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Sometimes I think I’ve shared a post on here when I’ve actually just written it in my head. Or maybe it was all just a dream? Who knows…But what I do know is that after almost 6 years of dealing with adult acne, I’ve finally figured out what works for my body.

Now I just want to preface this post by reminding you that this is what worked for me. It may not work for you. How do I know this? Because if someone has written anything about clearing adult acne then there is a 99% chance that I’ve read it. And of this advice I’ve only taken 3 things away. The 3 things that actually cleared my acne. The rest of it was all just a waste of time and money….for me.

So take this all in with a grain of salt but also just remember that experimentation is totally fine but if it’s not working for your body,

Another quick thing to discuss – I’m okay with getting a zit here and there. I have zero expectation of perfect skin. But years of chronic acne definitely haunted me and knocked my confidence so if you’re struggling, I get it. That being said, no one has perfect skin so release any expectations of a perfectly clear canvas.

Okay let’s discuss…


1. Ditching Coffee

I know, this one is SO sad. And trust me, I resisted it for a long time. I started experimenting with giving up coffee 3 years ago and noticed that every time I did my skin would improve. At this point I have tried giving up just about everything to clear up my skin, but none of it ever made a difference. This includes dairy, gluten and sugar. People go on about how each of these things (especially dairy) can contribute to acne. This has NEVER been the case for me and thank god because your girl loves cheese.

Coffee on the other hand – no bueno. Funny enough, I can still drink tea so I usually start my day with a matcha or cup of tea. So what’s the deal with coffee? So the verdict is still out as to whether coffee itself contributes to acne, but here’s what coffee does do. Studies have found that caffeine can increase levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. As a side effect, cortisol can lead to an increase in oil production in our skin leading to breakouts. There is generally about half the amount of caffeine in tea than in coffee so decreasing your coffee consumption can help keep your cortisol levels in a healthy range.

I generally have no moderation abilities with coffee. While I was typically only drinking 1-2 cups a day, it definitely stimulated me pretty intensely and it simply wasn’t good for my hormone balance. That being said, I do still occasionally get a decaf latte very infrequently and that seems to be okay for me.

2. Managing Stress

Just as coffee can increase our cortisol levels, so can stress. It is the “stress-hormone” after all. Funny enough, my skin tends to be the first indicator of stress in my life. It’s no coincidence I got shingles on my face during one of the most stressful times in my life.

Whenever I go through particularly stressful times in my life, I will almost immediately break out around my chin, which is a tell-tale sign of hormonal acne. In January when I went through a rough patch after moving, and subsequently not taking good care of myself, I broke out pretty intensely. It’s kind of a downward spiral because stress causes me to sleep less which then causes me to drink more coffee. So yeah, the combo is not fun.

I’m constantly evolving what it means to manage my stress but right now it looks like: regular exercise (walking, hiking, barre), free time to just do things that bring me joy (reading, watching tv, gardening, baking), yoga + breath work and journalling. On some level I’m kind of grateful that acne is a physical manifestation of my stress because it gives me a very obvious display of when I’ve neglected taking care of myself.

3. Retinol

I know, I know. People have a lot of opinions on retinol. I talked all about the controversy in this post. But simply put: it’s the type of retinol (and the other ingredients) that matter. When I started using Marie Veronique’s Gentle Retinol Serum I saw reduced inflammation, active breakouts and decreased scarring.

As I discussed in the post, my skin purged a little bit at first but it has now balanced out and I can’t help but notice how much my acne has cleared since I started using it. Regular exfoliation (in my case both physical and chemical) as well as retinol has helped with skin cell turnover and prevented my pores from getting clogged with the pus of dead skin cells and sebum.

I totally get that retinol is not for everyone and some people prefer to stick to 100% plant-based options but if you’re open to cleaner synthetics, I highly recommend it.


I’m always hesitant to share my skincare routine for two reasons: 1) It may not be what’s best for your skin type and 2) It changes pretty frequently. I love skincare and I love experimentation which means I often switch between products and am adding new things to my routine.

There’s a couple products that are my holy grail and I have yet to find suitable replacements, but there are others that I may switch between or am open to trying new ones. So instead i’ll share my skincare routine RIGHT NOW. Will this change? Probably. But I’ll include some of my other favorites as well. Just keep in mind that this is not written in stone and could change in the future.

Oil cleanser: Lovinah Power Cleansing Balm (others I like: Trilogy Cleansing Balm, Marie Veronique Oil cleanser)

Regular cleanser: Indie Lee Purifying Face Wash (others I like: Evan Healy Cleansing Milk, Mother Dirt Cleanser, Ann Marie Aloe Herb Cleanser)

Toner: Witch Hazel – nothing fancy here! (others I like: Ann Marie Neroli Toner, Herbivore Jasmine Green Tea toner)

Serum: I switch between the Marie Veronique Gentle Retinol and their Intensive Repair Serum (others I like: Ann Marie Probiotic Serum + Citrus Serum)

Oil Moisturizer: Ann Marie Herbal Facial Oil or straight-up grapeseed oil

Sunscreen: Any of the ones listed here but my favorites are the Josh Rosebrook Nutrient Day Cream and ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint

I also mask pretty frequently (my favorite masks list is coming soon!) but these change all the time so there’s not consistency here.


The part we’ve all been waiting for – some super awkward pictures of me. I could before and after but I feel like I’ve done that a million times already and you guys know what my acne has looked like. Instead, here’s an after. I have nothing on my skin (just a little makeup on my eyes) and took these in natural light with no filter.

PLEASE NOTE: I still have a lot of acne scarring on my face. These can take a really long time to heal. Any discoloration you see is likely due to scarring which will hopefully fade over time.

Like this post on clearing acne? Here are some others you might enjoy:

Meet the Maven

Hi! I'm Davida and welcome to my corner of the internet. I'm a wellness blogger, yoga teacher, certified herbalist, and green beauty lover.

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  1. I have combination skin with acne and I’ve been using Dermalmd Acne Treatment Serum for a few week now. Already my acne has decreased to almost none (mind you I’ve suffered from mild-severe acne for almost ten years) very moisturizing too, no dry skin what so ever. I would not use underneath make up though!

  2. I appreciate your recipes and helpful articles! You mention exfoliation in this article. I’d love to know what you use.

  3. Hi Davida! Thank you so much for always being so open and sharing details of your skin journey! I’ve followed you and it for years and resonated with your experience. After reading about how you rave about Marie Veronique’s Gentle Retinol Serum, I splurged (my first Credo purchase!) and started using it in October 2020. My skin has transformed (in a seemingly similar way as yours) and I’m so grateful for your recommendation and trying out the product! Also, in one of your posts about the serum, you mention that it lasts a while. I can attest to that! 8 months later and I’m nearing the end of the bottle (I use it every other night as you recommended in one of your posts). Since I’m new to Credo, I’m curious when their next sale will be since I know they don’t have them often. If you have insight and are able to share, thanks in advance! My last few drops won’t last until October so hopefully it’s before then. 🙂 Thanks again for all of your amazing content but especially anything acne-related through the years!

    1. Jessica! I’m so so happy to hear this! It’s such an incredible product and definitely worth the splurge (once a year during the Credo sale haha). Speaking of which, it typically happens in October/November. I post about it on here every year and always send a heads up to my email list so make sure you’re subscribed there!

  4. I love this! I have had major acne in 2020, soooo much stress. I am planning on creating a better structure during my days (yoga, reading, baking are also things that make me happy) to help manage some of the stress. I am looking for a better skin care regimen also. My acne has gotten so bad, I am embarrassed to go out. Bonus that my face covering covers a lot. I have not thought about giving up coffee… that will be sad, but I am willing to try.

  5. Great post! I read in an earlier post of yours that you use Skin Essence Organics. Do you no longer use this brand?

    1. Hi Danni! I used to use them religiously but when I moved to the US 4 years ago they weren’t sold here so I had to switch. Hope this helps!