Acne has been a huge source of frustration in my life for…12 years? 15 years? A long time. PCOS means that acne wasn’t a transitory teenage frustration. Rather, it’s been a never-ending battle. To add to the fun, I also have very sensitive skin and eyes (thanks Mom!). Even products that claim to be safe for sensitive skin wreck havoc.
Just when I was about to give up hope, I finally found a set of 3 products that works wonders! Hallelujah! It’s my HG regimen (“holy grail” for those unfamiliar with the lingo used by beauty product junkies). I still have a few acne problem areas around my nose and temples; but, overall, my skin hasn’t looked this good since elementary school!
Without further ado, here are the three products that will change your life if you have PCOS and you’re frustrated with acne…
Item 1: Double-Ended Blemish Extractor from Sephora ($17)
I pick at my face. I always have, and I always will. I used to be more apologetic about it. Then I realized that I (thankfully) do not have any permanent acne scars despite well over a decade of picking at my face, so I’m not stopping anytime soon.
If you have PCOS and acne, the Double-Ended Blemish Extractor from Sephora is going to be your new best friend. Trust me. You want one. Add it to your Christmas list.
The blemish extractor is the perfect thing for dealing with stubborn acne that otherwise refuses to budge. It works great for day-to-day maintenance too. Plus, it has the added bonus of not leaving behind giant red splotches! If you have PCOS-related acne in an area that is …not your face…, this tool works great for back/chest/neck acne too.
I’ve used two similar products in the past, and the Sephora one is the clear-cut winner. It is sturdy, easy to clean, and does its job. Yes, it is $17. And yes, you can pop zits with your fingers and fingers are free. And yes, you could buy a really nice dinner for $17. It’s worth the $17 though. This little blemish tool is magic. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say that this is a purchase you won’t regret. Even my non-PCOS friends love it! If you don’t want to spend the $17, there are similar products available at drugstores (Tweezerman brand? I can’t remember.)
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- The extractor works best if you use it right after having a shower. The steam will help open up your pores and make the gook easier to remove. If you want to be seriously grossed-out, run it over your nose when you get out of the shower. Be sure to wash your hands prior to starting if you use it at a time that is not immediately post-shower.
- Clean the extractor with rubbing alcohol prior to each use. I put a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and then wipe it onto the extractor.
- Start out with the thinner end of the blemish extractor. It’s easier to get the hang of the motion when you use the thinner loop. Even now, I very rarely use the thick side.
- Center the zit in the loop and then–before using any pressure–slightly move the extractor so that the zit is in the bottom area of the loop. Now slowly and firmly move the tool across the zit in a downward motion. You do need to press a bit, but don’t dig it into your face. Use light pressure. You’ll probably have temporary red marks at first (don’t try it for the first time an hour before a job interview!), but once you figure out the correct pressure, you’ll be mark-free.
- I realize this is all getting quite gross. Congratulations if you’ve read this far without feeling the urge to vomit. As a final tip, it’s helpful to have a pair of tweezers nearby. You can use the tweezers to remove the harder gook once the extractor gets it started. This is how you get the stubborn bits removed without marking your face.
Item 2: Clean & Clear Continuous Control 10% Benzoyl Peroxide Cleanser — or generic alternative ($4-8)
I talked about Clean & Clear Continuous Control 10% Benzoyl Peroxide Cleanser in PCOS and Acne Post #1. However, I’ll repeat a bit here. This product makes an immediately noticeable decrease in PCOS-related acne for me. I’ve used other benzoyl peroxide cleansers in the past, and never had much luck. I don’t know what is so special about this one, but it works.
I find it easiest to use this cleanser in the shower. Squirt about 1/2″ of the cleanser (it is pretty thick and squirts out of a tube) into your hand, rub it all over your face and anywhere else that has acne, and then let it sit on your skin for a few minutes prior to rinsing. My routine is to shampoo and rinse my hair, put conditioner in my hair, shave, put the cleanser on my face, wash body, and then rinse off the conditioner and cleanser at the same time.
Be warned–this cleanser will eventually bleach everything you own, regardless of how careful you are. I even have a “natural highlight” in my hair due to benzoyl peroxide. The bleaching effect won’t be instantaneous; but, over a few months you’ll probably notice some spots on your linens. For many years, I used only white linens; but, that was just too boring for me. I still use white towels but I’ve graduated to patterned sheets from Goodwill or estate sales. I spend less than $10 on them, so I don’t feel as bad when the bleach spots become unbearable and they get tossed. If you are going to go on vacation and stay somewhere besides a hotel, bring your own face towel and pillowcase so that you don’t leave bleach stains on your hostesses’ linen
Walmart makes a generic version of the Clean & Clear cleanser (that’s what is in the picture above), and it works just as well as the original. I have searched for other generic versions, and I haven’t found them at any other stores. If you’re aware of another shopping option for the generic, please post in the comments!
Item 3: Hibiclens aka 4% chlorhexidine gluconate–or generic equivalent ($8-13)
Hibiclens really is the pièce de résistance for dealing with acne and PCOS. This is the miracle product you’ve been waiting for. As you’ll recall from PCOS and Acne Post #1, women with PCOS have higher levels of DHT which results in oilier skin. When skin has more oil, it’s more likely to trap bacteria. Hibiclens is an antimicrobial soap that provides up to 24 hours of protection against bacteria. I honestly wish I had before and after pictures of what Hibiclens has done for my skin. It’s like night and day.
Hibiclens can be purchased at pretty much any store that sells medication (pharmacy, Target, Walgreens, etc.). I use the generic version from Walgreens.
Here’s how I use hibiclens:
- Turn on the sink and wait for warm water. If you’re lucky enough to have instantly warm water, skip to step 2.
- While waiting for the water to warm up, rummage through the drawer and find an elastic or hair clip of some kind, and use it to pull back your hair.
- Now that the water is warm, thoroughly saturate a washcloth with water. Lightly wring it out. Wipe off your face. It should be wet enough that it is slightly dripping with water.
- Squirt a small amount of the Hibiclens onto a jumbo-sized cottonball. Wipe the cottonball all over your face, adding more Hibiclens as necessary. I’ve never measured how much I use, but I would guess it’s about a 1/2 tsp. You don’t need much.
- Let the Hibiclens sit on your skin for a few minutes. This is a good time to make your bed and open the curtains.
- Wet the washcloth again, and wipe it all off. Pat dry with a clean towel.
I shower at night, so I use the benzoyl peroxide cleanser at night and Hibiclens in the morning before I do my hair and makeup. If you shower in the morning, then you’ll probably want to reverse the benzoyl peroxide/hibiclens order.
DO NOT get Hibiclens in your eyes. Or your ears. Or your mouth. Or any other bodily openings! Keep it away from all orifices!
Those are my 3 miracle products for PCOS and acne. I’m so excited to share them with you. I’ve used Google to try and find a post like this well over 100 separate times, and now it exists! If you decide to try them out, please post your experience in the comments. I’d love to hear if they work for you too. Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer: the product links in the above post go to external sites, and if you choose to purchase the items then I may receive a small commission which I will use to use shoes. Because, well, I like shoes.