Fixing My Face

TL;DR ”“ Adult acne freaking sucks.

This isn’t wedding related, exactly, but if you’re trying to get your skin in decent shape for your wedding (or just, you know, for life in general), read on.

I was one of those lucky kids who made it through adolescence with pretty decent skin. That’s not to say I didn’t get blessed by the puberty fairy in other ways, of course. My awkward phase was SERIOUS, you guys.

(All photos are personal.)


At least the baby is cute.

Thankfully, I grew out of it.


You guys, this is LITERALLY the face Stallion fell in love with—this was my senior year of high school. I still have the same haircut and the same friend. I do not, however, have the same dress size. :(

The point is, I never had to worry about acne or anything until I graduated college and started my big girl job. And then, what seemed like overnight, things took a turn for the disgusting. All of a sudden my cheeks, chin, jawline, and even my neck (I wish I was kidding—freaking neck zits!) erupted with enormous, painful red pustules. These weren’t your average black- or whiteheads; these were cysts that stayed far below the surface of my skin and stuck around for weeks. Just touching my face the wrong way—even something as innocuous as turning my head against my pillow—could cause surprisingly serious pain.

I wish I had a “before” photo to share with you all, but honestly, I couldn’t find any. (Hence the awkward childhood photos—you can’t see my terrible skin, but you can laugh at my comically awful glasses!) Go watch a Proactiv infomercial; I could easily have been any of those people. I became really good at staying far away from cameras without my protective layers of concealer and foundation. Let’s be real—cameras or not, I was embarrassed to leave the house without makeup on, period. Even with makeup, I was paranoid that my horrible complexion would show through. I felt like a giant walking pimple, like that was all there was to my physical appearance.

The obvious solution would be to see a dermatologist. Problem? My health insurance, while comprehensive in every other way, did not cover cosmetic dermatology. As desperate as I was to clear up my skin, I wasn’t ready to pay out of pocket for a dermatologist visit. That meant some of the heavy-hitters like Accutane, Spironolactone, antibiotics, and prescription-strength topicals were off-limits.

I was determined to do this on my own. And I was willing to try ANYTHING. I used everything from hormonal birth control (either no effect, or other side effects canceled out any skin benefits, depending on what I was taking), the oil-cleansing method (all it got me was a bunch of broken capillaries on my nose thanks to the harsh steaming), a Clarisonic (a very expensive way to do absolutely nothing for my skin), Proactiv, Murad, Dermalogica, Clean & Clear, Clearasil, DIY extractions”¦the list goes on and on. In adding up all the money I spent on various creams, serums, tools, and the like, I might as well have gone to a dermatologist. All that money down the drain, and my face was still covered in pimples.

So at this point, not only was I poor, pimply, and desperate, but I was also engaged. (Thanks, Stallion!) And part of me was dreading our wedding day—not because of the whole marriage part, but because my horrible complexion would be on full display. I was imagining makeup artists taking one look at my skin and laughing, because who could possibly cover up this mess? Forget losing weight for the wedding; I just wanted to have nice skin for the big day.

In general, my wedding-day expectations are pretty lax. But one thing is especially important to me: I want to feel beautiful. And frankly, since I was so hyper-focused on my acne, it wasn’t going to happen.

But there was a light at the end of the tunnel—the regimen. The cornerstone of this regimen is being gentle to your skin, which was the exact opposite of what I’d been doing. Who knew that carpet-bombing your skin with every anti-acne ingredient on the planet wasn’t a great idea? You can use whatever products you want, as long as they meet a certain criteria, and yes —drugstore products are A-OK. All I needed was a gentle cleanser, 2.5% benzoyl peroxide (no higher concentrations!), and moisturizer. That’s it.

So let’s talk products. This is my exact routine—it deviates a teensy bit from the prescribed regimen, but it’s what works for me, and I hope it can help some of you, too.



As needed:

  • Weekly MUAC 30% glycolic acid peels ”“ This has worked wonders with my acne scars!
  • Mario Badescu Drying Cream ”“ Nothing gets rid of my breakouts quicker.
  • Eliminating dairy from my diet. :( I read a lot about elimination diets on the forums, and unfortunately, dairy seems to be a huge acne trigger for me. Granted, this doesn’t always stop me from reaching for the Ben & Jerry’s, but once in a while I manage to check myself.
  • Patch testing any new products before using them on my face. Now that I’ve found a routine that works for me, I haven’t needed to do this in a while.
  • Washing my makeup brushes/pillowcases/anything that touches my face. I do this on a weekly basis. This is a really good habit to get into—just think of all the old sebum and nasty stuff that these things collect from your skin!

And that’s it. For the most part, it’s pretty inexpensive. Go figure—after dropping so much money on high-end products, the cheap stuff does the trick just fine! And the best part? It seriously works. The improvement was gradual, but I noticed a significant difference within two weeks. I was completely clear by six weeks. As in, not a single pimple on my face.


SELFIE TIME. Ignore the crazy eyes; just look at my gloriously clear skin! No makeup, no nothing.

My skin isn’t amazing, but at least it’s clear. I’ve been clear for about six months now. While I still get one or two pimples a month, it’s an incredible improvement from the one or two new pimples I was seeing every day when my skin was at its worst. I’ve still got some pretty nasty scarring, especially on my cheeks (I tried to get a closeup of this, but my camera wasn’t cooperating, because all I got was a blurry mess). But I can leave the house bare faced and still feel pretty good about myself. I wear makeup because I want to, not because I need to hide my skin. It’s a wonderful feeling.

So, assuming my skin-care routine continues to work its magic, I’ll have clear skin for my wedding day, and I’m going to feel pretty damn good about myself. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Any of you struggle with adult acne? What has/hasn’t worked for you? Share your product recommendations here!


Mrs. Filly

Boston, MA
Wedding Date:
April 2014
For My Wedding
Love Potion #19: Lots of Kissing

Related Posts

Add a comment


  1. Member
    alysee 1575 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:55 am

    I’m just like you and had flawless skin and then bam! The stress of college and now a full-time job has given me a gross face!

    The only thing that works for me is Cetaphil and then using mineral make-up when I wear it.

    Nothing else. No soap, no other things.

  2. wellies Member
    wellies 1425 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:56 am

    Although I’ve never had serious acne, Proactiv has worked wonders for me since college.

  3. milkcow Member
    Mrs. Milk Cow 215 posts, Helper bee @ 10:15 am

    Fun (?) fact: I was JUST at the dermatologist and he told me that acne issues are highest in women age 25-35. So much for me to look forward to for the next 10 years of my life.

    Luckily, my insurance covers cosmetic dermatology, so hopefully they can fix my skin in the next six months. I’m on one medicine and they’re starting me on another plus giving me a gel to try to clear up some of the scarring from my teenage years.

    In between medicines though, I have found I can somewhat maintain my skin on my own when I use a very gentle cleansing routine (Neutrogena Scrub + Clean and Clear Moisturizer every morning and night) and am eating a ton of fruits/veggies. I’m definitely going to look at and see what else I can add to my routine to try and maintain in case the medicine doesn’t work.

  4. Member
    chelle-lee 236 posts, Helper bee @ 10:27 am

    Same boat. I never even got acne until 23-24. So much for that beautiful complexion I had all through my teens! Countless brands later, I know has rosacea and eczema on my face. I just started making my own facewash- I’m at day 6 today. so excited, it’s the best I’ve looked in years!

  5. Member
    kellis 54 posts, Worker bee @ 10:34 am

    Your skin looks lovely! Imma have to check out those “affordable” products!! I NEVER had acne until I reached adulthood… LAME!

  6. msjackrabbit Member
    msjackrabbit 1080 posts, Bumble bee @ 10:42 am

    I tried everything too and eventually went down the accutane route. It was a pretty tough six months (memory loss, super dry skin, flaky skin that came off in the shower – honestly, it was like my face was coming off) but oh man – totally worth it. I feel like a different person now! and i’ve not had a spot in a year!!

  7. Member
    bridesmomma 476 posts, Helper bee @ 10:44 am

    Looking good, Miss Filly! One thing that has worked wonders for me…drinking LOTS of water!

  8. gloves Member
    gloves 190 posts, Blushing bee @ 10:55 am

    What an awesomely informative post! I’m on spirolactin, if I remember to take it, but it’s great to know that dairy was your trigger- I’ve been trying diet elimination to see if I benefit, so this will be my next experiment :) Also, not related and not a creeper, but your eyes are so, so blue- gorgeous!

  9. Member
    OKJC 98 posts, Worker bee @ 11:40 am

    Glad to hear you found a solution for you! I used Accutane years ago and now I use perscription differin gel when I get a breakout. If you have decent insurance for prescriptions, it’s worth it!

  10. Member
    blonde17jess 1290 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:41 am

    Good for you! I might share this post with another adult friend with bad acne. Though I suspect her issue is not removing makeup and washing properly, but that’s neither here nor there. These are great recommendations for a variety of budgets!

  11. Member
    cateyes 501 posts, Busy bee @ 11:46 am

    you have perfect eyebrows.

  12. Guest Icon Guest
    Lauren, Guest @ 11:57 am

    Mineral Oil is a liquid mixture of hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum.

  13. Member
    kit_kath 1327 posts, Bumble bee @ 12:08 pm

    That link for is really helpful. My face isn’t so bad but I’ve been trying to make sure I don’t have back breakouts for the wedding and my backless dress. Will have to try the tips they list.

  14. Member
    busyinboston 44 posts, Newbee @ 3:33 pm

    your skin looks great now! I totally love Cerave products too. I have a serious case of eczema in the winter, making my skin all red and blotchy. I tried so many expensive face creams before finding that Cerave PM worked wonders to keep my face hydrated.

  15. msfilly Member
    Mrs. Filly 827 posts, Busy bee @ 4:17 pm

    @alysee: Stupid jobs/responsibilities, ruining my face! I used regular Cetaphil for a while, but it wasn’t great at washing away my makeup. I hear they’ve come out with a foaming cleanser that’s comparable to CeraVe; I really want to try it. I don’t think you can go wrong with anything by either brand.

    @Miss Wellies: That’s awesome! I love their toner, BP lotion, and spot treatment, but the cleanser was too harsh for me :(

    @Miss Milk Cow: Are you kidding me?? I don’t want to deal with this nonsense for ten more years! I’m sure your derm has got you covered, but is still a wonderful resource. The people there have plenty of suggestions that I never would have thought of myself.

    @Chelle-Lee: Wait, you seriously make your own face wash? I NEED to know more!

    @Kellis: Aw, thank you! It’s so funny how acne products are almost exclusively marketed to teenagers, but clearly, there are plenty of adults that still deal with it. I highly recommend any CeraVe products, as well as Equate’s acne kit (which are all dupes for Proactiv)!

    @Mrs. Jackrabbit: Actually, your post with your Acctuane results got me THISCLOSE to paying out of pocket to see a dermatologist, I was that impressed. I know what you mean; you really do feel like a whole new person once you’re cleared up!

    @bridesmomma: AGREED. Water is pretty much the only thing I drink nowadays, and I can totally notice the difference if I get a little dehydrated.

    @Mrs. Gloves: I had no idea diet could contribute to acne until I started lurking around on the forums, but eliminating dairy has made a world of difference. It sucks because I love cheese way too much, but what can you do? And not creepy at all, I’m flattered, lol.

    @OKJC: I do have pretty good prescription insurance – maybe I’ll try begging my GP for a Differin prescription. I’ve also heard great things about Finacea, but I haven’t been able to try that either.

    @Blonde17Jess: Thanks! Hope your friend can benefit from some of this.

    @cateyes: HAHAHAHAHA, it’s so funny you say this, because I actually got a horrible threading job about a month ago (I’m talking straight up sperm brows – eeewwwww), so they’re in the process of growing back. They’re usually a bit thicker than this. But thank you!

    @Kit_Kath: Definitely review, and I also recommend you look into getting a Salux cloth – they’re these amazing Japanese nylon washcloths that are the BEST exfoliator in the entire world. They’re nice and long so it’s easy to exfoliate your back/shoulders!

    @busyinboston: Thanks! I had no luck with expensive face creams; a lot of them were actually really irritating. If CeraVe PM ever gets discontinued, I might die.

  16. Guest Icon Guest
    corporatebridesmaid, Guest @ 5:26 pm

    Glad to hear that you still have the same friend from the picture! I’m sure she is looking forward to your wedding and will be delighted to see your beautiful and flawless face looking as radiant as it did in high school!

  17. weathervane Member
    weathervane 171 posts, Blushing bee @ 7:02 pm

    Your skin really looks great! Good job! And, you made me realize how lazy I am! I really need to step up my beauty routine.

  18. gondola Member
    gondola 1046 posts, Bumble bee @ 12:39 am

    My friend does the regimen! She recommended the face soap from I love it! Your skin looks beautiful!

  19. msfilly Member
    Mrs. Filly 827 posts, Busy bee @ 2:59 am

    @Miss Weather Vane: Are you joking? You are so gorgeous, you don’t need to change a thing!

    @Mrs. Gondola: Thanks! I actually haven’t tried any of their products, just used drugstore stuff, but everything is so reasonably priced that I might give it a go once I run out of what I’ve got.

  20. Member
    DW82 47 posts, Newbee @ 9:30 am

    I just ordered the kit from because it was hard to find products that didn’t have the ingredients they say to not use. I have really bad skin, and I’ve went the prescription cream and hormonal BC route before with just okay results. I’m almost 32 and I swear my skin gets worse every year. With a wedding in just 5 months, I need to get on this NOW!

    Thank you for writing this, I had no idea where to start, just that I needed to do something because I did not want to have to hire a professional to work magic on my face.

  21. Member
    slykrab 17 posts, Newbee @ 9:58 am

    I got pretty bad cystic acne along my jawline in my mid-20s during law school. I tried a bunch of stuff, nothing really worked.

    I ended up doing oil cleansing for a few months in early 2012, and I’d follow up with Cetaphil (jar) moisturizer. It made the acne somewhat better, but it wasn’t very practical and didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. Then I decided to use….water. Yep, just water. I very gently scrub and rinse my face with a washcloth in the shower and then moisturize with the Cetaphil post-shower. It’s going on two years that I haven’t had the acne, and most of the scars are gone, too!

    I’m glad you found something that works!

  22. msfilly Member
    Mrs. Filly 827 posts, Busy bee @ 4:42 pm

    @DW82: Good luck!!

  23. msfilly Member
    Mrs. Filly 827 posts, Busy bee @ 4:45 pm

    @slykrab: Wow, I’m definitely going to give just water a shot!

  24. Member
    slykrab 17 posts, Newbee @ 9:11 am

    Oh, and PS. I use a clean washcloth each time I shower and wash my face. Some things I will reuse, but not this. So I always have a lot of washcloths in the laundry!

  25. Guest Icon Guest
    Julia, Guest @ 10:09 am

    I had pretty clear skin all through high school and I’m just now in my early 20’s starting to deal with acne. It’s the absolute worst. Thanks for writing this post, and congratulations on your clean skin!

  26. Member
    shorebride105 260 posts, Helper bee @ 8:47 am

    This is really inspiring! I have gone many of the routes you have, as well as visit the dermatologist. I am not willing to take accutane, but have tried almost everything else under the sun! Antibiotics, water pills, topical day and night lotions. All of these things worked..for a little while, then my skin went right back to the way it was at it’s worst. I need to wear makeup to cover the awfulness up, so finding a brand that works for me has taken YEARS. I swore by bare minerals for a long time, feel like it HAD to be good for me, but I recently made a change that has definitely helped. I started wearing BB cream instead and find that a lot of the acne on my cheeks has really improved. I get facials on the regular and my esthetician is great about using very gently products on my skin. It has it’s ups and downs, some days looks great, but others terrible.. I too am petrified that a “bad day” will fall on my wedding day! I will certainly give this regimen a try! Something that has worked for me, and based on the products you are using, I’m pretty sure they will also work for you, I make sure that anything I put on my face clearly states on the container that it is NON-COMEDOGENIC. It seems like we get the same type of acne (comedogenic), and I was told by my dermatologist that products should be the opposite in order to not aggravate the skin. There are tons of over the counter products (Cereve, cetaphil, lots of makeups) that are affordable and fall into this category. It just needs to say that on the box. Enjoy your pretty skin!

  27. Member
    sonjafunnell 25 posts, Newbee @ 4:58 pm

    I had the same problem, my acne got the worst in college, and I finally had to see a dermatologist to clean up the mess. :( Luckly, it will be clear for my wedding!

  28. phonebooth Member
    Mrs. Phone Booth 57 posts, Worker bee @ 7:21 pm

    Kudos for finding the best combo to give you awesome skin!

  29. Member
    CanadianBride456 707 posts, Busy bee @ 11:00 am

    Hi there Miss Filly! Where do you buy the Mario Badescu Drying Cream? I can’t find it in any stores! Is it online only? @Miss Filly:

add a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Sent weekly. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Find Amazing Vendors