Neither of my parents had serious acne as teens. My sisters seemed to have narrowly avoided that undesirable gene somehow too (and they still freak when they’ve got like one tiny spot). I, on the other hand, have somehow landed a gig with super oily skin (also a gene that no one seems to know the source of), moderate acne and super uneven skin tone.

I started getting pimples in grade eight–so I was like, what, 13? I only wore mascara back then, but eventually invested in a MAC concealer to cover the spots. That’s when I began washing my face night and morning, using some Clinique 3-Step system that completely stripped my skin. I also didn’t know a ton about skincare and generally went for the products that made my skin sting, assuming that that meant it was doing its job.

Since, I’ve tried an abundance of products promising to ‘prevent breakouts’ and ‘even skintone’ and ‘clear spots’ and ‘fade scars’. Just about all I’ve learned is that the majority of them gave me the exact same, mediocre results, and that I needed to talk to someone a little more educated to combat the problem.

In early grade nine, I spoke to my family doctor about what I could do to stop the pimples. She gave me an adapalene/benzoyl peroxide based gel called Tactuo to apply each night. I, hoping for some magic pill to clear my skin, was completely skeptical and not eager to give yet another product a try. To my surprise, it really helped in clearing my skin. Was it flawless? No. But it was the most effective product I had yet to use. I saw consistent results for around a year and a half, and that’s went things went funky. My skin started peeling, I got a lot of cystic pimples, it was a skincare minefield. So since then, I’ve tinkered with products and spa treatments hoping to find a Tactuo equivalent or something to top it altogether. Nothing seemed to be working, and as anyone upset with an aspect of their appearance will understand, it’s so frustrating. Recently, I decided that I needed to approach the problem from it’s roots, and booked an appointment with my doctor.

She basically told me there are three steps to fighting the acne if you feel you need to fight it from within. The most risk-free option is the combination of an antibiotic and an acne-fighting cream for the face. Tactuo, mixed with Minocin, for four months is my current plan. The antibiotics kill the acne bacteria and the Tactuo clears the face of visible spots. If this proves ineffective, she said she recommends birth control in combination with a medicated cream. Birth control, well, controls your hormones, which consequentially better controls how much sebum your body produces (sebum being the oil that your skin naturally produces). Less sebum = less oil and less severe breakouts. Finally, if all else fails, she turns to Accutane (cue the screaming). This stuff has a bad rep, I know. I’m terrified of it too, trust me. This stuff is a form of vitamin A that drastically reduces the amount of oil your skin produces. It has some pretty crazy side effects, like major depression, extreme sun sensitivity, severely dry skin, and well, you can read the long list on WebMD if you want to freak yourself out just a little bit more. The dosage is based on your mass, and once you’ve completed the total prescribed quantity, you stop taking it altogether. What did the doctor have to say about it? It cleared her skin, completely, and she didn’t notice any major side effects, other than a bit of dryness.

Everyone can benefit from a little modern medicine, and while theres a billion and one products out there that promise to give you the face you want, some guidance from a scientific standpoint in my opinion will give you the most effective results.

–Anna Raponi

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