Back in October, I noticed that my chin had started breaking out. I thought that quitting dairy had been my magic bullet for clear skin, and in the year and a half since I had said goodbye to cheese and yogurt, my face had never looked better. I assumed that all of my skincare woes were behind me and that my dietary changes had completely cured me of my persistent acne. And in May, I had finished my last pack of birth control pills and decided I was done with them—I figured that switching to a healthier, vegan lifestyle meant that my hormonal acne wouldn’t return. And for a few months, it seemed like I was right. Throughout the summer, I barely noticed a spot on my face.
I hoped that the breakout on my chin was a fluke, but as it turns out, my acne was back with a vengeance. I started getting cysts all over my chin and jawline, and even my back and shoulders. After doing some research, I learned that post-pill hormonal acne can actually be at its worst three to six months after quitting the pill—it doesn’t always show up immediately after.
I was tired of looking in the mirror every morning and feeling like I was a sophomore in high school all over again. I decided that I need to get rid of these breakouts, and fast. I started loading up on skincare products and using most of them every single day, including a cream cleanser, a foaming cleanser, a tea tree scrub, a moisturizer, and a tea tree oil spot treatment. I had always used tea tree oil as a spot treatment, but now I had so many spots that I was practically using it all over my face. I also began taking zinc, lysine, and DIM supplements, which are all known for either reducing breakouts or boosting collagen production.
As time went on, it became clear that my current routine was not working. Every so often, it would seem like my acne was finally going away, but within a day or two, it would come back. My skin was super tight and dry, and my cheeks always looked red and irritated. Each time I went through my full skincare routine, my skin actually felt worse.
A couple of weeks ago, I got so frustrated that I simply ditched all of the products I had been using. If I wasn’t going to get the results I wanted anyway, why waste my time and money? I made a few adjustments to my supplement routine by upping my dosage of zinc and DIM, and continued taking lysine. Then I waited and hoped for the best. At this point, I had kind of given up on the idea of my skin getting better—I just didn’t want it to get worse.
To my surprise, my skin actually started to clear up within a week of quitting my usual routine. As it turns out, overusing harsh products (yes, even natural ones like tea tree oil) can be very drying for your skin. This leaves your face looking red, flakey, and inflamed, and it prompts your skin to overproduce oil, which clogs your pores. In the end, it can make your breakouts look worse, and that’s exactly what was happening to me.
Now, the cystic acne on my face is finally gone. I still have a few blackheads, but overall, my face is looking visibly clearer for the first time in months, and I’m not actively breaking out anymore. My back has been slower to improve, but it’s a much larger area, so I figure it’s going to take more time before I see the results I really want. However, I now have significant scarring and hyperpigmentation on my cheeks and jawline. I plan to continue going easy on my skin for the next month or so, and then slowly introducing one or two gentle, natural products to help fade the scarring.
I’ve gone back to using my scrub once or twice a week, usually just around my nose and forehead since those areas are less sensitive. I’ve completely left my acne prone areas alone so that my skin doesn’t get irritated again. I’ve also started using just a little bit of tea tree oil every other night on those lingering blackheads. So far, so good—no redness or peeling. And I used to love pampering myself with a nice sheet mask every once in a while, so I’d like to find a good option for sensitive skin in the near future.
When it comes to skincare, sometimes less is more—and if you’re dealing with hormonal acne, supplements may get you better results than topical products. You may not need an extensive routine with strong active ingredients. Start smaller, and find what works for you.
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