CLEAR SKIN CALLED, it said screw you
July 19, 2008 3:07 AM   Subscribe

well. i have searched and searched and there is alot out there , but i am looking for something specific. this question is about BLACKHEADS.

I have had blackheads since i was a teen, when i was 20 i started getting zits too. Here I am 26 and my skin is the worst it has ever been.i have blackheads on every inch of my face and my face and scalp feel like an oil factory. I am a vegetarian, i dont eat crappy but i dont eat buckwheat cakes and organic chard everyday either maybe once a month i get drunk and maybe once a week have a soda, i do drink a couple coffees a week and my diet consists of alot of texmex but alot of organnic veggies too, i dont take vitamins cuz im really poor right now but in the past i have tried evening primrose, multivitamin, iron,birth control pills,,,i have used every face wash known to man as well as retina and other topicals, and now after 10 years of no noticeable difference i just use oatmeal soap and witchhazel. i was using jojoba cuz i heard that would help but it didnt but neither does lotion. basically i am freaking out, what do i do? i have the most sensitive skin so i scar really easy. i am too oily. i do everything u r supposed to ; drink water, change pillowcases, hot showers, all natural skincare,,,,help me please. I cant afford facials evryday but i did use to get microderms once a month to no avail as well as chemical peels that actually scarred me really bad. are there any remedies that anyone can suggest that have worked for you? home remedies, pills, liver cleanses? im so desperate, i hate looking in the mirror, dont lecture me.....just tell me if anything has worked for you
posted by madmamasmith to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
It might be that all the different chemicals you put on you skin are causing the problem.

Your skin produces a certain amount of sebum. You remove it completely. So your skin produces more, and overcompensates. So you go get some other treatment that removes all that sebum. So your skin produces more. Ad infinitum.

I used to suffer quite badly with spots during puberty, and in the end, I gave up using lots of different chemicals to try to deal with the problem and just used the most gentle face wash I could find. Within a couple of months, my skin had cleared up. It's not perfect, but I don't get spots at all now, nor blackheads.

I do sometimes mix up a fruit based facial masque if I'm going somewhere special (usually strawberries and fuller's earth), but that's every 6 months or so. I just tend to leave my face alone and stop worrying about it. It balanced itself out soon enough.

Try using no chemicals at all for a month, and see how you get on. It's liable to get slightly worse before it gets better, but that's just your skin sorting itself out.
posted by Solomon at 3:18 AM on July 19, 2008

I'm pretty much stuck in this situation, too. My skincare efforts just can't keep up with the amount of oil my skin produces.

The two things that have really helped me:
-Seeing a dermatologist on a regular basis. They do extractions where they remove all of your visible blackheads with a little metal loop. It's kind of demeaning and expensive, but it's the only REALLY effective way of removing existing blackheads without scarring your skin.
- Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Pads, after washing my face with a mild soap at night. It dries up some of the oil without seeming at all harsh.
posted by arianell at 3:35 AM on July 19, 2008

The instructions here are almost guaranteed to fix you up:

Here are one kabillion testimonials:

At first glance, it will probably look like he's trying to sell you something, but rest assured: as he explains, the products required can be bought in generic form at any pharmacy, for less than $20.

Just be sure to start slowly, so your skin has a chance to get used to it...

Let me know how it goes!
posted by surenoproblem at 4:11 AM on July 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

Drink a gallon of water a day, no, really, a gallon. You have to fight the problem from the inside; smearing gunk on the outside won't help. And listen to Solomon.
posted by bink at 4:26 AM on July 19, 2008

i second the very wise solomon - it's all that crap you're putting on your face. oatmeal isn't any likelier to fix your problem than oxy-10 or whatever other harsh chemical some pharm company is trying to sell you. stop using ANYTHING to clear your face other than water. i wouldn't even use regular soap, it's probably the most reasonable thing to use of all your options but it tends to dry your skin out, same as all the other stuff really. then your skin tries to even the balance by producing more oil, overcompensates, acne ensues, you put more stuff on your face to get rid of it, and the loop perpetuates itself all over your face...

don't stop washing your face, just use clean hands and pure water and nothing else. maybe a washcloth, but you may be tempted to scrub scrub scrub. don't. just kinda let your facial skin alone for a while, it needs to fix itself, sans chemical punishment. if your a girl and/or wear makeup, stop trying to cover it up your acne with makeup - it's just clogging up your pores worse, and sorry but you aren't fooling anyone anyway. let your skin alone for a while, say a month or more, and see what happens.

this worked very well for me, anyway. you'll still almost undoubtably get the occasional zit, but they shouldn't be anywhere near as bad once you've just left your skin alone for a while.
posted by messiahwannabe at 5:30 AM on July 19, 2008

Hot showers? That's bad for the skin... (and circulation, but that's not the issue here). Wash your face with cold water only - or tepid, if you hate cold water (I do). I agree with Solomon: less is more. Try a gentle cleanser and a good, lightweight moistorizer. Also, see a dermatologist. They can really help, and if you address the problem correctly, it'll cost you less money in the end. Removal of blackheads, however, is NOT the way to go. All that'll do is inflame and enlarge the pores, and then you'll get blackheads again, possibly worse ones even. Also, don't pick your face. Don't even touch it. If you really must, use either blot papers or a light blotting powder (MAC has a nice one, not too expensive).
posted by neblina_matinal at 5:39 AM on July 19, 2008

i'm going to go against the grain with this one here and say that a little chemistry does help in this case. this is what has worked for me:

-a mild glycerin soap. i use neutrogena, fragrance-free. it's about $8 a bottle and can last several months. you only need about half a pump to get a good lather. i wash my face 2-3 times a day.

-gently exfoliate while you wash. a facial loofah or brush is best. you can get either for about $5. do not use any kind of exfoliating scrub--the little gritty bits will just get caught in your pores and cause more problem. if you prefer using a scrub, you can make a great, dirt-cheap one out of honey and coarse sea salt. the salt gradually dissolves in water as you rinse, so there's nothing to get caught in your pores. wash your face afterwards, as the honey can be hard to rinse off.

-a topical acne preparation containing at least 2% salicylic acid that you apply after every washing. again, i use neutrogena brand, but others may work better for you. the salicylic acid is the active ingredient, but you may be sensitive to the fragrance or lotion component, so you might have to try a few. benzoyl peroxide also works for many, but if it makes your skin worse, you may have a peroxide sensitivity, like me.

a weekly mud mask. you can get any brand in the drugstore. i get one at target in their boots skincare line that seems to work really well, but they are all about the same. you can do it twice a week if you want, but much more will dry your face out.

if you get a big zit, crush an aspirin (non-coated) and mix it with a drop of water to make a paste. dab it on the zit and leave it on overnight. in the morning, it will be significantly smaller.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:22 AM on July 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

also, clean your phone regurlarly and wash your hands. people touch their faces unconsciously a lot, and those phones can just collect grease and bacteria.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:23 AM on July 19, 2008

I'm an old guy, but my nose has been pretty oily all my life. Accordingly, I tend to get buildup of oil and occasional bouts of blackheads around the base of my nostrils, especially in the creases where my nose joins my upper lip, particularly in the summer. Years ago, I started using Biore pore strips on the recommendation of a female friend with oily facial patches, and the results were immediate, and amazingly effective. Within a couple of applications, I always see a visible reduction of the apparent size of skin pores in the areas I've treated, which seems to persist for at least a couple of weeks.

Just don't overdo, and be sure to let the strips dry completely after application, before you remove them.
posted by paulsc at 6:51 AM on July 19, 2008

The only thing that worked for my ex was to be gentle with washing/everything else (so he'd only wash once in his morning shower with a washcloth and the fairly gentle body wash that he used for his other parts) and MOISTURIZE, MOISTURIZE, MOISTURIZE. He first caught on to this when he got a tattoo. He was religious about using a very simple lotion like Keri or Lubriderm after he got out of the shower. Keeping properly moisturized helped his skin then not get dry enough to overcompensate by producing a lot of extra oil. He said he'd gone through just about everything and this was the only thing that worked. Cheap and simple, too.

Good luck!
posted by Madamina at 7:03 AM on July 19, 2008

I have had acne including blackheads since I was 12 (I'm 30 now). If there's a regimen out there, I've tried it. I've also done a course of microdermabrasion (which gave some great results, but not so much in terms of blackheads) and get facials with varying regularity. A combination of good home care and my dermatologist's prescriptions are what has worked best for me. I understand how frustrating it can be, and as difficult as it is to find the regimen that works, once I did, it was a whole new world.

I think you might get your best results by seeing a dermatologist. Nothing has worked for me better than the topicals my dermatologist has prescribed (tretinoin which is a retin-a like cream and at different times klaron or clindamycin), and unfortunately, oral anitbiotics. As for daily, over the counter care, a gentle cleanser for sensitive skin like Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser is your best bet and I would avoid zit creams, astringents, etc. because they tend to overdry your skin, which increases oil production, and begins a vicious cycle. You should follow this with an oil-free moisturizer which might sound counterintuitive, but is necessary to keep your skin balanced. After much trial and error, I have had good luck with Lorac products. I use their tinted moisturizer with SPF for day and oil-free moisturizer for night. It's a bit pricey, but a little goes a long way and I think it's worth it.

Gently exfoliating a couple of times a week will help a ton with blackheads. I'm a big fan of St. Ives Gentle Scrub because it works, it's easy to find and it's cheap! Lastly, I use a mask once a week or so, but am careful not to use something that will dry my skin out. Right now, I have been loving Alba's Deep Sea Facial Mask.

I don't know if any of this will work for you, but it's what's worked for me and it took a great deal of experimenting to figure it out. Even with this combo, it took time to see dramatic results (some improvement in a month, huge difference in 6 months). You may always get blackheads, but you can minimize them. I also try to remind myself that oily skin also means skin that ages far better and gets less wrinkles and that cheers me up. It sounds like you take excellent care of yourself, and I would keep drinking water, eating healthy, and so on. It may not seem like it, but the water does make a huge difference. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 7:55 AM on July 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you're vegetarian, are you eating a lot of dairy? You might want to have a go at eating a vegan diet instead for a month or so and see if that helps with the problem.

Personally speaking, whenever I cut out dairy, my skin goes insane for a week and then clears up remarkably. In fact, the first time I did, I posted an "OMGWTFISWRONGWITHMYFACE" question on a vegan forum (during the initial insanity) and was told that this was a fairly normal occurrence and to wait it out. They were right -- once the initial explosion was over, my skin looked better than it ever had.

Beyond that -- seconding the Biore porestrips, and going to a dermatologist and possibly an allergist.
posted by Gianna at 8:25 AM on July 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

There is a secret recipe that you've not tried yet. There is white clay that Africans put on their faces. It will clear your skin pretty quickly. To get it, type "Afro shop" in google for your city, go there and ask for white clay. They will have them in chunks. Buy it, stick on on your face for a night, and the next morning your skin will be dry but very clean.
posted by ChabonJabon at 8:43 AM on July 19, 2008

Like this lady:
posted by ChabonJabon at 8:44 AM on July 19, 2008

I'll have to 2nd the regimen on
I've gone through pretty horrible breakouts in the past and the tips on really help.
I think the most important points are not washing your face with any exfoliants--they're too harsh and further irritate your already irritated skin.
Benzoyl Peroxide. I had been using it for years as part of the Proactiv solution, but, the key is to use a lot of it instead of the "thin layer" that they suggest. BP can be really harsh but it's one of the only things that work for me.
Third, moisturize. By using a good non-pore-clogging moisturizer you'll actually be preventing your face from producing excess oils that will clog your pores.

Some other products I love:
Lush's Herbalism Facial Cleanser. It takes a few seconds to prepare it into a usable paste but it does a great job of cleaning up oily skin and for me it REALLY reduces redness and swelling.

Neutrogena's Advanced Solutions Acne Mark Fading Peel. While I'm not a huge fan of salicylic acid I originally purchased this to get rid of acne marks. It works well to (slowly) clear up those brown spots left behind by acne, but I found that it also reduces redness, swelling, and does an awesome job at helping clear up current acne.
posted by simplethings at 8:55 AM on July 19, 2008

I too had a bad bout of acne in my early/mid 20s. I had tried many things but the combo that ultimately worked for me was getting a facial every 6-8 weeks from a good salon, using their products, and good daily skin care.

facials and salon products are expensive, but my experience was so dramatically better than any thing else I'd tried (including dermatologist) it didn't just stop the breakouts, it healed my skin.

I too am (even at 40) very oil. the advice about moisturizer is spot on, just make sure its oil-free and good for sensitive skin. you may want to look into getting a witch hazel based toner with hyaluronic acid, which can help control oil production.

a mud/clay mask is also a great way to control oil and help keep the pores clean between facials (they will extract the blackheads during the facial) you want to use a mask with kaolin and/or bentonite clay (for example Queen Helene's Mint Julep Face Mask, which I love)

be gentle with your skin, drink water, moisturize!
if you want some tips on finding the right salon for facials, feel free to memail me. good luck!!
posted by supermedusa at 9:38 AM on July 19, 2008

My brother has been using Terminator 10 for about 1 year now, and the results have been INCREDIBLE.

He used to have astonishingly bad acne (without exaggeration, his skin looked like this -- that's not a picture of him, but is an excellent approximation), on his face, shoulders, back, and even arms. He tried many, many different treatments, prescriptions drugs, over the counter creams and ointments, natual & homeopathic remedies, everything..

Then, one day, my mother found this at the Wal-Mart pharmacy, and decided to give it a try. We really had nothing to lose, my poor little brother looked so awful (and was in a lot of pain from all the acne too), and within a week, 50% of the acne was gone, and within a month, he only gets the rare blemish here and there. He puts it on once a day, before bed, it's only $6 for a tube which lasts a month or so.... I would give it a shot if I were you.
posted by srrh at 9:45 AM on July 19, 2008

For me, nothing worked until I bit the bullet and went to a dermatologist (when I had worse acne than I do now I used Cleocin and Retin-A) and got facials. Also, a good facial person (there are good and not so good) will get to know your skin, understand it, and give good advice for how to keep things in control. If you have a health care savings account, you may be able to use tax-free dollars to pay for the facials.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:52 AM on July 19, 2008

I found the Paula's Choice website the most informative about acne. Her products are great and work very well, but the regimen can be time consuming.

I recently started on some "old fashioned" Retin-A to help with sun damage and acne (I'm 37). As a generic prescription, I can get it for $10. My skin has never looked better. And I actually use LESS products than before (a mild cleanser and Retin-A at night and then a mild cleanser and sunscreen during the day). Though it was harsh to stick it out for a few weeks, it was worth the trouble. I peeled and peeled! But it basically re-conditioned my skin from the inside out. I highly recommend it if you can get it.
posted by icanbreathe at 10:57 AM on July 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

One thing that helped me a lot was cutting out all iodized salt and sea salt from my diet. (You say that you're vegetarian. Sea salt lurks in nearly every processed food labeled "organic" or "vegetarian," from canned garbanzos to frozen lasagna.) Many people are not bothered at all by iodized salt/sea salt, and will tell you that the idea of being sensitive to it is rubbish, but I can tell you from experience that once I started avoiding it, I stopped having the shocking outbreaks that I once did.

Non-iodized salt works fine for me, FWIW.

Also, if you're trying to heal any acne, try dabbing raw egg yolk--just the yolk--on the areas in question, let it dry, then rinse off with warm water. I, like you, scar very easily, and found that this helped zits heal with less inflammation.
posted by corey flood at 12:14 PM on July 19, 2008

3rding the really effective, reasonably priced regimen. It is effective and gentle.
I never had much luck with Retin A. It was too harsh for my skin but I do like over-the-counter retinols. My skin requires chemical exfoliation (Please, if you have active pimples DO NOT overexfoliate. It will just make your skin worse.)

If I were you and were unable to afford a dermatologist, I would look at the regimen and once you're clear, look at adding a retinol.

I have to disagree with the advice about things like the Biore strips. If you have sensitive skin, remember the rule is "gentle, gentle, gentle."

Good luck. I'm almost 40 and I've only recently cleared my skin in about the last year or so.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 1:52 PM on July 19, 2008

benzoyl peroxide. wash your face with a soap containing, then goop it on straight every night (and every morning for a while until it clears up). i have sensitive skin and tried everything natural, gentle, la di dah. didn't work so i tried salicylic acid. didn't work so i tried expensive preparations my facialist recommended. the only thing that worked in the end was treating my 30-yr-old skin like a teenager's and glopping on the 'oxide. it was harsh at first but i got used to it. it really works. be warned that it will bleach fabric, so switch to plain white sheets/pillowcases and be careful about getting it on your clothes. i use that embarrassing-to-buy stuff in the bright orange packaging, can't remember the name, but the cream is called the TERMINATOR and is a 10% strength preparation. seriously. that's the way to go.
posted by apostrophe at 3:32 PM on July 19, 2008

Are you female? This only applies if you're a woman--

Female adult-onset acne is caused by an overabundance of a type of testosterone. It can be exacerbated by bad diet or dirty skin. But it sounds like you have diet and cleanliness covered... so it's your hormones at the root of the problem.

Go to a dermatologist, and ask for a prescription for Spironolactone, or Aldactone. It is a diuretic pill that has the side effect of suppressing testosterone production. (So obviously this would not be a good idea for men. Or pregnant women.)

I had some nasty acne that started in my mid-20's. After two weeks on spironolactone, it was gone. GONE. My skin became soft and clear almost overnight. I completely stopped using all my benzoyl peroxide and heavy makeup.

Best of luck.
posted by oceanmorning at 3:59 PM on July 19, 2008 [5 favorites]

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that exfoliates inside your pores and is great for blackhead prevention/treatment.

Benzoyl peroxide kills the acne bacteria. Start with the lowest percentage concentration and move up if you don't get results, and move back down to a lower concentration if your skin is sensitive to it.

While wearing thin cotton gloves or covering your nails with folded over tissue paper GENTLY squeeze your blackheads after showers to extract the crud from the pores. Follow up immediately by washing your face and treating it with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide lest you spread the problem around.

Avoid skin care products with alcohol, witch hazel, etc. That stuff just irritates your skin.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:11 AM on July 21, 2008

Oh and for surface exfoliating, baking soda works just as well as other mechanical scrubs without any irritating extra ingredients and for a fraction of the cost.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:14 AM on July 21, 2008

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