I’ve tried the whole gamut of “stuff” to clear my skin:
Antibiotic pills, Differin, a whole bunch of other topicals, Retin-A, and Accutane when I was in high school (way back when). None of the topical stuff or the antibiotic helped much or I stopped using things because they burned/hurt/made me feel crappy etc., but the Accutance did wonders. It SUCKED, but it worked for a *long* time after I finished my two courses. When my hormones got weird in my 20s, though, I got adult cystic acne on my chin/jawline.
I tried to avoid going back to the derm (so expensive :/) so I tried benzoyl peroxide…and found out I’m allergic to it. My whole face swelled up and I couldn’t open my eyes for a day. Not so purty. OTC stuff like salicylic acid and sulfur helped, but never got me 100% clear.
I finally sucked it up and went back to the derm and he put me on Retin-A Micro and an antibiotic (which I refused to take, since it didn’t help before and I’m allergic to so many and don’t want to build up a tolerance to the rest). We found out I’m too sensitive for the RAM (a year later and I was STILL in the gross red and peely stage), so he recently switched me to Azelex, which is kind of awesome. It stings for a split second when I first put it on, but my skin tone is so much more even now, and it doesn’t hurt to smile. I’m not 100% clear yet, but it’s only been 3 weeks on the new stuff, so I’m giving it time.
I pair this with a gentle face wash (right now I like the one from First Aid Beauty…I get mine at Sephora) or oil cleansing, 2x weekly exfoliating by adding a tablespoon of baking soda to my cleanser, and a super thick cream to ward off flakies (I love Dermalogica’s Intensive Moisture Balance, anything from Avene, or Creme de la Mer if you want to splurge). My skin is pretty dry to begin with, so if you’re not as dry I’d stick with good ol’ Neutrogena moisturizer or Cetaphil from the drugstore. My derm has a thing for the Neutrogena, but it’s not thick enough for me 😛
I am also an advocate for drinking lots of water, keeping your hair pulled back from your face, NOT picking at things, and wiping down your cell phone/office phone with alcohol at least once a week to prevent blemishes from leaning on something scummy. For some people, hormonal BCP is an option, and I know other ladies who have had great success with spironolactone (which is a diuretic that has anti-androgenic properties). If you use BCP for acne though, be sure you’re not on a high androgen pill! Some pills can make your acne much, much worse (for me Levlen was KILLER), check with your doc!
Sorry for writing a book…!