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
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  1. 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!

  2. msfilly Bee
    Mrs. Filly 85 posts, Worker bee @ 4:42 pm

    @DW82: Good luck!!

  3. msfilly Bee
    Mrs. Filly 85 posts, Worker bee @ 4:45 pm

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

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. phonebooth Bee
    Mrs. Phone Booth 57 posts, Worker bee @ 7:21 pm

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

  9. Member
    CanadianBride456 954 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:

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