Zit Creams in Review - The Acne Experiment

In honor of The Acne Experiment, I've decided to post a retrospective and review each and every product I've used to treat acne, Perioral Dermatitis, and/or whatever has been happening on my face over the last 15 years. Memories are what keep us wise, memories of our youth keep us young, and memories of our zits keep us inflamed.

Benzoyl Peroxide
My first memories of zit creams involve giant generic tubes of Benzoyl Peroxide I'd buy from the pharmacist. I upped my dosage while working at Islands the summer after my first year of college. My face dried up like a husk. I remember thinking it would be a good idea to explain my cracked face to my manager, a 40-something Orange County dude-bro. I remember him visibly recoiling. I remember never using Benzoyl Peroxide again.

Salicylic Acid
You're a good egg Salicylic Acid. You're a far superior spot treatment than your cousin Benzoyl Peroxide. You can tell him I said that too.

Various Neutrogena Products
In high school, I hoped Neutrogena would turn me into an all American white girl like the ones in the commercials. Instead, I looked into the mirror and saw brown skin and a big honking nose. Adolescent self esteem, ain't she a bitch.

Various Dermalogica Products
It's Neutrogena for rich people.

Cetaphil Facewash
Did you know Cetaphil contains Parabens and Sulfates? That's not gentle! Cetaphil is a liar. LIAR! LIAAAR.

Witch Hazel
Get back witch. (you smell kinda stanky.)

Retin-A was my go-to for about 7 years. It was probably the best acne product I've ever used. Unfortunately, it stopped working as well in recent years. I completely cut it out because of a (irrational) fear that it was damaging my gametes.

Glycolic Acid
Glycolic Acid is a recent development for me. I started using it about 2 years ago and gradually had it replace my Retin-A. I don't know how much Glycolic Acid helped the acne, but it smoothed the shit out of my face. Devita is my jam.

Fuck you Proactiv and the Adam Levine you road in on.

Oral Antibiotics (Doxycycline)
They should put this on the bottle: "Zit pills for people that are too weenie-ish for Accutane, oh and honey, it is a only like 10% as effective." Doxycycline was supposed to be a magic pill that cleared up my face, even if only temporarily. Instead I got 30 zits... on my ass. Nothing has replicated the horror of cupping my bare butt and feeling an active pimple war zone.

My former co-worker with the flawless skin said these pills cleared up her hormonal acne. I think I got the placebo.

Prescribed by the same doctor that told me that not touching my face would stop the zits, Clindamycin was about as effective as not touching my face.

Birth Control Pills
Birth control and I went out for nearly a decade, but when I told it I wanted to break it off because I didn't think it was good for me, it gave me the worst hormonal acne I've ever had. You are one vindictive son-of-a-b. control.

Grapefruit Seed Extract
It's supposed to treat Perioral Dermatitis when applied topically or taken as a supplement. It's so bitter that I had to do the "exhale-drink-inhale" trick to get it down. I've convinced myself it did something.

Manuka Honey
Dear Goddess, I've gone full hippy. Manuka Honey didn't work so well for active acne, but it's good for healing things like my mind, my heart, and my deflated pimple that I picked at for 30 minutes.

Plain Yogurt Masks
I've never felt more in touch with my femininity than when I smeared greek yogurt on my face for a week.

Origins Charcoal Mask
This mask is currently separating in my medicine cabinet. I can't bring myself to throw it out. It expired 2 years ago.

Over the Counter Anti-Fungals
Please know that putting jock itch cream on your face is a cry for help.

Some people put AmLactin on their face and swear by it. I put it on my face swore a lot (because I was so greasy). Sorry, that was an awful joke. I'll do better next time.

Aztec Healing Clay Masks
Clay masks make me feel one with the earth. I want this stuff to work for me because it's the most natural thing for acne next to rinsing your face with your own tears. (That wasn't much better, was it?)

Vitamin C Serum
Big girls wear serums on their faces. The day I can start wearing mine regularly without breaking out will be the day I've crossed the threshold into womanhood. There will be tea and crustless sandwiches. You're all invited.


I'm wrapping up "Phase One" of The Acne Experiment -- aka my month of not washing my face -- very soon. I'll be posting a follow-up, complete with gory pictures, in two weeks time. FYI, "Phase two" is where the magic happens (I hope). Stay tuned my pets.

UPDATE: Here's the follow-up post, complete with gory pictures.

ALL Acne Experiment Posts are listed at The Acne Experiment MOTHER HUB.




  2. You're awesome. Thanks for doing this. I feel like I'm in the middle of my own experiment and this is so so so helpful!

  3. Have you found anything that does work? Even a little? I feel like I've tried everything you have and more and am still a 33 year old pizza face.

    1. I feel you on this, oy. The best treatment I've used so far is 0.1% Tretinoin cream (retin-a). It proved to be better for my pizza face than the 0.05%.


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