I have such sympathy for those who struggle with acne and are consistently trying to achieve clear skin, because I’ve been there. It can be one of the most difficult, and frustrating beauty challenges to face…especially when those who’ve never dealt with skin problems are quick to criticize.ย I struggled with cystic acne towards the end of high school and for a couple years while I was in college, and it honestly put me into a slight depression.

Before I move on, let me clarify that while my skin was bad, it was not nearly as severe as others have suffered. I wish I had quality pictures to share with my face completely stripped of any and all makeup- but to be honest, I did everything in my power to not be photographed- so the pictures I was able to find are not 100% accurate of my skin at the time.

Me in my senior year of high school after a softball game. You can see some of my active acne, as well as many of my scars.

I was a clean person, I took excellent care of my skin, and just could not understand why it wouldn’t clear up. I tried every product under the sun (Clean & Clear, Neutrogena, Clearasil, Cetaphil, Dove, Biore, Aveeno, ProActiv..the list goes on), I used a handful of different prescription creams and face washes from my dermatologist- (benzaclin and tazorac worked for a while, but I ended up with a crazy allergic reaction- half of my face was swollen for 2 days!), ย I concocted every home remedy I could find on the internet (crushed Tylenol pills mixed with lemon juice to reduce redness, tomato face masks…), I tried tanning, I tried completely avoiding the sun (definitely a buzz kill during my Summer beach vacation) I drank tons of water…but still nothing. My hormones were not going to let up. I strongly considered Accutane, but was turned off by it’s ridiculously strict rules and harsh side effects.

This was taken during my sophomore year of college. I was tanning a lot during this time.

I wish I could tell you that I found a miracle OTC product that cleared my skin up overnight, but that was not the case, and I went through a lot of trial and error before finding a solution.

In my Junior year of college, I decided to start taking birth control pills- I had been so against birth control for the longest time, I didn’t want to take any kind of medication that would alter something natural, but I opted to try it for its promise to clear up my skin. I had exhausted every other opportunity.

I began taking Necon 1/35 – the generic contraceptive for Ortho-Novum 1/35 in the Fall of 2008.

Necon 1/35

I quickly began to see results. My skin wasn’t breaking out as badly, or frequently as it had been.

FALL 2008: A couple of weeks after I started taking Necon 1/35
FALL 2009
WINTER 2009: Completely clear!

A little over a year after starting Necon 1/35 my skin had fully recovered. Today I occasionally deal with a major pimple or two, but I’ve developed a skin care routine that has helped me to maintain an overall clear complexion. ย A couple rules that I live by:

1) NEVER go to bed without washing your face.

I scrub my face every single night with St. Ives apricot scrub. It's the only facewash that actually feels like it works.

2) TONE!

Never underestimate using a toner!

3) Always moisturize!

I usually tan my face at night (this is totally optional) many people would disagree with using tanning products, but I find it helps to even out my skin-tone before morning.

When I opt out of tanning lotion, I prefer to use Ponds Dry Skin cream. It keeps my face super hydrated all day/night.

Taking care of your skin is a lot of work. It can be expensive, time consuming, and tedious, but it is important! If I could only secure one physical beauty attribute- it’d be a clear face. Like I said, I feel for anyone who struggles with acne.

If you currently take a birth control- check with your gynecologist that it is also beneficial for your skin. I’ve recommended Necon 1/35 to a couple of friends and they have seen incredible results as well. It truly saved my skin, and was not as difficult as committing to Accutane or other prescription medications.

A recent picture! (I may be a little gummy..lol) but my skin has been doing excellent ๐Ÿ™‚

I wish anyone struggling with clear skin lots of luck!

Do you have a story about your journey to clear skin? What helped you beat acne? Do you have any favorite products?

21 comments on “How I Beat Acne”

  1. Thanks so much for posting this. I’m glad I started following you earlier or I would’ve missed it. :). My son is in the 8th grade and is having a terrible problem with acne. He’s been on Proactiv for about a year and has tried oral antibiotics and the face creams. Last summer when his school had a back to school pool party for his grade, he wouldn’t go because he didn’t want to take his shirt off. He has it really bad on his chest and back also. He’s very athletic and so handsome. He tans so easily and im afraid with having the darker pigment, it will show scars more than if he were pale I hate to see him struggle so much and he really is trying to take extra care.

    We saw his pediatrician last week and he referred us to a dermatologist. His appointment is one week from today. I hope they can help him. I think I will try the apricot scrub and the toner. He definitely has problems with blackheads, so maybe that will help.
    Thanks again for sharing your story.

    • You’re welcome! I always feel for boys who struggle with acne because they can’t even try to hide it behind makeup. It takes such a toll on your confidence, and it’s easy to miss out on a lot. I can imagine how difficult it is in the 8th grade.

      I struggled with acne on my back for a while in high school, the Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash did help me a bit!–> http://www.drugstore.com/neutrogena-body-clear-body-wash-salicylic-acid-acne-treatment/qxp45779

      Also- my younger sister is 16, and she had really bad acne on for the past few years, she started seeing a dermatologist last year and he prescribed her Differin and Duac (both are creams) and it has truly transformed her skin! I would ask about them at your appointment!

      I wish him lots and lots of luck ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I love posts like this because of their honesty – and it’s nice to know you’re not alone! For what it’s worth you have gorgeous skin!! I used to use hydrogen peroxide on my breakouts but heard it was really bad for you – now i use witch hazel to dull any pimple before it really gets going. I also love Olay and Burt’s Bees face wash – I’m trying to wash with more natural products, since I use a lot of makeup. Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Thank you! It took a long tim to get to where I am now, and like I continue to say- my case wasn’t even that severe, but I truly to feel for everyone who struggles! I have never tried a Burt’s Bees wash- let me know how you like it! I’ve also heard many people who use witch hazel- do you find it works well? I’d definitely consider giving it a try as a spot treatment!

      Thank you for reading ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Ahhh I love this and it gives me so much hope. My skin got so bad when I went to college, and I just recently started birth control because I’ve been soo fed up and tried everything. I’ve started to see improvements already and I can’t wait for it to improve even more! Also I love your blog and secretly aspire to be as dedicated to my nails as you.

    • Hey Liz!! So fun to see you read my blog ๐Ÿ™‚ I feel you, birth control was a lifesaver for me. I hope it works for you as well!! And omggg I was dying laughing about your nails comment! You can do it, a little time and patience ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I hope everything is going well for you! Let’s catch up something ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. You are beautiful! I’ve struggled with acne basically my entire life, and I’ve gone through highs and lows over the years… it’s never been really bad cystic-wise, just very, very persistent. I will get a lot of little bumps, then a larger one a few times per week. I was even taking Accutane for awhile, but when I switched dermatologists, my new dermatologist took me off of it, because she didn’t think my acne was severe enough. After many different pills and topical medicines, Iโ€™ve found that Benzaclin works best for me. AcneFree is the best over-the-counter topical medicine for me. I’ve also found that Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser is the only face wash I can use. I do take birth control, but I havenโ€™t found that it has helped it very much โ€“ maybe I should try the kind you are using? Anyway, I am so happy that youโ€™ve found something that works so well for you!

    • Thank you, Christina! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m sorry you’ve dealt with it for so long, it really is a difficult thing to rid of. I literally fear that when I come off BC or get pregnant one day it’s going to come back even worse. But I’ll deal with that bridge when I come to it. How was your experience with Accutane? I had seriously considered it at one point, but there were too many restrictions/side effects for me to deal with, between regular pregnancy tests/blood work/no alcohol/depression…there was too much on the plate for a college student.

      I was telling someone else that my sister who had a pretty rough experience with acne and she was prescribed Differin and Duac (both creams) and they worked wonders for her skin! I don’t know if you’ve tried them but it may be worth asking about too?

      Thank you for reading! I hope you find the right product/medication. There’s surely something out there! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. your skin is looking radiant! and now i know the secret to that glow you had goin’ when we met at cuvee, the nightly jergens! funny, i used the same ponds cream for a period at uconn, but only b/c it was the only lotion specifically designed for use on the face that the stores that took “husky bucks” carried! ive never really noticed a diff between any of the face lotions i’ve used, i just buy what’s convenient and make sure it’s meant to be put on faces and not all over, so that it won’t clog my pores. i also wash my face each night. what exactly IS toner? haha

    • Ahahaha LOL at the ponds! And thank you, my skin has had many ups and downs! And yes, the jergens is a must! ๐Ÿ˜‰ As for toner- it’s a good prep step before moisturizer! It helps to balance your skin, and removes any makeup or dirt that your cleanser missed. Definitely leaves your face feeling extra clean ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. This is just what I’ve been needing to read! I’m just six months away from my 30th birthday, and my face still looks I’m stuck in my teens. Pimples and scars everywhere! I started birth control 4 months ago in hopes of finding some relief. So far, so good. I’ve also been on a new healthy lifestyle journey, and apparently the working out and diet changes have made my face freak out. I finally went to get my first ever facial yesterday. I feel like I have a fresh start. Have you tried professional facials? If so, how often do you get them? I’m trying to figure out how necessary they are. I’m also working on my skincare regimen. I can’t seem to find a product that WORKS, but it may be because I try something for a week and give up. Do you use toner after each washing? I’m just afraid of using so much product, that it’ll overstimulate my skin and cause my acne to get worse. I’m a confused mess, but this truly has given me hope and faith in knowing that I don’t need to splurge over hundreds for products! Thank you, Amanda!

    • You’re so welcome! I still struggle with pimples here and there, yesterday morning I woke up to 3 monsters (ugh!). Let me try to answer some of yours Q’s:

      1- I’ve actually never had a real facial! I’ve always wanted one, just never got around to it. I do at home masks all of the time though ๐Ÿ™‚

      2- I don’t tone after every single washing- once a day or every other day. It can dry you out if you do it too often, but it does help.

      I totally feel you with scars! I still have many that are visible. Using a self-tanning moisturizer has helped to even out my face. Also- exfoliating daily (w Apricot scrub) has helped! I tried Scarzone, Mederma and a number of other creams to help them fade. Some worked well, others not so much I’ll do a post about those as well ๐Ÿ™‚

      Skin is such a pain, but there is hope. I wish you lots of luck! Let me know if you find any amazing products and want to share ๐Ÿ™‚

      • This has been most helpful! Thank you, thank you! I think I have a clearer understanding of what I need to do. I just don’t like the whole having to experiment with products and techniques, but it’s worth it in the long run. Again, you’re the best! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • I was told that it was completely normal for my skin to have a poor reaction initially. Personally, I didn’t break out terribly, nothing more than usual. It did take a little bit of time to fully correct my skin. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I was on a different birth control for three months and have been on Necon 1/35 for 6 days. My chest is extremely broken out. I am getting married July 28th…do you think my skin should be clearer buy then? How did your skin look after 2 months of being on Necon? I have suffered with acne for years. I have done everything, including accutane.

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