What not to say to a friend who has acne

Me, looking less than thrilled about my persistent acne.

Caroline Praderio/INSIDER

  • Some people struggle with stubborn, severe acne.
  • Those people really don’t like getting acne treatment advice from people who only get occasional breakouts.
  • I know from experience.

For me, acne was a genetic inevitability. My mom fought it, my brothers fought it, and for just over a decade, I fought it, too.

Thanks to a drug popularly known as Accutane, I finally got clear skin— but not before I tried dozens of other treatments, from prescription creams to antibiotics to a really strict pillowcase-washing regimen.

I still remember how irritating it was to feel a new zit about to surface, even though I had taken “perfect” care of my skin that week. And I still remember the most irritating thing that clear-skinned people would say to me whenever the topic of acne came up:

Have you tried [insert unhelpful suggestion here]?

Sometimes it was DIY face masks made from pantry items like honey, avocado, yogurt, or baking soda. Sometimes it was drugstore products. Sometimes it was vague lifestyle alterations, like, “drink more water”or “meditate” or “avoid sugar!”

Meditation is awesome, but it can’t just transform acne-prone skin.

RelaxingMusic / Flickr

I knew this advice was given with the best of intentions. But it was always irksome when it it came from people who only got occasional blemishes: People who could touch their face without worrying about pimples, who could fall asleep wearing makeup and experience no acne-related consequences. It was like dealing with a backseat driver who’s never actually operated a motor vehicle.

Yes, some acne really is treatable with drugstore products, home remedies, and good skincare habits. But some acne is…

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