I can’t exactly pinpoint the age when acne sprouted onto my face, wreaking havoc and years of dermatologist appointments, prescriptions, and frustration. It was sometime in junior high when everyone assured me puberty was the culprit and all would clear up in due time.
Fast forward to today — and, thankfully now in my 20’s I can admit my acne is nowhere near as bad as it was circa my gangly awkward pre-teen years. But I’ve only gotten my acne under control within the past two years (thanks to birth control and possibly pity from a higher power) and now I’m faced with the wreckage: stubborn acne scars and dark spots.
At some point, Facetune and hiding behind your hair gets old, and I knew I had to do something about the discoloration, uneven texture, and crevices on my skin. After combing through reviews, I found products that helped me fade, cover, and recover from my acne past. Here is everything I’ve used so far to help my skin move past the cystic, pimple-y trauma. If you’re in the same boat and have an upcoming event (like a wedding!) that you want to get glowing skin for, hopefully these can help you, too.
This gentle gel cleanser from Fresh Beauty is my holy grail. It’s tough on makeup but never leaves skin feeling tight or dry, thanks to amino acids found in the soy-enriched formula. I’ve learned to steer clear of anything heavily fragranced, that has microbeads, or foams up — these tend to strip the skin of natural oils, which is a big no. Fresh’s gel formula does none of that, and instead leaves skin feeling clean and supple.
After years of topical creams, prescription pills, and a horrible stint with Proactiv, I am convinced my skin is metal AF and can therefore handle anything. This is why, when I heard rave reviews from friends and online about Dr. Dennis Gross’ Facial Peels, I grabbed the Extra Strength formula. These little pads are reminiscent of those wet-wipes you get when you’re eating ribs, except they contain seven acids, like powerful AHAs and BHA. The peels are a two-step process — step one has a slight burn when you massage it into skin, followed by Step two that neutralizes. My skin is super soft after every use. It hasn’t helped much with my deep, ice-pick scars (which is expected, those will need laser/microneedling treatment) but has done wonders fading marks from cysts and zits. These pads are expensive and you may want to cry about spending nearly $100 on rib wet-wipes, but if you are going to cry, you might as well do it with clear skin.
After the peels, I use clean fingers to swipe on SK-II’s cult-favorite Facial Treatment Essence. I don’t use a cotton pad because I think it wastes product (and at $99 for 75 mL, that’s not what I’m trying to do). It feels silky smooth on my skin and is packed with vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that help even out my skin tone and improve elasticity.
I’ve written about this primer before and can’t recommend it enough. It’s just as much skincare as it is makeup, with powerful ingredients like Vitamin C and anti-aging green tea. But what really has me sold is the SPF 50. Acid peels and prescription creams make your skin very sensitive to UV rays, so sunscreen is a necessity. My dermatologist prescribed me tretinoin to help treat breakouts, so this primer is a convenient and easy way to protect my skin while smoothing over pores and lines for makeup.
Covering up pimples and dark spots is pretty much an art form, so I consider this concealer my paint. It’s super thick and tacky, which allows it to cling onto skin and really stay put. A little goes a long way, so I put a tiny amount on my ring finger and dab it onto any spots or problem areas. When concealing, less is more: if you put too much product onto your blemish or spot, it will only accentuate it further. This concealer is so full-coverage that overdoing it is never an issue.