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My relationship with acne as a teenage and into my early twenties was pretty average. I had a few seemingly horrendous breakouts and a consistent but easy to hide 1-2 pimples at any given time, but I never needed to branch out beyond a drugstore or see a dermatologist for my skin.
When I moved to India for work, my face broke out into multiple large cysts that created mounds of pus and swelling redness across my face. All combinations of make-up could not hide them. Teachers and even my own students would ask me what was going on with my face. Once a complete stranger, a teenage Indian boy walking down the street, pointed at my face and quizzically asked: “Pimple or mosquito?”
Today I live in Cairo, but I am acne free. Even though I will be dealing with the leftover scarring for awhile, I don’t even get the 1-2 pimples that I used to always sport during my teenage years. I saw two dermatologists (one in India and one in Egypt), and each time I was prescribed creams and oral antibiotics with few results.
To be truthful, I got the most success by following a routine using these easy-to-locate items:
Before I lose all credibility hear me out: I used to be one of those people who got glossy-eyed and bored when people waxed poetic on the sunscreen. But if you are experiencing cystic acne (especially if you think it is linked to pollution like mine was), this is a must. In addition to it protecting your skin from the sun, it will also protect your skin from the environmental stressors like pollution. It also keeps your acne scars from getting darker, thus helping them to fade more over time.
2. Two cleansers
One for make-up removal and one foam cleanser. When I was scrubbing my face raw with St Ives twice a day, even though my skin felt clean, it really wasn’t. The beloved apricot scrub was actually creating micro-tears in my face and grinding dirt into my pores. Now I use one cleanser for make up removal (like Ponds Cold Cream) and one foaming cleanser. This makes my skin actually clean without using a hard scrub.
3. A spot treatment
To treat the acne you do have, you should always have a spot treatment that includes benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. In some countries you can get great acne treatments over-the-counter. In Egypt I use a .5% tretinoin on my face every night which has greatly reduced scarring and rate of cysts.
4. Moisturizer and Vaseline
I always thought that to get rid of acne you had to dry it out. That oil created acne, and if I didn’t have any of it, I wouldn’t get cysts. Wrong. It turns out that I was dealing with a broken moisture barrier. Now every night I put on a layer of moisturizer and a layer of vaseline to lock it all in. (Vaseline, by the way, very likely will not break you out. It is an occlusive, which means that it sits on top of your pores, not clogging them.)
5. Hydrocolloid bandaids and Neosporin
For when you do get a cyst, put some Neosporin on it and cover with a hydrocolloid bandaid overnight. It will drain the pus out of the cyst and significantly reduce your healing time. (I have used regular bandaids with some success too.)
Neosporin should be used sparingly, so only on your worst cysts.
If on the move a lot and traveling light, be sure to store your skin care items in travel size bottles and tubs.
Have you ever experienced skin problems on the road? What’s on your packing list for sensitive skin?
>> Check out Dara’s other post on The Sensitive Traveler Survival Kit.
About the author: Dara Denney currently lives in Egypt where she is a Kindergarten teacher by day and a freelance writer by night. Find her at: The Traveller’s Cookbook