My secret weapon against cystic acne

IMG_4231Kisses and clear skin from Rio

Okay, let’s get real: I don’t have perfect, airbrushed skin that women would die for. But I also don’t have disastrous skin with acne all over my face. No, I had particularly frustrating skin issues throughout my 20’s. I would get 1-2 large, deep, painful cystic acne that would takes weeks to pass and caused severe scarring, mainly on or around my chin. Sad truth.

Now I’m not saying looks are everything, but your face tends to be one of the first things people notice, considering your skin covers 100% of your face. And while make-up is one of mankind’s greatest inventions and helps tremendously, no concealer will hide a small mountain on your face. It was an arduous, painful and very expensive journey until I finally discovered the ONE treatment that actually made a difference and worked (and it is still working!).

Skin is our largest organ, and it’s hugely vulnerable because, well obviously, it’s constantly exposed to the sun, the environment and pollution. Then factor in internal causes, such as hormones, infections and genetics, and skin has a slim chance at appearing smooth, flawless and healthy. It’s difficult to rule out all the causes, because our bodies are always changing, and sometimes so is our environment.

Like many women, I saw a lot of changes in my skin during my hormonal cycles, and not much I can do about that (mother nature, am I right?). Next, if you’re a frequent traveler like me, you often get breakouts after flying, major sleep cycle changes or switching extreme climates. Airplane acne is a real thing, check out this article to learn more. Finally, life… stress propels a lot of changes in your body almost immediately, and without keeping that in check, your last rush of anxiety at work or at home can be a culprit in the ‘literally growing before your eyes’ breakout.

The least we can do, besides minimizing the factors mentioned above, is keep our face clean, whether with products or going to facials. However, in my experience, that’s not enough. I needed something supplementary from the inside that would control the hormonal changes that were clearly spiking my cystic acne. I tried many treatments and medications throughout the years, including antibiotics, birth control, topical retinoids and chemical peels. It’s important to note I was never a candidate for Isotretinoin (such as Accutane), and I never pursued it because of its harmful side effects.

So time and time again, I would get these ugly breakouts, usually a mounting bump on my chin, and I swear it would begin an emotional reaction as such: Denial, despair, effort to mitigate or treat intensely, cover up with make-up, and finally squeezing that sucker out with my own two hands… WORST thing you can do to your skin. What it left me with were new relatives of the main pimple in the surrounding area within just a few days, then finally, once the grand mound would go down, it would form a crater or depression in my skin that I would later spend a TON of money correcting.

One day, after complaining to my gynecologist about this issue, she offered me a solution without hesitating: Spironolactone. It is normally used to treat high BP, but when issued in lower doses, it has androgen blockers (that delivers just the teensiest bit of progestin) and makes you pee a lot (diuretic), but the point is it lowers hormone levels and oil production enough to stop acne in the lower half of your face. I was SUPER hesitant, especially she told me it would take up to 3 months to work. Who has time to have faith in a medicine when you have to wait a whole weather season??

Nonetheless, it was my Hail Mary attempt to clear my skin, and others things weren’t working, so why not? Surely enough, in about 2 months, I noticed that no new lumps were forming in my chin and jaw bone. Then no lumps of acne were forming anywhere else on my body (I would occasionally get painful cystic acne on my shoulders or back). I took my medication regularly (100mg of Spironolactone daily).

I’m one year in now, and it’s the first year in over a decade where I have NOT had any cystic acne, and my skin is clear. In fact, I very rarely get tiny zits from built-up make-up or dirt, but nothing that gets inflamed or huge. And guess who has two thumbs and no longer pops any zits? This girl! Lesson learned, all right.

So if you are out there suffering from cystic acne, and you feel like you’ve hit a wall with medications or treatments, why not learn more about Spironolactone? If you’re a good candidate, it can really make a difference not only in your skin, but your self-esteem and inner peace.

Comment below if you’ve struggled with acne and what treatments have or haven’t worked for you!


Beauty essentials to pack

travel suitcase

My biggest enemy when traveling is the weight limit of my carry-on luggage (sometimes even my check-in). Call me superficial or silly, but I say traveling is most enjoyable when you have some of your comfort essentials with you. Here are my beauty tools I always have, no matter where I’m going:

1. Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water

The best make-up remover of them all – feels like water, doesn’t irritate your skin or eyeballs and removes ALL residue. My favorite and most affordable micellar water is from Garnier.

2. Harry Josh Tools 2 inch round brush

We all know hair is your crown of beauty – and when I have to tame my long, stubborn hair, this brush does the trick! It’s a mix of boar bristles and Nylon, so it leaves my hair very shiny and bouncy. Harry Josh, the creator of these seafoam-colored products, is a celeb hairstylist that helped make Gisele’s mane as famous as the supermodel herself.

3. Alpha H Liquid Gold with Glycolic Acid

This was recently incorporated in my skin routine, and I’m obsessed! You can read more about the benefits of glycolic acid, especially if anti-aging and acne scarring are your skin’s trouble areas. I use it every 2-3 nights on its own or with a light moisturizer on top. They don’t call it Liquid Gold for nothing.

4. Bumble and bumble Prêt-à-powder

THIS! Dry shampoo is quite possibly the best invention in recent years, and this one does not dry out your scalp like many others. Also, it does not have a strong scent or leave a white residue. Get’s the job done, extends your blowout and adds volume.


5.  Freshmade Coconut Mask by Skinfood

If you love K-beauty, then you will really appreciate this plumping, moisturizing, self-absorbing face mask. It smells like you’re on a beach drinking a coconut, and your skin will have a youthful, fresh glow. It’s has food-based ingredients, which I probably why I love it (food is life, am I right?). Skinfood makes many other masks, but I like that this one you leave on and it melts into your skin without leaving any sticky residue.

6. Ouai Hair Oil

Apply it on wet and dry hair – Ouai’s hair oil is not heavy or greasy, it absorbs quickly and styles hair beautifully. They sell travel size oils in Sephora, but the main size is less than 100 ml, so it’s check-in luggage approved! Did I mention it smells heavenly and created by hair guru to the stars Jen Atkins?

7. Chantecaille Faux Cils Longest Lash Mascara

This magical mascara is quite expensive, but I won’t put anything else on my lashes. It has actual peptides that help your lashes stay strong and grow, not to mention it adds volume and length from the coating. I always get asked if my lashes are real – happy to say that they are, and this is my secret!

8. Trish McEvoy Beauty Booster Eye Serum

Trish knows her stuff – her make-up and skincare products are all made safe for sensitive, allergy-prone skin with the help of her husband, a renowned dermatologist in New York. This eye serum is like an immediate skin tightener, dark circle reliever and de-puffer, which is especially essential for red-eye flights and jet lag. And it has my FAVORITE ingredient, hyaluronic acid!


I am always on the lookout for new products, mainly because my skin changes with time and in different environments. So if you’ve tried other great products that you can’t travel without, please share them below!