I had acne regularly since I was 13 years old. I am now 31. For the last 18 years, I have tried everything: Retin-A and Benzaclin to store benzoyl peroxide. In addition to Accutane, contraception, and antibiotics, I’ve been internally involved with every supposedly diet-defying diet. I traveled from coast to coast and consulted with top aesthetics and dermatologists in New York and San Francisco. I had regular facials, lasers, and off-label treatments. I’ve worked through a list of the most popular articles in the Into The Gloss comments and the top-rated products in Makeup Alley. I have prayed to the patron saints of clear skin (Beyoncé and Angela Bassett). Eighteen years is a long time, so I tried each treatment for the required six to eight weeks to make sure it was not “just-cleaned”.
In middle school, I saw a local beautician my mother knew. We went to her home and I sat on a chair in her kitchen for an hour while making extractions on my face. She always sent me home with “the scrub,” which was really just a homemade body scrub. (It was 2006, OK?) After that came the high school and endless dermatologist visits, where I slowly made myself through Differin, Tazorac, Epiduo, the works. Last year someone finally put me on Accutane. It seemed like a charm – and so did too.
It was not that my acne was extreme, it was just so damn stubborn. Some things have done a bit better. A few made it worse. Most of the time I saw no difference, except for Accutane, who allowed me a few years of sailing before my skin slowly turned into a comedone rodeo. And in all these years, I have NEVER left the house without make-up – both on my face and in my handbag. It blew me away that anyone could. Reading magazine tips on simply “doting on concealer” and skipping the full face primer was like suggesting I try it barefoot. I have friends and slept in my make-up, afraid they might take a look at my natural skin. As I hugged someone, I made the uncomfortable movement with my head strained to avoid leaving a continent in Clinique color on her shoulder. This is the catch in acne: you feel the need to cover it up all the time, to boost your self-esteem, and yet wearing drugstore makeup torments your pores 23 hours a day.
Me with acne
I found AES Skin Clinic 2015 in San Francisco. It was during one of my desperate searches at 3 am, after thinking about tearing my face down for another day. The reviews of the clinic were unassailable and all came from people like me. They wrote that they had tried everything under the sun and had reached the end of their collective efforts. And then they all wrote that the impossible had happened, that they had successfully cleaned their skin. Every single one. One hundred and seventy-two ratings and five perfect stars. I didn’t have anything to lose and made an appointment.
The first good sign was that, before I was appointed, I had to fill out a form that queried my entire history of acne: everything I tried and whether it worked or not, my current skincare routine, make-up Lineup, food diary and more. This was already a change from my usual dermatologist visits, where I waited 45 minutes, trying to summarize my entire complexion history in 30 seconds for a doctor who at best half listened, and then waited until she ticked off a checklist of prescriptions I found one I had not tried.
AES Skincare was created by beautician Kimmy Pigliucci. Her entire scientific approach is based on Dr. James Fulton and his book Acne RX. You might also know him as the person who discovered Retin-A. Kimmy’s philosophy is to ask what acne is and how it develops and then eliminate those factors. Instead of dealing with acne symptoms, it eliminates their causes.
Kimmy gives you a handful of avoidable foods and a list of 138 ingredients that may cause acne. You have to remove them all.
The list is exhaustive and, frankly, daunting. But it has to be. As she explains, you may only be affected by five ingredients – but how do you know which five, unless you cut them all? Every human’s skin is very different, which is why most acne treatments are unevenly effective. Her approach addresses all of these variables by making far-reaching changes, including nutrition, lifestyle, hormonal triggers, and above all, comedogenic ingredients.
That’s the main problem: many of these ingredients, such as isopropyl myristate, butylene glycol, and cetyl alcohol, are in the vicinity of everything. Toner, toothpaste, my beloved foundation hiding my craters. To lighten the blow, it offers lists of regime-friendly products.
My skin now
Reader, it works. Five years have passed and if I stick to the plan my skin will react clearly and evenly. And I tell you, as someone who has never lasted more than three hours with Whole 30, it’s not that hard. Once your skin is clear in three months, you can reintroduce your old products to see how your skin reacts. It’s like an elimination diet for your face.
To keep my acne at bay while I was still in my one-woman show entitled, “I tried, so you do not have to,” I made a chart with a list of all things that I shun [should]. If I want to try a new product, I refer to the ingredients in the table and highlight everything that is on the list of banned products. That way, when I start breaking out, I can find out which ingredient triggers me. I appreciate Kimmy’s honesty in explaining that acne can not be cured but is only treated. So it’s a lifetime commitment. But there are just too many new products that call my name!
You may think what I thought at first: If success is practically guaranteed (which it is), why is not this approach everywhere on the Internet? Why does not every acne sufferer on earth try this? And the answer is: I do not know. Sometimes I think about getting into Reddit’s skincare to see if there are others, but I’m tired and have so much love island to see. Besides, I’ll tell you all now.
– Sam Verdile
Photos about ITG and the author.