"It gets better," they said when I was in high school. But apparently, they weren't talking about acne, because sometimes it doesn't. Or sometimes it does for a decade, and then one wrong move (a medication switch, new laundry detergent, forgetting to ask for oat milk at Starbucks), and you're back to square one.
I used to have mild acne when I was a teenager—enough to make me dread going to class and beg my parents to spend hundreds of dollars on a Proactiv subscription. It was painful and unyielding, and it didn't help that I never drank water or used skin care. But after a while (and with care and diligence—definitely not magic), in my mid-20s, it gradually faded away.
And then I changed meds a few months before my 32nd birthday. About a month after the switch-up, I started experiencing blemishes on my cheeks and jawline, and my dermatologist told me hormones were the likely culprit. So I added Peter Thomas Roth Goodbye Acne Complete Acne Treatment Gel ($42) into my routine, and now, my blemishes are gone in 48 hours flat.
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Whenever my pimples decide to show up, I finish off my p.m. routine by dabbing them with a ladybug-sized amount of Goodbye Acne, and after two days, they're visibly reduced. Unlike other acne treatments I've tried in the past, this one doesn't leave my skin red and angry—and that's thanks to its gentle (but effective) formula. It stars acne nemesis salicylic acid (2%), a beta-hydroxy acid that helps clear up current breakouts and prevents future ones from happening. “BHAs encourage exfoliation, helping to prevent and treat blocked pores,” David Lortscher, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Curology, previously told us. “Salicylic acid works by penetrating and dislodging the gunk (sebum) in your pores, so that it’s no longer trapped—resulting in a lower chance of triggering an acne breakout."
It also features time-released retinol (1%), which unblocks pores, vitamin C, which brightens, and pantothenic acid, which evens skin texture. The cherry on top? Goodbye Acne is formulated with aloe vera, which hydrates and soothes skin.
Dr. Rachel Nazarian, MD, FAAD, and board-certified dermatologist weighed in, telling us, "This is a good example of well-chosen ingredients," and specifically praised the time-released retinol. "It's something I love for improving the appearance of pores, lines, wrinkles, and discoloration, but in a time-released version; this minimizes the dryness that classic retinol causes," she says. All in all? "It's all about off-setting side-effects with ingredients that improve the skin's resilience and strength," she adds.
While most acne products I've tried have a gel texture, Goodbye Acne blends into the skin like a moisturizer or serum. I also don't wake up with flaky, dried-up product on my face—only reduced redness and inflammation. Though it's an intense formula (derms caution against using salicylic acid and retinoids if you have sensitive skin, as it can cause irritation), it doesn't sting when you apply it, which is a definite bonus.
Sephora shoppers seem to love Peter Thomas Roth's Goodbye Acne treatment just as much as I do. One customer says, "This treatment is literally the only thing that has fixed my hormonal acne. I also get closed [comedones], and this thing really gets rid of pimples inside out. Showed me a huge difference in ONE WEEK! No joke! So glad I found this product! If you struggle from hormonal acne and get painful acne, you need this!!"
Another praises its gentle formula, which can be hard to find in an acne treatment: "This stuff is strong but still gentle. It doesn’t cause sensitivity or irritation. I have definitely noticed a change for the better in my skin, so I am a very happy camper!"
OTC acne treatments might not always work for hormonal breakouts. “If over-the-counter is not cutting it, see a dermatologist for treatments that specifically target hormonal acne (like topical Winlevi cream, recently FDA-approved, oral spironolactone, or birth control pills)," board-certified dermatologist Cybele Fishman, MD with Advanced Dermatology PC told W+G previously.
So far, though, Goodbye Acne has worked for me, and will be part of my routine in perpetuity.
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