Meet the Woman Who Helped Me Win My Twenty Year Battle With Acne
When I was thirteen years old, hanging out at the local pool, a girl came up to me and asked what was wrong with my forehead. After the knot in my stomach loosened up enough for me to speak, I blurted out that I was allergic to the sun. I just couldn’t say the word “pimples”. When I was a camp counselor early in college, an innocent 8 year old camper told me how pretty I’d be if only I didn’t have those bumps all over my face - ouch. Throughout my early twenties, I remember watching my friends pass out in all of their makeup, only to wake up day after day with beautiful, unblemished skin. I was so confused. What was I doing wrong? I religiously removed my makeup, washed my face, and used oil-free products to cover up blemishes. But still the acne persisted.
During my late twenties and early thirties, my acne changed. Rather than small bumps across my face, it became more cystic. After two pregnancies that caused major acne flare ups, I was left with skin that was pigmented from melasma and acne lesions. Super fun.
5 years ago, I cleaned up my diet in a major way - very little dairy, processed foods, sugar, or gluten. I drink tons of water, use moisturizer and spf. I make sure to use oil-free products, and was even making some of my skin care products at home so I could keep an eye on all of the ingredients. I was going to estheticians, getting monthly facials that targeted acne. I was using regimens that promised clear skin.
Yet still the acne persisted.
It’s hard to put into words how demoralizing this battle is. It’s like a tunnel with no light. Totally in the dark. Blaming your body, your hormones, your blood, your genetics, food, life, anything. Let me tell you, blaming yourself everyday, every single time you look in the mirror...it’s not a good feeling.
My one saving grace was makeup. I was a total makeup junkie. Each product I purchased was to cover up or draw attention away from my acne. Contouring, highlighting, cat eyes, bold lips...all an attempt to distract from the giant bumps all over my cheeks and jawline. I swear you’d think I was moonlighting as a makeup artists if you saw my makeup drawer. Out of control. But hey, the folks at sephora loved me and all those points were amazing!
Not only was I a makeup junkie, my quest for the magical elixir was never ending.
My obsession with skincare and laser procedures started costing me ridiculous amount of money. But every product and procedure fell short of its promises, so I kept searching. I can honestly say I never found a pill, product or procedure that alleviated my acne for longer than a week or two. It always came back. Freakin’ ant pile.
At the age of 33, I’d finally had enough. I decided to take matters out of the hands of product marketers who kept filling me with false hope. I booked an appointment with a Functional Medicine practitioner to discuss my acne. To be clear, I had seen my fair share of dermatologists - over the span of two decades not a single antibiotic or topical ointment they perscribed ever worked. And if I heard a dermatologist tell me one more time that as soon as I started using moisturizer, the acne would clear up, I was going to flip my shit. (I already used moisturizer, and no it did not clear anything up). I was over dermatologists. Functional Medicine is an approach to medicine that focuses on the body as a whole and gets to the root of the problem, rather than masking the symptoms. I am a student of Functional Medicine, and had never thought to apply this school of thought to my acne until that pivotal light bulb moment.
During my appointment, the practitioner instructed me to get two labs done - one for my hormones and another to test for food allergies. But then she also gave me the best thing that could have ever happened for my acne. A name! She gave me the most magical name that I will be forever grateful for. Alissa Chasen - acne specialists and owner of POREspective.
Alissa also battled chronic acne. She’s been in the trenches. She totally understands how it feels. So, she decided to become an expert in acne, and cure herself. She studied all types of acne - not just her own. She tirelessly studied foods, ingredients, products, lifestyle habits, and anything else you can imagine that could be an acne causing culprit.
In other words, she made acne her bitch.
After spending approximately one second on her website, POREspective, I booked an appointment with her. Before stepping foot into her office, she asked me to send her a list of literally every single product I was using, from makeup and skincare to hair care, toiletries, laundry detergent, supplements, etc and then a run down of my diet and lifestyle. In addition, she also asked for pictures of my acne so she could put together an assessment. At the bottom of her intake is a space for additional comments. Just to give you an idea of my desperation, here’s what I wrote word for word “I have basically given up hope that anything will cure my acne. I have tried everything. Am searching for a miracle”’.
Well, a miracle is what I got - no doubt. Before my appointment, Alissa sent me a full analysis on my acne and cited the cause. I felt like I was reading a suspense novel, I couldn’t wait to get to the end and find out the gremlin that was causing my acne. The answer - man, oh man, it stung…the cause of my acne: Self-Inflicted.
OUCH!!! What? But I’ve been doing everything right? I eat right, I use acne friendly products, I take care of my skin….right?
The reality of that report hit me hard, and even made me angry. How could I be the one that was causing my acne for the past twenty years? It wasn’t my hormones, my genetics, my blood, my anything. It was all the shit I was putting on my skin on a daily basis and some of the ingredients I was ingesting that had been the culprit all along. And I thought it was good!
The ingredients that Alissa cited as the cause for my acne don’t cause acne for everyone. Alissa used my acne and skin type as clues to hunt down the acne-causing ingredients that were specific to my acne. “My” acne also happens to be a very common. So if you’ve been battling acne for several years, it might just be time to reevaluate your products.
Luckily for me, I had already conquered the hardest part of the acne culprit clean up which was the diet. Alissa cited that her clients usually have the most difficulty transitioning to an acne friendly diet - removing processed foods, sugar, and other culprits. So for me, the clearing (of both skin and culprits) went quickly. All I had to do was go home and replace my makeup, skin care regimen, laundry detergents and supplements that contained specific ingredients. I thought saying goodbye to my amazing makeup collection would be difficult, but I sucked it up and chose to say goodbye to my acne instead.
Not only did Alissa give me the entire list of acne causing ingredients I needed to avoid, but she broke down all of the products I was using daily into categories of Approved and Avoid. Out of my entire makeup collection I only had one product for the face that was approved, and that was the Bare Minerals Original Foundation. I had to throw out my Lancome oil-free foundation, Nars, Smashbox, Mac...the list goes on. That was the hardest part. I said my tearful goodbyes and moved the hell on. I went to Walgreens and purchased my Tide Free & Clear, said goodbye to my dryer sheets, and said good bye to EVERY SINGLE ONE of my skin care products. Every product I was using to take care of my skin contained acne causing ingredients. Again to be clear, acne causing ingredients for my type of skin, not every type of skin. And the sad thing is, is that many of these products were specifically meant to clear acne.
Some of the ingredients I was shocked by were algae and seaweed derivatives, biotin, soy (not so shocked by soy, but shocked that I had overlooked it in some of my supplements), coconut oil and derivatives (applied topically is acne causing, ingested is totally OK), kelp and argan oil and B-12. The list is much bigger than that - but to be honest, when I read makeup and skin care labels in the past I wasn’t sure what all the other ingredients were. So if it said natural, organic, oil-free or acne clearing on it, I assumed it was safe. Many of the products I was using that were specifically for acne clearing actually contained many of the ingredients that were causing my breakouts (not included in the ingredients I just listed).
Another great thing about Alissa is that she has created a skincare line that is made up of all approved ingredients for those who suffer from acne, And guess what - the entire regimen she recommended for me (4 products in all), was less than one of the acne causing products I was using (Goop’s Luminous melting cleanser). After my consultation to review the assessment, Alissa provided a medical grade facial for me. My skin was glowing after. My skin never glows after facials - I usually look like I’ve been hit by a train and attacked by a tiger. Aliisa is an expert and knew when to go for an extraction and when to leave it alone. She knew the exact right products, peels, and masks to use to help my skin.
I am delightfully stunned to say that in the eight weeks it’s been since I’ve first seen her, I have had only one blemish, and that was about two days after our initial meeting. I honestly can not remember the last time in my life that I went even one week without a new break out.
Now that we have the breakouts taken care of, we will begin working on the pigmentation issues caused by breakouts. Alissa is a miracle worker. Take a look at her before and after photos on her website. I am telling you, If you have been suffering with acne, POREspective is your answer. I will be forever grateful and amazed. Alissa knows her stuff. Most of all though she cares about her clients and about restoring the confidence that acne has robbed from them.
Finally, after twenty years I can leave the house without makeup. Alissa was the miracle I never thought I’d find.