acne forever. Ha.

I started eating better, and ate tons of fruits and vegetables and protein. I took vitamins – Evening Primrose Oil and a multi-vitamin, and a bunch of other vitamins good for skin and hair. I read more books: The Acne Prescription and The Murad Method and a few other hair loss and anti-aging books. I spent probably 50 hours researching acne cures on the internet. I tried Dr. Murad products and Dr. Perricone products. I still had acne. At least I was becoming extremely knowledgeable, though, on every way you were “supposed” to get rid of acne. I took my time with treatments and didn’t try too many things at once, and steared clear of anything that was known to make acne worse. I moved to Las Vegas, and still had acne and my skin was even more dry than ever due the 5% humidity. I visited another Dermatologist. And I will leave the How I Cured My Acne Finally to the next post…

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7 Responses to “Acne Treatments That Didn’t Work”

  1. msdistressedderma Says:


    I had very similar symptom to yours. As it turns out I have a hormonal imbalance caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). An endocrinologist will be able to help figure it out – your OBGYN can do Ultrasounds and such but PCOS can still be evident when there is just one cyst and your OBGYN may think it’s not serious – so the best thing to do is to see an endocrinologist first and get the blood work done.

  2. Jeni Says:

    What a cute name for a website! I did see one Endocrinologist and had a full blood panel done for my hair loss, but I actually don’t know if I was tested for PCOS. Since I don’t have any of the other symptoms of it, I think I ruled that out, but if one tiny cyst can cause problems, that could be it. The Endo results came back that I have low iron (but I’m not Anemic) and I have borderline-low thyroid, but not low enough to treat with medication. And I had an ultrasound at the Obgyn but they didn’t see anything wrong. Thanks!

  3. msdistressedderma Says:

    In my case I had stopped taking Ovacon about a year and a half ago and my hair was falling out in clumps. I was distraught and cried a lot every day. Then my skin started breaking out bad – I used to only break out a little around my period but these breakouts were cystic in nature. I started to get a peach fuzz hair on my face, arms and back. Then my perfectly beautiful smooth back skin started breaking out and I never ever broke out on my body before. I would exercise and eat healthy and still not lose weight – which is a sign of Insulin Resistance and PCOS. My life was (and still feels) like it’s totally out of control.

    My OBYGYN only found one tiny cyst and discounted hormonal problems. Thankfully, my GP listened to me and my long list of awful symptoms and referred me to an Endocrinologist. He thinks the only reason I didn’t have PCOS symptoms earlier was due to my taking Ovacon. Once I stopped – the onslaught of symptoms began and continue to get worse. I didn’t want to stay on the pill for various reasons but I am reconsidering now that I see how awful my life has become since I stopped taking it.

    I’m glad that I found your blog. There is so much garbage out there about miracle acne cures (snail slime comes to mind, eww) as well as a whole lot of awful legitimate products that either make the acne worse or are just ineffective and a waste of money. It’s nice to see another site the really cares and provides facts as well as hope.

  4. Brande Says:

    Hi, I am so glad I found your website I had a very similar experience. I had great skin until about 27 or 28, I stopped taking Ortho-tri-cyclen which I had been on for about 4yrs, and my skin went to hell. I went to a Derm for the first time (and got lucky) because his treatment worked right away. Spironolactone25mg 3x a day, sodium sulficidimide 10% and sulfer 5% lotion used at night, both worked wonders for me. Topical antibiotics did nothing. I am now taking yasmin and that keeps things under control, but I wish I never used the Pill to begin with. I think all those years on the pill messed up my body’s ability to regulate its hormones. I was so depressed with the acne though that I can’t imagine going off the pill again. I cried every time I looked in the mirror, it was awful! I also have low iron , and somewhat low thyroid I found that interesting. I don’t know if there is a connection, anyway thanks again, and good luck ! B

  5. cathy Says:

    I did the Acne Cure too. That I put packages of frozen blueberries on my face is too funny. It was actually the ProActiv chick’s book on acne that turned me on to birth control as an option. Why this isn’t on billboards everywhere is astounding to me. Hello, acne is caused by hormones!! My acne also flared up in my late 20s after nearly a decade of being clear post Accutance, which I took two courses of. I mentioned this in another comment but it was really the books by Elizabeth Vliet (Screaming to Be Heard, etc) that saved my life. Adult acne is part of the hormone loss problem that many women are facing today as the result of stress and environmental issues; it is called premature ovarian failure in some cases or estrogen decline. Anyway, I made peace at 33 that is probably what my problem is/was and will stay on the pill till 50 or so and then I’m going on bioidentical hormones. Suzanne Sommers wrote a couple of books on them and is anti-pill but I don’t care,Vliet is an MD and the research shows that staying on the pill is health protective. http://www.herplace.com

  6. nhayohmee Says:

    excited to read your next blog posts…. i moved to las vegas 2 years ago and suffered from acne since! can totally relate to this post right here, specially coming from very humid weather and now living at a very dry place.

  7. lily Says:

    Hi Jen,

    Wow, had a similar experience with acne. In my mid twenties I moved from San Francisco to L.A. and broke out with cystic acne. I always had perfect skin, never broke out and used to just wash my face with soap and used a drug store moisturizer. When I moved to L.A. all skin hell broke loose. Acne horror! Used proactive, didn’t work. Went to dermatologists and they pushed medication which I wouldn’t take. They put me on a bunch of topical stuff that aggravated the acne monster. It was horrible, I hid from public (as much as I could) for years. Started going to an esthetician and it helped. Quit my sales job with J&J and moved back to S.F. and went to esthetician school. Soon after, at a trade show, I stubbled on an oxygen treatment straight out of an oxygen tank that drained the cysts, I know gross, but it cured my acne. Along with proper skin care. I think the best thing for acne, you are right, is not to fall for the acne promises or what the slogans promise. Know what ingredients to stay away from and incorporate lots of greens into your diet. Especially no chemicals in skincare… our cells do not recognize them, therefore the problem worsens. Thanks Jen for your candor.

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