I remember when I got my first “pimple.” I put quotes around the word because, at the time, I was about 13 or 14, and I remember discovering that tiny little pinkish bump on my nose. Of course, I freaked out, and immediately went out and bought Sea Breeze toner, an alcohol-laden toner that Seventeen magazine said was a must for fighting pimples, and Clearasil, a heavy-duty benzoyl peroxide treatment. My mantra was dry, dry, dry that thing out.
Fortunately, I wasn’t plagued with that many more pimples throughout my teens and into my early 20s. Lucky, I thought. I inherited my mom’s skin — she never even had a quote-pimple-unquote ever.
Ah, but then law school hit. And whether it was a combination of stress, hormones, bitterly cold weather, or all of the above, I broke out on my chin like I have never broken out ever before. I officially had acne. Painful, deep cystic acne. Good thing I wasn’t able to do anything but bury my nose in 15-lb. law books for three years (this was before the days of digital textbooks — I may not have walked through five feet of snow just to get to school, but I did lug around 40 lbs. worth of books every day).
Of course, like magic, as soon as I passed the bar, my acne cleared up. I’d get the occasional pimple (no quotation marks here — these were bona fide pimples), but nothing too bad. And then as I got older, the pimples got more regular (once a month, right before my period) and more painful (you could feel it before you actually saw it) and were always around my chin (a sign of hormonal acne). To add insult to injury, to this day, at the age of 46, I still get my monthly pimple, so my skin care products not only include those that fight wrinkles, sagging and hyperpigmentation, but also those that fight adult acne. Thankfully, I have some methods for dealing with acne as well as some skin care lines that I really like — they’re not drying, they’re gentle on my aging skin and they minimize, if not obliterate, the length and severity of my monthly pimple.
Head it off at the pass
I don’t know if this is doctor recommended (probably not), but the minute I feel a pimple coming on, I pop two Advils. I tell you, this works. It may not get rid of the pimple completely (sometimes it actually does, if the pimple’s a lightweight), but it helps to settle it down so that it doesn’t get so ugly.
Say no to sugar
I’ll actually go a month here and there without a hormonal pimple, and I find this to be the case more often when I avoid sugar. I generally don’t have a sweet tooth (in fact, as I get older, you could say I’m developing a “sour and bitter tooth” — no jokes about the cranky old woman, please), so this isn’t too much a problem for me. But around the holidays, it’s inevitable with all the dark chocolates and birthday cakes and home baked cookies around. So come January, let’s just say I prefer to stay in for more reasons than just holiday overload.
Masking is a must
In my battle against hormonal acne, I love masks with charcoal or clay because I feel like it squeezes the excess sebum and bacteria out of my pores, minimizing the chances of a pimple. I’m obsessed with Estée Lauder Clear Difference Purifying Exfoliating Mask — the clay and salicylic acid mask just goes on so smoothly, dries to a nice finish, and the next day, my pores always look so much better.
Tomorrow, my rundown on the best skin care products to treat and prevent adult hormonal acne, including what to do when you get a pimple right before a big event, courtesy of dermatologist extraordinaire Dr. Jessica Wu.