By no means am I a dermatologist, I’m not even an esthetician but…
I think I have a bit of knowledge on what chemicals are purported to do for acne and how they’ve reacted with my skin in the past. Having been plagued with acne since age 9, I’ve seen countless dermatologists and I’ve tried plenty of products. So many products. And though my acne isn’t cured, there’s certain chemicals I just swear by to produce QUICK and FAST results.
I’m willing to share what I use with you in this post. And if you choose to use any of these products, I am not liable for any adverse results. Everyone’s skin is different after all.
I throw around words like “liable” because I’ve finished my first year of law school two times now lol. Yes twice. That’s a story for another day.
And WARNING: Some of these items are prescription drugs that I purchase online WITHOUT a prescription. Either from eBay or from Amazon.
You may call that illegal, I call that “resourceful”.
Again, I’m a law school student so I realize there’s a delicate balance between illegality and upholding the law lol.
Other useful words in this post include:
Hyperpigmentation: i.e. dark spots; “a common, usually harmless condition in which patches of skin become darker in color than the normal surrounding skin. This darkening occurs when an excess of melanin, the brown pigment that produces normal skin color, forms deposits in the skin” – American Osteopathic College of Dermatology
And lastly, just to recap, this is how my skin has looked in the past. My face is a bit different now. I don’t usually get pimples (unless it’s around that time of the month), more so I suffer from dark spots.
You can read more about my acne & hyperpigmentation story here.
Now on to my special ingredients and tools.
UPDATE: You can also purchase retin-a on this site: alldaychemist. The link is a page of search results after typing in “retin a”. There’s SO MANY options.
The miracle drug. You’ve probably heard of it before. You can tell by its wrinkled condition how much I love this baby.
What Is It?
Retinol/Retin-A/Tretinoin is a “form of vitamin A that helps the skin renew itself” (Drugs.com). It’s like having a mini-chemical peel in a bottle. All you need is a pea-sized amount to peel your face and reveal new skin underneath.
Overall, Retin-A is great for treating acne, blocking new pimples from forming, minimizing size of pimples, and anti-aging (wrinkles). It also helps to fade dark spots! But there is a catch!
Most people report dryness as a side effect of taking Retin-A. Personally, I’ve experienced that dryness. It isn’t unpleasant, but that dryness may cause your body to overcompensate and create more oil.
I won’t say that my face is oilier on Retin-A, but I will say my face is “healthier” on Retin-A. Less pimples, less cuts, and fresh skin. I’m a SUPER oily person by nature so no excess of oil seems out of the ordinary for me.
Retin-A usually comes in three strengths: 0.025%, 0.05%, and 0.1%.
0.1% is the highest “strength” you can get of Retin-A.
I’m a “Go Big or Go Home” kinda gal so you can guess which percentage I use. *whispers* 0.1.
If you have sensitive skin, work your way up to 0.1%. But if your skin can take a beating like mine? You know what to do.
Like the rest of the products on this list, I purchase Retin-A from eBay or Amazon. Literally, I type in “Retin-A 0.1%” or “Tretinoin 0.1%” and see what comes up. It’ll run you about $15-$25, BUT it will be worth it! The one I’ve linked is $23!
How Often I Use It?
A word of advice: when your skin starts to peel, make sure you scrub off all that dead skin before applying makeup. Get all that dead skin off with a good facial scrub of your choice OR even a wet rag. If you miss any dead skin, your makeup will look patchy especially after you “bake”. It’ll ruin your whole look.
This product like all the other products mentioned on this list will make your face sensitive to the sun! Not as dramatic as a vampire burning in the sunlight, but still you know you should be wearing a sunscreen daily and with these chemicals, there’s no exception! ALWAYS USE SUNSCREEN.
Most likely this chemical agent is in your favorite skin bleaching/dark spot removal creams and soaps and uonevenknow (translation: you don’t even know).
What Is It?
Hydroquinone is chemical that “inhibit(s) an enzyme reaction in skin cells”, lightening freckles, age spots, and other skin discolorations (Drugs.com).
While Retin-A does work to fade dark spots, it’s NOTHING compared to Hydroquinone. Technically Retin-A only fades dark spots because it’s peeling away a layer of skin. It’s true purpose is NOT to fade dark spots; you need Hydroquinone for that job.
Hydroquinone fades dark marks FAST. And I mean FAST. SUPER FAST. LIGHT(E)NING FAST! (Proud of that pun lol)
Drug store products usually contain about 2% hydroquinone.
Doctors usually prescribe between 4% and 10% hydroquinone.
I’m actually using 4% and have seen amazing results! AMAZING. But there are higher strengths and I’m defintiely going to search for one right after I finish typing up this post.
How Often I Use It?
(1) Apply the cream only to dark spots! You wouldn’t want to bleach your entire face unless your entire face is full of dark spots and needs that bleach job.
(2) Again, wear sunscreen!
(3) I’ve always ordered hydroquinone from eBay or Amazon. After speaking to one of my new followers (heyyy!), she recommended a new website to purchase it! I always came across this website, but I’ve never actually ordered from them myself. She’s had success with this site so I trust it’s not sketchy lol. So in case you have difficulty finding hydroquinone or ANY of these products on eBay or Amazon, alldaychemist is another option! And the hydroquinone is soooo cheap!
As of June 2017, 1 tube = $4.23, 3 tubes = 12.13, and 6 tubes = 23.15!
What Is It?
Clindamycin is an antibiotic used to treat a number of bacterial infections, not just acne. BUT what it will do for your face is shrink pimples and reduce the amount of bacteria that causes pimples. To be precise, “it works by slowing or stopping the growth of bacteria that cause acne and by decreasing swelling” (Medline Plus).
Seriously, clindamycin will shrink your biggest pimple!
I’ve used it in both gel and solution (liquid) form. And though I definitely prefer liquid, it’s harder to find it in liquid form online compared to gel form. It’s probably just in my head that I think liquid worked better anyway lol.
Clindamycin also comes in various strengths. It depends on what kind of infection it’s being used to treat.
I’ve used 1% in the past and I believe pictured above is 0.5%. I can’t read Greek. (That’s what happens when you buy it online lol).
1% really did work wonders on my HUGE cysts and pimples. It won’t always shrink your biggest baddest pimple overnight, but give it a day or two and you’ll be back in business.
How Often I Use It?
Twice a week. And on those days I notice a huge pimple.
Clindamycin attacks bacteria and pimples, not dark spots. If you suffer more from BAD breakouts, you’ll probably want to pick up clindamycin.
I first learned of dermarolling after watching YouTuber, Destiny Godley, give her review of the skin care tool. With further research I learned that many acne sufferers were purchasing dermarollers through AcneBanish kits.
The kits were expensive and I wasn’t convinced they were worth the price. That’s just the cheapskate in me. Instead I went right to….you guessed it….eBay. My trusted website for all things cheap lol.
What Is It?
A Dermaroller/Dermalroller is a little handheld tool containing rows of titanium microscopic needles. It’s the equivalent of microneedling in a doctor’s office. It treats acne scars/dark spots, stretch marks, cellulite, wrinkles, and other skin issues.
How It Works?
To use the tool, you roll over problem areas vertically, horizontally and diagonally. The needles place tiny nicks in your skin that stimulates your body to produce collagen a.k.a. new skin. Think of it as a wake up call for your cells!
You had a bad breakout. And now it’s healed into a dark spot. Dermarolling over that spot tells your body to not just settle for a dark spot, but to produce new healthier skin cells! Skin cells that ACTUALLY match your true skin color.
The key is to dermaroll and follow up with Retin-A and Hydroquinone. The nicks in your skin allow the chemicals to penetrate deeper into your skin, allowing you to see faster results! Your skin WILL peel and your dark spots WILL fade.
Trust me, you can handle these needles. I still cry whenever I visit the doctor. I physically fight the nurse when it’s time to give blood or when I need a new shot. My mom or boyfriend holds my hand while I give blood. It’s THAT serious.
Never mind that I have 10 piercings out of boredom and vanity; those needles are different lol. I want the piercing bad enough.
The point is, the dermaroller may feel weird on your face at first, but after a minute or two, you’ll get used to it. It’s really not as painful as it sounds. And this is coming from a punk like me. You gotta want clear skin BAD ENOUGH.
BUT, if you’re still nervous, Destiny Godley suggests using a numbing cream first. I bought a numbing cream and realized the needles weren’t painful at all. I’ll leave it up to you to decide.
Strength? How Often I Use It?
Dermaroller needles come in different sizes/lengths.
I use 0.5 mm, 1.0 mm, and 1.5 mm.
I have tried 2 mm and 3 mm, but after 1.5 mm, I feel the difference in results is pretty minimal. Plus 2 mm and 3 mm will be more “painful” on the face. I believe 2 mm and 3 mm will be great for stretch marks and cellulite on other parts of the body with thicker skin.
0.5 mm is suitable for every day use on the face. You won’t even feel the needles.
And 1.0 and 1.5 is better suited for a couple of times a week. You’ll feel the needles, but again it’s not painful.
Ultimately, which dermaroller I use depends on how bad my skin looks that day. Sometimes I’ll even lightly roll with 0.5 and roll again with 1.0 or 1.5.
(1) Clean/sterilize the dermaroller needles before/after each use! I use rubbing alcohol and sometimes I run the dermaroller under the sink’s hot water for a couple of seconds + alcohol.
(2) After some use, the dermaroller needles will dull. You’ll notice it’s not working as well on your face anymore and you don’t feel the needles’ sharpness. That’s when it’s time for a new one! Throw it out and buy a new dermaroller.
They’re only going to cost you $3-$10 on eBay or Amazon anyway.
Ultimately, when you should buy a new dermaroller, all depends on how frequently you use it the tool. If I’m super consistent, I probably need a new roller after 4-6 weeks.
(3) If you try dermarolling and love it, stock up! Buy 2 of the same size dermaroller next time! That way you’ll have one to use immediately, and one in stock whenever the other’s needles go dull. I like having my back ups.
Glycolic Acid Peel
The very last product I want to introduce to you is the most powerful and most dangerous of them all.
If you really want to fade dark spots and treat your acne, a chemical peel is EXACTLY what you need. I’ve had plenty of chemical peels with dermatologists, and months of chemical peels hardly get you anywhere! I know…maybe your dermatologist is just taking it slow, trying to protect your skin ORRRR MAYBE he/she’s just trying to get more money out of me each month…I’m thinking the latter. Insurance sure as hell didn’t cover the peels!
[After a couple of chemical peels with a dermatologist. Probably 3 chemical peels]
All I’m saying is I’ve had better results doing my own at-home chemical peel than months spent in a dermatologist’s office!
What Is It?
A Glycolic Acid Peel is a superficial chemical peel meant to stimulate new growth of skin and collagen by removing the top layer of skin. It’s essentially damaging your skin to kick start your cells’ repair system.
How It Works?
Usually chemical peels come with their own instructions, but just to give you a quick summary before you buy:
Step 1: You should clean your skin of any oil residue and dirt with rubbing alcohol.
Step 2: Apply the peel with a cotton swab or Q-tip over the problem areas and keep it on for the recommended time (usually 1-3 minutes). It will tingle!
Step 3: Neutralize the acid with a mixture of 50/50 baking soda and water.
Step 4: And then apply your skin care products like Retin-A and Hydroquinone. The products will enter the skin on a deeper level and hence, work faster.
Like everything else, glycolic acid peels come in varying strengths.
My strength of choice is 70%. Yes, that is very strong. The stronger, the better. My dark spots are no joke.
I purchased this one for only $16 on Amazon.
What To Expect?
If you follow the instructions correctly, you may notice an INSTANT improvement in some spots. Other spots may darken the next day and then begin to peel on the day 2. You can still wear make-up and cover up your dark spots.
If you keep the peel on longer than recommended, you will burn your face and you can expect to see scabs like the picture below. I purposely burned myself. If you read my acne journey, these pics won’t be new to you; You know how I got to this point. The scabs will last 1 week or a little bit more and they should NOT be peeled. Avoid all makeup. Keep your skin hydrated with a favorite oil and let the skin peel naturally. I used Bio-Oil (the same one from the drug store) and applied it constantly throughout the day.
My skin did return and it was a LOT better than before the peel. So much better. See below.
So we’ve reached the end! Using these tools consistently gave me PRETTY clear skin (see below)! It’s whenever I get inconsistent that my face usually goes to complete shit. Smh.
I just wanted to share my secrets to help those who suffer from acne and scarring like myself. Pick up some products and change your life!
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Until next time!