I barely remember breaking out during my teens. When I did, it was a pimple every few months during my period that was never followed by a dark spot. The few times my breakouts consisted of more than that, my mom would make sure to send me to the dermatologist, who would put me on a topical treatment for a short period of time and recommend I’d wash my face with Cetaphil instead of Proactive. For all of my teens and most of my adult life, that seemed to always do the trick. That was until I hit 28 years of age and started switching up my birth control — for various reasons. That’s when acne and sensitive skin decided to become a thing for me. While I don’t struggle with serious acne at all — no cystic pimples here. I have learned to expect one or two new pimples on my jawline every month on the week of my period and while it didn’t use to bother me so much before, the dark spots it recently started leaving behind were becoming way too much for me to handle. That’s where Korean skincare became my saving grace.
Hormonal acne is a real thing y’all and unfortunately, it tends to kick around your late 20s, early 30s — even if you had perfect skin before that. A number of hormonal changes can trigger it. In my particular case, I truly believe it was switching up birth controls because that was becoming a problem for the past few years, which is around the same time I started noticing the hormonal breakouts happening. I did it all. Tried every fancy spancy cream or treatment you could think of along with prescription topical creams. But when topicals were causing more irritation than relief, I decided to finally to have my dermatologist prescribe me Spironolactone, a prescription pill that’s actually a high blood pressure medication that’s often subscribed for hormonal acne. It actually worked but because it’s a high blood pressure medication which is essentially a diuretic, it came with side effects which included urine frequency and urgency and I was not about to live that kind of life. I eventually stopped taking it.
It was at that point that I decided to resort to switching up my skincare routine. I’ve been using Korean skincare for years and it has kept my skin relatively clear and bright, even battling hormonal breakouts during my period. But the more I experimented with new or added more products to my regimen — Korean skincare is often known for having 10 steps or more — the more sensitivity my skin was experiencing. I decided to hit up a pro.
Charlotte Cho, is a Korean skincare expert and the founder of Soko Glam, a skincare start-up that sells some of the top Korean skincare products. I stumbled upon an article on how Cho — who has incredibly clear and bright skin by the way — also struggles with hormonal breakouts around her period — just like me — since she turned 30. In fact, hers tend to even be cystic and painful sometimes — something I, fortunately, haven’t really experienced often. So how in the world does she keep her skin looking so luminous half the time? For Cho, the trick is not using every single Korean skincare product on the market, but finding the ones that work well with her hormonal acne-prone, oily, and sensitive skin. She looks for products that gently clear out her skin without causing any dryness or irritation, which can lead to a never-ending cycle of breakouts. I sent Cho an email asking for her recommendations since our skin concerns seemed so similar. She offered me a list of suggestions along with the products that have worked for her and while I still have two pesky dark spots I’ve had for months now — they are significantly fading and I barely break out now — even during my pimple.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 50 percent of women ages 20 to 40 deal with adult acne, which is often caused by hormonal changes that lead to excess sebum. Keeping my skin clear has consisted of a few great Korean skincare products as well as lifestyle changes. Here are a few things that have helped keep my skin clear and bright!