my acne arsenal

my acne arsenal

it’s about to get real on this here blog.

i have been struggling with an ugly bout of hormonal cystic acne since going off the pill a year ago. we’re talking 8-12 painful pink bumps rearing their ugly heads in a cyclical fashion on the left and right sides of my chin, monthly. thankfully all is clear elsewhere, but still. i’ll be 30 in april, this was ridiculous.

i have tried upwards of 50 products at all price points in an attempt to get things under control. (note: this is not recommended. i should have gotten myself to a dermatologist months ago, but i was determined to cure myself.) i finally found the elusive clearing combination and let me tell you, when you find it, things clear up QUICKLY. i was swayed by many a well-touted system that said “you will need 30 days” or worse “you will need 8-10 weeks” to see results. no, you don’t. when you find the right stuff, you will see results very fast.

i finally cleared things up this past week. here’s what’s been working for me:

cleanse and tone: i use the murad 1.5% salicylic acid clarifying cleanser every night, and every other morning. it removes all of my makeup and is not overly drying, plus it kills bacteria. i let it sit for about a minute while i brush my teeth, then rinse and pat my face dry.

mask: on alternating mornings, i spread the murad 4.0% sulfur acne treatment clarifying mask over my face right before hopping in the shower and let it sit until the very end. this mask sucks all the bacteria out of my pores and leaves me feeling cleaner than an exfoliant. it’s also gentler on sensitive acne-prone skin than a scrub would be.

moisturize: i use philosophy’s hope in a jar oil-free spf 30 in the morning which provides tons of rich moisture to soothe my skin (acne treatments can be drying) but does not clog pores. at night, i use murad’s skin perfecting lotion because it’s light, oil-free, and also contains retinol, an acne fighter among other things.

treat: should any of the dreaded pink spots crop up, i use eradikate overnight to treat them. this stuff is a dream for several reasons. it’s 10% sulfur and you just dot it on with a q-tip, no rubbing, no blending, just dot and let it dry. it’s brilliant because most other acne treatments out there need to be rubbed into the skin and all you’re really doing is moving it around, oftentimes picking up more product than you’re laying down. this dot method is the most concentrated and fierce way to fight acne. it makes a noticeable difference overnight and i even put some on while i’m getting ready in the mornings for extra fighting power.

the results of this fivesome have been more effective than anything i’ve ever used. when i tell you i went from raging teenager acne to the flawless skin of a 30-year old, i am not joking. this little system may not work for everyone and i know there are cheaper options out there, but if you’re battling cystic acne that seems to be moving in rhythm with your cycle, give some combination of salicylic acid and sulfur treatments a try.


23 thoughts on “my acne arsenal

  1. I’m a big Murad fan too! Even though they’re pricey, his products consistently work–which makes them totally worth it.

    Did you know you can also get Murad facials?! I’m a member of Massage Envy (amazing massages!), but not very many people know they do facials too. I tried them out once, and was thrilled to find out they have spa-quality Murad facials! And they will customize it to your current issue. (My favorite two are the Vitamin C and the Acne facials.)

    I’ve found that Murad’s acne line leaves me a little too dry…and my facialist mentioned that part of the reason my breakouts keep coming is because my skin is WAY too dry and I keep irritating it by using acne scrubs. I always assumed my acne was because I had super oily skin, but apparently, now that I’m 25, my skin is not the same as it used to be.

    So, she switched me to Murad’s Acne line that is for people my age–it has age-fighting ingredients and lots of moisturizers too!

    Oh man…I feel like I just wrote a commercial. But, I really am a huge Murad fan, so I’m always glad when someone I like enjoys him too!

    PS: My mom uses his wrinkle line. She said that she used to have a big wrinkle on her forehead, but she used one of his serums and it completely went away. MAGIC.

    xoxo okay done rambling.



    • hi miss tierney! it’s good to see you on the glossarie :) i had no idea about the murad facials, but will definitely seek them out. i am really impressed with them as a line and have never found anything to be so effective so quickly. i had tried the acne/anti-aging murad line that you’re talking about but it wasn’t quite harsh enough. the full-on acne line is what’s doing the trick and i’m so thrilled. thanks for sharing your (and your mom’s!) love of the brand. i love positive reinforcement!


    • you must try it, sara! if you have any pesky and persistent spots that pop up, it really does the trick. i think you’ll love it. thanks for chiming in on this personal post :)


  2. First, great post/topic! This one hits home as I, too, have been plagued with “adult acne” over the past year. (Who knew you could get acne in your 30s???) My Derm blames it on hormones. And like you I’ve tried a ga-zillion topical (and oral) treatments, both over-the-counter as well as prescription. However, I haven’t tried the Kate S spot treatment….will definitely give this a go as I’m looking for a good spot treatment that isn’t insanely harsh. Thanks for sharing your effective regimin, Lara. Good info…



    • so glad to know i’m not alone in my plight against the dreaded adult acne, at times i felt like i was surrounded by friends with beautiful clear skin and i was the only one whose face was freaking out. it was a painful journey, but now that i’ve found a few things that are working well, i couldn’t be happier. DEFINITELY give the eradikate a try, you will be amazed. thanks for the encouragement and for sharing your own little story!


  3. I’m so happy you found a system that works for you. Thank you for sharing. I’ve been fighting my acne for years and finally found my own personal combo of products that works for me. It’s a great feeling to be acne free! Congrats!!!


    • hiii olivia!! i could not be happier that you stopped by the blog as you know i’m quite the fan of your work :) so glad you found your magic combination and that you’re acne free. it goes miles for confidence and mood – congrats to you!


  4. The EXACT same thing happened to me when I turned 28! Sounds like you have your regimen down pat, but what finally worked for me was classic Neutrogena Oil Free Acne wash used with a Clarisonic (think the Clarisonic really makes the salicylic acid more effective), followed by Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Anti-Blemish cream (tough to find except online and I can’t fathom why because it is the perfect combo of salicylic acid and retinol). I find I can layer any eye or night cream on top if I am too dry.


    • those are amazing drugstore recommendations! thank you so much for sharing them, and the clarisonic has helped a lot with my acne as well. i think because it’s more gentle than a scrub but it exfoliates the dead skin that clogs pores.


  5. I have that adult acne problem too – I’ve never had any success with sulfur products myself. The Kate Somerville seems promising though, and I still haven’t found a good spot treatment. For about a year now I’ve been using Clinique Acne Solutions Clearing Moisturizer and Philosophy Microdelivery Exfoliating wash every morning. That, and I stopped eating gluten. I still get little blemishes occaisionally, but the last cystic breakout I had was September, and before that I can’t remember when I had one. Oh! I also use Too Faced Primed and Poreless which has retinol in it. I really like the Philosophy scrub because it is very gentle, and it helps combat the dry flakiness I get from the benzoyl peroxide in the Clinique lotion.


    • wow, that’s really good! i had tried the clinique system years ago but didn’t even think to give it a go this round. it’s good to know that you like it! i think i’ve discovered that bp products are not the most effective for me, so maybe that’s why i stayed away. i might have to try the philosophy scrub – thanks for the recco!


  6. Great post….and being this methodical is how you have to treat acne (esp hormonal breakouts). I have been having the same crazy hormonal issues myself and found my own holy grail! Glad you have something that works for you!! Thanks for sharing ;-)


    • it felt like a science experiment while i was on the hunt! i had a skincare journal, i was studying ingredients – it was intense. so glad you’ve won your own little battle. isn’t it so funny how every face is completely different and it seems like no combination works the same for everyone? madness :)


  7. Great post! I’ve used Murad products on and off and the one product I always go back to is their Clarifying Body Spray. It’s the best thing I’ve found to help with breakouts on my chest or back. Also, is the Eradikate similar to the Mario Badescu drying lotion?


    • the ingredient list on the mario bedescu drying lotion is different, but only slightly! they look almost identical – and the mario is $5 cheaper. i have seen that murad spray and need to give a try!


  8. Thank you so much for this post, Lara. I got off of the pill in February 2009, and for the past three years have had the most painful acne break-outs once a month across my chin as well.
    I have tried countless products and nothing seems to work. I’m going to try all of these products and hopefully get the same results.

    You are the beauty whisperer!



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