Parent Q&A

  • Dermatologist for teen with acne?

    (9 replies)

    Hello, I'm looking for a good dermatologist for my 13 (almost 14) year old daughter who has fairly severe acne. We live in San Francisco so SF would be preferable but we would travel to the East Bay for the right person. Ideally I'd like someone who will not go full blast with medication. I prefer more holistic approaches. That said, she may require medication and I'm definitely open to it so I do want someone who can assess her needs realistically. Thank you for any and all recommendations!

    I second the shout out for Studio Abasi. Cleared up my son's SEVERE acne after bimonthly facials and using their products religiously. No medication required. She will need to cut out dairy and commit to using their products and coming in for the facials. They are about $85 if I recall. 

    Highly highly recommend these wonderful ladies!

    They have a line of gentle products and will look at lifestyle, products, food, etc. Monthly facials with extractions may help greatly too. As someone who suffered with acne and became depressed and more introverted, I applaud you for helping your daughter through. All the best!

    Both of my daughters see Dr. David MacGregor (or his physician assistants Leslie Bowler and Christina Tucker). My oldest has severe, cystic acne and the youngest has moderate acne. Within two months of following their "regime", they both have beautiful skin. Some time between 13 and 15, hormones really kick in and you often need medication to get things under control. Don't be surprised if they recommend a topical antibiotic, Retin A and birth control pills. Having clear skin is important for a person's self esteem. Good luck!

    I highly recommend Amy Earnest in Oakland/Piedmont area. She is an aesthetician and specializes in problem skin. My daughter has very sensitive skin and the products the dermatologist prescribed were too harsh. Amy takes a wholistic approach: looking at diet, makeup, hair products, sunscreen, etc. Her clients receive "treatments" bi-weekly in the beginning and she fine-tunes the skin regime depending on how the results are progressing. The products she uses are not that expensive at all and she also carries a line of makeup. She has weekend appointments too. We have been very happy with the results! 

    Hi - I know you are looking for SF if possible but check out Acne Specialists of Oakland website - see link below.  My son had terrible acne when is was 15/16.  He was using the strongest facial washes and spot treatments we could purchase over the counter. These of course dried his skin out, and the acne continued only slightly diminished.  Acne Specialists of Oakland stopped this bad cycle and got him to clear skin in about 4 months.  They did a full eval for him, and while they did 3-4 acne facials for him and gave him gentler face wash etc, the thing that helped more than anything else was the diet changes they suggested.  It was pretty dramatic.  Once my son stopped eating dairy, his skin started to clear up.  So we stopped the appointments as he didn't need them.  He is now 21 and enjoys clear skin unless he lapses and eats a cheese pizza or something like that and then he gets a bad episode of blemishes. Good luck.

    Hello, First, I'm sorry that your daughter is experiencing acne.  My 15-year-old daughter does as well and it's more than a skin health and cosmetic issue, it goes to the heart of self-confidence and self-esteem, particularly at this age.

    Second, I'm sorry I do not have a dermatologist to recommend.  However, I would like to share with you what is working for my daughter.  Her acne started around age 11 and quickly became physically painful as well as embarrassing for her.  Given her young age, I tried many approaches in an effort to avoid medication.  What ended up working for her is a product called "ZapZyt".  I used to get it at Walgreen, but now get it on Amazon.  It's highly rated by EWG Skin Deep if you follow their research on least toxic products.  She uses the wash 2x/day, the scrub every other day, and the treatment gel every night.  Caution: the treatment gel will bleach most fabrics.  We changed my daughter's bedding to all white.  It's important to use consistently to keep the acne under control.  Now that My daughter is older and wearing make-up, she also uses Neutrogena Skin Clearing Complexion Perfector with salicylic acid during the day as well.  The products with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide can be very drying.  When needed, she uses the Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Moisturizer.  If you choose to try these products, I suggest you help her with them, including applying the treatment gel for her, the first few times she uses them.  It's important to use enough, but not too much, and keep out of the eyes and mouth.

    One last thing to mention: before her 8th grade graduation, I took my daughter for a facial by a person well trained and experienced in dealing with acne (SkinSpirit in Palo Alto - we live on the Peninsula).  While the aesthetician did a fantastic job extracting pimples and clearing blackheads, my sensitive daughter hated the experience.  Her skin was red and sore for a day or two (an acne facial is somewhat painful, not pleasant), but much clearer after that.  If your daughter could tolerate the experience, I suggest a good facial to kick start getting the acne under control and occasionally thereafter for maintenance.

    Good luck to you both.  I hope you find a solution that works well for your daughter.

    My 14 year old daughter with moderate but persistent acne went to Studio Abasi in Berkeley for facial treatments last year and now has very clear skin.  She had complex acne (multiple kinds) but her skin started to improve after several treatments, and cleared entirely after several months.  We avoided medication which made us both happy.  She went regularly for several months, but now just has an appointment perhaps every 2 months.  She uses their facial products, which are expensive, but a little goes a long way and they are not more expensive than what we were purchasing elsewhere.  The aestheticians work with dietary factors and are very knowledgable.  (My daughter eliminated dairy and reduced her processed sugar intake which has helped enormously.)  One major drawback (in addition to cost):  the treatments are quite painful, especially in the beginning, so your child has to be willing to tolerate that.  My daughter was unhappy enough with her skin that it felt worthwhile for her, and the treatments get progressively less painful.  If Berkeley is too far to travel, they may be able to recommend a place in SF.  My daughter is thrilled with her skin, and actually eats much healthier as a result of her treatment.


    We are East Bay Kaiser, so we can't really give you a Dr. recommendation, but my son progressed from topical to Accutane, which I had grave reservations about.  He is doing great. He's down to his last month of medication, and his skin is as clear as can be.  He suffered no mental side effects at all, but a lot of dryness. I just wanted to re-assure you if they talk Accutane. 

    Hello -- I don't have the name of a good dermatologist, but I'd nevertheless like to offer two pieces of advice:

    (1) We adopted my cousin's granddaughter when she was 12 years old.  Her mother had bad acne starting when she was sixteen (it lasted through her thirties), and I was determined that Casey not suffer the same fate (to which she was genetically predetermined).  So from the time Casey moved in I had her using the Clinique soap + Clinique Clarifying lotion every night, without fail, and Clinique soap every morning.  When Casey hit age 16, I became especially vigilant about warning her not to touch her face with her hands unless they had just been washed.

    As you now, acne is caused by hormones + oily skin. Skin builds up its own oils, or you can apply more there with your oily fingers.  Keeping the skin absolutely clear, morning and night, is paramount.  If my child had acne, I would have her use soup + clarifying lotion three times a day.

    RESULT: Casey is now nearly 19, and has had beautiful, clear skin throughout her adolescence.  On the *rare* occasions when she did get a pimple (on one occasion she got three at a time), we analyzed her behavior, and it had always been a combination of eating chocolate and being lax on her skin care. 

    (2)  My own experience.  I didn't have myself as a mother, and had terrible acne when I was your daughter's age, on my back as well as forehead and neck. After avoiding the "drug solution" for six months with no results, the dermatologist finally gave me a combination of ultraviolet light treatments and medication.  That was what finally did the trick, and by the time I was 15, my acne was mostly behind me, except for the occasional pimple.

    Sometimes drugs are necessary, and this may indeed be the case for your daughter.  I was not harmed by mine.

  • 13 YO Teen with acne on back (severe), face

    (6 replies)

    Hello:  My son has developed acne on his back and shoulders over the last few months.  His face fares better, but he has breakouts (which I think is normal for a growing teen). We have tried OTC remedies, and some natural ones (purchased at Whole Foods). Nothing seems to be working. I would like to avoid the regimen of antibiotics/other serious RX that my son's pediatrician recommended.  I am looking for recs for someone in the healing arts who can address this with natural remedies  (anyone in the entire Bay Area, North Bay, East Bay, SF) . And I am seeking advice from a parent who has gone through this with their child. I am afraid there might be permanent scarring on his shoulders/back.

    Thank you!

    I feel for your son. If it's the regular kind of acne that most teenagers get, I would suggest you try all the interventions every one here has suggested. If, on the other hand, he has the kind of acne that is the painful, cystic kind (like I did as a teenager) I would say skip the natural remedies and proceed directly to Accutane. It is the only thing that helped me. I tried every treatment imaginable until (at age 20 STILL with a terrible problem) I took Accutane. It can be hard on your body going through it for sure, but it was miraculous. 

    My sister has struggled with acne issues for over 20 years. She eventually opted to go on medication and it's changed her life! She no longer lives in fear of the next outbreak. Acne has had a serious negative impact on my sister, from her self esteem and self image and her lifestyle/social life. Acne has impacted so many of her choices over the years and we both try to imagine what our lives would have been like without skin issues. My sister has both emotional and physical scars which she has spent time and money trying to improve over the years. I know it seems extreme to medicate, but honestly, adolescence is hard enough even for those blessed with minor skin issues. I would recommend doing whatever it takes to help him remedy this - even if it means medication. Good luck to both of you.

    Hi Marghi - sorry your son is going through this. Cosmetic problems are hard for all of us but particularly difficult for teens.This is not PC to say but save your money. Herbal/ "natural" remedies don't work. An old, excellent dermatologist told me this years ago, eliminate all dairy from's really hard to do this with anyone, particularly a growing teen but if he is the rare patient who can do it - it works. No milk, no cream, no ice cream, no cheese which means no pizza or he has to order pizza without cheese, etc. 

    Good luck to you and your son.

    As someone who suffered tremendously, I recommend going directly to Accutane. 

    I found that when I cut out Gluten my skin cleared up! Sometimes it's something they are consuming. Try cutting out Gluten for two weeks and see if it helps! 

    It's not all natural, but Acne Specialists of Oakland ( use a regimen that doesn't require antibiotics. They use a mixture of dietary/lifestyle interventions and products to help. After years of trying all natural approaches and products without success, this has been a blessing for my family. I’d also look into naturopaths.  Hope this helps!

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Acne in Teens & Preteens

Dermatologist recommending Accutane for 11-year-old

March 2011

After trying antibiotics and retin-A cream for 4 months, with very little result, the dermatologist has just recommended accutane for my 11 y.o daughter who is in 6th grade. I have called our Family Physician to discuss this with him before we begin treatment (Accutane should be starting in May).

Can anyone share their recent experiences with this drug, especially using it at such a young age? Did it work? About how long did it take? Side effect experiences? (Note I did experience untreatable acne as a teen-ager, her dad did not. Her older brother did, but not as much)

Thank you. J.

I took Accutane at exactly your daughter's age: 11 yo (in 1991! sheesh). It worked miracles for me, but I did require further courses of treatment later. From what I recall, my acne was worse for the first 2-3 weeks, and then instantaneously gone. You can request a cortisone/prednizone treatment for the first couple weeks she's on Accutane to deal with the inital increase in breakouts. The dermatologists always told me it was a necessary part of the process to clear the pores - the prednizone pills just helped minimize the cystic swelling.

I finished a six-month course of treatment, and then I had no further breakouts at all until I was 14 or 15. For the next two years, breakouts were minor, and contained with Retin-A and makeup. My cystic acne was back when I was 17, so I did another round of treatment then. One more at age 24, at a lesser dosage. That's held for 6 years (and puberty MUST be over by now, right?), so I hope it was the last. Side effects during the treatment for me included more vulnerability to sunburns and extremely dry, chapped lips. Nothing worked on my lips besides Vaseline & Carmex, so stock up.

There's no lingering side effects. I didn't experience any depression or mood swings beyond what a typical pre-teen goes through. I do have some acne scarring from my teenage years. My husband assures me that it is indistinguishable from my freckles, but I can see it. It would probably be much worse had I not done the Accutane.

Not sure if they still do this since it's been 20 years, but when I was 11, the drug was experimental and my dermatologist tried to insist that I take the monthly preganacy test required of users. (severe, debilitating birth defects are the major side effect if one is to become pregnant while taking Accutane) No way, no how, my mother said. After a couple moths of arguing, I got a special dispensation from pregnancy tests, but still did the monthly blood panels. After the first month, it was no big deal. I'm a champ at giving blood now.

I'm always the one person writing in to say this, but for me, its true: Accutane saved my self-esteem and social skills. Before taking it, I couldn't look anyone in the face, wouldn't go to the pool ever, had maybe two friends. After taking it, I left high school reasonably popular, confident, with an understanding that crippling self-esteem issues do not have to be forever. I know it sounds like a drug testimonial, but Accutane IS a giant pain in the ass and it IS worth every bit of the effort when nothing else works. been there

I would really read the side effects of accutane - here is one list

How hard have you tried topicals?

ProActiv has been working for us, and it really helped to have its' inventor and her staff show us how to use it. Dr. Rodan is in Oakland:

Yes it takes time to use it, but you could use a reward system. My daughter started in middle school and uses it still today, with no harsh side effects. She has used it at summer camp, traveling in Europe and on a 5 week wilderness retreat.

There are other systems that work too. accutane should be a last resort

My 16-year-old son has been taking Accutane (Claravis) for just 4 months now. He tried almost two years of Tetracycline which initially seemed to be working, then not at all. I was very reluctant to have him try the Claravis, but our dermatologist was very supportive. Apparently his acne is a pretty severe case; it's taken 4 months, double-dosing three nights a week to get over the horrible initial flare-up. He had to take a short, low-dose course of Prednisone to bring down the redness after the first 2 months. He now seems to be ''almost around the corner'' as well put by our doctor. None of these drugs has had any negative effect on him; he has a fasting blood draw once per month to keep watch on triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which are so far looking fine.

The only problems he's encountered are severe dryness of his lips, and some dryness also around the cuticles on his hands. This seems a small price to pay for the amazing improvement that is manifesting on his skin surface. I really think now that we waited too long to do this. I feel that a lot of what he was feeling about his appearance was just shoved under the rug, and that he was suffering a lot more than was visible to us, his parents. I say ''Go for it.'' This drug has been used in some form or another since around 1970 I believe. Teenage self-esteem is a hard thing to go without.

Here are a couple of websites you might want to look at:

You are welcome to email me if you think I could help answer any questions about the process my son is going through. elaine

Experience with teens using Accutane for acne?

March 2010

My 16.5 year old son has had pretty bad acne for a couple of years. I have been very resistant to having him use Accutane because it seems like such a dangerous drug with so many potential side effects. He took antibiotics for 6 months about a year ago and that seemed to help some but not that noticeably. His acne is not outrageously bad but it really bothers him and he has been begging me to let him try Accutane.

Please let me know if you have experience with your teenager using this drug. Did it help? Did the teen experience side effects? We have not yet seen a dermatologist. Our pediatrician said he didn't think the drug was that dangerous. Thanks for your feedback. Worried Mom

I thought Accutane had been taken off the market. See I know a girl who was an athlete and it does something to joints or ligaments. She fell while running ALL the time. Read the article - the lawsuits are huge and serious, and Roche has lost them all. Peggy

Please see a dermatologist before trying Accutane. This is not something a pediatrician can handle. My 16 year old daughter has been dealing with acne for several years. Her acne is moderate and currently in control. What does she do? 1) washes her face twice a day with Proactive; 2) takes an antibiotic for 2 months and then takes a break until she feels it's getting out of control again; 3) applies a topical gel(Differin and another stronger than Differin)in the morning; 4) applies Proactive's face mask on blemishes at night and sleeps with it. Proactive recently came out with a clear mask you can wear during the day. Haven't tried it yet, but the regular mask reduces redness and helps blemishes heal. It's a rigorous routine but worth it in the end. Acne can damage a kid's self esteem and with work, it can be managed. Good luck. Fellow Acne Mom

Over the last decade, I have worked with about 10 adolescents who used Accutane and experienced moderate to severe depression, increases in aggressiveness and suicidal thoughts and feelings, with no prior history of these difficulties. These problems tended to lift fairly quickly (from a few days to a few weeks) after cessation of Accutane. Michael Y. Simon, MFT

Dear Worried Mom: My son begged me to used Accutane. His acne too, in my opinion, was not that bad, but he didn't want to go through High school with any acne. A dermatologist we saw advised us that it was okay, but I had severe misgivings. Luckily, we found a great treatment, not very well known. It is called levulan blue light treatment....a photosensitizing agent is applied to your child's skin, and they sit under the blue light lamp for about 30 minutes. They cannot go out in the sun for that day, so we did it on a saturday. Unfortunately, we had to pay out of pocket for this. In my opinion, I think dermatologists push accutane so much, because it is covered in most insurances. I think accutance should only be used for Severe acne, as a very last resort. It worked very well for my son. It didn't clear up every single drop of acne, but it worked well enough for him to stop begging us for accutance. If you have any more questions, feel free to contact me. Michele

My daughter's experience with Accutane was different than the other posters so I thought I'd give you the benefit of a different opinion. My daughter had serious acne starting in 6th grade. Her father and I both had acne as teens and residual physical scarring. After consistent treatment with a dermotologist, and using various antibiotics, which worked for a time and then stopped working, by 8th grade the dermotologist suggested Accutane. After two years of antibiotics and other topical agents, her acne was getting cystic. So, after consulting with her pediatrician, she started on Accutane. I was aware of the depression side affect so I watched carefully for it. She had blood work done monthly because Accutane can affect the liver. She was on Accutane for six months. No side effects, other than dry lips and flaky skin. It completely cleared her skin. Statistically, in 70% of patients the acne does not reoccur. Would do it again.

Our daughter used accutane, for over a year, from ages 12-13. We have very severe cystic acne in our family-- the kind that scars the face and back deeply-- and tried everything possible before we went this route. My daughter had no history of, or tendency toward depression, and those who take it must get their cholesterol checked every month (as well as take a pregnancy test). Our daughter's dermatologist never treated accutane lightly; we understood it was a serious yet necessary drug, in this case. This meant that our daughter needed to see the dermatologist every month for follow-up check-ups and if anything was amiss, they let us know (One month her cholesterol was high, and the dermatologist slowed her intake to every other day for a month. When it went back to normal, she resumed her regular daily dose until the trematment was over).

It did all it promised to do, although our daughter had to take two 5 month courses (instead of the usual one), because of the severity. A year later and all is well. We are so grateful for accutane (and I wish that it had been an option for me). Again- it should be taken only with medical supervision, but many people who dimiss it (or say, ''just wash your face; this will help'') may not understand what it means to truly have this kind of acne, and the miraculous effect accutane can have on it.

- a mom who would make the choice again

My son's acne was really affecting his self-esteem (he is 15). We tried dealing with it through his pediatrician, but it was months and months of trying creams that were doing nothing. Luckily, he had a skin irritation from swimming all summer that necessitated us seeing a dermatologist. Again, he went for months trying the creams again. Finally, the dermatologist offered him antibiotics. Several of the options were scary, but we chose the least scary one: Tetracycline. He's had wonderful results with this drug, with no side effects. I don't know what antibiotics you were using, but I urge you to take your son to a dermatologist. These doctors know what they are looking at; not so with a GP. Elaine

Before you go the Accutane route I would strongly recommend you check out Face Reality Acne and Skincare Clinic in San Leandro. My daughter (now 21) had always had relatively clear skin until spring 2006 when she developed major breakouts that started to scar her skin (and impact her self esteem.) High school is trying enough without the added stress of acne. We tried ProActive (which only worked for about 2 months) then I took her to a dermatologist who put her on an antibiotic and RetinA cream regime for 8 weeks that resulted in over drying her skin and clogging her pores. Next, the dermatologist recommended Accutane. I, too, wanted to research alternatives before going down this potentially dangerous path. My daughter's major concern was to get clear before she started college that fall.

From the initial phone call to the consultation, treatment and follow- up Face Reality Acne Clinic provided a professional and very personalized approach towards my daughter's acne problem. It took about three months for her to get clear, but she started showing significant improvement in the first few weeks. The program required an acne treatment ($75) every two weeks (I'm not sure if the price has changed) and the consistent use of several products every morning and evening. The cost of the products was reasonable ($120 for a 3-4 month supply.) As her skin adapted they needed to introduce another product here and there, but it was still very reasonable, but more importantly, it worked.

The Face Reality staff also encouraged communication between visits. If my daughter was concerned about how her skin was reacting or whether she was doing her routine properly, she felt comfortable enough to call. She was always able to speak to someone knowledgeable or get a prompt call back. They are professional, kind and completely approachable to teens, who can be super sensitive to their acne issues at this age.

My daughter has remained clear and still continues with her simple skincare routine. In 2007 my then 17 year-old son started going to the clinic. He, too, had great results and remains clear (99% of the time) despite a less than healthy diet and stress related to being a college sophomore. For more info you can visit their website It's a great resource of information. Good luck! Relieved Acne Mom

Experience treating cystic acne?

Nov 2009

Has anyone had experience treating cystic acne?? My daughter has been diagnosed with it and it seems to be a difficult form of acne to treat. It sounds like each case is very individual. Am wondering what experiences people have had with it in terms of treatment, alternative therapies and/or nutrition? We are being told to treat it initially with antibiotics and then eventually accutane. Any recommendations, advice and/or I would just like to hear what others have been through. Also, we've found a dermatologist at Oakland Kaiser (Dr. Reisman) who we really like but if you have a referral to another dermatologist who has treated it successfully, I would appreciate hearing about it!

I started getting cystic acne in 1987 (age 13). I went through the usual antibiotics, they didn't help much. I did start Accutane in 1990 but had to stop 1 week in because it SEVERELY dried my skin (corners of mouth were cracking making eating painful). All along the dermatologists kept recommending to wash ALOT, and use alcohol and peroxide based cleansers. I wish I knew more at the time and had gone through with Accutane, even if it meant sitting around the house all summer as the temporary effect were miserable. People who did use Accutane had great results. I'm still susceptible to cystic acne today. Here are my observations from 22 years: 1. Need to reduce stress. Stress is a primary trigger. 2. Diet is second. Avoid lots of sugar. 3. Wash your hands with soap, not your face, to prevent transfer. Washing your face can be too drying. 4. Avoid greasy foods, it's getting it on your lips and face that is the issue, not the consumption zack

I suffered from cystic acne starting when I was 16 and getting really bad in my late 20s. When I was young, it was treated with antibiotics and topicals (because I only had one really bad cyst), but as I got older it just got worse and worse and antibiotics did nothing for me. I finally decided to go forward with accutane treatment when I was 29 and it worked wonders!! I actually wish I'd done it sooner so that I wouldn't have as many scars. Accutane is a serious drug with side effects like severe dry skin, constant chapped lips, and occasional headaches. But other than that I was really happy with my decision. Nothing else will cure this type of acne - nothing!

You have to go through a lot to get it now because some politician's son supposedly got depressed while on it and a bunch of teenage girls messed up and got pregnant. Don't believe the negative hype, though. Accutane seriously changed my life! I am now 33 and have beautiful skin other than some leftover scars. Jessica

Dr. Rudd in Berkeley (not part of Kaiser) is a brilliant guy for acne problems. But in tandem with medical care, may I suggest you have your daughter avoid all dairy for a week and see what happens? When I was a teen, especially, my skin would only get huge cystic spots when I ate a lot of dairy, and as soon as I stopped, my face would clear up fast. I would try that before accutane (which DOES work wonders, despite the concerns about depression, etc.). Good luck! Been there

I have problems with cystic acne that didn't arrive until my late twenties. It was really painful and hugely affected my quality of life. Differin (a less irritating form of Retin-A) has worked amazingly for me. It made my acne worse for the first 2 weeks as my dermatologist had warned me. However, after that, I have had a huge improvement. I also started out on oral antibiotics, but they upset my stomach and the alternatives were more expensive than I was willing to pay. I have a number of friends who swear by Accutane and say that it cured their acne long term. It wasn't an option for me since i wanted to get pregnant, but for a teenage girl, it will probably be fantastic. Kate

I've been down the dermatologist route with cystic acne. Generally, we start with topicals (retin-A, clindamyacin, and a couple others), move on to oral antibiotics, and then if that doesn't work, on to accutane. My advice is definitely do the accutane if they recommend it.

I'm sure you'll hear plenty of negative feedback on Accutane. You have to manage the side effects, and the extra testing each month is annoying. (Every month, they will want your daughter to do a blood test and a pregnancy test to make sure she's on track and of course, not pregnant.) But it was the only thing that worked for me. If your daughter is anything like I was as a teenager, you'll be noticing the acne affect her confidence, self-image, and friendships. It can be really crippling to face your peers if you're the only one with that kind of acne. Taking the accutane was the only thing that restored my ability to look people in the eye and feel somewhat confident about myself.

I did courses of accutane when I was 12, 17, and 27. It may not be a permanent fix for your daughter, especially depending on her age, but it helped me through 5 years of puberty, and then 10 years into adulthood before I had to take it again. I can't imagine where I would be if I'd had to deal with the acne all this time. Side effects for me included severaly dry skin, cracked lips, and being more thristy than usual. You have to wear sunscreen because sunburns can be bad. But all of that was worth it in my book.

I have an NP at Kaiser Oakland now: Claire Wing. I really like her because she talks to me like I'm an equal decision-maker in treating my skin. Most important though is that you have a dermatologist who is willing to make adjustments in treatment. Like you said, it is very individual. If Dr. Reisman sees your daughter fairly frequently and is willing to tinker with the medicines she is using to find the right combo, then he's a good fit. jessica

It took me almost 20 years to figure out that my cystic acne was the result of eating foods with a high iodine content. I eliminated all fish from my diet. Hard to do because sushi was my favorite food - but, it is also loaded with iodine; the fish, the kelp, the soy sauce. I made a list of *all foods* that are high in iodine and never eat them because if I do, the result is a breakout of cystic acne. It is a sacrifice, but the payoff is beautiful skin. Such a relief after YEARS of terrible acne. - finally, acne free.

I had /have cystic acne, with a severe occurenece as a teen and smaller recurrences during and after my pregnancies. One of my brothers also had severe case, and my father, even worse. I went through standard antibotics as a teen,and although my face has a few scars,it is mostly ok.But my back that is so severely scarred, I never wear anything with a low back or without sleeves(including bathing suits),even today.

When it was clear my daughter inherited the condition, we took her to the dermatologist, who after 6 months of entry-level options, put her on accutane at age 13. When she started treatment,she had already gotten 4 or 5 terrible cystic breakouts, ones that infect close to a square inch, deep under the skin's surface and are not only painful but definitely leave scars. Plus she had over 50 blackheads on her back (despite VERY careful attention to washing and topicals).I'm hear to tell you that accutane is a lifesaver. She went through two courses of it,which the dermatologist said was quite unusual, but she finished the treatment with a TOTALLY clear back. You have no idea how big it was for her to buy a dress with an open back for the 8th grade dance. Not only has it been a huge boost for her self confidence as a teen, but I know that avoiding lifelong scars will benefit her forever.

Some of the earlier posts suggest that washing one's face or certain dietary restrictions are somehow the key. Honestly,these people have no idea what it really means to carry this gene! Going on accutane should not be a casual decision, but one that should definitely be made and monitored by a doctor.... but severe, cystic acne is not the same thing as getting a few zits.(My son has had a bit of regular teen acne, which he has treated with topicals. It is NOT the same thing as cystic acne!!To suggest that washing up or removing dairy will take care of problem just doesn't understand the nature of the problem). Accutane is carefully regulated; not only did my daughter take a pregnancy test each month, but they also checked her cholesterol levels and adjusted intake levels when needed.

I truly believe that kids should not have to suffer from lifelong scars in today's world.If everything else is ok with your child medically speaking (and she doesn't have a predisposition toward depression),and she has a severe problem, then she should absolutely seek this treatment. - been there and relived it

Green, natural acne treatment?

Dec 2008

My young teen has mild acne but it is a source of some stress. Seeking effective treatments that are less toxic to her & the planet. The website doesn't seem to have anything recent but hopefully there are ideas out there. Thanks! teen girl's mom Keys soaps might be a solution. I like the island rx soap and the extra healing serum ( not sure of the name, little roll on bottle). I'm a former clairol/clearasil early 40s type who had her skin dried too much by proactive (even when just targeting the acne area). I can't guarantee this works for teen skin, but testimonials indicate it does. And the ingredients run toward rosemary and carrot seed oils in terms of 'toxicity.' They one an award for best non chemical sunscreen--a product I also like. happy with keys

The best esthetician that I know of in our area is Kathy Stephens. She only uses green, non toxic products and has worked wonders for both of my kids throughout their teen years. She's very gentle and gets great results. I always consult her (for both myself and my kids) instead of a dermatologist. She is in El Cerrito and her phone number is: 510-232-0641. Long Time Satisfied Client

I've had pretty good luck with Neem soap - Thera-Neem is my favorite. You can also take Neem internally. clearer every day

I don't know if it is green or not but my daughter has had great success at Face Reality in San Leandro. I am a big fan of their procedures and products. It is expensive because you pay for the visits and you buy their products. They look at your daughter's skin, do some extractions and change up to stronger products as the skin adjusts. It does get pricy,since the products change as the skin changes, but I feel it is so much better than the trade off of other options we tried before. And if I consider how much I spent on dr. visits,the lastest advertised or recommended acne products,antibiotics and Acutane which didn't work, or didn't work for very long, I wish I had just given Face Reality a try years ago. Not to mention that I have nagging worries about the Acutane. My daughter is away at college now and calls them when she needs product. She recently contacted them to get a stronger moisturizer since the cold climate is drying her skin too much. Her skin is looki! ng good with the continued use of their products. Check out their website. If you have any questions, I'll be happy to talk with you. cynthia

16-year-old wants to try Accutane

Oct 2008

My son is 16 and wants to try Accutane for his acne. His dermatologist thinks that it is okay to use. I am really concerned, but my son really wants his acne to clear up. He has been on the antibiotic minocycline and also using Retin-A for the past two months, and it is not really working well. I am interested in other parents experiences, worries and opinions about accutane, especially parents of boys. thanks. M

My son took Accutane when he was around 16 and it worked beautifully in clearing up his acne. My only regret was that he didn't start it sooner. I believe that his insurance required that he be on an antibiotic for one year before Accutane could be prescribed, and that was a long year. However, if he's already seeing a dermatologist, maybe that rule doesn't apply. To take Accutane, monthly blood samples are required so the doctor can keep make sure that there are no negative effects. Well worth it. Anonymous

ProActive works well for my daughter. Also Dr. Rodan is in Oakland and sees patients, I believe she has sold her interest in ProActive and has a new formulation. What is really great about Dr. Rodan is her specific instructions in using topicals. Generally when ProActive fails it comes back to ''user error'' for my daughter. Before you go up the ladder with pharmaceuticals please consider reviewing all possible details of self care. Also has your son ever been tested for allergies? Low level allergies can aggravate skin conditions. It is often not something the dermatologist will acknowledge or pursue. mom

My daughter did Accutane and had none of the mythic side effects. She had to be (even more) careful about the sun, but the results were almost life changing. I grew up with a brother who battled acne well into his late 20s when the only treatment was tetracycline, and that wasn't very effective.

If my son had severe acne and wanted to use Accutane & the Dermatologist recommended it or was willing to prescribe it I would go for it, with or without insurance paying for it. I know kids who have used it for more mild acne, and I think that was a bit much.

Why not be known for some other feature?

I don't have a son, but my daughter had to use Accutane to get rid of persistent acne that nothing else worked on.

It is even more odious for girls as there is the whole pregnancy/birth control element to deal with monthly, but it was worth it. She took the Accutane for 6 to 7 months and her skin is perfect.

You do need to be on the lookout for some of the emotional issues that can be side effects, but I think most people take it and do fine.

If nothing else is working, I would definitely try it. There's nothing else like it; it works for the vast majority of people taking it, and it will eliminate the issue. anonymous

Please consider a high doses/day of Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)-- a very popular remedy for acne in Europe. Not a multi B vitamin but strait on B5 only. As I understand it, your body only uses what it needs and discards the rest so you can't take too much. It acts as a oil production blocker -- the kind that clogs pours (sp?) on your face -- thereby eliminating many of the infected pours (pimples). For my kids, I started with 500 mg in the am and one in the pm. After 2 weeks one child's face started clearing; after 2 weeks with the second child I've had to go up to 1000mg in the am and 1000mg in the pm for longer. The first child only takes it now if she really starts breaking out (she used to cover her cheeks with her hands all the time -- she felt that ugly! It broke my heart). She also uses products from Benefit in between. The second child has always have more oily skin and hair, so I think she just needs more. But she's never had to cover her face or keep her head down because she thought she was ugly. It's been amazing for my kids and I've even turned it on to adults who have suffered all their lives with bad acne (also gone the accutane way) and have had great results.

This remedy originally came from a friend's pediatrician who explained that if more dermatologist recommended this remedy, they might lose a lot of business. I try not to be so cynical, but you might not get buy in from your doctor if he or she hasn't seen results given to him or her from your local drug rep. Good luck. A Mom with Kids with Acne in Berkeley

Help for 11-year-old's acne

May 2008

I'm seeking a dermatologist that specializes in acne for my 11 year old daughter. What products have people had luck with or found did not work? She is even starting to have break outs on her back now. Her father had fairly bad acne, so I would like to get some professional advice for her now before any scarring occurs. Worried Mom


I'm sorry your about your daughter's acne. My girl started breaking out and I researched this topic. The only 3 proven treatments are:

* Benzoyl peroxide with antibiotics, (Benzamycin)

She is almost acne free 1 to 2 pimples and months. You have to use this product twice and day. Start should start to see clearing in a week and every day it gets better and better. Also, I use a little tea tree oil - very effective. Please, don't waste your money or time. Get the Benzamycin immediately. You don't need to see a Dermatologist your regular doctor can prescribe this medicine for you. My daughter is very happy about her skin now and thanks me all the time. Good Luck,

Additional info... * Retinoids (vitamin A derivatives), for example, Retin-A, Differin, Tazorac, treat blackheads and whiteheads, the first lesions of acne. The most common side effect is irritation. (I don't recommend this)

* Antibiotics, either topically applied to the skin (clindamycin, erythromycin), or taken orally (tetracycline and its derivatives) control surface bacteria which aggravate and often foster acne. Antibiotics are more effective when combined with benzoyl peroxide or retinoids) JC

Has your teen used Accuntane? Is it safe?

April 2008

Anyone had a teenager on this drug to treat severe acne? Both of my daughters (15, 17) have been advised by a dermatologist to use this for 5-7months. My main concern is what if it causes birth defects in FUTURE pregnancies when they decidde to have children 10, 15 years from now?

My daughter spent 7 months on Accutane last year. I don't believe it has any impact on future pregnancies from reading the binder of info you must read and sign off on before your daughters will be allowed to take it. (government requirement) I would warn you though, that the drug is very impactful on mood. Depression is one of the risks and while for her, it never was at the clinical level, she just experienced the stress and pressure of teen life much more intensely than she did in the year before or the year since. (And this year really has had more of that stress!) The drug just seems to sap them of their ability to bounce back from adversity. It might be good to have some of your treatment months fall in the summer when they have less pressure to cope with. We did Sept to April and it made for a pretty lousy year. Ann

I took Accutane for six months or so when I was 18 (in 1990). I had my first child at 23 (1995) and my second at 26 (1998). They were/are both perfectly healthy and have shown no signs of any exposure to anything toxic. The Accutane was more effective than any other medication, although by the time I was in my early 30s I needed a second course, which I finished last year. Worked for me

Something to consider: Accutane can trigger attacks of depression in those predisposed to it (at least it did with me, in a very big way, after both courses of treatment I had). Accutane Survivor

Teen son's presistent acne - worried about scarring

April 2006

My teenaged son has developed acne and it is very persistent. I am concerned about scarring, and he simply hates it. What have other parents/teens found that works? Also, does anyone recommend a dermatologist and/or an aesthetician in Oakland who is good with teenaged boys? Thank you! Concerned Mom

Both my teen sons(age 17 and 14) have acne and both are treated by a local dermatologist. We all go to Dr. Warren Dotz and think he's terrific. Older son had cystic acne that showed up in his hairline. I was so worried it would scar his face. He went through two rounds of accutane with no side effects other than dry skin and lips. Both boys now use various topical creams - tazorac which empties the pores, and clindamycin a topical antibiotic. Younger son is doing well with topicals. I am strong beleiver in help from a great dermatologist. You have to be diligent with the medicines and go to the doc regularly but it really pays off with nice skin. I hate to think what would have happened to my oldest without this help. It's a tender age to have this happen to their skin and helping them out with good dermatology care is such a great thing to do. Good luck, Happy Faces

Proactiv has helped both my daughter and my son with their acne problems. It works rather miraculously. My daughter tried many things first, which didn't work. When my son started getting some acne, he started on it early and so far it has prevented the acne from progressing at all. You can look for it online:

I also recently heard of a prescription skin cream called Differin that can be gotten from a dermatologist. We haven't had any personal experience with it, but I know an aesthetician with beautiful, flawless skin who said this cream cured her acne when nothing else did. I hope this helps. Anonymous

I highly recommend Amina at Face Magic (Pomona at Solano in Albany. She's wonderful with teens. anon

My son also had a problem with acne. At first he tried various brands of drug store products (cleanser, astringent, exfoliant, antibiotic), which didn't work very well. He moved on to ProActiv which also didn't work well, even through he followed the instructions to the letter and stayed with it for almost a year (at great expense). Finally, we spoke with his regular pediatrician about his acne, and she prescribed a prescription antibiotic and retin-a to use with his regular cleanser. His acne cleared up within 2 months and, although he has an occasional pimple, his skin has been virtually clear for over 2 years. And our health insurance covers the medications above our co-pay. Good luck. Acne Mom

Murad makes a acne treatment that I buy for every kid with acne that is close to me. It really works. You can get these products at beauty centers, there is one in el cerrito plaza and one on solano next to Peets. Warning they are expensive. spot to spot

Your teens primary care provider (physician or nurse practitioner) will be able to help. There are a number of very effective topical preparations available. Acne is really hard for teens. Make an appointment for him to be evaluated ASAP! NP Mom

Tetracycline for 16-year-old's acne?

Sept 2005

My 16 year old just started taking tetracycline for acne. It is the first few days, she has been upset anyway, and I am so worried about how she will manage any adverse reactions at school. She started over the weekend, but I think the next two weeks will be crucial. Can anyone tell of their experience using this drug? It is the first level of meds suggested by Dr. Walker, after trying topical agents. anon

I presented a talk on acne after doing quite a bit of research on the topic. Use of antibiotics has had mixed results. The latest published info: long-term ( 1 year) use of antibiotics predisposed women to a much higher risk of breast cancer in one large study. Some other methods to help deal with acne include a superlative diet with lots of fresh whole foods, adequate protein, essential fatty acids, and 1/4-1/2 cup of lactofermented foods (cleanse the liver and colon; recommended by Dr. Tom Cowan, MD). As acne has been called ''skin diabetes,'' avoiding all sugars (even fake ones) can help. Grains and milk products can raise insulin-like growth factor-1, which raises both androgens and insulin, plus stimulates sebum and keratin. Special foods to use will be high in real vitamin A (eggs, organ meats, shell and other fish), vitamins C and E, plus the minerals selenium and zinc (the ''ACESZs''). I would add folate, niacinamide and chromium rich foods too. Supplements that have helpful include 1 tsp Swedish Bitters at bedtime (more cleansing) and internal and external use of beta sitisterol, the latter being a plant phytonutrient that naturally lowers the provocative androgen contributing to most acne. Other topicals that have a high success rate are tea tree oil (5% solution is as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide), aloe vera juice, and bee propolis extract. Exposure to UVB can decrease acne, but our season at 38 degrees N ended in September for obtaining this from the sun. Look forward to it in May, however. Nori Hudson

Tetracycline works extremely well against acne, and I can't remember experiencing any side effects other than increased sun sensitivity. The problem is that there are obvious drawbacks to taking antibiotics for an extended period of time ... but as soon you stop taking the tetracycline, the acne comes back. So I'd suggest getting some opinions from other dermatologists. Personally, I've had wonderful results from Neutrogena's home microdermabrasion kit ... but if your daughter has cystic acne or rosacea, I wouldn't recommend it. -- Long-time acne fighter

I took tetracycline for acne for several years, beginning in my late teens. I used it in combination with Retin-A and Cleocin (both topical agents). While this combination didn't completely clear up my acne, it did help considerably. Has your daughter discontinued the use of the topicals? I haven't heard of giving just an antibiotic and nothing else, but I'm sure it depends on the severity of the condition. I wish her luck. I know how difficult it is to have problematic skin. Anon

28 years ago, I started taking tetracycline for acne and continued for about 4 years with no side effects then or now. It cleared my skin quite a bit, but later prescriptions worked better. Please email me if you have questions. Best regards, emrosen

Yikes! I had to respond to your post and share my experience, which was NOT positive. I took tetracycline for acne for almost 2 years in college. Unfortunately, it didn't do much for my acne at all. But it wraught havoc on the rest of my body, and I am still paying for it 15 years later. Tetracycline is a VERY STRONG ANTIBIOTIC, and taking antibiotics of any kind (even milder ones) for more than 2 weeks or so, can be very harmful on your body in several ways. In the process of killing harmful bacteria, it also kills the good bacteria your body needs to digest food, fight off colds, flus and other illnesses, fight off yeast infections, and pretty much everything your organs need to do to keep you healthy. Taking antibiotics for extended periods of time, such as for acne, does not allow your body to replenish its good bacteria (as it would do after a normal course of antibiotics, say, for an infection). It leaves your body extremely weakened and susceptible to all kinds of things.

My personal experience was that the tetracycline did not help to clear up my acne - but I was young and desperate and hated having acne, and I kept hoping it would work and help it go away. As a result of the tetracycline, I got ulcers in my esophagus because the antibiotics had eaten into my esophagus. The Physician's Desk Reference says that tetracycline has to be taken with a lot of food or milk (not something my dermatologist told me) and that it CAN cause ulcers (again, not something the dermatologist told me). Needless to say, I was so surprised, and extremely miserable from the experience, and it took several months for the ulcers to heal (ouch). Needless to say, I stopped the tetracycline, and eventually the acne went away on its own (more on that in a minute).

As a result of having been on antibiotics for so long, I had no good bacteria to fight yeast, and therefore got yeast infections about every 2-3 months the whole time I was on it (and later - I still struggle with them occasionally when my yeast gets out of whack). I went travelling in Europe, and caught parasites because my body had no way to fight them off since all my good bacteria was gone. The parasites went undiagnosed for too long (the medical system... don't get me started) and as a result I ended up with ulcerative colitis in my large intestine. That lasted 3 years and took a LOT of work to clear up - I've been clear for over 5 years, thank God.

All this to say a few things: I am not at all saying that all this will happen to your child. But what I am saying is that there are long-term reprecussions to long-term use of antibiotics, especially such strong ones as tetracycline. If your child's skin does not respond to antibiotics at all after a month, I would take her off them as they are clearly not helping. Give your child acidophilus daily the whole time she is on the antibiotics, to help replenish her good bacteria. And try to help her cut down her sweets and bready things - so that she doesn't get an overgrowth of yeast in her system. Yogurt is great for good bacteria intake.

If I had it to do all over again with what I know now - and I have learned a lot as the result of all I've experienced health-wise - I would go see an allergist or alternative practitioner to be tested for allergies to foods, because I am pretty sure that the reason my body had acne in college was (1) because I was eating WAY too much dairy and my body didn't like it, and (2) because my hormones were out of balance and having a hard time being processed by my liver (this is actually something I am working on now with an alternative practitioner with great results). Maybe my hormones eventually got balanced and that is why the acne went away, or maybe I eat less dairy and cut out caffeine - who knows. But I do know that the tetracycline sure didn't help with the acne.

Also, the longer you use an antibiotic, the weaker it gets and the less effective it is on your body. I am pretty convinced that after having used it for so long, it wouldn't do anything to kill bacteria in my body if I ever had an infection that required antibiotics. Ultimately, you want to ''save'' use of antibiotics for life-threatening illnesses, so that they will actually work if you really need them

I would be happy to talk to you more about this if you have questions. As you can probably tell, it is something I feel really strongly about. Feel free to email and I will give you my number. And I would be happy to recommend some great people who might be able to help with a non-medical approach to your daughter's acne. galadam

I took tetracycline for acne when I was a teen. It was moderately effective in reducing acne, but my acne was never especially bad. I'm not sure what side effects you are worried about, but I didn't have any of them.

However, one day, several months after after starting the drug, I started itching intensely all over my body. It wasn't pleasant, but neither was it excruciating--maybe comparable to the chicken pox. Apparently it was an allergic reaction. Following the dermatogist's recommendation, I discontinued tetracycline, took a benadryl or something similar, and I was fine in less than a day. I think he put me on a sulfa drug like Keflex next.

I hope this isn't alarming, because I didn't think it was big deal then or now, and I would put my child on tetracycline for acne if the dermatologist were to recommend it.

i took tetracycline for acne and had a hard time committing to the eating restrictions (take around, not with, food; no milk, which i drank at the time). but the worst problem was the yeast infections. i don't mean to be gross, but i was thirteen and didn't know why i was ''peeing cottage cheese'' -- it literally flowed and looked like wet toilet paper clumps. for this reason alone, i would definitely not recommend. why kill all the body's natural flora? anon

Non-medical solution to teen's acne?

Oct 2004

Please advise re skin care products for a teen girl with frequent break-outs, and many red spots (from picked-open pimples). We are not interested in a ''medical'' solution. A friend's child had severe mental side-effects from Retin-A, and this is not uncommon. Proactive web reviews indicate severe burning and skin cracking as a side-effect. Have you or your teen found any products that work? Anon

I have a good friend named Gillian Christie who markets a line of all natural, botanically based skin care products by a Swiss company called Arbonne. She reports many posaitve outcomes with her products. More info at larry

I have now had two children (teens) who have benefitted from skin care/products offered by Katherine Leverette, an esthetician who operates Solutions Center (510-893-7546). The Center is near Laney College in Oakland. For years, we have referred to her as ''the Acne Queen.'' She uses natural products, explains a lot about skin care, and is a total, delightful character. Ilene

Believe it or not, we have found head & shoulders shampoo to work quite effectively. My family uses it all the time when they start breaking out. Just wash your face with it. Worth a try.

This to the parent who seeks products for their child's acne. There is absolutely no product that will work if the young person ''picks at'' his/her skin. The number one factor in whether small blackheads become pimples is contact with the hands. Bacteria and irritation are going to win every time. Please help your kid train him/herself to NEVER touch the skin on the face except when washing. How I wish I'd been told this before I endured Phisohex, Clearasil, Retin -A treatments, sunlamps, tetracycline, chocolate-deprivation. A dermatologist taught me this and my skin cleared up perfectly from that day forward. Good luck. Kathe

Birth Control Pills for Acne?

June 2003

I am looking for someone who can give me an education regarding the benefits and side effects of taking Triphasil -28, a low dose birth control pill, for control of acne. My daughter was given these at the Berkeley Health Clinic, without my knowledge, after she and I had briefly discussed how these were offered as an possibility for controlling her skin problems (which in my opinion could be much worse, but her face was broken out much of the month). When she originally brought it up I said that I thought that hormone control for acne might be effective, but seemed very intrusive for the body and I said I did not want her to do it. However, Arianna went to the clinic and the pills were prescribed, according to the clinic doctor and Arianna, when we talked about it, both for acne and to control menstrual irregularity, which she apparently has been experiencing since joining the BHS crew team. I tend to stay away from most medical treatments for my children, and would like to know how to discuss the pros and cons with my daughter, and to better understand any long-term consequences of this. The clinic doctor said that as far as they were concerned, there was no danger in low dosage birth control pills, either immediate or long-term. Also, if anyone knows the regulations regarding treatment of minors without parental consent, I would also be interested in understanding that better. The clinic apparently supports kids with any kind of need for sexual activity without contacting parents, which I actual would agree with; but since this was another kind of treatment I wonder where the parent fits in. Has anyone had experiences of this kind? I want to support my daughter to make informed decisions, and realize she may not always agree with me. Thanks.

RE: Birth Control Pills and Acne

1. I prefer Dr. Katie Rodan MD, 510 763-2662 and her Proactiv system. 1-800- 950-4695. Properly applied - use enough and every day, follow directions it works wonders. We found that we do not use enough to be on the monthly delivery. We get shipments once or twice a year. We do see Dr. Rodan once or twice a year also, though our insurance covers the visit. Proactiv is over the counter.

2. There is a lot of free literature in the library and on the internet to treat this naturally, though I do not know the best direction for this. Cleaning the face with non-allergic, non irritating cleaners is always important no matter what method you choose.

3. Hormones and no danger? Read the insert on the prescription. There are many current trials on hormones that have not been completed. The ones on hormones for older women have had results so negative that they were discontinued. Once I was asked to sign a release from a doctor for PUVA treatment, which many people use. The doctor was assuring me that there were ''no dangers''. I then asked why he wanted me to sign a release? I took out my pen and notebook and started to draft a statement that the doctor would assume any and all damages that may be incurred using PUVA, and he asked what I was writing. I told him, that I would sign his release if he would sign mine. My appointment ended really fast. Everyone's definition of ''danger'' might not be the same.

4. Do you really want to train your kid to take a pill every day if there are effective alternatives? If this is a last resort because she has difficulty being consistant with topical treatments, will she remember to take a pill?

5.Your teen needs to really understand the Birth Control Pills do not protect against HIV. Teens are one of the fastest growing HIV positive age groups.

6. I have dealt with the Dr. - patient thing too. My sense is you are responsible legally for her decisions until 18, and you remain her mother forever. Before our next doctor's visit, I will leave it up to my daughter to tell me if she wants me to remain with her. We ususally split the time with her ped, but she is not always comfortable alone. teen mom

I highly recommend the Acne Clinic in Walnut Creek. This place offers a safe non-medical alternative to clearing up acne and staying away from birth control pills when not needed.I went to them for my daughter with GREAT results. stefani

What meds have worked for your teen?

June 2003

Though there have been many previous postings about acne, I am wondering if anyone out there has found help! We have been to a Dermatologist and have been following a prescribed course of antibiotics, topical solutions etc. all to no real success. I have ordered the Proactiv line of products and am considering the use of birth control pills which have been suggested by the dermatologist. My daughter is feeling very desperate and I want to do whatever I can to try to help her. What has worked for others? concerned mom

Make an appointment to see Dr. Katie Rodan MD, 510 763-2662 , she is in Oakland and takes many insurance carriers. You can call to see if she takes your insurance. ProActiv is her line and she has had very few failures. It might not work if the steps are not followed properly, One of her assistants can review how your daughter uses the system and help her make adjustments. We were doing one thing wrong and when we corrected that - boom it works perfectly. Sometimes in person instruction is better than an product insert. teen mom

We went through every antibiotic and every topical alternative for our son (who was 15 at the time). He had cystic acne, with intense red areas, swelling--it was a very difficult time. We finally bit the bullet and put him on accutane. I know how controversial it is, but it is the only thing that worked. And months after finishing the course of treatment, he remains acne free.

There are so many safeguards now that we decided that it was worth the slight risk involved to save him from further emotional trauma and physical scarring. Dermatologists must be certified in order to prescribe it, and your child has to have regular lab tests. Everyone I've spoken with who has a child who has used it, or who has used it him or herself (it's amazing how many people I know who have used it or knows someone who has) swears by it.

I'm so happy and relieved that my son looks like himself again, and is no longer embarrassed or disfigured by acne. It's worth looking into for your daughter. Best of luck to her. (Please feel free to email me if you have questions.) Norma

The main advice I have about acne treatment is that not everything works for everybody, and it's certainly worth it to experiment with ''natural'', non-medical treatments before going the drug route. However, everyone reacts differently to every treatment, and if your child is already getting physical scars (not to mention the emotional ones) from severe acne, you might want to explore Accutane. Actually, if you are already being seen by a dermatologist, and various antibiotics haven't worked, the doctor will usually suggest Accutane. As controversial as that drug is, it is actually a cure for acne in most patients. It has been a miracle drug for my teenage daughter, even though I am uncomfortable with medication that isn't absolutely necessary.

Acne is a ''hot'' topic for me, having suffered my whole life with severe acne that has been resistant to all meds and treatments, both Western and alternative. The only thing that worked for me was in 1966 (!) when I took a high-dose estrogen birth control pill that cleared up my skin but caused terrible side effects (migraines, huge weight gain, edema,depression) that forced me to quit. I am in my 50's and still have acne flare-ups, plus my face is badly scarred.

People who have never experienced severe acne may not realize that not only does it cause emotional distress, but it is also quite painful to have huge infected cysts all over one's face, back, chest, and arms. No, it is not a life threatening condition, but it sure makes day-to-day life tough, especially for sensitive teens. Please don't let people give you a hard time if you decide to go with something as heavy-duty as Accutane.

When my daughter developed acne when she was about 12, we tried Proactiv first, which worked great after about 3 weeks. After about 7 months, though, even with diligent use, the products didn't work anymore. The pediatrician prescribed a topical cream, which worked for awhile, too. Then came the dermatologist, and a series of topicals and antibiotics which all worked for awhile, then lost effectiveness. Her skin scars easily, and she already had several purple ''pits'' on her face. I finally gave my OK to Accutane, and although she still has scars (that will supposedly fade with time), she has perfectly clear skin now. Those of you who have suffered from true, severe acne know what a miracle that is.

Whatever you try from the advice you receive from this list or from the archives, remember that any treatment usually takes at least 3 weeks to work.

To the concerned mom who's dealing with her daughter's acne - my advice is to keep trying. My son went through treatments with clearasil, benzoyl peroxide, minocylin, tetracycline,benzamycin gel, and retin-a - none of which made a dent for long. What I didn't realize is that cystic acne can get very bad very fast, so while we were ditzing around with these remedies, he was getting worse. He is now on accutane (the generic version) for three months now (the full course is 5-6 months), and his skin is almost completely clear, except for some scarring. It is a scary drug and I wouldn't recommend it if your daughter is already prone to depression or unable to talk about her feelings. It has been (rarely) linked to suicidal feelings. I monitor my son's mood closely (this just means that I pay attention, not that I interrogate him...)and he's required to get monthly or bimonthly blood tests. It is also a very expensive drug, although covered by most health plans. The good news is that it works when nothing else does. I wish you luck in your search. Anna

Re: the Proactiv system, my wife purchased it, both for her self and our younger son (now 21!!). It works well for my wife, but not so much for my son-- the difference is (no surprise) that you need to be pretty disciplined in your usage-- our son runs around so much (college student, active social life w/ erratic hours), that he doesn't use it appropriately and doesn't get the same results. Hope that helps... Jim W.

Dear Concerned Mom: I don't know whether techniques useful for males are also helpful for females, but if they are, then you should know that my sixteen-year-old son has just begun using an over-the-counter twice-daily wash on the strong recommendation of the parents of one of his younger friends, who claim (and their son's face apparently proves) does wonders: Clean & Clear( Continuous Control( acne cleanser by Johnson & Johnson.

ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES. The unique ingredient is benzoyl peroxide, which is neither hydrogen peroxide nor any another other kind of peroxide. As I understand it, no other product contains this particular kind of bleach, and, in using the facial wash twice a day, a small amount of bensoyl peroxide remains within the skin pores, which inhibits the development of acne, whose growth depends in part on bacteria. The benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria, so no acne can develope.

NOTES: Because
- acne developes over approximately three months (or so I'm told), it takes about ninety days for the twice-daily wash to show its full effects: perfectly clear skin
- the active ingredient is a kind of bleach, it's recommended that anyone using it sleep on white pillow cases; while normally my son enjoys deeply colored flannel bed fittings, he has no problem whatsoever using white pillow cases -- at least for the summer!

Please also note that, while our very good friends highly recommend this cleanser, our own son has just begun using it, so we cannot personally attest to its effectiveness. Nevertheless, on seeing how well it has worked with our friend's son, we are eager to spend the summer testing it. If you decide to do so as well, our best wishes on your daughter's success! Anonymous

Nov 2001

My daughter, 12, has recently started to get acne. What meds (over the counter or prescription) have your found that worked? Thanks

My daughter uses Clean and Clear compulsively and it keeps her face in good shape. I have to buy her TUBES and TUBES of the stuff -- for her backpack, locker, gym bag, volleyball bag, etc., but something is working. Maybe it's just washing her face often. Barbara

My daughter is using Bezamycin gel (it's actually a cream) which works great. It is a brand name prescription medication however and it's VERY expensive (like around $90/jar) so it's only practical if your health insurance pays for it. However, if they don't, I've discovered that it contains 2 active ingredients; one is over-the counter (about $3 a tube) and the other is a generic prescription (so a lot cheaper). (What a scam those drug companies have got going!) I can't remember the names of the two active ingredients, but any pharmacist can tell you. Claire

My daughter's acne responded well to Proactiv. This is a kit with several parts that must be used daily for decent results, so your child must be motivated. The best price we found was through WonderfulBuys on the web. You can join a club where they will ship the stuff to you every 2 or 4 months, and you get free shipping that way. Here's their e-mail address, or you can just go search the website ( proactiv club Good luck! Dawn

In reply to the mother asking about acne medication: my daughter has used ProActiv for the last two years with good results. I can't recall offhand their website address but if you search for it, you'll find it. It's relatively economical especially in comparison to prescription medication, about $50.00 for a 60-day supply of treatments. I think their start-up pack is the facewash, lotion and spot treatment. It may take a month or so to see results, depending on your daughter's case. In this case, anyways, you can believe the infomercial hype. Karen

Both of my kids have had acne and have been treated by a dermatologist over a period of 3 years. Many of the prescription topical applications and oral medications worked in varying degrees and for varying periods of time. I have learned that the combination of medications in relation to the specific kinds of acne present make a difference. Also, sometimes the acne becomes resistant to the medication. Unless your child's acne responds to over the counter benzoyl peroxide, I recommend you find a dermatologist (who hopefully is covered by your health plan).

My older son ultimately took Accutane, and I wish he had begun it much sooner. None of the other treatments helped very much and those that did help stopped working after a while. He finished his 5 month course of Accutane last March, and his skin has been clear since then. By the way, he had relatively few side effects - slightly raised cholosterol level and dry lips.

Other medications that have been helpful are oral Minocyclin, Bactrim (though my son turned out to be allergic to it), topical Tazorac and Xerac AC, topical Benziclin.

My son started developing a few pimples around 12 1/2. The following year they were more frequent and lasted longer, but would eventually go away. When he was 14, the pimples seemed more intransigent. I took him to see a dermatologist, Dr. Greta Clarke on Milvia Street. She prescribed two creams, to be applied on alternate nights. The first cream, BenzaClin (clindamycin-benzoyl peroxide gel) is stored in the refrigerator. The second cream is Differin (adapalene). They didn't seem to work at first, but after a month his skin completely cleared up. He continues to use the creams to forestall new pimples and there appear to be no side effects, although I have not researched the toxicity of these drugs. We're very happy with the results of this regime. I only wish I had taken him to the dermatologist earlier, but it's hard to tell if acne is a problem that will go away or if it will get worse. Good luck.

I have found that an easy and cheap acne treatment is to dab Hydrogen Peroxide on your pimples after cleaning your face with gentle cleanser. Do this preferably at night.

My son developed pretty severe acne so after trying all the over the counter products we went to his physician and ended up over a period of many months going through all the progressively stronger prescription medications for acne up to the maximum allowable dosage for Acutane, which is pretty scary stuff. He had to go off Acutane eventually because they can only prescribe it for a certain period of time, then you have to wait 6 months or so before they can represcribe it. After the Acutane, he tried Proactiv and that's when his skin finally cleared up completely and has been clear now for probably a year without any follow-up care. Wish we had tried Proactiv first!!

I have had great luck with an infomercial product called Proactiv Solution ( ).

It has helped my teenage daughter's acne tremendously and is also great on adult acne. Em (7/00)

Accutane and Depression

Does anyone have teenagers that have used the presciption drug for acne called Accutane? I recall reading somewhere that it has been known to cause serious depression and even suicide with teenagers. I have a friend who has a daughter that began using it and caused serious depression soon after. Anyone with information on how to reverse the side effects would be greatly appreciated...

To the person who wanted info about teens and Accutane: My daughter took Accutane for the entire treatment last summer and early fall(about 16-20 weeks). She was fine while taking it, and it really cleared up her skin. I was very concerned about possible depression because I have a lot of it in my family, but the doctor assured me that this side effect was rare. So far, she's been okay except for the usual ups and downs of adolescence.

Regarding Accutane and Depression:

I do not know of depression associated with Accutane. You can look up information on most drugs, their uses and any warnings on line or through a physicians desk reference (PDR) which should be in most libraries.

Counseling is obvious as a suggestion because there may be deeper reasons which the Accutane only sparked.

HOWEVER, regarding reversal of depression caused by a nutritional imbalance or drug reactions, there are some nutritional approaches as well. In her book, The Diet Cure, Julia Ross, who runs a large drug, alchohol and diet addiction recovery program in Marin, outlines the uses of amino acids her clinic uses (suplements found at most whole food/nutrition stores.) and which ones work to offer support for each set of problems (depression being one). This is also a great reference for those dealing with issues of diet (and dieting) related mood swings, obsessions, cravings, and mal-nutrition (often a part of female teenage eating patterns). She also addresses hormonal shifts, food allergies, etc. which could be at the root of the acne problems. I would investigate the nutritional side of the issue immediately. While I was using them for allergy reactions, the few amino acids supplements I've tried worked almost immediately. Bettina

In 1998, there was a Medscape warning about accutane ( isolated reports of depression, psychosis and rarely suicidal thoughts and actions. FDA and the drug manufacturer are strengthening this label warning, even though it is difficult to identify the exact cause of these problems. Such problems could already be more common among the patient populations likely to be on the drug. However, because some patients who reported depression also reported that the depression subsided when they stopped taking the drug and came back when they resumed taking it, the agency and the manufacturer felt the strengthened labeling was warranted as a precautionary measure. My understanding is that this possible side effect needs to be balanced with the depression involved for teenagers with severe acne. Sherry

More info here: - Accutane

March 2004

There have been postings in the past regarding taking the prescription drug ''Accutane'' or isotretinoin for acne. Saw this article regarding a new national registry for all users of this drug because of the severe danger the drug poses during pregnancy. The article also chronicles other specifics about the treatment that people should be aware of.


Natural Remedies for Acne

I would appreciate recommendations of natural or less-toxic approaches to a mild case of adolescent pimples. I've checked the digest, and was surprised to see this hasn't come up on the teen list! Thanks.


I have worked with a number of parents who introduced their teens to Super Blue Green Algae (Aphanizomenon flos aquae) and have had great results. One man told me that his back acne cleared after one week.

I have had a good experience treating acne with a Chinese Herbologist in San Francisco who is a skin specialist. Her name is Prof. Jialing Yu, and her office number is 415-337-0308. Both my 14-year-old neice and I have been very happy with her treatments. She gives Chinese herbs which are all natural. The treatment is on the expensive side, though, so may be overkill for a mild case. But if you are wary of Accutane or antibiotics, which you would probably get at a Western dermatologist, this seems to be a safer approach.

Acne in Adults

Painful adult cystic acne

March 2010

I am a 40-year old woman who has been dealing with painful adult cystic acne for a decade. As background, I use ProActive, I am Retin-A and Benzoil Peroxyde interolerant, and I have been on and off acne-related antibiotics. After a recent bout, my dermatologist has recommended I go on the generic form of Accutane (Accutane was pulled from the market last summer, but generics are still available). I would love input on the following:

Accutane (Isotretinoin): There are numerous proven and claimed side effects to the medication which make me hesitant to use it, despite the praise as an acne miracle drug. La Roche claims it pulled Accutane b/c the generics were eating into their profits, but I suspect there is more to the story given the $25 million verdict awarded this week to a man who developed ulcerative colitis from Accutane. Please share your experience w/ the drug. What side effects did you have while taking it? How long did it keep your acne away? Have you had any conditions/issues occur after taking the drug which you suspect are linked to the drug?

Accupuncture/Alternatives: I am exploring alternatives to the drug, and I would love to know of a good accupuncturist with experience treating acne or other skin conditions. I am open to other treatments as well.

Acne isn't supposed to come with wrinkles and saggy breasts... Bumpy

I took Accutane twice (at 20 and again at 23) and it was the only thing that truly stopped my acne. I hated to resort to taking such a harsh drug, but I was to the point where I didn't want to leave the house because of how I looked. People who have not suffered from terrible acne rarely understand this. I followed dr.'s orders and was extremely vigilant about birth control and sunscreen, and did all the regular labwork recommended. I suffered no ill side effects from Accutane besides dry lips, and now at 39 only rarely get even a pimple or blackhead. no more acne

After trying many options (retinA, benzoyl sp? peroxide, tetracyline, etc.) from 7th-11th grade, I went on Accutane in high school. I have only positive things to say about the results. Yes, my hair and skin are not as oily as they were pre-Accutane (but for me that was a positive) and while on it I had really dry skin and lips, but I didn't have any other side effects.

I did go on a briefer stint in college as some acne had returned, but it was never to the adolescent state. Again, no side effects.

Let's just put it this way: I got a comment that I had a 'peaches and cream' complexion. I NEVER thought I'd hear that.

I don't know if the kind of acne makes a difference with regard to outcome, so I'd talk to your MD about it, but I would use Accutane again in a heartbeat given my previous experiences with it. thankful to be post-acne

Dear Bumpy, I had multiple rounds of Accutane treatment in my teens. my family has a horrible history with acne and my mother and younger brother also went through rounds of Accutane. For me, it was the most painful experience and I would seriously urge you to consider all other options. Unfortunately, I don't have any experience with accupuncture in this area or any other solutions that you haven't tried already. I quit smoking cigarettes and tried to follow a stricter regiment with antibiotics and topical solutions, which has kept my skin very clear recently and I am so thankful to whatever it was on my path of medication and topicals that ended up working. From what I remember of my time on Accutane, it very much felt like I was taking something very dangerous into my system. The pills would come in individually partitioned foil sections with a piece of paper you would have to pop out bearing an image of a pregnant figure with a red line through it. Scary image, but I kept on taking it. My skin dried out so much that I developed cracks in my lips and the skin on my face would flake off. I had multiple nosebleeds in a given week and I suffered from extreme embarrassment from the flaking of my skin. I was in high school, after all. I made it through one course and had somewhat recovered from the side effects but still had very painful, severe acne. My doctor offered another course of the Accutane and I agreed, feeling like I was at my wits end. After the whole ordeal, I really felt that I had suffered major depression as a side effect. In fact, there were several lawsuits that surrounded the suicidal feelings some people felt as a side effect of the drug. I would strongly caution you to be careful with generics. This is a dangerous drug. I'm sorry I don't have any suggestions for you otherwise, but I hope that there is something out there for you that alleviates the struggle that you are going though. Good luck.

My daughter took accutane last year (a generic) and I went in with a very cavalier attitude that the mental health claims surrounding Accutane were all a result of a coincidental suicide of the child of a prominent person. My daughter began a normal dose for her body weight and within two weeks began to have severe mood swings with odd suicidal overtones. She also suddenly stopped eating and became super skinny. She had Never had any depression or mood swings prior, nor had ever had any eating issues. I discontinued the med and watched her closely. The depression abated a few weeks after stopping. Meanwhile, I researched a bit of the 'evidence' that has not fully borne out the claims that people become suicidal on this med even though it is on the package insert. I was loathe to completely discontinue the medicine as it really worked and gave her truly beautiful skin. I reintroduced accutane on very very low sporadic dose and her skin has remained really clear and she has not had a recurrence of mood swings or suicidality.

There are some that theorize that depression can be triggered and abated by shocks to the brain system (an abrupt change in homeostasis). For whatever reason, I KNOW that this med did trigger this severe reaction in my daughter. I'm not sorry that we used it but I would suggest that you have really good support and really monitor your mental health. Anon

I feel your pain. Don't live with cystic acne anymore! I did accutane twice, many years ago. No difficulty with depression or any of that, only very dry skin and worse acne for a few months. The first time I did it didn't really improve, but I did a second course and the acne greatly improved for a few years at least. Over the years I've had ups and downs with my skin through pregnancy and such. However I have now found a light therapy, blue light with levulan. It definately clears up my skin for several months at a time. It takes a few treatments the first time but now I just do a maintenance tx every 6 to 12 months. Look into it, I think it's great. good luck

I also had adult cystic acne that was incredibly painful not to mention unsightly. I was put on Acutane for a 5 month duration, and looking back, I would not do it again. I developed night blindness, which affected my ability to drive, I had recurrent nose bleeds, amongst other bleeding areas like cracked skin between fingers and corners of the eyes... 10 years later, my eyes are extremely dry where I have to use eye drops daily. I had a feeling of bone pain upon waking in the morning. It felt like when I stepped out of bed my bones would shatter. I also developed elevated liver enzymes. My skin was SO dry Vaseline was needed but didn't help. Yes, my acne went away, but to this day, my skin is still extremely dry. It wasn't worth it for me. I wish I would have been able to manage my skin through professional facials ( think European facials with extractions), diet, and natural means like herbal remedies. Good luck! J S

Believe it or not, I had success with a homeopathic solution I got at Whole Foods. Cheap, no side effects. Vitamins (especially B vites) helped, too. KC

My sister and I both experienced rather severe cystic acne as adults. After Retin-A didn't work for me, my dermatologist recommended Accutane. I was too afraid to take it after seeing what happens to a fetus if you get pregnant while you're on the drug, so I went with a very strong dose of antibiotics instead. The antibiotics worked for a while but the acne came back when stress in my life ramped up again. It finally went away after I went on birth control. My dermatologist would have required me to be on birth control before prescribing Accutane for reasons mentioned above, which led me to wonder if some of Accutane's effectiveness is really due to birth control leveling off the hormones.

Then my sister started taking Accutane without taking birth control (she wasn't in a relationship at the time and convinced her doctor that she wasn't at risk for becoming pregnant). It eventually worked for her but she experienced severe dryness while she was on it - dry lips that no amount of chapstick would relieve, dryness on the inside of her nose, etc. She also still has scarring on her cheeks.

Neither of us had tried acupuncture, but since there aren't side effects it's probably worth a try. I've heard that oregano oil capsules can help with acne and hormone imbalance but haven't tried that either.

I had horrible cystic acne since I was a teenager and I went to Bina Jangda, LAc who has been the only person that could do anything about it. I've tried everything. Literally everything. Acupuncture worked. Her herbal knowledge is impressive. She hand-made an herbal toner and a nightly herbal mask which helped control the acne between acupuncture sessions. I could see visible reduction in the size of the acne after each treatment. Treatments are 1hr and 15min to 1 1/2 hrs long. She accepts insurance which covered most of the expenses for me. The herbs were out-of-pocket. I'd give her a try. Her number is 510.393.7565 RL

Ugh, tough decision. Accutane is scary, but cystic acne is truly, truly awful (and physically painful too!). I was on accutane for about 6 months in 1997-98. Prior to accutane, I'd had horrible cystic acne on my neck, shoulders, back and buttocks. Accutane made it all go away, and it has never come back (12 years later). I don't remember any particularly bad side effects. My skin did dry out, and I had to be extra-vigilant with sunscreen (which I am anyway).

I did not take birth control while on accutane. I was celibate at the time and convinced my doctor let me skip birth control if I came in once a month and took a pregnancy test. I also have some hormonal imbalances (low thyroid)... all of this is to say that I suspect that with further research, they will discover that there is a hormonal component to some people having depression and other bad side effects and other people doing fine on the drug.

At the time I was on accutane, none of the depression/suicide risk was known (or at least I didn't know about it). If I were deciding whether or not to go on it today, I think I would probably really work at exhausting all my other options before making the choice to try accutane. Hope you find a solution...

Acne back after stopping the Pill

Oct 2008

I'm suffering through adult acne after stopping my birth control pills for about 6 months. I used to have a bad case of acne when I was younger, and then my skin was under control (because of the pills, I guess) and now I'm going through it again. (I'm 45.) I hate seeing acne and acne scars on my face. Help!! Should I go back to the pills? What over-the-counter products work for adult acne (hormone-related, I think)? Murad? Proactiv? And what product can help with the scar? If you have success with certain dermatologists, I'd appreciate hearing about that as well. Thank you! Anonymous

Laura Cooksey of Face Reality Skin Care in San Leandro is an esthetician who has specialized in acne for years. She came to this specialization when she started experiencing her own acne as an adult, and I was surprised to learn that people come to her clinic from all over the Bay Area (as far as Santa Rosa!) and consult with her from places around the world regarding the products she provides. She has been a godsend to me - literally no one would even suspect I had ever had a serious problem with adult acne. You can reach her at 510-351-1842. Her website at also has a lot more information, including useful articles about acne. L H

elizabeth at alexander pope works great with adult acne she helped with mine!! pinkisses

Products that help with adult acne?

Sept 2008

I'm looking for recommendations, especially products to help with teen acne or adult acne? Leslie

Hi, I had terrible acne when I was in my early 20's. The best thing I've ever used(that wasn't RX) was the Pro Active Repair Lotion and the toner.( They have a cleanser that has scrubbing beads but that was too rough on my skin and caused me to break out worse). I've noticed at the Hilltop Mall they have a vending machine where you can buy the products individually. I would just use the Repair Lotion at night and in the daytime use an oil free lotion (Neutrogena makes nice ones that don't break the bank). If you have health insurance that pays for a dermatologist I would take advantage of it , they could prescribe a retin A cream that would help clear up the acne and help with any scarring. Both of these methods helped me a great deal. Acne free now and happy

I have had acne on and off since I was a teen (mostly chest, back, and neck). I did a course of Accutane when I was 18 and again when I was 33. Since then (3 years), I have been able to control it with an over the counter lotion from Neutrogena, called ''Oil-Free Acne Stress Control,'' applied once daily (twice a day is too drying). I buy it at Longs. My 13 year old daughter started using it too when she developed the same type of acne and it seems to be working for her as well. We didn't see results until we had been using it for about two weeks. We use a similar foam cleanser in the shower. The active ingredient in both is salicylic acid; you can find other products that contain it. Good luck.

I have found the Murad line to be very effective and affordable. They have different lines depending on how aggressive of a treatment one needs. I had tried many things and at the risk of sounding cliche this was what truly worked. If treating light acne I would suggest their ''gentle acne treament'' as the regular one is very strong and can be a bit irritating if your acne is not too severe. However the regular line is excellent for severe acne. Best of luck. anon

Tried everything for my acne

May 2007

I have been suffering from acne for 20+ years--I am now a 36 mother of two and tired of bad skin. I have tried everything-- from Accutane to Tetracycline to Mario Badescu to Proactiv. I am looking for a good dermatologist in the East Bay area (preferably Lamorinda/Walnut Creek) and/or product recommendations. Tired of Teenage Skin

I also am a 36 year old mother of two with relentless acne! Accutane and everything else didn't help much. I saw Dr. Melinda Meyers on Ygnacio Valley Rd. in Walnut Creek for two sessions of blue light treatment with levulan. It held my acne at bay for 14 months, at which time a new round was necessary. Anyways I think this is a really effective treatment, Dr. Meyers is very knowledgeable about the procedure and other cosmetic acne procedures. It doesn't last forever, but no acne treatment does, unfortunately! pretty clear now

Acne fighting on the cheap

April 2006

I have been fighting mild to moderate acne since I was a teenager (I'm 22 now). Recently my acne has flared up quite a bit although it's not horrible enough to do something drastic such as Accutane or Proactiv. I need some advice on a)finding cheap products that work for acne or b)finding a dermatologist that sells cheap products that work. Thanks Sara

One product: PROACTIVE! God this stuff is good, and it really works. I rarely break out anymore(I'm 40 yrs old!), and I just tried this product on a whim. You just have to be consistent with it. On top of that never scrub your face with a wash cloth, use LUKE warm water and pat dry. Dr. Rodan(see below) told me I was washing my face the wrong way all these years.

Proactive costs about $38 for two months, but I've been able to stretch my treatment package to 3-4 months(and I use it everyday).

Call Katy Rodan's office in Oakland at 510-763-2662 (she's the proactive dr) and see if you can buy the package straight from her office without an appt. Then you don't have to pay shipping and handling. It's about $39, a bit more than you want to pay, but worth it. Clear skin

Some years ago, my primary care physician prescribed a topical ointment I think was called Differin (not sure of spelling) which helped my mild case of adult acne. He said it was mild enough for his twelve year old daughter to use. It worked well on my oily skin. During the past couple of years, I have also started to wash my face morning and night with Prescriptives' Purity face wash which seems to have been keeping any breakouts at bay Anon

Proactiv is just 2.5% benzoyl peroxide. There are other products made my Cosco and Neutrogena that have the same ''system'' that Proactiv touts. The only thing that is over-the-counter that works for acne is benzoyl peroxide, some people believe that salicylic acid also is effective. Otherwise you need a perscription for retin-A type products, topical antibiotics, or oral antibiotics...not all of which are expensive. It is very difficult to get accutane these days, even for those with cystic acne Pediatrician

I have had a lot of luck with the Clean and Clear line (at Target, Long's, etc). They have both benzoyl peroxide meds, and salicylic acid ones, so you can pick which one irritates your skin less (I like the s.a. ones, because they don't bleach my clothes!).

You don't say what kind of skin you have, whether it's dry or oily or what, but my normal-to-dry skin breaks out less if I make sure it's well-moisturized, and that I clean it only with stuff that doesn't strip my skin. So: no harsh soaps, only Cetaphil in the morning, and I use Noxema pore-refining cleanser at night, before night cream. Good Luck-- Donna

Oral antibiotics are the most effective, and don't cost much, although I am concerned about the long-term effects after I took them for years. I wouldn't call Proactive ''drastic'' - the active ingredients are the same as in other over-the-counter acne lotions (either benzoyl peroxide or salycylic acid, I'm not sure which) but in lower doses and with moisterizers. Lotions only work if your acne is very topical and you use it constantly. Otherwise you'll need to take something orally. If you don't want to take antibiotics, some versions of the birth control pill can be helpful, but certainly not cheap unless you have health coverage. And there's accutane - one course of it will last 10 years! But not a good idea if you are prone to depression or have any chance of getting pregnant anonymous

I have had good luck with the Neutrogena On-The-Spot salycilic acid gel that is supposed to reduce redness in 8hrs. I have also had good luck with this sulfer based ointment that the aesthatician at Azul Spa recommended to me; it is sold at the spa but I haven't seen it anywhere else.

Other than that, I highly recommend seeing your dr. I had a two year bout with what I thought was cystic acne, but being a mom I never made time for myself to go to the dr to have it treated professionally. Then this last spring I developed bacterial pneumonia. It was treated with a pretty strong antibiotic that cured the pneumonia quickly... and seems to have had the very happy side effect of clearning my acne. I'm sure they don't normally prescribe this medication for acne, but who knows what else they are using these days! spot free for 3 months!

Try Paul Penders Herbal Citrus Fruit Exfoliant. It is a product you apply twice a day, leave it on, and it results in very effective exfoliation, much better than I was able to achieve using scrubs, or standard hydroxyacid lotions. It really changed my skin dramatically- cleared out old buried blemishes and very few new ones appear. It is ~$13 for 2oz which will last a couple months- you should see results in that time if it is going to work for you. Signed, Acne-free finally!

The only thing that has ever worked for me is birth control -- ortho tricylen. Unfortunately, I never found any other product to work. I went off the pill for 6 months hoping to control it some other way but I wasn't able to even with a dermatologist's help. Acne runs in my family -- my mom (50) still struggles with it! So, at least for me, it's definately hormonally- related and not something that can be fixed easily with topical stuff anon

A few years ago I had a terrible case of acne and tried everything over the counter. The only thing that really worked was the Clean and Clear Continuous Control acne wash ($4-5 at target). Its benzoil peroxide so it will make your face a little red and bleach your clothes. I would just use it at night as a cream on my zits and leave it on all night (not as directed on bottle). My acne went away in a few weeks (maybe a month). Now I only occasionally get zits on my chin so I use the Clean and Clear Advantage saliclic acid cleaner daily. I wash the rest of my face with a regular cleanser and just use this on my zit prone area.

I've been acne free for over a year (even through a pregnancy) I only get a zit or two when I don't use the cleanser. Its good stuff.

I would also recommend drinking lots of water, not touching your face at all, and make sure the phone doesn't rest on your chin when I'm talking. Also, you should use a separate towel to dry your face after a shower or washing. (Its probably not good to dry your face with the same towel you dried your armpit with the day before) anon

Blue light treatment for acne?

March 2006

A dermatologist, Christine Avakoff, recommended I have 2 treatments of Blue Light Photodynamic Therapy to treat my acne, acne scarring, and red skin. I am in my mid 30's and have had acne since I was a teen. I am ready to do more than over-the- counter topical solutions. I have used Retin-A for years, with very little success. My searches as to the pro's/con's of Light Therapy have led me to advertised website only; I have not been able to locate any cautions/dangers of this type of treatment. I am looking for input from those who have any experience with photo light treatment for acne, or any other useful treatments for acne, acne scarring (mild), and rosacea. Anon

I haven't tried blue light therapy, but I had tremendous success getting my sometimes uncontrollable acne under control with Laura Cooksey. She has a skin care clinic in San Leandro, but it is worth the drive. She is an esthetician who specializes in controlling acne, and can offer a combination of in-office treatments with at-home products (not over the counter stuff) that are very effective. She has a website at that talks more about what acne is and how she treats it. Lysa

I have done 3 courses of the blue-light therapy over the past three years. I have also suffered from acne since my teens. In the past some accutane courses held off the acne for years at a time but eventually wore off. While nursing my first child my acne returned three years ago and I did a blue light course in SF. It worked immediately and my skin was clear for nearly a year until I became pregnant with my second child.

Don't know if it was the pregnancy or if the effects just wore off eventually. My acne came and went during pregnancy and again returned when nursing my second child. I did another round of blue light at a different clinic and it had no effect this time. I then learned about a new procedure that uses the blue light with a chemical called levulan that is supposed to be much more effective. I did 2 treatments of this last fall and my skin has been basically clear since a month or so after the second treatment. What they do is scrub your face, apply the levulan, it's in a stick form like deoderant, then it incubates for about 1 hour, then they put you in front of the blue light. You're not pretty for about a week. Your face is red, really sensitive, swollen then it peels like a snake. You can also experience breakouts and lots of whiteheads during this time as everything is coming out. But the results are great. It also helps with fine lines and discoloration. I highly recommend it and will do it again if my acne returns. I did it with Dr. Melinda Meyers of Walnut Creek. It's $250 a session. Good luck! happy now

My daughter has done the blue light treatment at The Laser Center of Marin. They suggested an 8 treatment regimen which we did. Her face has cleared wonderfully and we now go back every couple months for a followup treatment. They are in Corte Madera (415-945-9314) or Taylor

Sudden cystic acne at age 22

March 2006

I have a combination skin (oily aroung chin and nose and dry on the cheeks). I usually get acne like one or two would appear right before my period and would disappear in a day or two but since last month I am getting cystic acne on my cheeks. I have never had cystic acne before. It is painful and ugly and takes like a month or more for it to disappear. I am not sure why I got it suddenly at this age. I haven't changed my diet or my face wash (proactive). I am guessing that it is because I am too stressed this semester as I am taking the MCAT, working and a big course load. I still eat healthy and get at least seven hour sleep every night as usual.

Did anyone else have a similar experience with sudden cystic acne breakage? If yes then what did they to to cure it. My dermatologist recomended topical retinol, oral contraceptives, and/or accutane. I have never used any of these before and am aware of the side effects. Has anyone used these and have gotten good results? Has anybody gotten steriod injections or have them removed surgically?

I am avoiding coffee, chocolate, sweets and any fatty food. I have heard and read that diet affecting acne is a myth. Is there anyone who thinks that diet makes their acne worst? Also does cystic acne leave permanent scars r bumps? Help !! MM

definitely related to stress.

adult acne happens. and cystic acne is most common starting at 20 years old.

as you are pre-med, it would probably be best to consider going on birth control (pills or vaginal ring) to regulate your periods, so you can skip periods for finals, and spring break, etc... most MDs (women) I know are regulating themselves to as few periods per year as possible e.g. 1 or 2 using continuous cycling of birth control pills, or the vaginal ring.

cystic acne definitely scars! get it treated. after birth control, I would try oral antibiotics and if it is bad enough then accutane... Sophia, adolescent medicine MD

I developed cystic acne at 24. It took me ten years to decide to use accutane - ten years of mild to moderate acne, antibiotics, benzoil peroxide, and more and more scars. Accutane is the only drug that permanently helped me. The first course improved my face a lot, but after about 3 years I decided to try another. That course improved my face even more. I then tried another course after that, about 2 years later and have had virtually no problems since. You may be told that additional courses won't improve your acne, but this was not my experience. During the teatment my lips got severely dry, so dry that they blistered. But a good dermatologist who has experience with Accutane will know how to treat the side effects. I went to UCSF.

It seems that doctors in the US are more reluctant than doctors in England and Europe to prescribe Accutane. An article out of England that my husband found said that doctors there treat even mild cystic acne with Accutane because of the psychological distress cystic acne causes. Ellen

Hi, I have cystic acne, though mine did not come on suddenly. First for the bad news: I'm 40 and I still have it. The good news: There are many effective treatments for cystic acne. You should also know that you are not causing it! No, you aren't. No, it's not what you're eating. And no, it's not necessarily from stress. It's a hereditary disease.

In terms of your course of treatment, Accutane is kind of like the nuclear bomb. It will work, but you might want to try milder options first. I wholeheartedly recommend combining topical Retin-A and oral birth control pills. I definitely have cystic flare-ups around my period. When I was taking BCPs I didn't have them much at all, but for other reasons I can no longer take BCPs and now I get a cyst or two every month. When I get them, I get a same-day appointment with my dermatologist (if your derm is serious about acne, he/she should have same day appointments available) and I get a steriod shot. It's not the world's most pleasant experience, but it's not like childbirth either, and the cyst is gone in 1-2 days WITHOUT a scar. In short, the shots are great.

In terms of Accutane: I did a long course of it in my 20s and it cleared me up (mostly) for a decade, but the effect does wear off after a while. In exchange I had the most unbelievably scaly skin - my lips were literally peeling off -and joint aches that kept me awake at night for my entire course of treatment. Hence my nuclear bomb analogy.

Retin-A: Takes some time to get used to. You may be red and itchy with some flakiness at first, but your skin, especially at your young age!, will become accustomed to it over the course of a few weeks. And you know, it's good for preventing wrinkles too, though you're probably not concerned about that now.

Lastly - don't get microdermabrasion. It seems like such a good idea for those of us with acne scarring, but it's really not. First of all, cystic acne scars are deeper than anything microdermabrasion can reach. Secondly, and most importantly, the procedure can cause dormant cysts to become more active.

Hope this was helpful. I feel your pain! mostly clear

At 22 years, I too had a bout of cystic acne. I was in grad school at the the time and under quite a bit of stress. One of my classmates took me aside and told me that there were many new treatments available to treat acne (this was in the late 1980s). B I remember being quite taken aback by her frankness because I didn't think my complexion was all that bad. Anyway, she gave me great advice and I consequently went on Accutane for six months which resulted in gorgeous skin until I got my first real job a year later. The working environment was so stressful and I had enormous self doubts about my abilities. The cystic acne returned with a vengeance and much to my mortification, I overheard my boss gossiping about my skin at work! I decided to go back to Accutane for another six months and the second course of treatment really did the trick. Over the next 15 or so years, occasionally I would still have breakouts but they were so much easier to manage. I also think with maturity I have learned to be more confident and to handle stress better. Hope this helps. Been there too

I would definitely re-examine what you are eating. Are you eating enough greens, less white flour, etc? Resting? I read somewhere that when your internal organs are overloaded with expelling toxins and wastes your skin is the next stop. For me too much sugar, caffeine, and bad oils are the culprit. Check the types and quality of oils you use in your food (rancid oils do a lot of damage to our system). EVO and coconut oils are the best things for skin. Stress is another skin spoiler, but you have a heavy load and unfortuneately it comes with the territory.

I would definitely say that because you live a stressful and busy life you need to take extra good care of your self through eating, exercise, and relaxation. The prescription stuff never worked for me and I have really managed my acne with the above. Check out nutrition tips from the book ''Nourishing Traditions'' by Sally Fallon. Cystic acne no more.

I haven't been ''officially'' diagnosed with cystic acne, but mine sounds just like yours. The only thing that I have found consistent about it is that if I eat gummy candy (jelly beans, gum drops, etc.) I will surely break out. Not that I don't break out other times, and not that it doesn't go away for a few months at a time. I used to think sunlight helped, but it doesn't seem to any longer. I'm not willing to use accutane, and can't take birth control (though I still had it when I was) so I just try to keep my face clean (I swab with rubbing alcohol) and not touch my face or eat the offending candies. And that seems to keep it down. Spotty

Accupuncture for Acne?

August 2005

I've battled acne for years now and have done many many conventional treatments, most of which have not helped. It seems to come and go but has been pretty present the last five years, and I'm in my 30's! Has anyone tried accupuncture and if so what were your results? I'm ready to try anything, I'm so sick of this! Thank you in advance. anon

Sara Rankin of Alma Acupuncture in Oakland specializes in ''Facial Rejuvenation'' which works really well for many skin conditions (wrinkles, blemishes etc.). She has a lovely office close to Piedmont and Broadway in Oakland. She takes insurance for medical conditions (Alta Bates and Kaiser Plans for example). Reach her at: 510 593-7514. Melanie

Although I don't suffer from acne, I had another skin problem for several months for which I consulted an acupuncturist. It went away after a few weeks. I saw Dr. Robert Zeiger, a great acupuncturist and doctor of oriental medicine that I can highly recommend. His contact info: (510) 843-7397, 3031 Telegraph Ave., Suite 106. Good luck! Believer-in-alternative-medicine

Sorry to say I tried acupuncture for over a year for my adult acne with no results. I kept at it because my insurance covered the treatments, so I wasn't paying out of pocket. I just started taking tetracycline (again) and using tazorac (a new retinoid cream). Its too soon to say if these will deliver the results I am looking for, but so far better than the more natural routes I have tried over the years...

I don't know anything about acupuncture for acne, but I will share our experience. My son is now almost 16 years old, and he had struggled with acne as soon as he hit puberty. Then last year, when he joined the football team, he developed an awful facial rash, no doubt exacerbated by the sweaty helmet and chin strap. He had tried all the antibiotics and face creams perscribed by several dermatologists until it looked like accutane, a medicine not without significant risk, was our final medical option. Not wanting to go that route, we looked into unconventional approaches. After doing some internet research, it seemed that some people benefit from removing sugar from their diet. My son decided to try it at the encouragement of his medical researcher dad, and--what do you know--his face cleared up! He still has quite clear skin 3/4 year later (and yes he is doing football this year again). He eats no sugar or honey or molasses, etc. When he wants a sweet he eats no-sugar-added ice cream or cookies with no sugar. Thanks to the popularity of Atkins Diet, you can find lots of substitutes. He still keeps his face very clean and showers twice a day and uses the topical creams. He feels he is happy to give up sugar to have normal skin. Hope this helps. I know what a frustration it is. Sugar free mom

I haven't tried acupuncture for acne, but I'm a student of Chinese Medicine. A teacher at my school, Dr. Yu, is supposed to be great. She specializes in dermatology (and teaches it). She teaches at ACTCM 415.282.7600. I'll try to get her # and post it for you. Best, anon

Dr. Yu is a dermatologist (Chinese Medicine - acupuncture and herbs) in San Francisco. Her number is 415-337-0308. I hear she's great. anon

i've had wonderful luck with Proactiv for the past 10 years or so. it really works. anon

How to control acne since I went off the pill?

July 2003

In my previous life when I was on 'the pill', I did not need to worry so much about regular break-outs on my face. I then went off the pill to become pregnant and the break-outs were uncontrollable! Then during pregnancy my skin was soooooo happy again! But now I've given birth and the teenage-like acne has returned. I have my hands full with a 2 month-old and don't have time to do anything more than just wash my face in the shower (when I get one!) I'm currently using Neutrogena daily face wash but I guess I need something stronger. Any recommendations for something I can use on my face that won't dry it out but will control the blemishes? My skin doesn't seem to be either dry nor oily nor combination. I'd call it ''normal'' except I keep breaking out. I really don't have time for anything more complicated than what can be accomplished in the shower....
too old for pimples

I have also had problems with adult acne and have resorted to trying many different things. Currently I have been using an acne bar from Clinique and also being a sometimes showerless parent, only use it in the morning. I have had very little breakouts since I started using this line early in my pregnancy. To help prevent dryness I also use their moisterizer which can be put on quickly after I shower. Both products can be a little pricey but they last a very long time so in the long run are not much more than what you are currently using. anon

Hey there. I don't think you necessarily need something stronger to take care of your acne, especially if you have normal skin. why don't you try something less irritating than a traditional acne control wash. my skin cleared up when i stopped using a daily scrub stopped washing my face with a soapier product. Instead, I use Cetaphil twice daily (sometimes three depending on my activity) and moisturize with an Aveeno product. Then, I only used a facial scrub once a week. This regimen has worked very well. I too am experiencing acne related to my pregnancy and got a prescription from my primary care doctor for topical Eurithrimycin pads - they look a lot like stridex pads, but they don't dry out your skin. basically, it's applying antibiotics to combat the bacteria in your skin. It works very well and i bet you could get several months worth that should help you until your skin returns to normal post- pregnancy. Good luck! Jen

I had the same problem you did. Pretty good skin before pregnancy, glowing, gorgeous skin during and then rotten skin and hair after giving birth (and for about a good 8 months afterwards). Realize that your body is going through hormonal changes that affect your skin and hair, usually it seems for the worse postpartum. These things do seem to normalize eventually.

When my skin was at its worst I got desperate and actually ordered Proactiv after seeing the infommercial and I LOVE it. It doesn't dry my skin out and the three step system has been easy and really effective. I also take 400 mg of vitamin E every day and that seems to help, too. You can order Proactiv online. Check it out... heidi

I'm sorry to have to say it, but what you need cannot be done in the shower. Washing your face is not enough! You need something to put on your face *after* you wash that will kill the bacteria that cause the acne.

I have had persistent acne since I was in my teens. While it's not as bad as it was then, I still break out, even though I am now 35! Well, I *would* break out, that is--I don't now. However, the ONLY thing that works for me and my stubborn acne is a BENZOYL PEROXIDE product. Here's the thing a lot of people will probably recommend something with salicylic acid. The problem is that salicylic acid works only on acne causing bacteria that are not very far beneath the surface of your skin. I know for me, salicylic acid did NOTHING and I found out that this is because only Benzoyl Peroxide (BP) gets the DEEP bacteria.

Ok- you don't want your skin dried out, and BP is rather on the drying side. The thing to do is to STAY AWAY from regular, over the counter products (like Clearasil and Oxy). These products tend to have WAY more BP in them than you really need. It turns out that a 10% BP product (usually labeled ''extra strength'') isn't any more effective than a 5%, which isn't any more effective than 2.5% !! The only difference is that the 5% and 10% BP products will dry your skin out much more than a 2.5% BP solution. Also, over-the-counter products tend to have a bunch of other ingredients in them that *I* think are bad for your skin (aluminum derived ingredients, tints and other stuff - yuk!).

After much searching, I found a terriffic BP product that is pretty much nothing but a water based cosmetic gel with 2.5% BP. It works GREAT, and it doesn't dry out my skin as much as the other stuff. Of course, I do also put on a moisturizer - but I would do this anyway as I DO have combination skin. I would recommend staying away from those acne treatment *systems* (entire lines of products - face washes, toners, creams, gels, etc. etc.) especially if you want to avoid drying out your skin. Besides, these are often overkill and may take up more of your time than you need. Of course, if your acne is bad enough, you might NEED an entire system to treat it, but I have found that I really don't need all that stuff, and my acne is pretty bad if it goes untreated.

The product I use is ''DDF'' (Doctors Dermatologic Formula) Benzoyl Peroxide Gel. I buy it online from a local cosmetologist (based in Orinda), Mary Gilespie. She has an e-store She ships very quickly and her stuff is reasonably priced (the BP gel costs pretty much the same per ounce as what you would pay for over the counter products - you pay more by the tube because they hold twice as much), and she give great customer service. I couldn't be happier! acne free!

I too have adult acne which recurred after I went off the pill and got better while I was pregnant -- and afterwards I was right back to being the only adult in the room with pimples. I have no plans to go back on the pill and don't want to do tetracycline, but I did find a skin-care product that has helped tremendously. I get my brows waxed at White Rose in Oakland (on College near Claremont) and the owner there recommended the Karin Herzog Vita-A-Kombi cream (she gave me samples first and then I went back and bought it). I am usually quite skeptical of any ''skin care system'' that promises great results and then at every stage tells you that you must buy yet another product; however, she recommended one thing and said that was all I needed. My hormonal surges are sometimes still stronger than this lotion, but it is far more effective than anything I've tried and I am so happy to be done with Clinique, Origins, etc. (The only downside is that it has hydrogen peroxide in it, so when I'm not careful the tops of my eyebrows get a little bleached.) J.J.

I have suffered from mild acne my whole life (like you better when on the pill or pregnant). Acne medications like benzoyl peroxide and Retin A make my skin peel horribly. The last dermatologist I saw suggested using an over the counter facial soap with salicylic acid (2%). Aveeno and Neutragena have these products although they are sometimes hard to find (I have purchased them at Walgreens). I have also found generic brands as well which are a bit cheaper (Rexall pharmacy in El Sobrante). The liquid face soaps have 2% salicylic acid while the bar soaps only have 1%. Initially I was washing my face twice a day with the liquid soap, and it was a bit drying. Now I wash once a day (in the morning), and my acne has disappeared. Good luck! Cindy

I feel your pain. I've had bad skin since I was 15, with flare ups depending on the time of month or how many hormones were surging through my body. My skin was glowing and perfect during my first pregnancy, and alarmingly acne-riddled during my second. I was then diagnosed with acne rosecea (hey, wrinkles AND acne!). There are several routes you can take, but some of them are best left until you wean your newborn. After I weaned my son at 9 months, I started a low-dose course of antibiotics and Metrogel lotion, prescribed by my dermo, which got my rosecea under control. What you can do now is try Eucerin pore-cleaning gelwash every night. It's non-drying and seems to be keeping my skin under control. Also, make sure you have a good skin cream/sunblock on every day, as sun exposure also seems to affect adult acne. Again Eucerin prodcuts are good and affordable. Good luck! Julie T.

I have absolutely been there, so you have my sympathy. I tried facials (for me, a total waste of money) and all sorts of expensive and inexpensive products, and the only thing that really ever worked for me was Benzoyl Peroxide. If you haven't already, consider the Proactive line of products, which uses non- irritating amounts of Benzoly Peroxide. I used the cleanser, repair lotion and mask and got great results (I did not, however, shell out the money for the daily moisture lotion, figuring that the Oil of Olay that my dermatologist had recommended was good enough). I should warn you that after a few years on Proactiv, it stopped working (apparently, my skin adjusted), so I switched to a lotion with a higher percent of Benzoyl Peroxide, and it did the trick. One more question Now that you have your baby, have you considered going back on the pill? Good Luck! Amy

Dear Acne sufferer, HI, I am a Licensed Acupunturist/Herbalist/Nutritionist Mom. It can be so difficult to deal with things when you are a new mother. I totally identify with you when you say you don't always get a chance to take a shower! My non-kid friends couldn't seem to understand that when I first had a baby. I just wanted to say about the acne that it is usually associated with diet. I know it might be hard right now, and you may have already heard this, you don't say, but you really need to avoid fried foods, greasy foods, spicy foods, coffee, red meat, cut way back on sugar, dairy, no sodas. On the other hand, do eat lots and lots of greens, whole grains, fruit, and fish, especially salmon and cod. Another thing is that anything that you put on your face that has petrochemical based products, such as fragrance, can interact with the sun to cause outbreaks. Stick to hypoallergenic products with no fragrance. This includes your laundry detergent! Fragrance can stay in your sheets and cause problems. Those anti-static sheets in the dryer are the worst! If you want a quick topical, grapefruit seed extract has some of the highest anti-bacterial effect, higher even than bleach, better than tea tree oil, and is all natural. As a last resort, if you feel you must resort to a hormone treatment, use a natural progesterone cream. If you'd like to know more about why, feel free to give me a call. (510) 306-0067 Rhoda Climenhaga, L.Ac. rhodacm at

Definitely try Proactiv Solution ( I was skeptical but tried it when nothing else worked, and I'm still amazed at what a difference it has made. Safe during pregnancy and nursing,too. Really, it works. Good luck! anon

Go see a dermatologist. None of the over the counter stuff works very well. I saw my first dermatologist when I was 16 after years of acne. I've had it under control ever since and never felt better. Leslie

I am a Mary Kay beauty consultant and also had the same problem. I have been using a blemish control cleanser ($10) twice a day and have been free of breakouts. Give me a call or go to my website for further information Ana Alday (925)825-3547 Ana Alday

At 41 I also still have acne (the horrible undergrounder-painful type). Thought it was gone for good after undergoing Accutane treatment 20 years ago, but no, it recurred several years ago. I currently use two different kinds of cleansers and a topical medication prescribed by my dermatologist... but had not reached a completely zit-free state till I discovered the wonders of Vitamin A and Zinc! If I'm starting to break out (like around my period) taking a zinc supplement (just the RDA dose) and drinking carrot juice for a couple of days really puts a halt to the breakout. Works for me... anon

Acne, scars and pregnancy

Nov 2005

Hi. I'm 5 months pregnant and have acne. I know it's hormonal, but it has NOT let up and I don't remember it being like this with my firstborn! I am trying Proactiv (for a month or so) and it helps some, but I am experiencing acne still and have significant dark/red scarring. I don't wear makeup, and anyway, it seems to draw even more attention to the problem when I do apply. Can anyone recommend pregnancy safe treatments - for the scars in particular?? I have heard about facials, aestheticians, laser treatments... but I know nothing of these things. I also don't have an unlimited budget. I live in Alameda and would appreciate a nearby recommendation. THANKS! Ugly Momma

I had luck with products including alpha and beta hydroxy acids, not benzoyl peroxide, specifically the neutrogena acne patches and olay ''age defying'' cleanser. the zits stopped being so huge and raised after the baby was born, but the red spots remained for awhile, but were helped almost immediately by the age defying wash. anon zit mom

Hi - please check - I am pretty sure Proactiv has retinol and therefore should NOT be used during pregnancy. I am also pregnant and have acne. I went to see Francesca at Alchemy Skin Spa in North Berkeley in Walnut Square and she has some fabulous all natural products that are totally affordable and are working really well. Her number is: 981-9881. She is also a mom and is really gentle and highly professional. Suzanne

Hi -just wanted to add - I had increasingly bad acne in both my pregnancies - and to my dismay after my second stopped breast feeding it got worse - I went to several ''top-notch'' dermatologists, went through two rounds of antibiotics, a ton of creams and gels all to no avail - zits, some large and painful but - especialy rash-like, small bumps all over my cheeks, forhead and neck persisted - both derms suggested accutane.

Last weekend we were at a wedding and the woman next to me mentioned she'd had this problem and it turned out to be a dairy allergy - I'd had a dairy sensitivity after my first was born but it manifested as stomach cramps, gas etc.. - I didn't have those symtoms with the second so never considered the allergy possibility (strange that the docs didn't either) - the happy ending? After only 5 days dairy free my face is almost completely clear! - no kidding after 7 months of creams, lasers, and pills - I stop the cheese and milk and presto - I have my face back - of course this may not be your situation but just something to think over, your body changes so much during pregnancy who knows what can happen- wish I'd tried it sooner.

Treating Acne While Pregnant

May 2003

I have terribly acne caused by pregnancy and would love to hear what safe remedies others have used for this problem. What products did you use, and can anyone recommend a dermatologist who knows how to safely treat prenatal acne? Thanks! Anon

I also had a lot of acne when I was pregnant. Try the Proactiv acne products. I have been through all sorts of acne treatments, including Accutane multiple times, and Proactiv was very effective for me! Good luck... and congratulations! beth

When I was pregnant, my back broke out pretty badly. My acupuncturist suggested that I take acidophilis and it really helped to clear it up. I bought the most potent (and most expensive) kind from her, but it was well worth it! anon

Hi, although I don't remember all the details of your original post, I want to warn you about using Retin-A, Retinol, the generic version Trentoin, or its derivative Accutane, during pregnancy, especially in the first 12 weeks. It has been proven to cause birth defects, most likely to the ears of the fetus. If you have any doubts, do a google search on ''retin-a & pregnancy''. Also, COQ-10 isn't safe either. All this highly chemical stuff, even though it's just applied externally, does get into your system and cross the placenta. My dermatologist who prescribed this for me never mentioned it, by the way. Wrinkly Pregnant Lady

Hi, I wanted to respond to the pregnant woman asking about help with acne I HIGHLY recommend Proactiv Skin care. can be ordered online:

Having battled acne myself, I have tried EVERYTHING. this was the only long term solution for me. Results start to show in a week.... Best of Luck

Postpartum Acne

Sept. 2003

My baby is 10 months now and everything is fine except for the severe skin problem that I've had for at least 4 months already.I didn't have anything like that even in puberty. My doctor blames hormones and suggestes to ''wait and see'' ( she did thyriod hormones testing - seems to be fine) but I wonder if Moms out there had the same thing and how did they handle it? Will facial help? Homeotherapy?

I had really bad pre-natal acne and couldn't (and still can't due to breast feeding) use Retin A so I started using Proactiv Solutions. It seems a little pricey but the bottles of products last for a really long time. They have a really cheesy website ( that you can order from and you can become a member (like the Hair Club for men). The membship is a lot more flexible than it sounds on the site and you can call the 800 number and talk to someone about the options. It is working for me and I hope it works for you too because acne whatever the cause is a bummer.

My prenatal/postnatal acne did not go away until I stopped nursing. If you are nursing, this might clear up when you stop. Good luck! Jill

There are 2 natural products which some people have found very effective for acne formulated by Dr. Berman -- Aboriginal Gold and Dr. Berman's Mineral Mask. I have a validation from a Beverly Hills/Hollywood esthetician named Lyn Bresnahan about both products which I can email to you if you would like to read it. Her cystic acne was cured with Aboriginal Gold. Also, Dr. Berman develeoped the Mineral Mask to treat his teenage sons' acne. I can also provide more information about both products if you email me. Linda

Proactiv for Adult Acne

June 2003

I have been struggling with adult acne since I was in my early 20's. I've tried everything and it just seems to get worse as I get older (I'm 35). My last dermatologist told me it probably would continue in this manner until I was 40 (ugg). I'm so sick of it! The worse part is the break outs on my arms and back. The face stuff has been controlled moderately with Retin A. I'm considering using Proactiv on my arms and back. Has anyone had success with this? How long did it take to see results? Should I give up using Retin A on my face and just go with Proactiv? Where do you buy it for the best price? Thanks in advance! fed up

The dermatologist that created Proactiv, Dr. Katie Rodan, has an office in Oakland. I found ProActive was helpful, but I needed more help and she is quick to find whatever solution works for you. (She may coordinate the product with something else, or help you find a new product altogether) It can sometimes take a few weeks to get a first appointment, but in my case, it was definately worth it. She is located at 3300 Webster st. The number is 510 763-2662. Lisa

Another product you might want to consider is Obagi NuDerm products. They are used in conjunction with Retin A and have been wonderful in controlling my acne. I'm 35 and have been plagued with acne and hyperpigmentation since I was about 18. I've also used Retin A on and off for many years with some success but this stuff has done wonders. I originally started to use Obagi for my skin discoloration but, to my surprise, my acne was gone in about 3 weeks. I've been using it for about 7 months now and have had about 3 blemishes the entire time (where I used to break out about every other week). It's expensive stuff but it goes a long way. The 2 month supply really lasts about 5 months. Dermatologists will try and hawk the stuff but the best prices I found were on the internet. Check out Best of luck to you ! - acne no more

My aunt does a lot of research in the cosmetics field and she turned me on to Paula Begoun, ''the Ralph Nader of cosmetics'', who's written several books about skin care and beauty products (reviews and a good deal of debunking) including ''Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me'' which you can probably find it at the library. She rates pretty much every cosmetic and skin care product under the sun, from drugstore to department store to info-mercial product lines. I've learned to trust her research, and her take on most of the ProActiv line is that it's overpriced for what it is.

Meanwhile, one of the problems with Retin-A is that it's in a *cream* formulation, the base of which can actually clog pores and cause break-outs. (Pretty smart, huh? What are these people thinking?) I believe they're working on a gel formulation, but don't know when this will become available.

In her book ''The Beauty Bible'' Begoun discusses skin care issues and may have some more viable suggestions for you. Have you considered Accutane? It's an oral medication and I would think of that as a last resort, but the results are often amazing. (Do not even CONSIDER Accutane if you are thinking about becoming pregant as it causes severe birth defects.) I've had horrible acne most of my life and it cleared me right up about ten years ago. When it started to flare up again recently, along with Rosacea, I began taking Jasmine oral contraceptives and that's made a huge difference both in the acne on my face and on my back. Another acne sufferer

I have been reading up lately on PCOS, which is polycystic ovaries syndrome (or ovarian syndrome)- and one of the phenomena that goes into the diagnosis of the syndrome is persistent adult acne (in women) that responds poorly to treatment. PCOS is often treatable. It might be worth checking out with an endocrinologist, instead of a dermatologist, if this could be contributing to your acne. Just a thought, because PCOS is on my mind! Anonymous

I had stubborn, ''not terrible'' but painful and constant acne starting into my teens, which (contrary to what I'd been advised) did not abate well into my twenties. When Accutane came out, having tried every topical treatment available at that time (the 80's), I jumped right on the bandwagon. What a relief; by the end of the course of treatment, about six months as I recall, the acne was gone, and I have had great skin ever since. So while I have no information about Proactive (sounds, from the website, like it's pretty effective stuff), I can certainly recommend Accutane in case Proactive doesn't work for you. Accutane does interfere with embryonic development, so you have to take care not to become pregnant while taking it; otherwise its side effects are mild in most people (I experienced dryness of the eyes, for instance). If I had it to do over again, I'd still try every topical agent available first, though. Good luck! Katherine

I swear by Proactiv. After 17 years of trying every prescription, over-the-counter and department store acne treatments, this was the only product, aside from Accutane, that actually worked! I have had acne my entire life along with extremely senstive skin. I had seen the infomercials but always dismissed them as a lot of hype. When my skin flared up again after my daughter was born, a friend recommended this product. I was skeptical but after a week of use, my face was totally clear. I started to get compliments on my ''perfect complexion''. It was a dramatic difference with no side effects. I use the cleanser 2x daily, the toner 1-2x and the lotion as needed. I can sometimes get dry or a bit irritated with the lotion so I cut down on the use. I have been using this for a year and aside from occasional monthly zits (1 or 2 only), this is still working wonders for me. I use it just on my face but assume it will work just as well on other parts of the body. As far as I am concerned, it is a miracle. Nicole

Acne in Children

Blackheads & pimples on 5-year-old

Jan 2005

My son is 5 and a half and he is already getting blackheads and pimples! Breakouts are mostly around his nose and happen about once a month. He washes his face twice a day with soap. Should I be applying a benzoil peroxide treatment at this early age? Or a tea tree oil cleanser? Thanks for any advice. anon

You should consider taking your son to a dermatologist for a checkup. The dermatologist might have a better way to treat the acne and/or the underlying cause than you could yourself using over-the-counter remedies. Anon.

I'd stay away from tea tree oil. It is highly allergenic, especially once it has begun to oxidize. Former Tea Tree Oil Fan