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[Warning: this is long. It is based on my experiences only, but hopefully still can help someone.]

After a long time of coming up with a personal routine, here is what worked for me. Hopefully someone else will benefit at least a little! Though serious improvement began many months ago, I waited, going through varying conditions, to make sure that I did not just encounter a "phase" that would make these points useless.

Summary of most important revelations and techniques for me:
-1st: Each person may really have to spend time and effort to come up with their own plan.
-Using a moisturizer brought the second big leap in improvement--but using too much set me back.
-Dropping soap (such as Tea Tree Oil) and switching to a non-soap cleanser gave the latest, biggest jump in improvement.
-Not being obsessive
Now, elaborations.

Background on previous skin condition:
Moderate, to much worse at times. (since people might ask: 2-3 cysts a week aside from other stuff)
Most basic, non-RX topical treatments did not work.


Details and philosophy:
In this post are ideas and thoughts that have worked for me for several months now. They will surely not work for everyone, but hopefully they may give some direction or ideas to those with the same problems. Also my attitude of not worrying is easy for me to say, since I'm now 90% better and still improving, and I know that others are much more unlucky and have worse skin to start with, because of the alignment of the stars when they were born, or for whatever reason:) Therefore nothing is further from my mind than downplaying others' techniques or their constant battles which involve the smallest details; so please don't be offended when I mention "relaxing", etc. :)

Firstly, here is what was really important for me: realizing that, indeed, most people have a unique combination of stuff that works best for them, and that it takes time to find them. At first I thought "The heck with that, I just don't want to devote the thought and time and energy in finding a custom solution! These people with custom solutions just obsessed and put way too much effort into this, and surely I find a generic solution."
I ended up spending the time and trying many things anyways, even after going to a dermatologist. This doctor spent three minutes, and prescribed Duac for morning, Retin-A-Micro at night, and Doxy as antibiotics. I never took the Doxy though I bought it, instead voting to take the effort to find a "healthier" solution.

Originally I used RAM and Duac regularly, as prescribed, with normal or Tea Tree soap, washing upon waking and before sleep.
AFTER reaching a suitable stage involves maintenence only (it took about a month of RAM and Duac, including redness and peeling, etc), here is what I did to improve after the effects levelled off.

Lesson 1of Retin-A-Micro: redness and peeling is normal, just bear with it patiently. If I would have known about the incredible power of moisturizers, I'd have used them then. But I didn't know, so the redness took several weeks to get better. Bottom line: use a little bit of moisterizer!
Lesson 2 of RAM: It is better to accidentally apply too thin a coat than too thick. This is because a thin coat is all that is needed, per the instructions (which not everyone follows perfectly, including me originally).
Lesson 3 of RAM: Apply lotion even to areas that look okay, although apply to those areas more sparingly to avoid irritation (such as every other day, or a really, really thin layer every day. This resulted in significant improvement for me)

Lesson 1 of Duac: Again, less is better, but none or very little applied to areas that do not need it. This will make it so that you will still get a few pimples occasionally, since medication is not applied everywhere all the time, but this by far beats having constantly irritated and even just slightly red skin (which people can notice).
Lesson 2 of Duac: Avoid putting it on areas where it stings quite a bit (if you've passed the time it takes to get used to it), because then that area will only get more irritated. Give it a day or two to recover.

General:
My first big breakthrough came when I actually finally tried a moisturizer, per the tips on the RAM website. I noticed results within one day, primarily in redness and smoothness of skin. Previously I always thought using moisterizer was just too specific, for the obsessed, or that it was too much of a hassle to use. However moisterizer makes a massive difference. I used Neutrogena SPF30 Daily Defense, although it probably doesn't matter what you use as long as it is gentle and feels good. Cetaphil, for example, still stung like crazy even after trying to get accustomed to it for over a week. Don't obsess about brands, trying to find the absolute best one possible, etc,; find something that you know helps first, and then later try some others that can be campared to the successful one. That's how I found out that Cetaphil (which I tried second) didn't work. Had I tried that first, I probably would have never stuck with a moisterizer. Being too specific, trying to copy other people's "lists", may not help much. Just know the basic concepts, and try things out.

The next big breakthrough came when I realized that I was using too much moisterizer:), previously twice per day. I still use it twice per day, but now only a very thin layer each time (first spread it on hands evenly, then from there onto where I want it). My thought was that our own oil, that we produce naturally, surely has some content that is useful to our skin--else why would we have it? It may even help repair, except that too much makes our skin worse. Therefore I would not try and terminate its production totally by tons of moisterizer that only has a few ingredients. Skin condition took another big leap after I reduced the amount of moisterizer I used, and sometimes I don't put any on at night to let my skin take care of its own.

The third big breakthrough came after I stopped using normal soap, from Tea Tree Oil soap. I switched to Eucerin foaming non-soap cleanser for sensitive skin. This was the first brand tried. Incredible improvement noticed within one day. Used twice per day.

The last big breakthrough was reducing milk intake. Not purely because of the skin, but because it's probably more healthy anyways from what everyone is saying. I did not stop milk completely, but reduced its intake by about 95%. Again, some people have effects after even a drop of milk, but that is not me. I do not obsess about eating a bit of cheese in casseroles, for example, but I just avoid lactose whenever I can. I use low-sugar, normal almond milk instead, and love it.

Finally, Here is the summary of what I do. Morning: during shower (not steaming hot, just warm), wash with non-soap, go do something else for 10 min to an hour (like eat), or however long, and apply Duac sparingly to areas that need it. Wait a while, and add moisturizer sparingly. Night: shower or wash with non-soap, again wait arbitraty time (10 min to an hour) then apply RAM sparingly to entire _potentially_ problematic areas, and then apply sparingly moisturizer again. That's it. To get to this point I used RAM and Duac more heavily the first month, just because the affected areas were more extensive until improvement started.

All these little things, the brands, the rituals, etc, may seem restrictive--and that is why I never wanted to start finding a custom solution--but in truth it is a total of five minutes per day. Yes, the effort to find a solution is months, years, or whatever, but that is what must happen. I was lucky, and it took only a few months of really trying, until I hit the basic working set of Duac and RAM, the moisterizer, and non-soap cleanser. I really hope everyone finds something that works, as soon as possible!

Final notes: ice cube trick does work, and no, bacteria does not seem to move over from closed pores and create problems nearby (something I was wondering and so payed attention to for a few months). Also, I always excercised intensely and it alone only helped a little. My diet is always healthy, no sugar or refined stuff, no junk food, no soda, lots of fruit and vegetables, etc., and these alone did not change anything. As is widely advised for health reasons, if possible I avoid excessive sunlight from 10-4. Lots of sunlight makes things worse for sensitive skin. If not possible to avoid sunlight, spf45 helps.

I tried to get as much in here as possible in case even one random thing said helps one person just a little.





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