Skincare for Grown-ass Women with Acne

Hi, my name’s Gena and I have adult hormonal acne. It’s annoying as hell. I also have extremely sensitive/combo/dry skin, which makes finding appropriate products to treat said acne a reeeeal treat.

A little history of my skin:
I had pretty typical mild teenaged acne–some spots on my forehead once in a while but nothing super serious. Also my skin was more oily then, whereas it’s more on the dry side now. I started on the pill when I was sixteen, and as far as I can remember every single pill I’ve been on (four different ones, plus hormonal IUD) has kind of enraged my skin. (You can see my posts on that here and here and here). I was on and off the pill from sixteen until this year–so almost twelve years. I think this has definitely contributed to a hormonal imbalance in my body, as well as a depletion of vitamins and minerals, that has lead to my skin being pretty pissed off throughout my twenties. I go through periods of having fairly clear skin and then BAM jawline acne hits with a one-two punch and I’m KO’d for at least six months with it.

Products I’ve tried:
Neutrogena, Clean & Clear, Simple, Oil Cleansing Method with various oils, Spectro, literally every other drugstore cleanser that’s available in Canada/US/Europe with a few exceptions.

I’ve also gone the naturopath root. I took a boatload of various herbs and supplements and got tested for food sensitivities (of which I have MANY). This helped a bit, but the jawline acne didn’t budge.

In the same vain–I tried the completely natural root of washing my face with honey and oil cleansing and all that. Didn’t work for me.

My GP prescribed Benzaclin (a topical BP/antibiotic treatment). The first time I used this is worked really well. It also dried my skin out pretty bad and left me with worse hyper-pigmentation than usual but I was so stoked on having fairly clear skin that I didn’t care. Problem is, the acne came back!! And also, my health coverage doesn’t cover this for whatever reason, so I was shelling out $80/bottle.

How I got to where I’m at now:

Step 1: Pretty much I had just reached the end of my rope. I could feel that my hormonal birth control method was draining me–emotionally and physically–and I didn’t want to spend anymore time messing around with my hormones. Lots of people can go for years without experiencing any side effects from the pill, so I suppose I’m just one of those people who’s disposition just doesn’t agree with synthetic hormones. Maybe you’re one of those people too–you just feel off when you’re taking them, the minor symptoms don’t feel so minor–and you feel kind of crazy talking to your GP about this because it’s a common held belief that the pill is totally safe and works perfectly well for the majority of women. Agh. If this is you, I feel your pain. I hear you.

Anyways, I stopped taking the pill and sought out other non-hormonal methods. That was step one.

Step two: Cutting out the harsh products I was using, and trying for a cruelty free regime. Also washing my face once a day, in the even. In the morning I just splash with water and then gently moisturize/spf it up. I’ve teetered between all-natural and all-aggressively-chemical over the years, so I figured trying a nice balance might be a good idea. I still buy some of my products, and I make other ones. I try to read the labels of things I buy and look online at the toxicity level of my regime .

These two steps have helped immensely. My skin started clearing within a few weeks of quitting the pill, and this glow returned to my skin. I hadn’t realized how dull it had been while taking the pill! Similarly, cutting down on the products I was using and striving for a more natural approach with effective ingredients seemed to instantly calm my frantic skin. So, without further ado, here’s the regime that I’ve settled on over the last three months, and here are my results:

1. Make-up Remover:

Yeah man, Olive Oil. I use this at the end of the day and it takes off all my makeup and I don’t have to worry about it containing some sort of crazy-ass carcinogen. It hasn’t made me break out at all, and it leaves my skin pretty moisturized.
One thing to watch for–apparently a lot of olive oils are fake. You can read more about that here. I buy that Costco brand, which is apparently safe.

2. Cleanser:


I love Lush. I avoided shopping there for years because I found their sales approach to be way too hands on for me–no I don’t want you to wash my hands and demonstrate all your bath bombs for me!!!–and I always thought their products were kind of overpriced. But I’m come back to them over the last few years and YAY, I love them. This cleanser has Kaolin and sweet almond meal–it’s a light exfoliant without feeling like you’re scratching your face off, and the clay leaves your skin feeling super smooth. It smells like mint and sweet dreams, for real. Affordable and lasts for a long time. Two thumbs up.

Hah, weird right? I rub dandruff shampoo on my jawline and forehead, let it sit for five minutes or so, zoom my Foreo over it to really massage it in, then rinse it off!

The active ingredient in this is Ketoconazole, which helps to kill fungus. Along with my hormonal acne, I get this small flesh toned bumps on my forehead. I had nooo idea what they were or what to do about them, and then I stumbled on this video . Pretty much those little bumps are an expression of too much yeast in your body, so the fungus-fighting properties help to kill off that annoying Candida bullshit. PLUS, after some more research I discovered that this stuff has anti-androgen properties. If you’ve suffered from acne while on the pill, your doctor might have switched you to a lower androgen pill to combat that–mine did–because androgens are the male hormone that promote things like stupid acne and stupid thinning hair. Also if you get stupid hormonal dandruff, two birds, one stone. So this is a topical defence against androgens and it has really been helping!

Lots of people online seem to complain of this drying out their skin. I haven’t had a problem with that, but I only wash with this once a day and I make sure to use a great moisturizer afterwards. Also, since I’ve stopped beating my face with heavy chemicals, I think it’s less prone to drying out.

4. Toner:

I wrote before about my favourite toner for skeptics . This remains, but I’ve stepped it up a bit. I’ve long been a fan of using Apple Cider Vinegar in my skincare routine, and also as a health product (particularly to combat gall bladder attacks), so this was a natural progression for me. ACV is a natural AHA (alpha-hydroxy Acid), which means that it is a natural exfoliant that helps to shed your dead skin and bring new, bright skin to the surface. It’s not as concentrated or heavy duty as store bought AHA’s (I used to use a Paula’s Choice one), but it’s so natural that you can literally drink it so I feel a lot better about dosing my skin in this than the ones I’ve used in the past.
Anyways, I mix it with witch hazel, a bit of water, and some essential oil (I’m using rose right now) to tone down the vinegar smell. Still getting great results from this.

5. Moisturizer:

This is the most chemically sort of product I still use, and maybe when I finish this one off I’ll switch to a Lush moisturizer. BUT, this stuff has been working really well for me! It moisturizes beautifully, isn’t greasy, doesn’t irritate my skin or make me break out, and seems to help quite a bit with redness. So I don’t know, maybe I’ll keep it around. Unless someone has a great alternative to this? Two thumbs up, in any case.

6. Sunscreen:

I’m super pale. Regular chemical sunscreen makes my skin angry. This one doesn’t. It’s active ingredient is zinc oxide, and it’s non-nano, fragrance free, gluten and soy free, and super handy for throwing in your purse. Doesn’t irritate my skin and hopefully is saving me from premature wrinkles, or whatever.

Here’s a before and after of my skin since starting this journey:

photo-on-2015-03-02-at-11-50-am-5Okay, okay, I’m wearing make-up here. If you’ve struggled with adult hormonal acne, maybe you know how anxiety-inducing it can be to go make-up free. Lately I’ve embraced my bare face, even with acne on it, but for the worst of my acne I definitely didn’t and so I really don’t have very many before pictures, which I now regret. But in any case, you can still see my jawline area is super uneven and I have a number of cystic spots happening. This was shortly after cutting myself an undercut so, yeah.


This is me now, without any makeup. My skin’s not totally clear but it’s SO much happier, more glow-y, more moisturized, and generally less sorrowful than it was before.

Adult hormonal acne sucks! It really sucks. It’s not just the physical aspect of it that sucks either, it’s the emotional aspect–it’s hard on self-esteem, it can be really isolating because there’s still this widely held belief that acne is a teenaged problem. I mean, hey, at least we’ll look forever young?!



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