Acne 102: How to Treat Acne Without Sacrificing Your Skin Health

Acne 102: How to Treat Acne Without Sacrificing Your Skin Health

*Make sure to read Part 1 of this series as it contains some foundational knowledge about acne.*

As someone who's dealt with acne since the age of 14, I know how it feels to try basically everything and still not see success. From Tretinoin to at home chemical peels and everything in between, I can say I've tried my fair share of popular acne treatments only to find myself back at square one.

So what's the deal? Why do so many acne treatments touted online not seem to work for you like others? The key lies in the fact that many popular treatments rely on targeting one sole factor in acne formation and don't do much for the other contributing factors. Most acne treatments tend to offer either exfoliation or oil absorbance as their main mechanism of action. However, if you remember from the first part of this series, this treatment approach is based on an outdated view of how acne works. Acne is not caused by lack of exfoliation or over-production of oil alone, so this is why treatments that only focus on those aspects never work long-term. 

It's essential to keep in mind that since acne is a multi-factorial condition, your treatment approach has to target multiple factors in order for it to work long term. 

Essential Parts of Successful Acne Treatment

The most successful acne treatments always include the following components:

  • Lifestyle Modifications: This includes dietary changes and modifying any contributing lifestyle factors. 
  • Acne-Safe Products: Comedogenic ingredients are known to worsen acne and it's vital to ensure all your products (including makeup & hair-care products) are free of ingredients like this, especially in the early stages of your acne clearing journey. 
  • Stress Management: A commonly overlooked aspect to acne clearance. Managing stress and anxiety can have a huge influence on your skin and inflammation levels.
  • Barrier Repair & Protection: The number one downside of many acne treatments today is that they are overly aggressive and impair the skin barrier over time. They are also often poorly formulated and don't provide much support for the skin. While it may be tempting to try and chemical peel or exfoliate your acne away, keep in mind that the short term results you get from this will soon give way to worse skin issues down the line. Your number one defense against acne is a healthy, intact skin barrier. I always encourage and only recommend products that provide essential support to the skin while targeting the acne. Without this, your skin will continue to run in circles.
  • Patience & Consistency: It's important to know that the biggest factor in your acne clearance journey is you. You have to come prepared to be patient, trust the process/your skin professional and be ready to stay consistent. In our instant gratification world, it's become common to expect overnight results. This is just not how skin or acne works and you may be surprised to find out that acne clearance can sometimes take over a year, especially for people who come in with quite impaired & over-abused skin. Slow & steady will always win the race and keep in mind that your acne didn't form overnight in the first place. My most successful acne clients understand that clearing acne is often a slow, variable process with ups & downs and they come prepared to commit to the process. 

What To Expect During Your Acne Clearance Journey

 Something that isn't talked about often enough is what to expect in the process of clearing acne. Overnight results are not sustainable and it's important to be aware of what a healthy acne clearing process looks like so you don't throw in the towel when things start changing with your skin.

  • Purging: This is often the most common aspect of the acne journey. Acne tends to get worse before it gets better. Purging refers to your skin bringing up congestion from underneath which can look like an increase in breakouts. While it may seem like your skin is getting worse, this is a great sign and indicates that your skin is actually getting healthier. Healthy skin brings up congestion to the surface as part of its normal shedding process while unhealthy skin holds on to congestion for long periods of time and never truly gets rid of it. Purging is temporary and clear skin is usually on the other side of some very intense purging periods.
  • The "Washout" Effect: This is often experienced when you switch from drying acne treatments to properly formulated, skin-supportive products. You may notice your skin actually gets flakier and feels tighter. This is also a temporary response as your skin adjusts to being more hydrated and getting healthier.
  • It's Going to Take Time: This can be the hardest pill to swallow for my acne clients. The truth is that there is no product that can clear your acne overnight without sacrificing your skin's overall health. The acne process takes time as your skin works through months-years of harsh treatments and returns to a healthy baseline. Acne clearance can take anywhere from 6 months to over a year but it is 100% worth it.
  • Acne is Controlled Not Cured: The final thing to expect on your journey is that your acne will never be completely cured. Acne prone skin will always be acne prone, so our goal is to help your skin perform at its optimal best. Occasional breakouts especially during times of stress & hormonal fluctuations are normal and nothing to fear. The true hallmark of acne control is how your skin responds when it does get a breakout. Well-controlled, healthy skin is able to get rid of these pimples quickly and without much scarring; it also bounces back well which is exactly what we want long-term.


Acne can be a tricky process to navigate but with education & the right skin professional by your side, your skin can reach new heights of health. I always recommend working with a qualified, educated skin therapist who can guide you through the often tricky acne clearance journey. This in-depth monitoring and guidance is available through Cocoa Esthetiques' Full Program. If you're ready to get to the bottom of your acne, click above to learn more about what this program can look like for you.

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