Face Time

In Features, Magazine by RI Magazine

Beating acne came down to one crucial change.

BY GAIL KIM-IRVINE

Acne is hard enough to deal with as a teenager. On top of all the other pressures you’re facing, waking up to a big zit on your face is enough to send you running back to bed, afraid to face the world. But having experienced cystic acne as an adult, I’d argue that dealing with it later in life is even worse. For one thing, few adults have to deal with serious acne. In high school at least it seemed like half the other kids were going through the same thing. As an adult, however, you’re in a minority. Walking into work with serious acne draws even more curious looks because your peers aren’t as used to seeing it all the time.

The fact that I make my living on camera made it even harder for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone out to TNA Wrestling’s production truck to ask them not to zoom in on my face that night because I was dealing with another serious breakout.

Cystic acne is something I’ve dealt with for the last 15 years, and only managed to solve very recently. I had always assumed that my acne was hereditary because my mom had it until she was in her mid-40s. But knowing what was in store for me didn’t make it any easier. At various times my dermatologist put me on Accutane, antibiotics, and Proactiv, all with mixed results. The only thing that actually worked were injections, which I needed just about every week. In the meantime, I’d dread breakouts before shows, interviews, and other appearances.

The last straw came two years ago when I was with Robert at the Miami Food and Wine Festival. We were making the rounds and trying different foods and all of a sudden I had the worst cyst breakout of my life. I immediately went to my doctor to get blood tests for food allergies. The results for each food category came back as low or moderate. I then tried an elimination diet (which we addressed on Pg. 48 of our July/August issue) and found out that milk was the culprit all along. I never suspected that I might have a dairy allergy—I only use milk for my coffee or tea—but that little bit was causing me to break out.

Since ditching dairy, my skin has improved 10-fold.

Whether you’re dealing with moderate or severe acne—or just want to prevent it and keep your skin looking young—you can beat it with the right plan of attack. Here are the four most important things I’ve learned.

1) Wash your face every night. It sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed how many women I know who don’t do this. Especially if you wear makeup, this is an absolute must. Failing to do this will age you fast.

2) In the morning, splash your face with water and use a light sunscreen. Since I wash my face at night, I don’t usually wash it in the morning because over-washing can dry out your skin. You might differ, but I’ve found this works well for me.

3) Drink a lot of water. More than using an expensive moisturizing cream, the best moisturizing you can do for your skin is to drink a ton of water. People with acne usually think they need to dry out their skin because it feels oily, but what you really need is balance. Drinking plenty of water helps you achieve that balance.

4) Form a good relationship with a dermatologist. If you have a serious issue to work through like I did, find a dermatologist who’s willing to go the distance with you to figure out what the root of the problem is. No medical professional of any kind ever has all the answers. But the ones who are willing to take the time to listen to you and problem solve will usually find the answers you need.