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Journey to Clear Skin - Texas, TX

Hello! I'm starting my own journal on my journey...

Hello!
I'm starting my own journal on my journey to clear skin. I'm 25 years old and have always dealt with acne since I was about 10 years old. It started to improve with only a few breakouts-- but always some activity present. Then, earlier this year... I had an explosion on my face! Worst break-out I've EVER had.

I have a condition that causes low estrogen, so I always knew that my breakouts were form hormones (imbalance of androgens, estrogen... plus bad genes).

Well, now I'm engaged and I've got a year to get this under wraps. After years of thinking about it, I finally went to a dermatologist a little over two weeks ago. When I went to see her, I had a lot of red pigmentation from fresh break-outs that were healing. However, the active acne had finally calmed down from the rampage that it was on. Despite the improvements, I didn't want to take the chances of it coming back.

My skin is oily, especially on my T-zone. I also started with somewhat of a rough texture. It's not the least bit sensitive-- sometimes I think I could take sandpaper to it and everything would be JUST fine :)

So, here is my new regimen:
-Clarisonic twice daily (I attribute my improvements from the raging flare-up to purchasing this Clarisonic. It's fantastic and definitely improves my oily skin).
-Cetaphil face wash
-Ziana, a pea-sized amount applied an hour after washing my face
-Cerave PM moisturizer, about 30 minutes after Ziana. I LOVE this stuff! I also use it in the morning.
-Aczone, a small amount applied in the morning
-Solodyn 65 mg daily
-EltaMD Physical Sunscreen

Lately, I've just been using EltaMD sunscreen as a "make-up" because it's tinted. It's easy to apply during the day to fight off the sun, instead of trying to place over make-up. Also, I've never found a concealer that I liked that actually worked without feeling cake-y on my skin. So, I gave it all up during these first few months of this regimen to see how it goes. I just apply a little powder over the sunscreen. I think they sell it at the Dermatologist's office for $50+. She gave me samples, I liked it. But I bought it on Amazon instead for $20 and free shipping :) It's lightweight, tinted, feels great on. Dries nice. No typical white, streaky mess with some sunscreens.

I feared the worst with the red, flaking skin associated with retinoids. However, my skin is oily and resilient enough that I've had very minimal flaking. In fact, it only happens on the corners of my mouth when I get sloppy when applying Ziana (by getting too close to my mouth).

Two weeks in, I finally had NO new break-outs this morning. Hooray! I do worry that it's the calm before another storm. I started with little active acne (albeit big ones) and lots of hyperpigmentation. Over the past two weeks, I've definitely had some "purging." Not near as bad as I had feared. I'm still finishing up some of my active acne and I have a lot of hyperpigmentation from old wounds. Ziana has definitely improved my picking (only at the obvious white heads or really painful ones that are "ready"). Things get incredibly red and angry looking if I do, especially if I'm not careful.

My skin has become incredibly soft, despite still having a poor texture due to healing acne and hyper-pigmentation. I have some samples of tretinoin 0.05% that I may start alternating every other night instead of Ziana, since I think my skin can handle a higher dose. However, I'll give it a month before I try that to make sure that I don't stir things up. Ziana only has 0.025% tretinoin in it.

Anyway, here are some pictures. I'll try to be diligent about posting updates as time goes by.

If you reply, please be nice. I don't have thick skin :) I just wanted to help others through my progress, to determine if this is a path for them. I know I relied on other testimonials before I started my regimen! I've learned a TON of tips off here that my dermatologist never mentioned. She didn't even tell me about the "purge" that would be coming my way. I, of course, knew that going in.

Whoops, the pictures never showed up...

My pictures that I attached never showed up. So here they are. The last photo compares 2 weeks progress to the day before I started treatment.

Okay, let me try ONE last time :)

Now converted pictures to JPEG from PNG... much smaller sizes. First picture is the day before starting my new regimen. Second picture is photos throughout the first week. Third are pictures throughout my 2nd week. And the final is the before pictures compared to end of week 2. Now, to be fair... all of my pictures were without makeup and immediately after washing (so much more red and blotchy). A few of the 2nd week pictures were taken with a very light tinted sunscreen (EltaMD). I'm trying to stay away from make-up right now and just stick with the sunscreen. Avoiding mirrors for now!

End Week One

End Week 2

Sorry, RealSelf won't load more than one picture at a time... so this is a lot of updates to get the 4 pictures up!

Before Vs. 2 Weeks In

Day 16

Had a microdermabrasion done today (Groupon 5 for $100!!!). It felt great. Usually it doesn't do much for me, but I enjoy the facial. This groupon package was cut and dry-- microdermabrasion only, which is fine by me. After the procedure, I feel like my skin can actually breath! I'm hoping it helps the retinoid do it's thing a little easier. I was supposed to stop the Ziana a week ago, but used it up until last night because my skin has tolerated it so well (I knew I was taking a risk... but I'm paranoid that if I stop for one day... ish will hit the fan and wreck my face). We just did the fine tip, but will move on to the coarse tip next time. There was a sale's pitch on some $280 "miracle" face wash. I'm staying true to my cheap-O cetaphil and CeraVe regimen. I know that all of these "miracle" products are just money down the drain. Retinoids are proven. I do have some Vitamin C serum and Glycolic gel from Mario Badescu that I bought shortly before I saw the dermatologist. They sit there on my counter tempting me to use them... but I don't want to do anything to mess everything up! The serum says that it should be used overnight, but I'm wondering if I could use it during the day, under my moisturizer and sunscreen.

Still no flakies or irritated skin s/p micro and 2+ weeks of Ziana. Had a new white-head come to the surface on my jawline. It's been 4 days with no picking... but this little guy is testing my patience. *Stay Strong*

Day 17

Redness over chest is not acne. I'm starting to think it's a mild reaction to the Solodyn. It is sometimes itchy and improves with hydrocortisone cream (regular acne would not). As long as it doesn't become terrible, I'm okay with this.

Texture changes have been much appreciated! Still a lot of work to go. I'm not sure if I've had the "initial break-out." Is it usually something hugely dramatic that I would know right away? I've had new break-outs appear in strange places, but nothing terrible. I'm not sure if it's my skin doing it's thing, or if this is the initial break-out. It has definitely calmed down. A get one or two each day that go away fairly quickly. I do have stubborn ones on the top of my right cheek that go away and come back.

No picking (well mostly)! Actually, since most of it is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, I'm finding that there isn't much to pick at. Every now and then I see a clogged blackhead on my cheek that I "help" along, VERY gently with little pressure. They're gross little buggers. The others never rear their head... they just show up and go away.

Seriously, if anybody reads this... I'm going to have some serious anxiety if I don't find out when to expect this "initial breakout." I'm at Day 17 and suspect that I've had the breakouts, but they weren't hugely dramatic. When was yours?

I'm not sure what is going on this website...

The website is being very buggy for adding photos on here. I'm going to try to attach again... it's only 275 kb!

Aye. I'm about to give up on this.

Doctor

Ziana, Solodyn, and Aczone are ridiculously expensive without insurance. Know that you can get generic tretinoin, topical clindamycin (the combo-med in Ziana), and generic minocycline for much, MUCH cheaper. Ziana and Aczone are several hundred dollars. Solodyn is over $1,000. I'm not sure if the Aczone is worth it... but it's free for now (online discount card), so I'm using it until that benefit runs out.

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