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Face Matters: Part Three – Beating Acne and My New Skincare Routine

I received a request recently for an update on my skin. I first blogged about my skin struggles a little over two years ago. I was dealing with frequent acne flairs worse than I had ever experienced in my life. For some back story check out this post and I blogged about the amazing feedback/suggestions I received in this post. I feel like I am finally getting back to a happy place with my skin so I wanted to share with you what my skincare routine looks like these days.

First, although I hate getting this personal on my blog, I have to admit that I’m back on birth control pills. After taking them for almost 10 years, I decided to go off  to cleanse my system of the hormones. This is when the acne really started to get bad. I took about a year off and then couldn’t take it anymore so I went back on the pill. It’s taken quite a while but I feel like things have finally regulated again from a hormonal standpoint. I still deal with the occasional breakout but nothing like the really angry, deep rooted, scarring stuff that I was getting.

Second, approaching 30 finally gave me the kick in the ass that I needed to start a “big girl” skincare routine. Back in February I visited Carolina Facial Plastics for a skincare analysis and my first enzyme peel. I was blown away by the results of the peel and I’m completely in love with the line of products they sent me home with.


I have been using Image MD products for over six months now and I’m so happy with them! My current arsenal of products includes the Image MD Complete System Kit (Reconstructive Cleanser, Reconstructive Serum with Tri-C Complex, Reconstructive Repair Creme, Reconstructive Moisturizer SPF 30), The Max Serum and Ormedic Eye Lift Gel.

Pevonia Hydrating Toner

In addition to the Image MD products, I’ve also been using this seriously amazing Pevonia Hydrating Toner that my esthetician sent me home with a little over a month ago. She told me if I added one thing to my skincare routine, this had to be it. My impression of toner was that it would strip my skin of all its natural oils but that is not the case at all. I spritz this on my face morning and evening and it seems to balance my skin out just right. Bonus, it smells lovely.

Here’s the rundown on my current routine…

AM: cleanser, toner, eye gel, moisturizer SPF 30
PM: cleanse, toner, eye gel, The Max Serum

My esthetician advised me not to use the repair products during the summer because the vitamin c and retinoids make skin a lot more sensitive to sun and I’m out in it a lot so I’m on hiatus with those until fall.

Some photos for comparison.


Two years ago, no birth control, no skincare routine.


Almost seven months ago after my first enzyme peel, on birth control, no skincare routine. Note, I have had another facial/enzyme peel since this one and I now swear by them. I’ll be getting one at least quarterly for maintenance. I can’t believe what they do for my skin.


Today after almost seven months of my new skincare routine.

Overall, I’m extremely happy with where I am with my skin right now. Although it’s not really apparent in the photo above, I do still have quite a bit of scarring on the bottom of my cheeks around my mouth that I’d like to continue working lightening and smoothing out but I feel like I’ve come a long way in two years! The only thing I’m terrified about is going off of birth control again but I’ll cross that bridge when it’s time.

Tell me about the state of your skin. What are you struggling with? What’s working for you? 

{ 40 comments… add one }
  • Shashi @ http://runninsrilankan.com July 24, 2013, 1:14 pm

    Awesome timing on this post!
    I have been using Olay Professional acne protocol, but, I am about out and after searching just about every store around, I found out that Olay has discontinued this line 🙁
    Along the way, I have tried many other products but my skin just doesn’t seem to be happy with them. I checked out your link to Image MD and was wondering – which of their lines are intended for acne control for adults?
    Thank you so very much for getting personal and being transparent … so love your blog because of it!

  • Courtney F July 24, 2013, 1:15 pm

    I’m right there with you girl. I went off for about a year and my skin blew up. I went back on b/c I needed the hormone regulation. Birth control, along with a primal lifestyle, have really got my skin in a great place. I also started a “big girl :o)” skin routine when I turned 30 (I’m 33 now). It’s a bummer that we have to send more on our skin now, but I feel I look better than I did in highschool. Since you started talking about peels, I’ve been investigating places in my city and I’m thinking of diving in. Keep us updated!! Cheers!!

    • Jen July 26, 2013, 10:09 pm

      i’ve heard great things about dairy/gluten elimination and skin. i haven’t eliminated those things from my diet but i have reduced them.

      i think it’s worth the money to take care of your face! let me know if you try a peel. start with something mild like an enzyme peel before moving into anything more intense.

  • julia July 24, 2013, 2:02 pm

    Your skin looks fantastic! I went through a similar change in my complexion last year due to hormones and it’s taken many months and a trip to the dermatologist to finally get it under control. One thing that has really helped is bringing my Clarisonic with me to the gym to use before and immediately after my workouts.

    • Jen July 26, 2013, 10:13 pm

      that’s such a good idea. i do have sweaty skin often! i’m sure it would help if i cleansed more routinely right after workouts.

  • meredith July 24, 2013, 2:22 pm

    My skin is more sensitive than acne prone. I recently needed to switch all of my make up products from Dior to paraben-free, true hyp-allergenic ingredients because I was dealing with red, irritated puffy eyes as well as puffiness underneath causing darkness underneath. As soon as I stopped using my routine products, immediately results occurred. I now use Dr. Dennis Gross skincare which is paraben free and plant based skincare and I am also using Clinique make up. At first I felt like a kid going back to Clinique but I love it! Not to mention, I barely need any make up these days since my complexion changed so much. I didn’t realize how affected my skin was by the ingredients in the products I was using.

    • Jen July 26, 2013, 10:16 pm

      that is so interesting and it all definitely makes sense. i haven’t made a switch to natural makeup but the image md is all plant based. something to consider for sure.

  • LeAnne July 24, 2013, 2:23 pm

    Your skin looks great! This comes at a great time because I am STILL struggling with acne…my skin used to be better in high school! (I’m almost 27 now). I appreciated your honesty on your blog, and look forward to reading others’ comments regarding what they use…HELP!

    • Jen July 26, 2013, 10:20 pm

      go back and read all the suggestions in the post i referenced above. it’s super helpful! tons of good feedback.

  • Meaghan July 24, 2013, 3:13 pm

    Great post Jen! I’m starting to delve into a more adult skincare routine and can use any advice and help I can get… So far I’ve stuck to different Olay anti-aging products for the most part. I NEED to start wearing SPF everyday. There’s no point in doing anything if I don’t do that.

    • Jen July 26, 2013, 10:20 pm

      i’ve heard really great things about the olay anti-aging lines. and YES! spf is priority #1!!!

  • Dana @momrunshalf July 24, 2013, 3:15 pm

    I have been using Image for a little over a year now and getting face peels from an esthetician and my acne has completely cleared up. I got horrible adult acne after having my 2 boys and birth control made it worse so I am glad it is working for you

    • Jen July 26, 2013, 10:21 pm

      so glad to hear you’ve found a routine that works for you too and that the image products are working!

  • Katherine July 24, 2013, 3:23 pm
  • PracticingGrace July 24, 2013, 7:04 pm

    I’m young but I think I should start using an anti-aging regimen and products. Gotta do something about those laugh lines!!

    • Jen July 26, 2013, 10:22 pm

      never too early to take good care of your skin and find a good regimen.

  • GracieJay July 24, 2013, 7:22 pm

    Wow, I am so glad you shared my sentiment! I, too, never had any skin issues growing up in Miami even as a teenager, and upon my move to L.A. in my early 20’s, I began to experience the worst type of acne…I heard it from everyone, it is the weather, it is adult onset, improper food combining, etc. So during my teacher training, I was required to have an Ayurvedic Consultation, and after an examination he diagnosed me with a Pitta imbalance, heat issues, inflammation in my body, and put me on a few supplements that I now swear by: Triphala, Blood Cleansers, & Ashwagandha, he also recommended lowering my spicy food intake during hot summer months, adding Turmeric to my meals, and cooking with and applying coconut oils to the skin. of course, stress is a big factor, too. The thing about these natural types of remedies, is that they are by no means a quick fix. It took almost a year of implementing these lifestyle changes for them to work! But man, what a difference! Of course, I have a few lingering discolorations and so at the recommendation of a Massage client of mine, she gifted me with a bottle of Pratima, also a line of Ayurvedic oils and skin remedies! Love. Love. Love, how quickly it working,and of course I also changed my sunblock to trader joe’s brand which doesnt make me break out. Since I am now in a drier climate, I also began adding a daily moisturizer to my regimen, Burt’s Bees Day Carrot Cream and Night Royal Jelly cream! Also love! Ok sorry that was a mouthful! Love your blog!

    • Jen July 26, 2013, 10:24 pm

      thank you SO much for taking the time to share all of this. it’s fascinating and i’m so happy you’ve found a natural solution that works for you. i definitely believe in the value of all of it. and you’re so right that nothing is a quick fix and you have to give it time.

  • Jayne July 24, 2013, 9:22 pm

    I had the same problem, I didn’t have acne in high school but the moment I went to college I had multiple breakouts. I used Cetaphil with moderate results until I recently came across the doctors who created Proactiv, Dr. Rodan and Dr. Fields, are now treating Anti-Aging, Hormonal Acne, Sun Damage and Sensitive skin with their new skin line Rodan + Fields Dermatologists. I signed up using the hormonal acne regimen and within 3-4 weeks my face was clear and much smoother. I enjoyed the products so much that I signed up as an independent consultant, if you want to know more please contact me at haire.jayne@gmail.com .

    • Whitney July 24, 2013, 11:02 pm

      I swear by Proactiv! My skin has never been so clear! 🙂

    • Jen July 26, 2013, 10:25 pm

      jayne – thanks so much for the suggestions! i have heard a lot about the line!

  • Frances July 25, 2013, 9:46 am

    What is your ethnicity?

    • Jen July 26, 2013, 10:27 pm

      most of my coloring is from my dad whose family has hungarian lineage…my bone structure is more from my mom and no notable background there.

  • Lauren July 25, 2013, 2:52 pm

    I went on birth control when I was 19 to clear up acne as well. It got wayyy worse before it got better, but now it’s pretty much completely clear. I’m worried about going off of BC eventually too…I hate being on them for the same reasons you said, but I’m so worried that all my acne will come back. These are great tips for the future, thanks!

    • Jen July 26, 2013, 10:27 pm

      i know, i worry about it too!

  • laura July 25, 2013, 3:59 pm

    I am very anti birth control, medication and chemical laden beauty products but after having my second daughter last year, my skin was breaking out worse than it did in high school. I ended up getting perscription strength retin a and its doing wonders! I figure if its the only chemical im using in my entire beauty routine then im OK with it.
    Your skin looks flawless!

    • Jen July 26, 2013, 10:28 pm

      laura – i’m so glad you found something that works for you. i think it’s pretty impressive that it’s the only thing you’re using!

  • Brittany @ proteinandpumps July 25, 2013, 9:38 pm

    I also have to take birth control pulls for my skin. If I’m off of the. For any amount of time I get really painful, cystic acne and it is the only thing that has ever worked for me. Besides accutane as a teenager but that’s an even more controversial drug than BC.

    • Jen July 26, 2013, 10:29 pm

      wow, i’m glad birth control is working for you. the accutane is scary stuff but i know it’s helped so many with cystic acne.

  • Dr. Kulbersh July 25, 2013, 9:45 pm


    I was so happy to run across your blog today. I am thrilled to hear about the improvement of your skin and your new found dedication to taking care of it. As a facial plastic surgeon, I try to emphasize the importance of skin care to all of my patients. The skin is the canvas of the face and dull skin with pigmentary irregularities can distract from the other beautiful features of the face (eyes, smile, etc). For young patients it is great to start taking care of the skin as it will help maintain the skin. For damaged older skin, stimulating the skin to reverse the previous damage can enlighten the face.

    It matters the type of skin care products that patients use. Over the counter skin care by law cannot penetrate beneath the most superficial layers of the skin. This characteristic will limit their ability. On the other hand, medical grade skin care can penetrate to deeper levels of skin allowing for better results.

    Jennifer, thank you for bringing this to the attention of your readers and we welcome you back anytime!

    Warmest regards,
    Dr. Kulbersh

  • Ashley July 26, 2013, 9:50 am

    Your skin looks great!!! There something about a clear complexion that really boosts a girls confidence! I broke down and went to a dermatologist about a year ago myself… turns out I have rosacea. Totally treatable and not necessary to suffer from… great news for me! Since I’ve started treatment I don’t have to worry about being embarrassed about my complexion.
    Congrats on your success!

    • Jen July 26, 2013, 10:30 pm

      ashley – so glad to hear you went to visit a derm. i love them! it’s so true about feeling more confident when your skin looks good.

  • Sharon July 26, 2013, 10:29 am

    Your skin looks amazing! My face has been acne free for about a year now, I have been using Belli Skin Care’s Anti Blemish Facial Wash and it really did clear up my face. What I love about their products is that they are chemical free, so they don’t irritate my face…a BIG PLUS!

  • Vanessa July 28, 2013, 11:49 pm

    Hi Jen,

    Would you feel comfortable sharing what birth control pill you are using? I am thinking about going back on the pill because my hormones have been out of whack since my son was born. Thanks!!

    • LeAnne July 29, 2013, 9:28 am

      That would be great info! I’m actually wanting to switch the brand I use because of horrible headaches and I think my current one has been contributing to my acne and other skin issues. Thanks in advance!

  • Jenny January 13, 2014, 10:21 am

    When you got your skin car assessment done, did they give you any special instructions for balancing your skincare and workouts? I often workout before and after work. I do wear a small amount of makeup everyday but I worry washing my face too often will make my complexion worse but won’t also sweating with make up on?

  • Rebecca July 19, 2014, 11:15 pm

    I second Rodan & Fields. I use the Reverse line. It helped with old scars & sun damage, especially with the Macro tool. I still break out sometimes, but just use the acne rash wash 1-2x a week as a mask.

    I keep meaning to try Aldi!

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