What Happened When I Stopped Using Acne Products

I have always struggled with my mild cystic acne. Ever since I hit the wonderful stage of puberty, my oily skin has been collecting bacteria and dirt, clogging my pores and plugging my hair follicles, to create lovely zits, pimples, and pustules all around my face. And because of the shiny, slick nature of my skin, I have also had the pleasure of dealing with blackheads, whiteheads, and of course, beautiful hormonal breakouts on top of the fantastic acne I was already dealing with. Disclaimer: Yes, this paragraph is dripping with sarcasm.

Dealing with my acne is a regular part of my day. As I have grown older, my cystic acne is not as bad as it used to be. I get pimples less frequently, and they are less severe than what they were when I was 15 years old and getting teased about my pocked skin in middle school.

That being said, I will still occasionally get a zit the size of Mount Vesuvius on my chin or on my cheek. Every day, I get out of bed wishing, hoping, and praying that I don’t have a newly formed zit on my face. But I’m never surprised if I do.

Over the years, after receiving the nickname "zit face," I have tried plenty of products and techniques to control my acne. When I was younger, and even now, whenever I see a headline along the lines of “how to control your acne,” I read it. I’ve watched hundreds of skincare regime videos on YouTube, and paid good money for so-called “miracle” products that claim they can get rid of my acne and change my life. But alas, after years of searching and waiting for a miracle to actually happen, my skin remained the same as it always was: oily, filled with puss, and broken out in fresh, red zits, with others scabbed over from where I scarred them.

Eventually, I found an acne kit that promised to keep my blemishes in check and also made my skin feel fresh and clean, rather than its usual pimple-y texture. My skincare routine since senior year of high school and throughout college solely depended on the AcneFree Sensitive Skin System. The three-piece set included a cleanser with oat and ginger (to calm the skin), a toner with natural fruit enzymes (to clean the pores), and lastly, a moisturizer with benzoyl peroxide.

In the mornings, I would use simple soap and water to wash my face, but it was at night when I used this system and thus practiced my skincare routine. After removing my makeup, inspecting new and old zits, and attempting to pop any that looked like they needed to be popped (I don’t recommend this), I would use each part of the system in the respective order. And even though I hated the long, arduous process, I did it every single night.

While the system didn’t give me amazing skin results (even after years of using it), and I still suffer with my acne, the three-part product felt like it cleaned my skin, and made it look bright and healthy rather than dirty and drab. Plus, I had tried so many different products, and so many different brands, that I was easily convinced to stick to something that made me feel good about my skin and didn’t break the bank.

The other day, though, I was sitting down to watch a movie with my significant other when I asked him to hold off pressing play so I could wash my face (a little easier for him to understand as opposed to delving into my skincare regime). He agreed, but followed me to the bathroom. He saw me go through five different products, including makeup remover, the AcneFree system, and a moisturizer, and asked what they all did. I explained to him how each one had a different purpose, and how using all of them is crucial to the preservation of my skin.

He was a little skeptical. He told me that when he was in high school, he had really bad acne. Groups of pimples would form on his cheeks and forehead. He visited a dermatologist, who prescribed him heavy medicine and recommended different products to combat the breakouts. He told me he would have done anything to stop it — that he felt like whenever someone looked at him, they only saw his acne.

This resonated with me completely. But then he told me that the only thing that helped his acne clear up — and left him with the glowing, beautiful skin he has now — was ignoring it. He vowed not to treat it, not to play with it, not to inspect it — sounds like everything I was doing — and it went away. Let’s just say that I was intrigued.

After asking him a few more questions, I decided to take a step away from my holy grail skincare regime. And what do you know, my skin loved it. After two weeks off my acne treating system, my skin was not as red, not as inflamed, and not nearly as broken out.

While my skin was still oily, I no longer had weird dry spots, and my problem areas (my chin and my forehead) were smooth as can be. My whiteheads and my blackheads were manageable, and easily treated with a natural toner I invested in. Who would have known that the one treatment I didn’t try — complete and utter oversight and ignorance towards my acne — would be the one treatment to help me combat it?

A #nomakeup selfie.

My skin still isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely improved. So much so that I feel comfortable leaving the house sans foundation, concealer, powder, the works. I’m no longer self-conscious about every little blemish, and if I do get a pimple, I just ignore it because I know that’s the best way to treat it. My skincare routine is much simpler now, with just a basic cleanser and that all-natural toner I mentioned (a basic, nourishing moisturizer). No longer do I have to worry about steps and systems, or sticking to a strict regime. And now I’m saving quite a few bucks every month.

It was all of these things that really convinced me that I don’t need acne medicine or specialized acne products to treat my zits. Like I said, my skin isn’t flawless, but it’s definitely better than it once was. And sure, doctors, professionals, and friends might argue that those treatments and medicines can help (and for some folks, they definitely do), but I don’t think I personally need them after all. It’s a big relief to know that the best way I can take care of my skin — the best way to make me feel confident going out without layers of makeup on — is simply by letting it do its own thing.

At times it seems too good to be true. But honestly, I’m not complaining.

Images: Melodi Erdogan; Giphy