Has anyone had success in reducing the number of acne/face cleansing products they use?
December 14, 2010 6:13 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone had success in reducing the number of acne/face cleansing products they use?

I was curious if anyone had success in reducing the amount of product they use on their face daily while still keeping acne under control. According to the Merck Manual for Acne I am in the medium to low end for mild acne. Currently, in the PM I wash my face with Cetaphil, run a 2% salicylic acid pad over my face and then apply a 2% benzoyl peroxide gel. In the AM I wash with water and run a pad over my face again.

Recently, I have stopped using traditional shampoo every day and now wash with baking soda and vinegar twice a week. I enjoy the reduction in the amount of crap I have in the bathroom as well as the fact my hair looks and feels even better now. I'm hoping to something similar with my face stuff but I am worried that cutting back on my acne treatments will result in massive breakouts. Has anyone successfully done this?
posted by Loto to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Yes. I stopped washing my face with anything but warm water. You use your sense of touch to basically feel any grease thinning out beneath your fingertips as you gently scrub your face. You have to be thorough in exploring with your fingertips. The thin film of natural oil that remains tells your sweat glands to not overproduce oil. You break the cycle of stripping oil with cleansers and overproducing oil because your skin is freaking out. (It's the same with sebaceous glands/shampoo/hair.)

I had one mild/medium breakout right after I started doing this (brief overproduction before glands normalized?), and now I get one little pimple maybe every 2-3 months.

You'll find similar stories elsewhere online.

(P.S. I've had tremendous success too, before I figured this out, by changing my diet. Instead of reaching for another skin care product, I'd revaluate what I was eating a lot of and vary my diet with healthier stuff. That cleared up a chronic situation a couple times.)
posted by zeek321 at 6:23 AM on December 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

(This was a couple years ago. Still going strong. I'm 30, so your hormones, age, diet, etc. may respond differently.)
posted by zeek321 at 6:25 AM on December 14, 2010

I use red (adzuki) beans ground into a powder (using the blender) as a scrub once or twice a week. That's it.
posted by bolognius maximus at 6:34 AM on December 14, 2010

After years of trying every acne product I could buy, I spent eight months on topical, dermatologist-prescribed medication, my skin completely cleared up, and I'm down now to using whatever soap I feel like -- including shower gel I'd be using anyway -- and an SPF moisturizer. It was worth the trip to the dermatologist to finally end the complicated facial cleansing rituals and buying expensive products every month.
posted by olinerd at 6:37 AM on December 14, 2010

YMMV, but I've found that reducing what I use to wash my face has improved my skin and lessened the number of zits I get - despite all the anti-acne zomgREVOLUTIONARY whatsit products. I'm 30. I started getting bad breakouts in my very early 20's - painful cystic acne, particularly on the sides of my face, but I would get them on my cheek, forehead, and chin from time to time. Using acne products did not help at all. Retinoid creams didn't do anything whatsoever. After continued use, I became allergic to benzoyl perozide. It was so bad at one point that a dermatologist recommended I go on accutane (didn't do it). The only thing that worked was minimizing the crap I "cleaned" my face with. This is what I do (Presently I probably have fairly "average" skin - a little on the oily side in the summer, a little on the dry side in the winter):

take shower, wash my face in the shower with just water and washcloth while in the shower. moisturize with a light, non-greasy moisturizer.

take a quick 2-3 minute shower to wash the day off, including washing my face in the shower. occasionally wash with baking soda and washcloth (rubbing in tiny circles for a minute or two, or this burt's bees citrus scrub, also rubbing in circles for a minute or two with a washcloth). occasionally, moisturize at night (if I do so regularly, it will clog my pores since I sleep with my sides and cheeks on the pillow). occasionally use a witch hazel pad when I get that itchy-skin crawling feeling that means some zits are on their way to fruition (very rarely more than once a week).

I still get a zit or two along the hairline or side of my face, but it's SO much better than before. I would probably describe my skin as "very good" now. Water by itself is a pretty amazing cleanser. Revving it up with something simple like the citrus scrub or baking soda helps to exfoliate when you need it. Otherwise, I tend to think that the more crap you use, the more your skin works harder to counter them - resulting in a painful battle that no one wins.
posted by raztaj at 6:38 AM on December 14, 2010

When I was younger I figured out how to completely eradicate mild acne: switching from alcohol based aftershave to a gel/aloe based one (Afta). I have no idea why that worked... maybe putting oil on the skin downregulated the glands.
posted by crapmatic at 6:38 AM on December 14, 2010

When I was younger and had horrible skin, my derm recommended just a mild cleanser, like cetaphil. Occasionally I would use a wee amount of a prescription med, like tazorac or benzaclin, but none of the over-the-counter stuff. Your current routine sounds a little harsh on skin, actually.
posted by bizzyb at 6:46 AM on December 14, 2010

Have you tried the oil cleansing method. I have oily, gross skin prone to acne and I was very hesitant to put oil on my face but it has worked well for me. I use extra virgin olive oil with a little castor oil about once a week. It works great at removing my makeup daily too. I'll still wash occasionally (2 to 3 times a week) with Cetaphil or Kiss My Face olive oil and green tea bar but I stopped using moisterizer and acne medicine and my sensitive skin feels much better and looks clearer.
posted by rainygrl716 at 6:48 AM on December 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Birth control pills replaced any and all cleansers I ever used. When I'm not on the pill, none of them work; when I'm on the pill, I don't need them.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 6:50 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, I guess I should mention I'm a 27 year old dude.

I have actually tried the oil cleansing method... I did it for about two weeks and then I started developing cystic acne which I haven't had since I was a kid. I think I may have overdid it (once a day as opposed to once a week), however... My skin did look/feel great for those two weeks, though.

My worry is that if I change anything my acne will return to the state it was in during my late teens/early-mid 20's. The skin care plan I've got going now has worked very, very well for me. Very little acne, no dryness, I get a little oily but not too bad.

This is all great info, though. Thank you very much.
posted by Loto at 6:57 AM on December 14, 2010

Seconding the oil cleansing method. I tried so many cleansers, so many products and just resigned myself to bad skin. Read about OCM several years ago and have not looked back. My first attempts at it were dumb in hindsight. I was trying to replace the cleanser with oil amount-wise. But it just literally takes 5 drops of oil or so. I use coconut oil now. I feel completely liberated and my skin cleared up completely, to the point that getting a zit happens maybe once a year or two, if that.
posted by hecho de la basura at 6:58 AM on December 14, 2010

I switched to washing with my fingertips and warm water (usually in a steamy shower) last year and in general it's been good.

My worry is that if I change anything my acne will return to the state it was in during my late teens/early-mid 20's

Your body has probably changed drastically in the last 7 years - different hormones, different skin chemistry, but if it hasn't then you can just go back to your old routine.
posted by muddgirl at 7:05 AM on December 14, 2010

There was a bunch of threads on Reddit this year about sleeping with a towel on your pillow.
posted by Blake at 7:21 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thirding the oil cleaning way - it's done amazing things for my face, acne and the feel of my skin.

Olive oil, a tiny bit of castor oil, wash cloth and hot water. That's it. Here's a link - http://www.acne.org/messageboard/OIL-CLEANSING-METHOD-Hi-t141871.html

Besides, if washing and moisturizing with olive oil is good enough for Sophia Loren, it's good enough for me.
posted by saffronwoman at 7:37 AM on December 14, 2010

Response by poster: For those recommending the Oil Cleansing Method, how often do you wash and what do you do on non-OCM days?
posted by Loto at 7:52 AM on December 14, 2010

I'm going to fourth oil cleansing! Maybe try it again even though the first time didn't have the best outcome. Start slow, once a week or a few times a week. At one point I used half castor oil/ half olive oil, which worked well. I also added a few drops of lavender essential oil. Right now I use a good-smelling mix that I bought from Etsy (it's much cheaper to do it yourself, though). And maybe give it a month or so (I have heard that sometimes people have "detox" breakouts after starting the oil-cleansing process, though who knows). If your skin needs it, you can moisturize afterward with a few drops of the same mixture.

My skin feels sooo good afterward, especially during the colder months.
posted by sucre at 7:53 AM on December 14, 2010

So a funny thing happened after reading about the oil cleansing method here on Mefi. I tried it, and my expectations were so high I eliminated everything I'd been taking in the hopes of it working, including long term antibiotics. Soon thereafter, no kidding, my eyes basically dried out and my eyelids got red. So I went to the eye doc who looked in them and said the tears that normally coat our eyes (not the big crying tears but just a thin film of them) usually have water, mucous, and oil in them. In mine, they were just water and mucous, with these globs of butter floating around.

Treatment, no surprise, was antibiotics, or I could start taking massive doses of Omega 3 fatty acids, both of which 'thin' the body's oils, turning that butter back to oil. He told me Omega 6s thicken it and the ratio of the two is becoming important health wise. I tested my 6:3 ratio prior and it was 4:1, and discontinued the oil cleansing method too, just in case. I've been taking 10 grams of Omega 3s a day (1 tablespoon) for the past few weeks and almost had my acne problem solved till last week when I discovered the lemon flavor in the oil had settled, so if you try this (you wouldn't be alone... 11 pages!) be sure to shake it before each use.

Now, my 4:1 ratio was actually "good" and I'd imagine it's in the "Great" category now. The other test included in the kit was for Omega 3's as compared to all the body's fats, and that's where I dipped into the "Bad" category. If we remember what the eye doc said about thinning the body's oils, I'm clearly eating fats that are thickening them and/or have a general propensity in that direction for whatever reason. That's what I'm working on now.

To the poster: I'm a guy too. In the shower I scrub my face with a smooth beach stone (for a light exfoliant), then use shampoo, and soap. Aside from those, the omega 3s in the morning and shaving (see last bullet), that's my skin care regime, and since its working I'm sticking with it. Apparently my hearth health is secure too.
posted by jwells at 7:55 AM on December 14, 2010

And to answer your follow-up question, I just recently started OCM after a long break (and it makes sense to start again now that it's cold). In the past, I would do the OCM every night (it takes off makeup wonderfully, imo). No wash in the morning, just a few drops of oil to moisturize after my shower. I plan to do the same this winter. :)
posted by sucre at 7:55 AM on December 14, 2010

Using both salicylic acid AND benzoyl peroxide is drying your skin out and encouraging oil production. I used to ride the dragon myself, using one or both of these in tandem and then following with a moisturizer to counteract the dry-out. But ever since I abandoned them my skin has been MUCH better. A wash with a mild soap, followed by a bit of moisturizer, and I am all set. I'm probably a great candidate for oil cleansing, but I haven't tried it yet.
posted by hermitosis at 8:00 AM on December 14, 2010

I use a very small amount of unscented Dove soap twice a day and nothing else. My skin is happy and nice.
posted by mai at 8:01 AM on December 14, 2010

I was able to cut down to just mild soap, warm water, and a very occasional scrub with salicylic acid cream by changing my diet.

Focusing on staying well-hydrated and minimizing foods with a high glycemic load had a fairly dramatic and immediate effect. Treating the external symptoms (which is what the dermatologists that I saw focused on) was much less effective than addressing internal causes.

Abstracts of some peer-reviewed articles on the connection between blood glucose levels and acne: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:02 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I didn't believe it at first but I've had incredible success taking Neem oil supplements and using a Neem-oil based soap. Takes 2-3 weeks to work but gets rid of acne and leaves the skin feeling supple. I used to do Benzoyl Peroxide but that dried my skin out horribly. Think of Neem as a naturally-occurring, less-harsh antibiotic--that's how it works, by ridding the skin of bacteria and minor infections.
posted by caveatz at 8:09 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Follow up OCM: every day that I wear makeup. So I'm probably not a good example for you. I will say that while I was out of work I didn't wear makeup once in 8 months but I still had to OCM twice a week to maintain my skin. I went a while just doing nothing and got some return acne. In between OCM's I would just use warm water. I've been ocm-ing for at least 5, maybe 6 years. I don't discriminate with oils I use except I always use vegetable oils. I've even used canola oil in a pinch. Works fine, though some dedicated ocm'ers would cringe at the thought! The key though is using only enough to grease your palms. I laugh when I think back on how much oil I used at first!
posted by hecho de la basura at 9:00 AM on December 14, 2010

I've tried every topical and every cleansing ritual known to mankind, and none of it every helped (although some hurt more than others).

Finally I went to a dermatologist and got prescribed some antibiotics. I've been taking them for 10 years, and will probably take them until I die. It's the only thing (other than Accutane - ugh!) that has every had any positive effect.
posted by coolguymichael at 9:40 AM on December 14, 2010

Blake mentioned the fresh hand towel on pillow every night method. The thread about that a while back seemed like it resonated with a lot of folks.

I found my acne drastically reduced when I did the following:
1) Stopped using "products" on my face.
2) Wash my face with water in the shower in the morning, and the tiniest bit of whatever body soap I'm using, applied while the shower is streaming in my face. Frequently in the winter, I won't even do this step at all since my skin is usually pretty dried out.
3) Wash my face with only water at night. More of a splash with warm water and a pat dry with a towel.
4) I treat specific zit breakouts with Acnomel, or whatever the sulfur-based stuff is called these days. I bought a tube of it 10 years ago for $15 or so, and it's still going strong. This stuff kills zits very quickly, and with very little drying or destruction of the skin like all those drying agents seem to do. However, if you're allergic to sulfur products, avoid!

I have noticed the role that diet plays in sebum production, though. Any time I get a mega-box of Goldfish crackers or Cheez-Its at work, I am guaranteed to grow some gnarly back zits that require breaking out the Acnomel.
posted by MonsieurBon at 10:22 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm clutching my pearls over how few people use sunscreen on this thread! I'm an adherent of the Paula Begoun school, and its done wonders. I'd add that cleansers and face washes aren't a huge part if keeping acne under control, but they're important. I think those salicylic acid pads could be your problem - they're often full of alcohol, which won't do you any favors. Paulas Choice make a few different salicylic acid products - a liquid, a gel and a lotion - and you might have better luck with one of those.

I love, love, love MAC Cleanse Off oil to really clean off my sunscreen and makeup at night, and I just use cetaphil in the morning. My skin's pretty good these days.
posted by nerdfish at 11:53 AM on December 14, 2010

I'm clutching my pearls over how few people use sunscreen on this thread!

Yeah, didn't mention the sunscreen. I use a non-oily formula, and I don't notice that it affects my skin too much.

One thought I had is how much my skin care routine changes based on the quality of my tap water. Really hard, mineraly water (like we get from the aquifers in Texas) tends to combine with any cleanser product to make my skin itchy and dry. In regions with less mineraly water, I find my skin can tolerate cleansers much better.
posted by muddgirl at 12:29 PM on December 14, 2010

For those recommending the Oil Cleansing Method, how often do you wash and what do you do on non-OCM days?

I use it every time I wash my face, so a minimum of once a day. I use jojoba instead of olive oil, though. Olive oil was too heavy. If my face feels dry afterward or if I have a breakout I put another light layer of jojoba on at bedtime. For anything cystic that might show up I use neem oil and jojba mixed 50/50. Things clear up very fast.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:35 PM on December 14, 2010

I know that many may snicker, but as a grownup with sporadic acne and 2 teenage daughters, the only thing that ever worked for all of us was the ProActiv system.
posted by dzaz at 12:40 PM on December 14, 2010

I'm clutching my pearls over how few people use sunscreen on this thread!

He didn't ask about sunscreen, he asked about success in reducing the number of cleansing products. People are answering that question.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:43 PM on December 14, 2010

Clindamycin. Talk to your derm. $15 for a bigass bottle of the generic topical. Great stuff.
posted by weaponsgradecarp at 6:31 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'll throw my hat into the, "use soap, sparingly" ring. Maybe once a day. Maaaaybe. And nothing fancy - I just use Dr. Bonners. For... everything.

In Denver, you tend to use a lot of sunscreen. I use pretty broad spectrum, fancy stuff. I used to hate it, but now (like sunglasses), I really can't go outside without either.
posted by alex_skazat at 12:36 AM on December 15, 2010


besides using products on your face, do watch out for the type of food you intake. avoid things like fried stuff or oily stuff, it will create more acne, i noticed.
posted by janet bin at 7:34 PM on December 17, 2010

Response by poster: Just wanted to post an update and thank everyone for their answers.

So, I tried the OCM again along with only using cold water on my face on the days I didn't use the OCM. I was fine for two weeks and thenI began to get painful cystic acne, again. I kept going for another two weeks and still no improvement.

I moved on to using a Neutrogena's Stress Control wash and 3-1 Hydrating Acne treatment. My skin is has cleared up greatly and generally looks a bit better than when it did when I was using both BP and salicylic acid stuff. So, while the OCM didn't work for me I managed to kick my BP habit and now use less product on my face overall.
posted by Loto at 11:15 AM on February 14, 2011

« Older LEDs + Foam Board Masks = ???   |   Best practices for sharing a nanny Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.