How I FINALLY cured my Cystic Acne and what I tell anyone I meet who struggles with it

I struggled with acne from 7th grade all the way until about 2 years ago. I had painful cystic acne along my chin that was so inflamed it caused my whole jawline to become swollen and double in size. I went on Accutane when I was 21 years old, only to have my acne resurface 3 years later with a vengeance, so I had more experience with acne than I ever would have liked to. In fact, the reason I became a makeup artist was because of how good I became at covering my own acne to make sure no one knew what was underneath my foundation. To this day, flawless skin is my schtick. I know how painful and embarrassing acne is, how it can make you hate your own reflection and how it can effect your self esteem and confidence, so whenever I meet someone while working who is struggling to calm their skin, this is the advice I give them, because I want no one to go through what I did, for as long as I did.


Here is the link to the post that originally started my healing journey. I didn’t follow it exactly but the following routine is my interpretation of it. (They suggest you "pop" or extract if you have Keratin plugs, which I did have to do, but I would suggest you DO NOT do this if you don't know how, it is too easy to hurt yourself or damage your skin).


When I was in high school and college, I saw so many dermatologists to try to fix my skin issues. One dermatologist diagnosed me with Keratosis Pilaris many years ago, which I have since realized manifested not only in an eczema like rash on my body but the acne on my face. I was all out of options and exhausted trying to fix this cystic acne and in desperation googled “Keratosis Pilaris Face”. There are almost no articles regarding that because for the most part, KP is only diagnosed as a body condition. But after reading this blog post and using its premise to PERMANENTLY (!) clear my acne, it has become apparent to me that this was the source of my problem.


Acne has many causes, including dietary reasons, hormonal imbalances or birth control, demodex mite overgrowth, as well as high oil production, so this exact protocol won’t work for everyone. You may need to change your diet and lifestyle in some cases but with me, I was already eating super healthy, lots of fruits and veggies, very little dairy, very little sugar and carbs so that wasn’t my problem. And this protocol is a very safe, very good way of dealing with your skin in general. So even if you’re still having issues, the likelihood is that it will definitely make the situation better, so it is 100% worth trying.


PLUS: its cheap AF. I spent thousands of dollars trying to fix my skin over the years but what finally did it for me cost me under $100, a little more if you don’t already have a clarisonic but its an incredible investment so do it. 



Oil cleansing with an oil that works with your skin! This step may take a bit of trial and error. 

This is the MOST IMPORTANT STEP. As with low fat foods which have been pushed for years and made us fatter and less healthy, drying harsh ingredients in skincare have really done a number on our skin. Traditional wisdom tells us if your skin feels tight and squeaky clean it has no bacteria or dirt and therefore healthier, and while yes dirt and bacteria clog pores, tight and drying harsh cleansers are the OPPOSITE of what our skin needs and so it makes the situation worse. 


THE HARDEST LESSON TO LEARN : If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong. Nothing you use or put on your skin should hurt, sting, burn or irritate, even acne “solutions”. It’s the opposite of what we’ve been told for years but if you’re not more gentle with your skin, you’ll never be able to heal.

When I started Double Cleansing I finally realized how much I was abusing my skin everyday. I scrubbed and put harsh ingredients on and I undermoisturised and my skin was always “sensitive” because the barrier was completely damaged beyond repair. Using oil cleansing began the process of healing the surface of my skin without damaging it further. IF IT HURTS YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

I originally started with coconut oil (insert derms, esthis, and MUA’s yelling about how its comedogenic), which for me was and IS STILL helpful. These days I pretty much exclusively use Jojoba oil as a serum and as my preferred oil for cleansing, its the closest to human sebum and I have always been VERY dry, especially after going through Accutane treatment. If jojoba doesnt work for you there are many types of natural oils that could work, it just takes trial and error. I don’t moisturize with coconut oil but I do still use it to break down my makeup before I second cleanse. Argan was too light for me but for some people its perfect. 


Heres a list of oils to try (in order from lightest to heaviest):

Argan oil
Sunflower Seed oil
Sweet Almond oil
Rose Hip Seed oil
Olive oil
Avocado oil
Jojoba oil
Coconut oil

*Grapeseed oil can be used as a treatment oil for people whose faces overproduce oil but must be used strategically otherwise it can over dry your face. Generally start out using it every 2 days or so in the areas which get too oily like the T zone.

** Tea tree oil can be helpful if your skin is sensitive and red, as with rosacea or dry and patchy, but must be cut 50/50 with another oil like Jojoba oil, it is too strong to be used straight.


Natural (oil) based cleanser

The next thing I did was switch from traditional face cleanser (read “acne” cleansers with harsh sulfates and stripping ingredients) to Dr. Bronner’s Castile soaps. These bar soaps cost $2-$5, and after spending hundreds to thousands on acne solutions I was so pissed off to find out that this worked better than anything I had ever used. The protocol I followed called for Tea tree bar soap, which I now recommend (because tea tree is great and another possible cause of acne as well as rosacea is mites that live on our face. Gross, I know but tea tree kills them so GOOD NEWS!). I however started with Almond Oil Dr. Bronners Bar soap because I love the smell. If you decide to use any of the Dr. Bronner liquids, PLEASE DONT USE THEM STRAIGHT, they’re too strong to be used straight out of the bottle and are designed to be thinned with water. I have heard of other people having great success with the peppermint oil soap as well and this has the added benefit of helping fade dark marks and pigmentation from acne. 

If Dr. Bronner doesn't appeal to you, make sure you're at least using a NON FOAMING cleanser, any type of cleansing milk, oil or balm which gently cleanses is better than most what most of us have been using for decades. 




This step is self explanatory: buy one. They’re amazing. Splurge on this one thing only because they work great and clarisonic has so many different brush heads and they’re worth buying the real thing instead of skimping. I recommend the Mia 2 because it has a regular setting and a gentle setting in case the regular is too high for you in the beginning. I use a sensitive brush head. Use it every 2-3 days. One of the main things I see as a makeup artist is how much most of the people in my chair desperately need a gentle exfoliation. If you don’t exfoliate the dead skin off before adding serums and moisturizers you’re not getting any of that to work. you need to unclog your skin and turn over the top layer so that you’re getting effective results. AND DEAD SKIN CAUSES ACNE. (But remember, if it hurts YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG, I'm looking at you, ST. Ives Scrub users!! Put the apricot scrub DOWN and back away from the sink!)



STEP 4: 

A good moisturizer.

For me, this is the only step that really changes these days. I originally began with a nice heavy moisturizer from Philosophy that has since been discontinued. For anyone under 35, these days I usually recommend Fresh Lotus youth moisturizer, its very similar. Or Secret Sauce by It Cosmetics. Because I’m so dry I’ve been using Creme de La Mer this winter (which flies in the face of everything I’ve told you so far because it has mineral oil which is v bad for us but I digress) and it has made my skin incredible. For over 35, you need something thats going to give you a bit of anti aging as well, and usually need a heavier formula since we start to lose moisture and oil production as we age, and dryness is the enemy. For over 35, I love the new Dior Capture Youth or Capture Totale. Whatever moisturizer you chose just make sure your skin feels very moisturized. I always try before I buy, so get a sample from Sephora and see how your skin reacts before making the investment. And in general, a lot of people should go heavier textured than we’re used to. Most people need more hydration than they realize.



Acid peel

After my skin got a bit better, I began incorporating weekly peel pads into my routine, and it made a world of difference. Physical exfoliation from clarisonic, coupled with a weekly chemical exfoliation with a peel = youthful, bright, amazing skin. I love Philosophy Triple Acid Peel Pads, Peter Thomas Roth Unwrinkle Peel Pads and Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel Pads.



If you have any other skin issues like discoloration or hyper pigmentation, redness or lines and wrinkles, add a serum to treat those issues. Currently loving Dior Plump Filler Serum and Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution.


Eye Cream

Eyes get dry too. Use a heavy cream at night and a light one for day. Use a serum if you have very dark circles or puffiness. I always use Kiehl's Creamy Avocado Eye treatment.



Get a daytime moisturizer with SPF, learn from my (one) mistake. I’m a Cullen, I sparkle in the sun so I never go in it, but the one to two days I was outside last summer caused me to see some sun spots recently. Be smart, use daily SPF.




Drink lots of water, like, almost too much water. Try cutting out all dairy and all gluten (if you have KP). Limit to no more than 20 g of sugar a day and reduce starchy carbs in general. Eat more green vegetables. Be mindful of what meat you buy/eat. Increase fish, oil and fat intake. Sweat more, it unclogs pores. NEVER WEAR MAKEUP TO BED. 



Disclaimer: I am not a Doctor or Licensed Esthetician so the above is just an informational post on what works for me, please consult a professional to discuss what will work best for you before starting a skin care routine.