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The Acne Diaries: “How 3 Estheticians Fought Their Acne — & Won” on Refinery29

The Acne Diaries

Alissa Acne Diaries

Name: Alissa Chasen.
Occupation: Esthetician, founder of POREspective skin clinic and products.
The Acne Trigger: Going off birth control.
What Finally Worked: Changing her diet, never picking, and finding a product cocktail that worked.

“In high school, I always had one ‘monster’ zit that I’m sure was caused by hormones. But then when I was 17, I started taking birth-control pills and didn’t have many problems until I got off of them when I was in my early 20s. Then, my face completely exploded! I started seeing a dermatologist for weekly cortisone injections and chemical peels, but it never really settled down, so I immediately got back on birth-control pills and it cleared up again pretty soon.

“In my mid-30s, my husband and I wanted to try to have a baby, so I discontinued my birth-control pills after taking them almost non-stop for 15 years, and my face exploded again. So here I was, selling an acne drug to dermatologists [Chasen was then a pharmaceutical rep for acne products], and showing up for sales calls with a face full of acne. The dermatologists who were my clients all had their suggestions on how to get me clear, from Retin-A to oral antibiotics, but nothing really worked and I didn’t want to go on Accutane. I had spent years reading medical journals and clinical studies, and working with some of the best doctors in the country, but nobody could get me clear. That’s when I enrolled in an esthetics program, received my license, and opened an acne clinic in Texas.

“The first two years of practicing, I was creating a small sample size of my own clinical study, just like the ones I had read about in medical journals. I started using different products through trial and error, first on myself and then on my clients.

THE DERMATOLOGISTS WHO WERE MY CLIENTS ALL HAD THEIR SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO GET ME CLEAR…BUT NOTHING REALLY WORKED. -ALISSA CHASEN

“I got clear with an approach that is pretty uncommon: using strong medical-grade topical products, which I call my ‘clearing combos’: an exfoliating serum and a prescription benzoyl peroxide. Then, I built on that…by eating clean and living clean. That meant no dairy, no peanuts, no seaweed, no sugar, and no gluten. Staying aware of everything that comes in contact with your problem areas — cell phones, makeup and brushes, pillowcases, your partner’s facial hair, your hand cream — is also very important.

“My approach is to pull out the chemicals (what I call the “big guns”) on your face and then get really clean internally. It’s worked for myself and 100% of the clients that have come to me, as long as they are willing to follow the program religiously. I avoid use of antibiotics at all costs because of a real concern with antibiotic resistance.

“[My advice] is don’t pick. It never goes well. Ever. Once you start picking your skin, it gets completely out of control. I am a master extractor, doing extractions all day every day, but I never pick my own skin. That’s because I can’t see it as well on myself as I can see it under the magnifying lamp, and also because of the emotional component.

“Know that you are not alone. There are lots of ways to get clear. I always suggest trying topicals and a clean diet first. You can always go stronger, but why kill a fly with a shotgun?”

Read more from “The Acne Diaries” on Refinery29.com