Acne runs in both sides of my family. It's a drag.1
I'm 30 now and I still deal with it. I'm a little disappointed that it hasn't mostly vanished yet with age the way it did for my dad's sisters; but on the other hand, there are far worse cases out there.
About 6 years ago at isilya
's recommendation I made a longer (1.5-2 year?) attempt with the acne.org regimen (gentle face wash and a thick layer of 2% BP followed by optional moisturizing 1-2x day). I knew from high school that BP had made a slight difference, so I made what is for a disorganized person like me a truly colossal effort and did it, even though the whole routine took at LEAST 25 minutes per day. This was long enough to see an improvement, but also to see the maximum amount of help it could offer, which was not enough to be worth it to me, because besides the huge time suck, the procedure was actually pretty uncomfortable and had super annoying side-effects (mainly ruining things with bleach stains from accidentally touching clothes or linens with my face or neck within less than ≈1.5 hrs of the routine).
Then I read online last week that some studies
5% tea tree oil comparable to 5% BP, with fewer side effects2
I am already familiar with tea tree oil dating from my sojourn at Crunchy Aunt's house in 2003-04. It's an effective, pleasant topical anaesthetic (and antiseptic, although I haven't measured its effect on germs personally). Until last week I had more or less given up on acne products - for a few years I've mostly just applied tiny dabs of mint toothpaste gel3
as an anaesthetic to extra-painful inflamed zits, the ones that sit there throbbing distractingly on the skin, which are the worst part for me.
I figure that since my skin is tough, the worst that can happen is very mild skin irritation and it's far more likely that it just won't help. Even if it's less effective than BP, as long as it does make some difference the lack of bleach-related and thin-layer-of-gel-on-your-face-that-can-
later-come-off-related (tea tree oil basically absorbs into the skin without leaving a residue, not even an oily one like moisturizer) inconvenience would make it worth it. Even if it turns out to do nothing for me after six months or so, I'll still be slightly better off because I'll still have discovered The Body Shop's tea tree oil face cleanser, which I really really like (I have literally NEVER found a face cleanser that I really really like before: I'm sensitive to perfumed shit, which makes the land of face and body cosmetics a miserable jaunt into NONE OF THIS IS FOR YOU AND YOU WILL PROBABLY GAG IF YOU EVEN WALK INTO OUR DEPARTMENT OF THE STORE MUAHAHA - though kudos to Finland for having a couple of dependable domestic brands of unscented shampoos, shower gels, soaps, and moisturizers).
Oh, I should mention though, on the off chance that anybody has a sensitive nose and is suddenly thinking about tea tree oil - it has a really strong smell in its concentrated forms. Like, tea tree ointment4
or moisturizing mask, or even the facial cleanser, have a definite, rather penetrating, planty-medicinal odor that some people hate and some people like, but it's nothing that's going to knock you back into the wall. You don't have to write home about it. You can get a whiff, form an opinion and then quickly move on. It wouldn't necessarily influence your decision whether to buy a product one way or the other. I am slightly warmer than neutral towards it, without loving it. But if you open a bottle of the 15% solution? WOW. I put it on Wednesday night and then lay in bed awake for half an hour wrinkling my nose. waxjism
walked into the bathroom like 20 minutes after me and shouted "WHOAAA!" So, like, don't do that without cautiously sniffing the tester in the store or something first.
- Two of my contemporary cousins with slightly worse cases had several teenaged years of Accutane, the antibiotic that has been the popular Big Guns treatment; ten years later they're pretty much fine. But that has side-effects that make it still pretty hotly debated, so I think I'm still glad that my doctor was more cautious and prescribed a face cream with benzoyl peroxide that didn't actually help significantly.
- Although the medical trials with 5% oil found no significant side effects, I've seen anecdata about severe skin irritation caused by using it in a higher concentration. The Body Shop's oil, which I bought to try out because it was easy to obtain locally and a small, relatively cheap package, contains 15% tea tree oil. I'm planning to dilute it, but in its present form it was not a skin irritant to me, either. On another note, it can be poisonous if ingested in large quantity, and apparently can even cause symptoms when applied topically to animals? Although I have to admit I've put my own tea tree ointment on the cats and formerly on the dog for small cuts, needle trackmarks and rashes respectively without noticing any effect on them, so again, it might need a much larger concentration to do that. My ointment - typical for a healthfood store product - doesn't have any information about the concentration of the active ingredients in it even though it makes antibacterial claims on the packaging.
- Obviously, that doesn't work for like, going out. You can't wear toothpaste on your face under makeup. It's more of a Saturdays and before bed thing. I understand some people quite like drying spot treatments, though. I haven't tried any, but I don't rule out the possibility. If you know any brand names to suggest, they probably won't help me unless you're European because the EU has all kinds of laws that NA doesn't and also different brands of most OTC stuff in any case.
- Or lip balm, which I have owned before, and which I find really bemusing now that I know it's poisonous, because uh, even if lip balm has less than 1% of what you would need to be poisonous, it's not like you NEED it on your mouth, we have plenty of medicated lip balms that are perfectly effective already on the market...